Is Laser TV here to stay?

Laser TV
Interesting how most images show it in a darkened room!

Laser TV is becoming more popular as consumers see that it costs a lot less than a similar sized LED/LCD TV. Image quality is improving due to new laser and ultra-short throw projector technologies.

Let’s be honest – as we always are. I have yet to see a Laser TV knocks my socks off with an image that is anywhere near as good as an LED/LCD TV, let alone compete with a Dolby Vision capable 4K OLED or ULED. And that is from any brand – Samsung, LG, Hisense, Xiaomi, Epson, Sony, BenQ, and many more generic entrants. But I have seen some that are, in my critical opinion, passable in the right circumstances.

These circumstances include

  • Full control of all ambient light. That includes full control of overhead and side table lights, curtains, doors, reflections, outside light etc. These work best in < 40-lumen darkness. The darker you can make the room, the better it looks.
  • Full control of reflections in the room
  • The screen at the centre of all attention and sightlines – e.g. a media room layout
  • Use a proper screen – not a painted wall. A screen can cost a few thousand dollars if not part of teh package price
  • Critically at the right height – the middle of the screen needs to be right at your eyeball ‘viewing’ height.
  • And add a decent soundbar (as long as the projector supports passthrough)

Late last year, I reviewed the Hisense 100″ 4K 100L5F

It just scraped over the pass mark at 8/10. It passed because size matters over picture perfection. And at $6999, including a 100″ ALR screen (now $5350 from VideoPro with free freight), it scores higher for value.

Laser TV

Yet, this is a single laser, 2700 lumens (788 nits), no eARC, no Dolby Vision and fairly power-hungry. So not knocking Hisense as for what it is, it is fine in the right use case.

Samsung also has its Premiere LSP9T triple laser 4K at $10999 plus a 120″ screen is $3499 (read this link for more technical details).

I briefly saw it at launch (4 March), and it is not bad (I would have preferred to say its damned good, but that is stretching the truth). It is a triple laser (Red, Green and Blue), suits a 100/120/130″ CLR screen, and has a peak brightness of 2800 lumens (817 nits) – not that bright – and contrast of 1500:1. The demo was in a very dark area. When I took 108MP photos, they revealed the same image flaws as the Hisense – good on primary colours and limited dynamic range on secondary (manufactured colours).

Laser TV

Samsung, with its usual marketing prowess, would have you believe it is the ant’s pants. It is HDR 10+ certified, but it cannot reproduce that (or, for that matter Dolby Vision) as it lacks the brightness. It can decode HDR10+ metadata to SDR – what its capable of reproducing.

Similarly, it has 4.2 sound but 40W maximum power. It is not room shaking or an ‘epic experience’ (maximum <80dB). It does not support Dolby Atmos – just Dolby Digital Plus (DD+ or E-AC-3). We understand that it can take up to a 7.1 feed and downmix to the left and right front (2 x 5W), left and right tweeters (2 x 5W) and sub-woofers (2 x 10W). So not knocking Samsung either, and it has an LSP7T single laser ($5,999 plus $2999 screen) that is more of a competitor to Hisense L5F.

The future of laser TV – 2021 and beyond

It seems that size does matter over image quality – something I do not understand. Hisense Global sent some stats on its laser TV sales. Hisense laser TVs’ overseas sales increased by 325% in 2020.

  • U.S. market: sales volume (units) grew 379% YoY, and sales revenue (price) increased 64%.
  • European market: sales volume grew 464% YoY, and sales revenue increased 346%.
  • Australian market: sales volume grew 1459% YoY, and sales revenue increased 1009%.
  • South African market: sales volume grew 143% YoY, and sales revenue increased 106%.

(Data source: Hisense Internal Report)

You can be sure that other mainstream makers had similar success.

Hisense has launched its 100″ 100L9. It is a tri-chroma laser (separate R, G, B lasers), with 4K, Dolby Vision and Atmos, and 100% BT.2020 colour space. That is getting closer to what a laser TV should do. It has a built-in Dolby Atmos Harman Kardon soundbar (14 speakers). The 88″ 88L5V sound interesting with the screen containing over 100,000 audio transducers – no more details yet.

The caveat is that we don’t know what models, specs and prices will make it to Australia. But with sales, such spectacular growth here, lets hope we see the 100L9 – the closest to an acceptable laser TV so far.