It’s been a long time coming, but it finally appears that the wait is over for several home theater projector manufacturers that have been patiently biding their time for Texas Instruments (TI) to release a 4K DLP chip. During the hiatus, manufacturers like Digital Projection, Panasonic, Christie, SIM2, Optoma, Barco and BenQ ceded a headstart in the 4K market to Sony, and to some extent Epson (“4K Enhancement” technology) and JVC (“e-shift” technology), which offered their own versions of 4K.
Now, using the new 1.4-inch DLP 4K Ultra HD (UHD) chipset that features a 0.67-inch digital micromirror device (DMD), these manufacturers are set to roll out their own 4K projectors at affordable price points.
The new 4K chipset was 18 months in development, according to Roger Carver, technology analyst for TI’s DLP Technology Department. It offers fast switching speed with advanced image processing to create a more affordable solution. Projector systems using the chip are capable of achieving up to 5000 lumens.
At CES 2016, Optoma was touting what it called the “world’s first single-chip 4K DLP projector.” Panasonic has just introduced the PT-RZ570U single-chip DLP projector capable of 5,000 lumens aimed at the commercial education market.
Manufacturers got to see their first glimpse of the chip at CEDIA Expo 2015 in Dallas last fall, where TI showed it off in an invitation-only off-site hotel meeting room. Roger Carver, technology analyst for TI’s DLP Technology Department, was running a demo that compared TI’s own prototype projector against the new Sony VW-350ES $10,000 projector.
Carver says there are multiple factors that “make 4K great,” including that it produces 8.8 million pixels on a screen, offers precise pixel alignment, and superb ANSI black and white contrast.
Texas Instruments created its own unglamorous mock projector to demo its new 4K DLP UHD chipset. (The Pellegrino is just to give you perspective on the size of the unit.)
Carver says the larger chip is a 4X improvement over the offerings from Sony, JVC and Epson. The new 4-million mirror chipset is made using the company’s TRP (Tip & Roll Pixel) design, which is also what is found in many pico projectors today.
In the CEDIA demos, TI showed side by side images of spreadsheets, images of power lines, and spiral drawings in which the fine lines could be seen with the larger chip but either had a purple or green echo color or jagged edges in the other unit.
So why did it take TI took so long to release the chipset? Carver noted that the lack of 4K content. “2016 is the right time. Content is growing at an exponential rate. We had to make tradeoffs in our investments, so we waited until 4K standards were in place, including HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, because we want this to be a volume product. The time was not right for us to produce a 4K chip before this time because there wasn't any content anyway.”
TI has had a larger 1.4-inch 3-chip DLP chip on the market for a while that can accommodate 4K. While Optoma, Panasonic and others are unveiling new units now, the full production of the TI chip will not be available until Q2, according to Carver.