Native 4K vs. 4K upscaling: Sony and the projector war at CEIDA 2016

by on September 12, 2016

Stephan Jukic – September 12, 2016

Sony, the leading maker of genuine 4K UHD native resolution projectors for the consumer and office market has apparently gotten quite tired of hearing about other manufacturers and their “faux” claims to 4K digital projection with technologies which don’t offer the real thing in true form, and the company is speaking out about it.

At CEDIA 2016, Sony is definitely going to take on claims by brands like JVC, Epson and even Texas Instruments for their claims of 4K inclusion in projector technologies they manage when the 4K they deliver isn’t quite the real thing as they sort of play it to be.

One of the notable examples of this which Sony called to task on its product branding is Texas Instruments. In a statement to the press, Sony Product marketing manager for home theater projectors, “Andrew Floyd, stated that he doesn’t like how Texas Instruments called their new so-called 4K chip a “4K Chip”.

More specifically according to Floyd, “Full 4K is 8 million pixels, the TI imager only has 4 million pixels”. This statement was in reference to the fact that the new TI “4K chip” actually flashes its imager on a screen twice for each color channel, including white, which amounts to 8 distinct flashes per frame, which is a lot for a human brain and eyes to digest into a single clear image. In other words, It’s a sort of false 4K created through visual trickery.

In contrast, Sony’s own SXRD imaging chipset for projector technology actually delivers 8.29 megapixels per frame, which amounts to native 4K pixel density per frame and thus real native 4K resolution for a smoother, sharper and more problem-free ultra HD display experience for consumers.

Sony's native 4K projection technology at work in one of their Short-throw projectors

Sony’s native 4K projection technology at work in one of their Short-throw projectors

On the other hand, the TI-powered projectors that will be demonstrated this week at CEIDA 2016 from brands like Sim2 and Digital Projection do to at least some extent fulfill the definition of 4K if its viewed more flexibly than Sony views it. They may squeeze more flashes into a single frame but they do ultimately deliver enough pixels for what could be called 4K UHD at 3840 x 2160 pixels.

Other so-called 4K projectors on the other hand don’t even pull this off, and Sony’s home theater models are taking on them too according to Floyd.

These other models include devices from JVC and Epson and in the case of these models, the technology used inside them depends on pixel shifting tricks which basically amount to upscaling of non-4K content so that it looks something like 4K resolution in its real form. In the JVC models, the technology is called e-shift and in the Epson projectors it goes by the name of 4K Enhancement or 4Ke but in both cases, what is actually being done is a 2 million pixel Full HD 1080p sensor getting flashed twice per frame but with the pixels shifting in each individual flash to create twice the detail of a single 2 megapixel flash. In other words, even with their simulation of 4K resolution, these projectors are only taking conventional Full HD and expanding it to just 4 million pixels, or what is technically 2K resolution. Thus, with the JVC and Epson projectors, even the use of this 4K upscaling technology produces nothing more than 2K resolution.

One of JVC's E-Shift pseudo 4K projectors, much more affordable than any Sony 4K model

One of JVC’s E-Shift pseudo 4K projectors, much more affordable than any Sony 4K model

For many users, this sort of trickery may be just fine because as many viewers have claimed in their own reviews, the devices do indeed deliver some great picture quality which is indeed arguably superior to normal Full HD resolution. Furthermore, some of the new pseudo-4K models also add in the benefits of HDR and at the same time cost much, much less than Sony’s real 4K projectors.

However, according to Andrew Floyd from Sony, the difference is still crucial and the lack of actual 4K matters deeply for a maximum display quality. More particularly, the Sony manager is annoyed with the idea that customers are buying said Epson and JVD projectors with the idea in their heads that they’re getting a real 4K experience when that’s not at all the case.

He does indeed have a case there and professional reviewers have noted that the native 4K and sometimes HDR combo of Sony’s machines looks far superior in sharpness to what these cheaper competitors can deliver.

Our own reviews of both Sony and JVC e-shift projectors bear this out as well and the quality of the Sony machines is visibly superior on a display surface. Bu on the other hand, even the cheapest of the Sony 4K home theater projector models costs more than $7000 and the JVC nad Epson models with quasi-4K (actually quasi-2K) resolution sell for well below half that price. Even if consumers believe the Soy models are better, for many buyers, the price might still be the big deciding factor, regardless of side-by-side comparisons and projector shoot-outs at major electronics events.

In any case, CEDIA 2016 opens up later this week and Sony will be showing off its native 4K projector models at the Omni Dallas Hotel’s Dallas Ballroom D on Friday September 16th at 11 am and again at 5 pm that same day.

Sony's most affordable 4K projector, the VW300ES

Sony’s most affordable 4K projector, the VW300ES

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  • Walt
    September 13, 2016 at 6:30 am

    JVC will demo it’s first 4k native laser projector for home theater at the CEDIA show.
    Price around 25000$-30000$ MSRP
    That is half the cost of Sony’s VPL-VW5000ES projector.


  • Troy
    September 13, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Type, beginning of the second paragraph: “At CEIDA 2016”, should be CEDIA.


  • Troy
    September 13, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Typo, beginning of the second paragraph: “At CEIDA 2016”, should be CEDIA.


  • George
    September 14, 2016 at 12:34 am

    Lightweight media house sucking the advertising dollar.


  • Sony the Victor
    February 11, 2017 at 8:34 am

    A bit like defunct Runco selling dolled-up 720p DMD projectors long after 1080p had long become the standard.
    Sony has crushed the competition getting their 4k projectors down < $10k which is the price of the "better" Victor's.


  • Ben Weston
    April 27, 2017 at 1:53 am

    They might not be cheap but I am completely with Sony on this one, if a projector isn’t 4K it shouldn’t be sold as such.

    It harks back to the days of HDready TV’s being sold as full HD when they were in most cases only 720p displays.


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