February 5, 2023

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Best 4K UST Projector Revealed at the 2022 Ultra Short Throw Projector Shootout

In 2004, Robert Zohn from Value Electronics had an idea. Let’s put all the top TVs in a room, hit them with a bunch of test patterns and video content and see which one looks the best. And thus the TV Shootout was born. Every year since then (except 2020, pesky Covid), Robert has held the TV Shootout annually. It’s a great way to see how the top displays compare to each other using both test patterns and real world video material

Last year Robert and his co-sponsor Dealerscope expanded the event to include “Laser TVs” (UST projectors). This year, they expanded the event yet again to look at traditional long throw home theater projectors. The 2022 TV shootout event was held this past July. The 2022 Projector Shootout was just held this past weekend with one day dedicated to UST projectors and another to home theater projectors. Here’s how things played out.

Robert Zohn of Value Electronics and Philip Jones of ProjectorReviews.com
Host Robert Zohn (left) of Value Electronics and emcee Philip Jones of ProjectorReviews.com welcome everyone to the 2022 UST Projector Shootout in New York City.

2022 UST Projector Shootout

On Saturday, December 10, 2022, five UST (Ultra Short Throw) projectors were brought together at The Company building in Manhattan. Each was set to the preset user mode that was measured as most accurate in its color reproduction and each was set to its most accurate color temperature (white closest to 6500 degrees Kelvin). Some additional tweaks to brightness and contrast were performed in order to get each projector to perform as well as possible on test patterns for color, brightness and contrast. Measurements were taken using colorimeters and Calman calibration software to verify performance. Short of a full professional calibration, this about as good as it gets. Prices ranged from $3,500 to $6,500 and five different manufacturers were represented.

Five Projectors included in the 2022 UST Projector Shootout:

  • AWOL LTV-3500 Triple Laser 4K DLP UST Projector ($5,499)
  • Epson LS800 3-Chip LCD Laser Lit 4Ke UST Projector ($3,499)
  • Hisense PX1-PRO Triple Laser 4K DLP UST Projector ($3,499)
  • LG HU915QB Triple Laser 4K DLP UST Projector ($6,499)
  • Samsung LSP9T Triple Laser 4K DLP UST Projector ($6,499)

Notably absent at the event was the ForMovie Theater UST projector. Made by Chinese manufacturer Fengmi, the Formovie projector has performed well at similar UST events in the past as well as in recent reviews. Event host Robert Zohn told me he tried to get a sample of the Formovie projector from the manufacturer (even though he is not currently a Formovie dealer) but the manufacturer was unable to provide one in time for the event.

HU915QB_4-900
UST Projectors like the LG HU915QB provide that big screen cinematic experience at home without the complexity of a front projector installation.

To assure a level playing field, all projectors used identical 120-inch screens made of “Radiant White” screen material from Seymour Screen Excellence. These screens offer a gain of 1.0 with no ambient light rejection so judges could see exactly what each projector was capable of. If you buy one of these projectors, depending on where it is installed, you may want to use a special ALR (Ambient Light Rejecting) screen designed specifically for UST projectors. These screens do a great job of absorbing and rejecting ambient room lighting if the projector is used in a living room or other brightly lit space. This accentuates the contrast and makes these projectors look more dynamic, like a good flat panel television.

Testing… Testing…

The test content used in the UST Shootout varied from 480i and 1080i legacy interlaced videos to SDR (standard dynamic range) HD and 4K content and full Ultra HD 4K content with HDR (High Dynamic Range). Each piece of test material was selected to highlight a different area of display performance such as contrast, color accuracy, color volume, shadow detail and motion resolution. AVProStore provided switching, distribution, and test equipment for the event while MetraAV provided HDMI cables (48Gbs/HDMI 2.1-compliant).

Four projectors in the competition used DLP imaging chips with triple laser lighting. The Epson LS800 features a single laser (plus phosphor) 3-Chip LCD imaging engine. All UST projectors in the competition used some form of pixel shifting to generate their 4K (or 4Ke) image. The LG projector uses Texas Instruments’ larger high resolution 0.66″ chip so only needs to pixel shift once in order to generate a full resolution 4K image. The Epson also does a single pixel shift to create double the resolution of 1080p, but half the resolution of full 4K. The AWOL Vision, Samsung and Hisense projectors use Texas Instruments’ 0.47″ 1080p DLP device with 4X pixel shifting to reproduce full 4K resolution.

0.47" and 0.66" DLP Pixel Shifting Diagram
DLP projectors reproduce 4K UHD resolution in one of two ways: single pixel shifting of a 2716×1528 DMD device or 4-way pixel shifting of a 1080p DMD device.

Philip Jones of Projector Reviews and Sound United emceed this year’s event. Mr. Jones is the publisher, technical editor and lead reviewer of ProjectorReviews.com. Jason Dustal, ISF Instructor and engineer with Murideo was the man behind the curtain, overseeing projector set-up and testing operations during the event.

The Set Up

In terms of specific picture settings, the AWOL projector was set to “Movie” picture mode for SDR content and color temperature was set to “Standard.” For HDR content on the AWOL, they switched to “Sport” mode, and color temperature was still set to “Standard.” The Epson LS800 was set to its “Natural” mode for both SDR and HDR content. Color temperature was set to “7” for all tests on the Epson. The Hisense projector was set to its “Theater Day” mode for SDR tests, and “Standard” mode for HDR. Color temperature was set to “Low” for all tests. On the LG HU915QB, “Cinema Home” mode was used for SDR content, “Expert Bright” was used for HDR. Color temperature on the LG was set to “Warm” for all testing. On the Samsung projector, the “Movie” mode and “Warm 1” temperature were used for all SDR and HDR tests.

Expert judges from the video and film industries were on hand to rank each projector on their performance.

Judges for the 2022 UST Projector Shootout:

  • Brent McCall, Technical Specialist, HDMI Product Development and Support, Metra AV
  • Charlie Anderson, Digital Imaging Technician and Cinematographer
  • David Mackenzie, Compressionist, Fidelity in Motion 
  • Kenneth Almestica, Senior Technical Director, Viacom
  • Philip Jones, Lead Reviewer and Technical Editor, ProjectorReviews.com
  • Shane Lee, A/V YouTube Channel Owner and Video Enthusiast

All of the projectors had their strong points and prospective buyers should check out the full scorecard to see how each projector scored in each test category. Based on your own personal preferences (e.g., watching more movies or more live sports, dark room vs. bright room) and your budget, one of the projectors with a lower overall performance score may actually be a better option for your specific needs.

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Value Electronics Projector Shootout 2022 Comparing Skin Tones
Multiple tests for color accuracy and skin tone reproduction were included in the 2022 UST Projector Shootout.

Some projectors stood out in specific categories. The Epson LS800, the only LCD projector in the competition and the least expensive projector in the bunch, performed particularly well on motion reproduction and HDR tone mapping tests. Tone mapping is important as no projector can match the peak luminance standards used to master UHD HDR content. Tone mapping allows a display to scale the luminance and color values in the content to the specific brightness and color capabilities of the projector in order to preserve the film-maker’s intent. The AWOL LTV-3500 stood out for its bright dynamic image, scoring highest on both the SDR and HDR “bright content” tests. The AWOL projector would be a good choice for viewing in very bright rooms.

One projector really dominated the competition, earning the highest scores in nine of the fifteen tests and finishing first overall in both the SDR and HDR categories. That was the LG HU915QB. The LG earned the highest scores for shadow detail, color accuracy, overall detail and picture uniformity tests in both the SDR and HDR test categories. It tied the Epson for highest score in 1000-Nit tone mapping. So it follows that the new “King of UST Projectors” for 2022 is the LG HU915QB. The AWOL Vision LTV-3500 came in second and the Epson LS800 placed third.

Value Electronics Projector Shootout Scorecard 2022
Actual Scorecard used in the 2022 UST Projector Shootout. This one includes the average scores for each test category from all judges.

2022 UST Projector Shootout Complete Rankings:

  1. LG HU915QB: 8.56 Overall Score (8.55 for SDR content, 8.57 for HDR)
  2. AWOL Vision LTV-3500: 7.86 Overall Score (7.75 for SDR content, 7.96 for HDR)
  3. Epson LS800: 7.43 Overall Score (7.63 for SDR content, 7.25 for HDR)
  4. Samsung LSP9T: 7.26 Overall Score (7.09 for SDR, 7.42 for HDR)
  5. Hisense PX1-PRO: 7.20 Overall Score (7.81 for SDR, 7.12 for HDR)
Judges for Value Electronics Projector Shootout 2022
2022 UST Shootout hosts from Value Electronics, Murideo, Dealerscope and ProjectorReviews.com pose with reps from LG Electronics, makers of the 2022 “King of UST Projectors”

Stay Tuned for the Results from Day Two: Long Throw Projectors.

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