Best Ultra Short Throw Projectors 2022 || AWOL LTV-3500, FORMOVIE Theater, XGIMI AURAOctober 2, 2022
🔥 Best Overall ($4000 and up) – AWOL LTV-3500 🔥
🔥 Top Pick (Under $3500) – Formovie Theater 🔥
🔥 Top Pick (Under $2500) – XGIMI AURA 🔥
XGIMI Direct: https://shrsl.com/3q9q3
🔥 Best Value (Under $2500) – Nexigo PJ90 Aurora 🔥
🔥 Floor Rising UST Screen 🔥
Vividstorm ALR 100″ S-Pro Screen: https://amzn.to/3SJaZN0
🔥 Other projectors tested 🔥
Samsung Premiere 130 LSP9T: https://www.projectorscreen.com/samsung-lsp9t-4k-ultra-short-throw-laser-projector.html?af=hookup-af
BENQ v7050i: https://amzn.to/3dTkOJJ
Epson LS300: https://amzn.to/3LWRRZK
Optoma P2: https://www.projectorscreen.com/optoma-p2-cinemax-4k-uhd-3000-lumen-ultra-short-throw-home-cinema-laser-projector-with-soundbar.html?af=hookup-af
JMGO O1 Pro: https://amzn.to/3CpH1bq
**As an Amazon Affiliate I earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you**
Ultra short throw projectors are the easiest way to get a huge screen in your living room without needing to run long wires and mount a projector on your ceiling. But how much better is a $6000 projector than a $1000 one?
Today on the hookup I’ve got 9 highly recommended ultra short throws priced from under $1000 to over $6000 from big brands, and some you’ve never heard of and I’m going to exhaustively test them to make sure you get the most for your money, and as always there are no sponsored reviews on this channel, so stick around to see the unbiased results for each test, or feel free to use the timestamps to skip right to my final recommendations.
I started planning for this video by watching every youtube review, and reading every article from projectorscreen.com and projector central, on Ultra Short Throw projectors and I compiled that information to select 7 of the most recommended ultra short throw projectors from these price ranges, and then for good measure I also included the least expensive UST that you can get on Amazon, and a brand new projector from Nexigo who makes my favorite projector in the under $200 category.
I’ll divide the video up into 4 sections, first are the features that I think have the greatest impact on how happy you’ll be with your projector.
Second, we’ll take a look at more traditional rating criteria like picture quality, sharpness, black levels, and color accuracy and we’ll do some side by side comparisons. Then, last, I’ll give my final recommendations in each budget category and each use case. Feel free to use the timestamps to skip around.
Here are what I think are the 4 most important features of an Ultra Short Throw projector that will make or break your experience, and we’ll start with the most important one: Brightness, because there’s no getting around it, your projector has to be bright enough for the room where you plan to use it, and the more ambient light your room has, the brighter your projector needs to be.
The standard measurement for projector brightness is the ANSI Lumen which I calculated by taking a brightness measurement at 9 standard points, averaging those measurements and multiplying by the screen size in square meters.
For white brightness the AWOL LTV-3500 came out on top with 3302 measured ANSI Lumens which is about 200 less than it’s advertised 3500 lumens, second the Samsung measured 3171 which is over 371 more than advertised, then the xgimi came in third with 2428, which is 28 more than advertised, I also calculated the cost per lumen where the Nexigo was by far the cheapest at 93 cents per lumen, followed by the Optoma and XGIMI at a dollar and one cent and a dollar and 3 cents respectively.
I was surprised by the low performance of the Optoma P2 which only had 2285 measured ANSI lumens compared to its advertised 3000, and the JMGO O1 Pro which measured in at just 720 ANSI lumens, which is less than half of its advertised 1500 lumens.
Measurements are one thing, but what’s really important is how that translates into a better viewing experience. So to take things to the extreme I made zero attempt to light control my living room leaving all the blinds open in the middle of the day, and all the lights on at 100% brightness.
For reference I also placed an 800 nit 4K monitor under the screen to show the difference between a projected image and a panel. At this point don’t get caught up in color accuracy because we’re going to talk all about that later, just focus on brightness, and you can see that the AWOL’s brightness numbers absolutely translate into viewing experience during the day generating a very TV like experience on a 100” screen, despite a massive amount of ambient light.
Other standout performers here in my mind were the XGIMI, Nexigo and Epson projectors, while the only one that I thought was actually unwatchable in this environment was the JMGO that just didn’t have the brightness to compete with the room’s ambient light.
I should also mention that for testing I’m using a 100” ambient light rejecting screen from Vividstorm that is specifically designed to work with ultra short throw projectors. The vividstorm screen is textured to reflect light that originates from under the screen and reject light that comes from above the screen. We’ll talk more about the impacts of screen choice when we look at black level later on.
The second thing that can make or break your projector experience sounds stupid, but to me and my wife has turned out to be very important and that’s fan noise and laser whine, which is almost never discussed in reviews. I measured each projector’s noise level at a distance of 1 meter and found that the Formovie, optoma, and Samsung were the quietest and the only one that I felt was truely unusable was the Epson LS300 that clocked in over 41 decibels. The Epson’s fan automatically adjusts based on brightness percentage, and I found that reducing the brightness to 70% lowered the fan noise to an acceptable level around 36 decibels, so as a result all the rest of the tests showing the Epson will be at 70% brightness because as I said I think it’s unusable at 100%. The BENQ was also pretty loud at 38.5 decibels, but it had a slightly less annoying pitch that I could probably learn to live with, but if fan noise is a deal breaker for you the BENQ also has what it calls silent mode that lowered the noise to 35.8 decibels.
Third is another thing that you don’t see mentioned in reviews, but is especially important for ultra short throw projectors which is the overall size and required positioning to get a specific screen size. Usually people decide on a UST projector because they don’t need to be mounted to a ceiling and running wires to them is even easier than a TV because you can just sit them on your existing furniture. However, even though the throw ratios are short, they aren’t infinitely short and you might find it impossible to get the projector in the right location for the best screen experience.
Everyone has a personal preference but a general rule is that when setting up your room you want your eye level to be somewhere in the middle to top of the bottom third of the projector screen. That means that if my eye level is 43 inches while sitting on the couch then the bottom of my projector screen should be about 28 inches from the ground, and my UST projector would need to sit between 13 and 15 inches below that, meaning the shelf that it sits on would need to be just 14 to 16 inches off the ground. Also, assuming that the projector screen is flush with the wall these projectors would need a shelf that was between 19 and 26 inches deep, which isn’t great since most modern TV consoles are around 16 inches deep, meaning you could need to pull them away from the wall as much as 10 inches.
I personally solve both of those issues using a motorized shelf to correctly position my projector, but that’s a topic for a different video.
The Samsung had by far the best throw ratio with the back of the projector needing to be just 4 and half inches from the screen for a 100” screen which means the front of the projector was less than 19 inches from the screen.
After that the JMGO needed a total of 21 inches from the screen and the Formovie and Nexigo projectors needed just a half inch more than that.
As for total overall size the JMGO and nexigo were in a class of their own and looked tiny next to the rest of the lineup.
Assuming you can position your projector in more or less the right location, you’re also going to need to meticulously level it to get your screen lined up properly. This process isn’t particularly difficult, but it can take time and it’s an absolute crime that all USTs don’t come with 4 adjustable leveling feet because it makes the process 100 times easier.
And your last resort after positioning and leveling are complete should be digital keystoning. Sometimes your wall might not be perfectly flat, or in the case of my roll up projector screen I have a slight curl near the middle of the tensioned screen, and digital keystoning lets me correct that errors so I can still have a perfectly square screen on a slightly imperfect projection surface. So to that end I rated each of the projector’s digital keystoning from 1-10, with 1 being the worst and 10 as the best. The BENQ scored much lower than the rest because it only has vertical keystoning, while the AWOL didn’t get a perfect score because the intermediate points in the 8 point calibration don’t have any lateral movement, so there’s no way to correct a skewed screen, and I’d love to see them add that in a firmware update.
The fourth and final critical feature of a projector, or really any display mostly applies to video games, and that’s input lag. When playing a video game this corresponds to the time between when you press a button on the controller and when you see something happen on the screen. Most projectors have a specific gaming mode that helps reduce lag, and here are the measured lag values for each projector in both their normal modes and their gaming mode taken using the industry standard Leo Bodner lag tester.
The surprising top performer was the JMGO which had just 27.5ms of input lag in gaming mode, but the AWOL, XGIMI and Formovie also performed very well with lag measurements in the mid 30s. Next was the nexigo with 40.5ms. Then the Samsung and Optoma were between 50 and 70 which is about the limit that is acceptable for casual gaming, but might feel sluggish in an FPS style game, and the worst performer was the Epson LS300 which doesn’t have a gaming mode and has a normal latency of over 120ms, which makes playing video games almost impossible.
So we’re pretty deep into this video and we’ve talked about brightness, fan noise, physical measurements, and input lag, which as I said are the features that I think are the most important differentiators between these projectors, but not the ones that are normally focused on in a projector review, and I can’t do a review of projectors without talking about their picture quality, but in all honesty, I don’t think it matters all that much. Hear me out:
Every single one of these projectors with the exception of the JMGO looks pretty fantastic. I played xbox on them, watched movies, TV shows and sports, and they look great. All of them, and if you weren’t comparing them side by side I think you’d be happy with the results, but since we’ve got them all we might as well do a little bit of side by side and I’ll point out some of the things that I personally look for when ranking one projector over another, and then after that I’ll explain why ranking projectors this way is a little silly.
For consistency, all the footage was streamed from HBO max using an appleTV 4K set to standard dynamic range, all the projectors were set to their standard image mode, and all were recorded with the same camera set to manual with these settings.
First, I want you to take a quick look at these 9 stills and decide which one YOU like the best, feel free to pause the video and really take a close look, because everyone has personal preferences and what I like might not be what you like. For me, I can immediately eliminate the Epson and the JMGO because they don’t have enough brightness to accurately show sun glare and reflections.
The next big difference is color palette, and you can see there are three distinct types: you’ve got cool, neutral and warm so we’ll rate those separately starting with the neutral palette.
In this grouping you can see that the optoma lacks contrast, and shadow detail, especially in the king’s facial hair, is lost, and even though I really like the overall picture of the Formovie, you can see that the sharpening algorithm introduced digital noise into the black areas of the scene, so that leaves the nexigo and the awol, and between the two the nexigo appears to have slightly better black levels, and avoids the sharpening artifacts that are also present on the AWOL, but the AWOL’s brightness really makes the highlights pop and is my personal preference for the neutral color palette.
For the cooler color palettes you can see that the XGIMI has significantly better black levels especially near the front of the king’s coat, and also more accurately portrays the shadow on the kings face which I think lacks contrast on the Samsung.
So that leaves us with these 3 very good, but very different images from BENQ, AWOL and XGIMI, and of the three my personal preference is the AWOL in this outdoor scene. Moving forward to a dark scene the same images stand out, but the Samsung also needs to get a nod and while it’s a little difficult to judge a scene lit by torches I overall prefer the cool temperature images from xgimi and Samsung in this case.
BUT as I said this kind of comparison is mostly futile, because every single one of these projectors has options for different picture modes and some of them have extremely in depth menus for tuning things like skin tone, contrast, white balance, and saturation point that the average user probably isn’t going to touch but might be important to you, so while I do think that the standard modes from xgimi and AWOL are closest to my personal preference, I think even more important than that is the ability to get your projector configured for YOUR preference so I ranked each system’s color management options from 1 to 10 with 1 being no options other than presets and 10 being full control of every aspect.
Notable performers here were the Formovie theater and AWOL LTV-3500 that have so many options that I had to google some of them to figure out what they did, so if you’re looking to do some serious calibration those are the projectors for you.
But, if you don’t want to have to deal with doing your own calibration the Formovie theater has another unique feature that currently isn’t found on ANY other ultra short throw projector, and that’s support for Dolby Vision HDR content.
The great part about Dolby Vision is that it mostly removes the burden of calibration, and most displays only have 1 or two presets for displaying Dolby Vision content, which is because dolby vision HDR sends calibration information called metadata for every individual scene, meaning dark scenes can have high contrast and high dynamic range without causing brighter scenes to look blown out.
The Samsung LSP9T and AWOL LTV-3500 support the competing standard called HDR10+, but there’s currently a standards war going on and while Hulu and Amazon Prime support HDR10+ streaming, Dolby Vision support seems to be much more common.
Keep in mind though that both HDR10+ and Dolby vision are HDR sources and any HDR source will be overall dimmer than an SDR source in order to be able to show a wider brightness range, which makes the high brightness of the AWOL and Samsung even more important, but even with close to 3500 lumens, those projectors can’t put out the same eye searing brightness as a TV which will ultimately hurt the HDR viewing experience. Here’s a quick comparison of some HDR content on each projector with my LG C9 as a reference. You can see in this case the AWOL has by far the best HDR performance, but when I switch to Dolby vision on the LG C9 and the Formovie Theater the images get much more similar, but out of the projectors I think AWOL’s brightness still gives it a leg up for displaying HDR content.
Brightness of the highlights isn’t the only thing that matters for HDR content though, the darkness of the shadows is also important, and on that note we need to address these misleading advertisements from Samsung. Projectors make an image by adding light to a screen, they can’t take away light, which makes this marketing image from samsung completely misleading because this shadow can only be as dark as this wall, period. Lucky for us our eyes perceive black levels comparatively, so if there’s a really bright object everything around it should appear darker. But it doesn’t change the fact that the color of your projection surface when the projector is off will be the darkest color black your projector can show. That’s why having an ambient light rejecting screen and controlling the light in your room will give you a significantly better experience than using sheer curtains and projecting onto a white wall.
The other thing that impacts black levels is how well the projector can block out light when an image calls for pure black. Without getting too detailed, all these projectors except the Epson and JMGO use the same imaging technology where they shine a laser or set of lasers at a digital micromirror device commonly called a DLP chip, and that DLP chip either reflects the light onto that specific pixel on the screen, or reflects it into the projector to block the light.
When they deflect the light that shouldn’t go to the screen some of it escapes and causes black areas to look gray, even in a completely dark room. The standard way to measure this value is called full on full off contrast, where you essentially do an ANSI lumen measurement on a 100% black image in a dark room and compare that to the ANSI lumen measurement for white brightness.
In this test the AWOL had notably low performance which is common for very bright projectors, and the contrast ratio of the JMGO was somewhat limited by it’s low white brightness, but I expected better from the Optoma P2. The best performers here were the Formovie Theater with a FOFO contrast ratio of 3616 to 1, with the Epson coming in 2nd and the Xgimi in 3rd, and those measurements directly translated into viewing experience with the Formovie, Epson and XGIMI having noticably better black levels in person.
But keep in mind that while a projector’s FOFO rating does matter, the biggest impact on black levels and contrast will come from the screen you choose, and while I think a good screen is important for any projector, they are 10x more important for an ultra short throw.
Not only does the extreme angle of projection allow ALR screens to be significantly more effective for UST projectors, but USTs are also very sensitive to imperfections in projection surface. While you might not notice a small wave in your wall with a standard throw projector, the lens of an ultra short throw will exaggerate a small imperfection into a huge one.
The same is true for focus, I hear the argument all the time that UST projectors have terrible focus uniformity, but the truth is that their lenses are tuned to be an exact distance away from the screen, and if you are projecting onto an uneven surface, or you can’t get your projector lined up with the screen properly then it will be impossible to get the entire screen into focus, which is another reason to invest in a good screen and pay attention to the size and positioning requirements of your projector.
I meticulously lined up and leveled each projector to fill my projector screen without keystoning and tested their focus uniformity, and the only projectors that had any issue at all were the JMGO that was soft in the bottom left corner, the XGIMI that was just barely soft in the upper left corner, and the Nexigo that was ever so slightly out of focus in both top corners. In this test the BENQ was a standout for me and was about as perfectly uniform as you could ask for with dead sharp focus in all four corners and the center of the screen.
Another thing that is unique about UST projectors is they tend to include powerful speakers, and even though I think most people who are spending a few thousand dollars on a projector are also going to invest in a sound system, I should at least talk about the built in options. Some notable standout performers here were the Epson LS300, Xgimi Aura, and Formovie Theater which had nice full range audio with enough volume to be used without an external sound system, while the AWOL had by far the loudest speakers, but I didn’t find the tone particularly pleasing and there’s no way I would spend $5000 on the AWOL without buying a decent surround sound system to compliment it.
The last thing to address before I give some final recommendations is called the DLP Rainbow effect. Digital micromirror devices or DLP chips are pretty much magic when you consider on these 4K pixel shifted projectors there are 2 million mirrors each displaying red, green, and blue for 4 different pixels or 12 movements per frame, and they do that at up to 60 frames per second, so each tiny mirror needs to move 720 times per second.
Unfortunately some people can perceive those 12 small movements per frame and experience the rainbow effect or RBE, and it’s a bit like cilantro in that for a small percentage of the population it can totally ruin their experience if they happen to be sensitive to it. I’m not particularly sensitive to RBE, but I am able to see it in certain scenes and I designed a test to be able to visualize and quantify how much of an issue RBE might be with any given projector.
In the slowest movement test you can see that the older generation projectors like the Optoma P2 and BENQ v7050i had the most noticeable RBE, followed by the newer generation single laser projectors like the XGIMI Aura and Nexigo PJ90 Aurora, and the AWOL, Formovie, and Samsung which are triple laser projectors completely avoided RBE in the slowest test. Epson uses 3LCD technology which will never show RBE, and the JMGO uses an RGB LED light source which means it should have similar RBE resistance to the triple laser projectors.
At 2x speed the results were the same but more exaggerated, and at 3x speed the Formovie gave in and finally showed some RBE while the Samsung, AWOL, JMGO and Epson continued to avoid it. So if you’re especially prone to RBE you should either go for a Epson 3LCD projector or a triple laser projector.
So conclusion time.
If you’re looking for an ultra short throw under $1000 you really only have two options: The JMGO O1 Pro and the Philips Screeneo U4. Of the two the JMGO’s stats are better in almost every way, but I still don’t really think anyone should buy it. It’s small and relatively lightweight, but it just doesn’t have the brightness or clarity to use in an actual home theater and even though it’s the cheapest projector in the video $1000 is still a lot of money and in this case you’re probably better off buying a TV or a standard throw projector where you’ll get a lot more value for your money.
If you have $2500 to spend your options are the XGIMI Aura, Nexigo PJ90 Aurora, Epson LS300, or the Optoma P2 and even though it’s the most expensive option the XGIMI Aura is a pretty clear winner. The XGIMI has the 3rd highest overall brightness, low gaming latency, competitive black levels, good speakers, good build quality including 4 independent leveling feet and minimal RBE. The XGIMI’s only real downsides are a lack of color management options, and it’s overall size which is pretty huge.
The Nexigo PJ90 Aurora is also a very interesting choice if you’re looking for a projector with a significantly smaller footprint. The XGIMI performed slightly better than the Nexigo in every category but with the Nexigo’s expected retail price of $2100 I’m not sure if the XGIMI was $400 better than the Nexigo, which has the lowest cost per lumen by a pretty significant margin.
Jumping up into the $3500 and under category we’ve got the BENQ v7050i and the Formovie Theater, and it just wasn’t even close. The Formovie theater has completely redefined what you should expect from a projector at this price point, and was very close to being the best projector period, not just the best in this price range. Triple laser light source, dolby vision support and the most extensive color management menu I’ve ever seen make the Formovie theater the projector that all other projectors will be compared to from this point on. The only downside of the Formovie Theater is that even though the black levels and contrast ratio were the best in the group, I still would have loved to see a little more brightness to help with HDR content, and like almost all AndroidTV projectors, netflix is not supported, but other than those two little things this projector is extremely good.
Beyond that in the over $4000 category the AWOL LTV-3500 was the clear winner over the Samsung Premiere 130 LSP9T with higher brightness, better effective black levels, and better HDR performance. The AWOL also has similar color management options to the Formovie Theater to let you dial in the picture mode for your personal preference. With 3300 ANSI lumens the AWOL is an absolute light cannon and its extremely uniform color brightness made the AWOL the only projector in this group that I could justify watching HDR over SDR content and during the day in a non light controlled room the AWOL felt more like a TV than a projector. My only complaints about the AWOL are minor and nitpicky:
First, the high brightness comes with a tradeoff of black levels that are more dark gray then black and I also felt that for a $5000 projector the case and remote feel a little cheap. The plastic on the outside of the projector feels a little bit flimsy and the projector’s included remote looks like it belongs to a much less expensive machine. The AWOL has a built in compartment for a streaming stick which I totally appreciate, but a FireTV max feels like an odd choice for a premium projector even though it means that you won’t have to worry about the Netflix compatibility issues that are so common on AndroidTV projectors. Still overall there’s no question that the AWOL LTV-3500 was the top performing projector in this video if you’ve got the budget for it.
I want to thank Brian at projectorscreen.com for providing me with loaner units of a few of these projectors to test out, so in addition to my normal Amazon links I’ve also got links to buy these projectors at competitive prices from projectorscreen.com, and as always if you found this video helpful I’d appreciate if you use the links in the description since as an Amazon affiliate I earn a small commission on those sales at no cost to you.
Thank you so much to my awesome patrons over at patreon for your continued support of my channel and if you’re interested in supporting my channel please check out the links down in the description. If you enjoyed this video please hit that thumbs up button and consider subscribing and as always, thanks for watching the hookup.