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Fresh from CES2015, Brilens have launched the first ever projector equipped with a hybrid laser-LED bulb: long lasting and zero maintenance in a small and portable package. As a new technology, it comes with a steep price tag of $999 – but is it worth it? Read on to find out, and at the end we’re giving away our review unit to one lucky reader!

Update: Since this review was published, a tear down of the unit has revealed that claims of being a “laser projector” may have been exaggerated. Though there are indeed a few laser modules inside, their output appears to be negligible compared to the standard LED bulbs. I’m no expert in optics or laser light, so if you’d like further details please read the thread over at AVSForums

What’s In The Box?

Nothing but the basics here:

  • The main projector unit
  • VGA and HDMI cable
  • Power cable (IEC)
  • Hefty power brick
  • Basic remote control

brilens ls1280 projector - contents

 

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Specifications:

  • 3800 lumens
  • 50,000:1 contrast ratio
  • 1.5-12m projection distance
  • Active shutter 3D (glasses not included, so not tested)
  • 2x HDMI input, VGA
  • 1280 x 800 16:10 WXGA native resolution
  • Micro SD card slot
  • Stereo audio in / out
  • Ethernet / Wi-Fi
  • 2.5kg (excluding the power brick)

 

Note, the review unit we were sent appears to have issues with HDMI input 1, though input 2 was fine.

The Competition

I’m a big fan of the big screen screen cinema experience at home (or perhaps I just hate expensive popcorn?) so this isn’t the first projector we’ve examined at MakeUseOf. Around this time last year I asked if a $400 budget projector ATCO Budget HD Projector with Built-In Android Review and Giveaway ATCO Budget HD Projector with Built-In Android Review and Giveaway We've purchased a budget LED projector to see if you can get that same big screen experience from something half the price. It cost just less than $400. Let's see if it's any good. Read More was worth bothering with at all, and I was actually rather impressed – it even had a capable Android system built-in. That same model has now been upgraded from 3800 to a 4500 lumen bulb, and the price slightly lowered. With the same basic specs as the Brilens 1280 – but in a significantly bulkier package – it’s difficult to tell if the portability is worth the extra $600.

Closer in price are a number of short throw projectors such as the Optoma W305ST (currently $710) or the BenQ W1070 ($675), which both offer a lower brightness; and even an ultra short throw project like the Optoma GT750 gaming projector we reviewed back in mid-2013 Optoma GT750 3D Gaming Projector Review and Giveaway Optoma GT750 3D Gaming Projector Review and Giveaway I love projectors; I have fond memories of nights spent in front of the projector with all my housemates, as we snuggled under the kotatsu (a Japanese heated table thing) and settled in to watch... Read More  has an upgraded model GT760 available for just over $500. This is some seriously stiff competition – the LS1280 is going to have to blow me away for that price.

Image Size and Quality

The LS1280 has a distinctly longer than expected throw distance – although the sales page states 50 inches at 1.5m from the screen, my measurements put it at more like 40 inches, even with the lens zoom dial on maximum. Given that a 50″ TV can be purchased for less than $1000 (and which would have a better image quality), it’s difficult to see the LS1280 being used in a home cinema setup. If you have a large room and can mount it at the back on the ceiling, you’ll get a satisfactory size of projection – but then if you’re going to mount it, what’s the value proposition in buying a portable projector? You can buy larger models much cheaper which are wholly more suitable to the home environment.

brilens ls1280 projector - lens

This limitation places it firmly in the business class: fine if you’re in a large meeting room, and can place it on the opposite end of the table.

Though the device promises 3D support, their marketing is all over the place: I clarified with their rep that it uses active shutter 3D (confused? Read about the differences: can my monitor do 3D? Can My Laptop, Monitor, Or TV Do 3D? [Frequently Asked Questions] Can My Laptop, Monitor, Or TV Do 3D? [Frequently Asked Questions] This gets asked about once a week on our questions and answers section, so I’m writing this in the hopes that maybe it’ll clear things up for some readers. The short answers is: no, there’s... Read More ), yet the sales page says “passive 3D”, and another listing shows an image with red/cyan 3D filter applied. Either way, no 3D glasses were included in the package received, so I’m unable to confirm any of these claims.

The actual image quality wasn’t amazing – I could see some obvious gradients in colour ranges that simply weren’t there on the computer. Movies and TV shows seemed fine though, to my relatively untrained eye.

Resolution

With a native resolution of 1280 x 800 (16:10 WXGA), the LS1280 is essentially a 720p projector. Though it’s difficult in reality to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p on a 30-40″ television from your sofa, the difference is more significant once you explode the image to 70 inches and more. The diagram below shows the significance of 720p vs 1080p more clearly.

720p vs 1080p

At this point in time, I’d struggle to recommend a 720p projector for a home cinema. Projectors lag behind traditional TVs, so while 4K TVs are available at under $1000 (not that you need one Why Buying A 4K TV Right Now Is A Waste Of Money Why Buying A 4K TV Right Now Is A Waste Of Money With an obvious price difference between the new generation of 4K TVs, and older Full HD models - do you really need 4K? We think not, and here's why. Read More ), 4K projectors are still new to market and cost tens of thousands of dollars, however 1080p (“Full HD”) should really be the lowest resolution you’d consider, outside of low budget models.

Operation

Focus and a small degree of screen size adjustment is done manually from these black dials on the side.

brilens ls1280 projector - adjustments

On top of the unit are a standard array of buttons, including a multifunction d-pad style menu button, and the usual power / source selection.

brilens ls1280 projector - top controls

A basic remote control is also included which is as generic as can be and just gets the job done. The IR receiver is situated on top of the unit though, so you do need to aim carefully.

brilens ls1280 projector - remote

An Ethernet port and Wi-Fi adapter is built-in to set the machine up as a Miracast receiver; unfortunately, entering a Wi-Fi password involves using the d-pad to point around a software keyword – with a long a mixed case password that includes punctuation, I gave up on that nonsense. A basic media player is included to play media from the SD card slot or a USB drive, but there’s no built-in Android system as we’ve seen on some projectors so your options are a little limited there.

Noise

They claim a noise level of 25dB, but given that this would mean it’s silent, I have serious doubt about those claims. I used SPLnFFT Noise Meter to measure (widely regarded as the most accurate iPhone tool available), and recorded an ambient noise level of between 40-44 dB. With the projector turned, a very noticeable fan increase that to 50-55 dB a few inches from the projector. This would be quite noticeable during the silent parts of a movie track, and the unit has a tendency to ramp up and down the fan, thereby drawing attention to itself. Using a dB calculation tool (dB is logarithmic scale, so we can’t just do 55-44 to get the actual noise level of the projector), leaves us with 48.7 dB from the projector alone. You can hear it for yourself in the video at the start of the article.

noise

Suffice to say the sheer volume of noise from the LS1280 is unsuitable for a home cinema, and would probably annoy in all the but the noisiest of business meetings.

Portability

We’ve mentioned already the diminutive size and 2.5kg lightweight body, but there’s some other characteristics that make it clear this is aimed at the travelling salesman.

A power input around the back labelled “battery” alludes to the fact you can in theory run this projector from a battery pack  – this is a huge selling point for meetings on the go, but I’m struggling to think of a meeting situation I’ve ever been in where there hasn’t been power sockets available. At the time of writing the battery was not yet available, nor was further information on a price point, but it is promised at a later date.

Another big selling point for mobile presentations is the wireless MiraCast video transmission feature, which enables simple and seamless broadcast from a number of mobile devices and via a PC application. Pocket sized “Pico” projectors are generally terrible all round – but this device gives you a reasonable image size in a small package.

Sadly, there’s no carry case included. Obviously, this isn’t a deal breaker for anyone, but given its target market it would have been a nice gesture; most projectors come with some kind of protective case.

Lamp Life

The stated lamp life of the LS1280 is 50,000 hours, owing to the relatively new “laser bulb” technology. However, the budget ATCO projector ATCO Budget HD Projector with Built-In Android Review and Giveaway ATCO Budget HD Projector with Built-In Android Review and Giveaway We've purchased a budget LED projector to see if you can get that same big screen experience from something half the price. It cost just less than $400. Let's see if it's any good. Read More I reviewed last year also stated 50,000 hours with an LED bulb. It’s difficult to do long-term testing on either these, but it’s reasonable to assume the LED bulb may have been overstated especially at the price point of less than $400. Conventional mercury lamps generally get around 6,000 hours before needing replacement.

But let’s do some math for a moment. If you watched a 1.5 hour movie, every night of the year, that’s still just under 550 hours per year. A 6,000 hour bulb – let’s half that if you’re running full brightness since stated bulb lives often some “power saving” modes – should still last you about 5 years, by which time affordable 4K projectors will be on the market and you’ll want to upgrade. The upshot is that unless your projector will be in constant use, I’d advise against making any decisions based on bulb life.

brilens ls1280 projector - overview

Should You Buy The Brilens LS1280?

Coming in at $1000, it’s difficult to recommend the LS1280 for home use. It’s neither cheap; nor does it enable you to have a huge image size from a close distance, as ultra short throw projectors do. It doesn’t have a built-in Android media system as some cheaper projectors have been adding lately, although it does play simple media from USB; nor does it do full HD. On the upside, it’s 2.5kg, so easily classified as portable, and has a long lamp life provided by the laser bulb – but this isn’t any longer than well established LED-based technology – at least going by manufacturers stated bulb life. The fan noise in particular is disappointing, as is the long throw distance required. Perhaps it’s just early days for laser bulbs, but I’d suggest waiting for this technology to mature unless portability is your number one priority right now.

Lightweight and extremely portable, but a disappointing noise level and long throw distance make this a terrible choice for the home environment.
Brilens Ls1280 Portable Home Cinema Laser+led Hybrid 30,000 Hours Hd 1280 X 800 3d Mini 1.5kgs Movie Projector Brilens Ls1280 Portable Home Cinema Laser+led Hybrid 30,000 Hours Hd 1280 X 800 3d Mini 1.5kgs Movie Projector Brightness: 3000 Lumens, Contrast Ratio: 20,000:1, Active 3D, Auto Keystone, Max Power:150W Buy Now At Amazon $492.55

Brilens LS1280 Laser Projector Giveaway

The winner will be selected at random and informed via email. View the list of winners here.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Kelly LaBrecque
    March 26, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    This the greatest laser projector. The detailed description and instructions shared in this article is amazing

  2. Kelly LaBrecque
    March 24, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    The details in which this projector is explained...I think I could operate it with my eyes closed.

  3. Kelly LaBrecque
    March 22, 2015 at 4:49 am

    This is one of the most extensive descriptions of a laser projector online. Which is very good. We all know everything there is to know about them now.

  4. Kelly LaBrecque
    March 20, 2015 at 3:55 am

    The pictures showed a complete and detailed description of the projector. The itemized descriptions indeed allow one to completely understand what is presented. I feel comfortable knowing that I would be comfortable in getting this equipment.

  5. Kelly LaBrecque
    March 19, 2015 at 12:00 am

    I love this projector and would love to own it.

  6. Chris
    March 17, 2015 at 2:21 am

    Anyone know what color the laser diode is inside, or how many of them?

  7. Kelly LaBrecque
    March 17, 2015 at 1:13 am

    I love this projector and the complete review of the components is terrific

  8. carl
    March 16, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    wow

  9. Derek Golding
    March 16, 2015 at 4:39 am

    Well, I was looking at this projector for mobile use for an art installation. I needed something I could walk around with to project images onto moving objects but the price shot up on Aliexpress.com from $640 to $999 almost overnight after the manufacturers displayed the projector at CES! Still would like a sample to try though, we need 24 projectors for the installation (projection mapping and holograms) for the Oamaru Festival of Fire in May :)

    Are there any other laser projectors like this or is this the first?
    What was the contrast like?

  10. Thomas Brannon
    March 15, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    great

  11. Helen Mitchell
    March 15, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    This is a beautiful projector. Wonderfully clear and easy to use.

  12. Helen Mitchell
    March 15, 2015 at 1:11 am

    Boy could my beginning theater company use this.

  13. Tina Liu
    March 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I want one too!

  14. BRIAN REILLY
    March 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    This would be cool to have.

  15. Kelly LaBrecque
    March 14, 2015 at 3:58 am

    I would love this projector!

  16. Patricia Hilke
    March 13, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    nice prize

  17. Patrick Pleau
    March 11, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    Me want to watch Blade Runner with it :)

  18. DUCKSLAYER66
    March 11, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    FINALLY A CHANCE TO WIN ONE.

  19. shawn
    March 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    wow

  20. Edmond
    March 11, 2015 at 2:18 am

    OMG, luv it ease of use. Divine. Wow, prize projector is fab. & splendid. 2 fingers snap. It is tight, fly & off the chain. Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. Pick me, pick me! Dear Santa: I’ve been nice. My X-Mas wish this year is to win this contest. Starving artist here desperately needs the projector to work and eat again.

  21. mark
    March 10, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Do lots of presentations and this would be awesome!

  22. James
    March 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Could use this instead of a new TV. Replace my 10yr old AQUOS

  23. Daniel Koenen
    March 10, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I always thought of purchasing a projector for my room to give it capability of having a wide screen tv in there without having to take up the same amount of space.
    I would be very hesitant to choose one that is so expensive, but the projectors that have come in at $50 mark are likewise too low quality.

    I managed to get around the cost issue by tying a small computer monitor to the bottom of my shelf above my bed and ran a linux laptop onto it.

  24. Andrei
    March 10, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Count me in!

  25. misha
    March 10, 2015 at 9:39 am

    hope to win

  26. Jesudoss
    March 10, 2015 at 9:09 am

    A very good in-depth review of the product.

  27. Jasper
    March 10, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Hope to win. Movies at home.

  28. jimvandamme
    March 9, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    3800 L is pretty powerful. But LEDs and lasers are susceptible to heat. That's why the fan.

  29. Princess Buenviaje
    March 9, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    i love it hope to win :)

  30. Kim
    March 9, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Love it's simplicity but high tech output

  31. Kim
    March 9, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    Looks good and long lasting

  32. Keith
    March 9, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Great looking product. Glad they're getting better at this stuff.

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