While we make the difficult transition from SDR to HDR, there’s a lot of options for TVs, but HDR projectors still elude us. Viewsonic’s new X100-4K offers not just HDR, but also 4K resolution to entice.
Success hasn’t evaded Viewsonic, with its massive line-up of institutional, educational and solutions-based products, but the X100-4K is the first for the brand that targets the higher-end consumer specifically. Its combination of true 4K resolution combined with HDR, powered by an LED light source makes it quite a unique proposition in this space, which has traditionally seen lamp or laser-based implementations. Even its form factor is a sea change over previous Viewsonic HT projectors, with curved sides, twin whisper-quiet fans occupying the rear panel and all the connectivity moved to the sides. It’s a projector that has clearly been designed after taking considerable feedback from the custom-installation market and it shows in its wealth of connectivity too.
Standing out as one of the most impressive and convenient features of the X100-4K is the generous amount of lens shift on offer. A massive +/-60% vertical and +/-25% horizontal means that you can mount this projector either on the ceiling, table or anywhere in between and it will keep the image always in the centre, within the confines of the screen boundaries. It’s automatic cover for the lens also comes in handy if you live in dusty conditions or if it’s mounted close to a window, ensuring the flap shuts and opens only while powering the projector on. The aesthetic has been kept super clean all around, even the all-important lens shift knobs and zoom dial are concealed under a darkened flap, making it one of the slickest looking projectors out there, no doubt. Motorised focus is another boon that allows you to get the sharpest picture possible using just the remote control, without ever touching the lens unit and upsetting the geometry or climbing up a ladder in case it's a ceiling-mounted situation.
Using a 2nd gen LED light source mated to a 0.47in Texas Instruments DLP chip, Viewsonic claims 2900 lumens of (LED) brightness with a 125% coverage of the REC709 colour space using a RGBB configuration. If all this sounds like a formula for confusion, just know that the X100-4K is bright enough for everyday home-theatre situations but not meant to be viewed with ambient light straying into the room and definitely not with the house lights on. What about the colours? We’ll get to that in a minute. Elsewhere though, the X100-4K comes with every checklist item that makes for a modern home-theatre projector “smart”. Alexa and Google voice control for basic operations like turning on/off, changing input sources and volume control functions can be carried out just by asking your smart home device. There’s an app that can work as a remote control too, giving you faster input times to search for apps on the Aptoide store but the Aptoide store itself remains an eyesore like on every other product that uses it. Limited app choices, buggy apps that don’t either support max resolution or audio codecs and unnecessary on a high-end HT projector which will anyway have better quality sources in the system. Connectivity is plenty with 4 x HDMI 2.0 inputs, 2 x USB, 2 x 12V triggers, LAN and WiFi, audio out with optical in. There are twin, low-noise fans that keep things cool and running for 30,000 hours if you wish to test the life of the LEDs! It also comes with two Harman Kardon tuned full-range drivers for the off chance that you’re caught out with a 120in mage but no soundbar or speakers. There’s a legit Bluetooth mode as well, if you’re really keen on using it as a speaker alone and the dedicated volume toggle on the remote is testimony to Viewsonic’s seriousness.
Patience will be rewarded
Setting up the X100-4K is a breezy affair, thanks to its quick start-up times too, no more waiting around for the lamp to reach optimum operating temperature! The wide degree of lens shift makes it easy to fill a 120in screen from 11ft away without any issues. Focusing is pin-sharp and edge-to-edge and settling down with a movie can be done in under 5 minutes. But it’s not all smooth sailing, as the picture does take some effort to get right. Most of the presets won’t be for videophiles and if you want to take manual control, there is a lot of back and forth between, gamma, EOTF and independent RGB colour channels to get things to look acceptable, especially the effects of black levels on overall contrast. There’s an ISF mode too that can be unlocked simply by pressing the designated keys on the remote control, but a word of caution here - it’s best to let an ISF certified calibrator handle it or you may botch things up even more. The primary issue with the X100-4K is its handling of mid-tones in HDR that are easily driven into overexposure and an image that leans towards a greenish tinge overall. Once you do spend time getting the colour temperature right, 7500K works best for most conditions, by the way, it starts looking up. News of the World on Netflix is presented in HDR and the Viewsonic presents the barren mid-west landscape with impressive detail in terms of sharpness and motion smoothness. Where it lacks though are absolute black levels which are difficult to extract even after tweaking controls. This makes darker scenes less enjoyable than brighter ones, making for an inconsistent viewing experience. In movies like Soul which is animated, the X100-4K performs brilliantly with bright, perfectly saturated colours but switch to a Dolby Vision encoded show on Apple TV+ and its HDR processing gets confused, showing major colour shifts in Tenet, giving it a Matrix-like colour palette of a prominent green overtone.
Switch back to SDR and things are well in control, contrast gaining more depth and flesh tones falling in line too. But that’s the trade-off you have to make between peak brightness accurate colours with the X100. HDR10 on the X100 doesn’t play too well with Dolby Vision content so there are a trial and error routine involved every time you playback content from different platforms, be it Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+ or a disc-based source. It will be getting a firmware update that will bring HLG HDR to the mix too, which should widen its appeal with OTA broadcasts as and when it becomes commonplace.
For now, the X100-4K is for those who’d like flexibility in installation, which is generous thanks to its lens shift and motorized focus. With its plethora of connectivity options and even a built-in speaker and Aptoide app store, it can even make ends meet as an all-in-one device if you need it to be. All you need is a screen and you’d be OK. Its picture quality is good though, not great. It has its moments where it shines with superb frame interpolation and smoothness in panning motions, delivering a crisp and bright image that can impress the casual viewer. But, for the serious cinephile, it lacks the black level detail and colour accuracy that the best of the breed are capable of.