For years, 4K projectors have been limited to only the most elite home theater buyers, often costing a minimum of $15,000 and for the past decade were only produced by a single company in the market: Sony.
In 2018, however, there are a whole slew of 4K projectors rapidly hitting the tv market, some costing as low as a tenth of that price at retail. The laser-powered Acer VL7860 is in the sweet spot of that spectrum at just shy of $4,000 and includes all the same features you’d come to expect on a standard 4K flatscreen including HDR and a 120Hz max refresh rate, but will the projector’s mortal enemy – ambient room lighting – be its ultimate downfall?
Read on in our Acer VL7860 4K projector review to find out!
Acer VL7860 4K Projector Hands-On Review
Summary: The Acer VL7860 is a stellar 4K projector that puts out beautiful colors thanks to the addition of HDR technology, but it still suffers from ambient light bleed in less-optimal viewing scenarios.
What We Liked
- Spectacular picture quality for a projector
- Customizable HDR modes
- 120Hz refresh rate for buttery smooth pictures and gaming
What We Didn’t
- 4K HDR quality still gets washed out in ambient lit scenarios
- Onboard speaker is tinny and distant
Acer VL7860 Specs
Acer VL7860 Design
The Acer VL7860 is definitely one of the largest projectors we’ve ever reviewed, but among the new 4K big boys on the block it’s actually downright petite by comparison. That said with 18.7lbs of weight it’s not exactly light either, so make sure wherever you mount it that either the shelf or the mounting bracket is rated to hold that kind of heft.
Outside of that metric though, just about everything else regarding the design of the Acer VL7860 is “standard”. Boxy with a white-on-gray color scheme, this projector won’t exactly be turning heads anytime soon – but since when is that the point of your home theater equipment?
Acer VL7860 Hardware
The Acer VL7860 4K projector uses laser light technology to create its images at a maximum display resolution of 3840 x 2160, with a contrast ratio of 1,500,000:1 and ANSI lumen rating of 3000, with the ability to show an image as large as 305.3″ across from corner to corner at a distance of 32 feet.
The Acer VL7860 sports two HDMI ports, one VGA-in, one VGA-out, one RJ-45 Ethernet port as well as a USB port and two jacks for audio in and audio out.
Acer VL7860 User Interface and Settings
The Acer VL7860 utilizes a relatively straightforward menu style that had all the right pieces in the right places, save for a few extra options that threw us for a loop the first time we tried them out.
This included the “Brilliant Color” setting, which as far as we could tell simply jacked up the contrast and while seemingly unnecessary on non-HDR/4K content, was basically a must have when that option was turned on.
The second was the HDR-ometer (not sure what else to call it), which actually lets you customize the amount of HDR that’s applied to any given image. The scale rates from 1-4, and actually did seem to have a level for every occasion.
Watching Spiderman: Homecoming on 4K Blu-Ray for example only needed a 1 (due to the movie already being tonally bright on its own), while other content like Planet Earth II actually looked better and better the further we went up the scale.
Luckily the button to adjust this setting is right on top of the remote, so you can quickly adjust it on the fly if need be (say when a movie switches between day and night scenes, for example).
Testing and Performance of the Acer VL7860 4K Projector
After some slight tweaking, we were able to get some downright fantastic pictures out of the Acer VL7860, which when displayed at night, were on par with some of the best 4K TVs we’ve reviewed this year.
Brightness uniformity throughout the picture was also strong, with only a slight variance between the (admittedly low) scores we achieved of around 350 lux at the edges and a max of just short of 500 lux in the middle.
It’s a bit of a quandary, though. Because for everything the Acer VL7860 gets right in low-light conditions or while playing at night (namely blowing up a 4K image to half the size of your house, an effect which really has to be experienced to be fully believed), it still suffered from the one issue that plagues almost all projectors under the 4000 lumen threshold: ambient light bleed.
When trying to watch movies during the day, any color accuracy provided by HDR or refined details you’d be able to make out as a result of the 4K resolution were washed out in the light, essentially negating the need for 4K at all.
All this is to say that if you plan on setting up the Acer VL7860 in your home, be absolutely sure you’ve got your room completely blacked out or you’ll be suffering under the shine of the sun while trying to squint to make out any difference between this 4K machine and your standard 1080p projector instead.
- Gaming Performance: With a 120Hz max refresh rate while in 1080p mode, every game and movie we played on the Acer VL7860 was buttery smooth, and although there was still the notorious input lag that nearly every projector on the market suffers from, it was definitely less pronounced in this model than we’ve noticed in others before it.
- 3D Performance: 3D performance at 1080p (the highest rate you can use the feature at) looked just as good as it has on any other Acer projector we’ve reviewed, which is to say good, not great, but still enough to achieve the effect in your home theater setup without going overboard.
- Noise and Heat: For a projector this size we expected a hell of a lot more ruckus in this department. After running for around an hour the Acer VL7860 was only putting out a comparatively cool 99°, and pumping on a max decibel level of 41dB (in a room that registers 35dB ambiently).
- Sound: As is the case with just about every projector we’ve ever reviewed, the sound coming from the Acer VL7860’s two 5W onboard speakers was…tinny, at best. If you’re ponying up $4,000 for a projector though you’ve probably already got enough scratch to run with an external surround sound system too though so, we won’t dock any extra points on this end.
The Acer VL7860 comes with a ton of premium features that you won’t be able to find on most home projectors today, including 4K resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate (at 1080p), and the inclusion of HDR technology.
For these reasons alone it’s almost a projector that pays for itself…but ultimately the same question always comes up whenever you’re deciding to buy a projector opposed to a traditional flatscreen: is it worth the cost?
If you’ve got a room that’s completely blacked out or perfectly set up to get rid of all ambient light during daylight viewing hours then of course, pound for pound the answer is yes.
However, because there wasn’t a ton of brightness being pumped out from the 3,000-lumen lamp, all the same detail, brightness, and vivid color you’d expect when you pay those kinds of prices for home theater equipment was unfortunately still washed out by the tiniest amount of light bleed in our test room.
That means you’re only really getting the true 4K HDR experience during the night hours (again, unless you have a fully blacked-out room), and for about $1,000 less you can still rock an 82-inch 4K TV that won’t ever have this problem no matter what time of day you decide to watch or in which room.
That said this problem is consistent with just about any projector on the market today, but if you’re paying $4,000 only to discover a washed out image during the day you might be just that much more disappointed by your purchase.
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