Projectors are still used mainly by businesses and educational institutions in India, with most home theatre setups still using big-screen TVs. But as the size of high-end televisions increases and prices rise to astronomical levels, this will help raise the number of projectors being sold for entertainment, believes the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer BenQ.
The company, which is best known for its display technology, has been active in India for 10 years, and global chairman K.Y. Lee was here recently for a partner meeting with distributors to showcase BenQ’s line-up for 2013. We spoke to Lee and Adrian Chang, BenQ’s Asia-Pacific region president, and tried out some of the devices BenQ will be launching later in the year.
While many of the new products are aimed at institutions and businesses, there are some fun new concepts as well, such as a portable projector which uses a laser instead of a lamp to illuminate the picture. They started experimenting with lasers last year, but it’s still developing. The laser is much brighter than a lamp, and allows for a portable projector which will project a 200-inch screen, but can be slipped into a purse.
Lee acknowledges the importance of the projector segment in India, saying it is still its No. 1 business. Globally, he adds, India is the biggest buyer of projectors in the educational sector. The company’s focus, however, is shifting slowly towards entertainment products.
Chang says, “Video gaming, particularly competitive gaming, is big in Asia, and we’re seeing the gaming market in India also ready to boom. When that happens, there’s going to be demand for peripherals, so we’re launching a lot of new televisions aimed at gamers, with special features for them.”
Aside from adding categories like cameras and gaming monitors in India, BenQ is also betting that consumers are going to start buying projectors for home entertainment. While the proliferation of flat-panel televisions has helped drive down costs, the largest LED TVs are still extremely expensive, and it’s this niche that BenQ wants to exploit.
“We’re seeing a convergence scenario; people expect their devices to just work together, instead of having to take a lot of time to set things up. So we’ve worked on better connectivity between projectors and smartphones, for example, so you have a presentation or a movie on your phone, then using the Joybee GP3, you can just project it without connecting a single wire,” says Lee.
Apart from connectivity, the main areas that BenQ wants to focus on are size, cost and sustainability. Lee explains: “Earlier, the displays were made for using with the PC. Today, mobile is growing, so you need to make something that is also small, and cheap, to carry around with you.”
Improving power consumption is also essential for mobility. Chang explains that a typical projector consumes a huge amount of electricity, “more than a photocopier”. Switching to lasers from lamps can reduce power consumption by as much as 60-90%, depending on the type of lamp being used.
There’s a problem, though—laser projection is a new technology, and getting a bright enough image requires a concentrated beam. There are safety issues involved, and of course, no one wants their projector to melt while in use! While the levels of heat involved are now safe for a small portable display, BenQ wants to be able to scale this up for all its projectors.
In the short term, Lee says, the major change in projectors will be short-throw technology. This is an optical technique to allow a large screen to be projected at a short distance without distorting the image. The advantage of a short-throw projector is that it makes it easier to set up your home theatre, because you don’t have to worry about obstacles between the projector and the screen.
While home projection technology has definitely made strides in the last few years, it is still definitely a small segment, as Lee and Chang both point out. However, new technology could change that, and BenQ’s new line-up, looks promising.
A screen for every task
We found some interesting products in BenQ’s 2013 line-up. The prices aren’t available, but we’ve provided estimates:
On the go
The successor to the Joybee GP2 (which we reviewed positively last year: in “The ‘dock’ that works”, 30 October), the GP3 has a lightning connector for use with the iPhone 5, and also supports wireless video from your phone or PC for presentations. It’s also very powerful—you can get a screen of up to 210 inches from this pocket-sized projector, though a BenQ representative suggests an optimal size of 160 inches.
Estimated price: Rs.40,000
The GW2760HS LCD monitor is optimized for long periods of work; it uses some of the same technology as BenQ’s gaming monitors to prevent light leakage between dark and light areas. This means you can read in low brightness—and the press of a button changes the screen to reading mode, lowering the brightness and applying a soft colour filter to cut glare.
Estimated price: Rs.11,500
The XL2720T is a 3D-ready LED monitor meant for gaming. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the company uses a smart algorithm to separate the dark and light parts of an image, and can brighten the darker parts to let you get a better view of the game without washing out the picture. It also has a high refresh rate for the FPS (first-person shooter) gamers, and it lets you save display presets for different games as well.
Estimated price: Rs.25,000
The W1500 is a high-quality full-HD 3D projector. The sharpness and colour quality on the projector are great, making it perfect for watching movies at home. But what’s really exciting is a technology called wireless HDMI, which allows you to send the picture wirelessly to the projector from any video source with an HDMI-out. Instead of needing a Wi-Fi-enabled source like a smartphone or a PC, you can connect your existing DVD player or video-game console to the W1500 wirelessly, so it’s really easy to set up the device and change the signal source.
Estimated price: Under Rs.2 lakh