Higher Resolution 3D Projectors

Yesterday (August 5th) LightspeeD Design and InFocus introduced a pair of new integrated 3D projectors under the DepthQ label. These XGA (1024 x 768) and WXGA (1280 x 720) projectors appear to be identical except for their resolution. The previous DepthQ projector had SVGA resolution and was introduced in 2005 at a MSRP of $3499. All three feature a single DLP chip and operate at 120Hz stereo, so the upgrade in resolution should be well received by the market — especially since, at less than $6K, these are probably the lowest cost 3D projectors available today. The new units each have 2000 lumens, 2000:1 contrast, DLP microdisplays with BrilliantColor technology and 5 segment color wheels.

DepthQ HD 3D

In 2005, Insight Media pointed out that the $3499 DepthQ projector was based on an InFocus 2D projector that sold for less than $999. Now the discrepancy is even greater, the $6000 DepthQ projector is based on the InFocus IN2100EP with a MSRP of $649. No doubt these two projectors are similar but not identical. The DepthQ has different image processing electronics, plus it may have a different color wheel. It also probably has an additional input so it can take in both video streams when the external video is dual-stream, as is most professional 3D. The DLP itself is (or could be) identical, as can be the lamp, the mechanical design, the power supplies, etc. In fact, many DLP projectors not intended as 3D projectors can actually show field sequential 3D, if the video is properly formatted at the input to the projector. The ultimate example of a 2D DLP projector showing time sequential 3D with relatively modest modification is electronic cinema. In fact, two companies offer 3D conversion kits for cinema projectors, RealD and Dolby.

So why is the 3D projector so expensive? We suspect it is the non-recurring engineering (NRE) cost of developing the electronics and other components. These costs need to be spread over the expected sales volume of the projector, so at $6000, InFocus and LightspeeD expect sales volume of the 3D projectors to be significantly less than the IN2100EP. But I think InFocus missed an opportunity with this product development strategy. If the company had decided to make all of its projectors "3D-ready", the added development costs would have been very low and could have been spread across the full line of InFocus projectors. It would also create a line of projectors that would be unique in the market, and the NRE and manufacturing cost difference for these "3D Ready" projectors, compared to 2D projectors with the same performance, would be negligible. Electronics capable of doing 3D can also do 2D, but not visa versa. The electronics to convert a "3D ready" projector into a full 3D projector would then be external and an extra-cost option, although it is unlikely these electronics would cost as much as the $5000 price increment of the DepthQ. This "3D ready" path is not new since Samsung and Mitsubishi have followed it in their current RPTV offerings. I suspect someone will adopt this strategy in front projectors as well, the question is who and when.

By Matt Brennesholtz, DisplayDaily