Leica Cine 1 First Look: You'll Trade Your TV For This

This afternoon at IFA 2022 in Berlin, we experienced the Leica Cine 1 for the first time. This is an ultra-short-throw projector, or a "laser TV" as Leica would have it, and the first expansion into the large-scale TV and home cinema segment for the legendary photography brand. About the size of an old-school suitcase, it's a fairly Germanic perforated aluminum box that makes for an interesting piece of industrial design decoration for the room even before it's switched on. When you do hit the power button, however, the Leica Cine 1 tosses 4K resolution video up at an angle that is so short, the device can function at a distance less than a foot from the wall.

Despite that extreme proximity, the Leica Cine 1 can project an image as large as 100-inches wide. Unlike many projectors, which rely on external sources, there's also a built-in TV tuner and its own Smart TV launcher. It also has its own physical remote, with a borderline-shocking number of buttons with which to control the TV and its content. We only got to view pre-approved video on the device, so we can't say how well the Cine 1 works with a gaming console attached, but based on what we've seen here, the laser TV will be a force to be reckoned with.

The projection looks like a TV screen

In the brief period of time I was in the room with the Leica Cine 1, I saw no less than 5 people walk up to the picture and look back at the projector to confirm that it was, indeed, the source. It looks so much like a standard video screen that, if I didn't know for certain that I was looking at a projected image, my first guess would be that I was seeing an OLED panel. Considering that's the current cutting-edge of home entertainment display, it's a big deal.

It's not perfect, of course. Upon closer inspection, the latest display panels from Samsung or LG are probably going to still have the edge. However Leica's system has the not-inconsiderable advantage of being invisible — on the wall, at least — when the system is switched off.

Shifting from a TV to a projector takes a little effort, it's true. After all, you'll need the right sort of wall — or projection screen — to best reflect the light the projector is delivering. But if we toss that, and the hefty price (which could reach almost $8k) out the window, the Leica Cine 1 could be a no-brainer for people taking movie night seriously.

Built-in speakers wrap an impressive package

I've grown used to the idea that my television will be the source of the sound that goes with the picture on the screen. It's been so long since I've used a projector to watch TV or play games, meanwhile, that I'd forgotten that almost every single projector I've ever experienced has had speakers that were — to put it bluntly — garbage.

The Leica Cine 1, in stark contrast, proved capable of serving up sound that far exceeded my expectations. That's because Leica found space for built-in Dolby Atmos speakers, including the ability to project what the company is describing as "surround sound." Of course it'll have to be simulated surround sound since the speakers aren't literally surrounding the listener, but it certainly performs like it means business. I suspect for the most part, though, buyers will connect a serious projector like this to a similarly-serious full Atmos audio system.

Nonetheless, for the amount squeezed into a single box, the entire package here was impressive, to be sure. Leica even says there's an eco angle to consider, since the projector uses less power than a similarly-scaled OLED screen with hideaway talent. Considering how much a huge OLED TV will currently set you back, even the price tag Leica is expecting when the Cine 1 arrives on shelves in North America and Europe come the second quarter of 2023 doesn't seem entirely outrageous, even if you'll probably want to also buy a decent projection screen at the same time.