I reviewed a $2800 Ultra Short Throw (UST) laser projector two years ago and it said it was so good that I would buy one. Of course, I had to return this review unit, which left me with the difficult decision: Should I spend the money? did. And after two years, I can comfortably say it was worth it.
I actually have two UST laser projectors in my house now, both made by VAVA. The first is the original $2800 model I reviewed, which I eventually bought for my living room. I have another downstairs on loan as a review unit, an updated $3,500 VAVA Chroma (see this review soon). VAVA isn’t the only company that makes UST laser projectors, but they all have a few things in common. In general, “affordable models” cost about $ 3000 (more or take $ 500); They don’t usually support natural 4K and use upscaling instead. In addition, they can usually create images from 100 to 150 inches in size.
This cost, of course, does not include a projector screen – you will have to pay extra for it or a project on the wall. This last option works well enough but presents some issues which I will discuss later. Suffice it to say; A floor cabinet laser projector is not cheap. But the time I spent living with them time and time again justified the price.
movie theaters death
If you read my previous review, you might have noticed that I ended it by saying I wanted to buy the projector, but my wife didn’t agree. She didn’t think it passed our “what else can we buy for that money” test. And at a very high price, we must agree to spend money.
So what has changed? The epidemic, of course. My wife and I love movie theaters, and going for a while wasn’t an option. It was not clear until when we would go again. Naturally, we started thinking about how much money we were saving by giving away expensive tickets and even more expensive popcorn and soda.
So we decided that if we couldn’t go to the cinema, we would bring the cinema home. We already have a 7.1 surround system; We just need a really epic screen. 100-inch TVs are quite expensive, often starting at $4,000 and going up to $12,000 or more. If we’re going to spend that much, a $3,000 monitor won’t suddenly seem so weird.
So we started by buying a VAVA projector and putting it in the living room. We easily hit 120 inches in the right position and probably could have been bigger. In our 1950s ranch-style house, our sofa is just a few feet from the projector, and we really feel like we’re in a movie theater again. MINUS THE EXPENSIVE EXPENSIVE POPPER – We offer our popcorn at a cheaper price.
It’s better than actual TV
The downside to having an old home like mine is that it wasn’t built for modern big TVs. My living room is long rectangular in shape, with a fireplace on one of the ‘short sides’ and a huge set of windows on one of the ‘long sides’.
To light a picture on the wall or make room for a large TV, our sofa should be next to the fireplace, halfway between that and the wall, or in front of large windows. The fireplace path is too awkward to observe, so our sofa is in front of the windows. Our TV was always placed against the wall across those windows, which caused a major problem: glare.
If we hadn’t closed the blinds and closed the blinds, our TV would have been close to being watched during daylight hours. All you see is the attractive glare and none of the work. And closing blinds and windows isn’t always enough; Our windows are massive, and even thicker materials fail to block out all the light.
You’d think a projector system would be worse off because light is usually the enemy of projectors. But floor cabinet projectors are incredibly bright and so close to the screen. Even in a bright room you can get a reasonable picture. Best of all, this setting eliminated glare. We can watch it during the day! Sure enough, some details were washed out without a proper screen. But faint detail is better than glare that blocks out any detail at all.
Another important feature is that we reclaimed wall space. With a traditional TV, you get a large black slab on the wall that blocks everything. But with our projection system, when we’re not watching a show or movie, the wall is blank. We can hang the artwork or whatever else we want. If we mount a projector screen on the wall, it will invalidate this feature. But we went a different path – because we decided to have a projector screen.
Projector screen may be necessary
Now for the sake of complete transparency, we spent over $3,000 on setting up our projector. For the first six months, we expected to hit the wall straight. But this wasn’t ideal for two reasons. First: We are people of color, and our living walls are teal. You want to project onto a white surface for accurate colours. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt things as much as you might think, as you can see in the photo above.
But also, and I know this is a recurring topic, my home is old, and therefore imperfect. The walls have slight imperfections that you wouldn’t notice otherwise – until you try to project a picture on them. Instead of a perfect 16:9 rectangle when watching a movie, we got a semi-wavy rectangle. It doesn’t spoil deals, keep in mind, but still a noticeable nuisance.
And while we can actually finally watch TV during the day, some of it has washed up unless we close the curtains. An Ambient Light Rejection (ALR) display resolves all of these issues. As the name suggests, ALR screens “reject” unwanted light (such as glare from sunlight and overhead lights) and bounce the projector’s light back at you. This gives the picture a brighter, bolder, and more colorful look than you get with a TV. The ALR screen fixed all the issues, and on all but the brightest days we could watch with the blinds open without issues.
ALR displays usually cost more than standard options, but their price is coming down. While you can still find it for $660, for example, some brands are worth under $500. But if you get a fixed mount screen, especially at 100 inches or more, you’ll fall back into the “wall coverage” complaint with TVs. It’s a thinner covering, and the gray might blend into the wall better depending on your decor choices, but we didn’t want that.
So for our living room, we’ve popped by the height of a 120″ ALR that hides away when we’re not using it. When we turn on the projector, the screen automatically rises. And when the projector is turned off, it is inserted into its case. With this setup and our 7.1 surround system, our living room feels like a movie theater. And that’s a good thing because we’re not interested in getting back on stage.
A movie theater in your home
I can’t underestimate the quality of the look of the ALR screen and floor cabinet projector. I feel like I’m in a theater, but I don’t have to deal with harassment. You don’t have to pay exorbitant prices for popcorn and soda. Nobody stands directly in front of me at the focal point of the film. We can stop if we need to! And I can make sure I won’t hear a stranger’s phone ring, followed by an actual conversation during the movie.
But think about it for a moment. Imagine you can go to the theater to watch everything you watch on TV. The best Netflix shows are playing in my movie theater. along with The MandalorianAnd Star Trek: Stange New WorldsAnd LibrariansA show I watched over and over again on a giant screen. But it’s not just TV shows and movies that benefit. I also have gaming systems.
Now, if you’re a hardcore player, you might disagree with me. But playing on my monitor is fine. No, it does not support 120fps, and there is a small amount of lag. This latency is very low, and I’m playing Rocket League All the time on my monitor. I keep my Xbox Series X and PS5 on my gaming TV just to make the most of every NextGen feature. But for PS4 and Xbox One, games with big screens are the best game.
And when I want to take a chance to watch a movie, I’m not sure I’ll like it, it’s even nicer to watch it on my big screen. Either I get the perfect theatrical experience with a great movie, or I don’t regret spending $50 on giving The Matrix: Resurrections An opportunity when it turns out to be a complete (shocking) disappointment. I might not have finished this movie even on a 55 inch TV, but at least with a 120 inch setup I can enjoy the visuals.
Yes, I spent nearly $5,000 on a home theater setup. If I’m honest, no matter how expensive it is, I won’t refund my costs in movie tickets alone. Right now, if I wanted to watch a movie with my family, I could easily spend $100 a night. Once I checked in at AMC, I could see that tickets for the four of us cost $83 before snacks. I’ll have to skip 50 movies to equal the cost.
But I benefit from my preparation a lot more than just the movies; I also watch TV shows, play games and sometimes plug in my laptop or view photos. I used to enjoy the cinema experience from time to time. Now, I get it every day, which is great.
Most telling of all this is my wife. She was against buying the projector at first, although she saw how great it was when we had a review unit. But when she saw me write this article, she suggested it might be a lot shorter. ‘Just write,’ she said, ‘yes, it’s ‘Then publish’. It’s hard to argue with that.