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Best 4K UST Projectors of 2023 Compete at Laser TV Showdown – Check Out the Winner

The second annual UST Projector/Laser TV Showdown brought the latest and greatest projectors together in one room for the ultimate big screen competition. Check out which one won.

Final preparations at the 2023 Laser TV Showdown

Last year, projector retailer ProjectorScreen.com and projector review site ProjectorCentral.com teamed up for their first Laser TV Showdown, a Battle Royale of the world’s best UST (Ultra Short Throw) projectors. Because most UST projectors use lasers to light up the screen they are also referred to as “Laser TVs.” Unlike traditional projectors, UST projectors can be placed very close to a wall and still create a huge image – up to 150 inches. With built-in speakers, and built-in streaming functions, a UST projector can provide a convenient and low-cost alternative to a giant flat panel TV.

UST vs. Short Throw vs. Long Throw projection.
A UST (Ultra Short Throw) projector can be placed very close to a wall and still create a large projected image.

At last year’s Laser TV Showdown, UST projectors were set up in the same room, divided into two groups: a Triple Laser and Single Laser category. The overall winner last year in the Triple Laser category was the previously unknown “ForMovie Theater,” the first U.S. model UST projector from the Chinese projector maker. The ForMovie managed to beat out much more expensive units from well established brand names. But could the company continue to compete against this year’s best projectors? We’ll soon find out, because the ForMovie Theater is back again in this year’s Showdown, and this time it’s pitted against nine other high performance 4K UST projectors, some of which are newer and much more expensive.

ForMovieTheater-900
Last year’s overall winner, the ForMovie Theater was back in the 2023 Laser TV Showdown. Could this affordable powerhouse repeat its strong performance against more recently released UST projectors?

Laser TV Showdown Version 2.0

This year, ProjectorCentral and ProjectorScreen.com have teamed up again. But this time they broke the event up into a “Laser TV” portion with nine UST projectors competing and a “Lifestyle Projector” competition with five models competing. Like last year, the Laser TV competition looked at the top UST projectors, but this year, single laser and triple laser models competed side by side. The “Lifestyle Projector” showdown compared high performance portable projectors which can be set up quickly for movie nights, sporting event parties or large screen gaming sessions. Check out the results of that competition here: Best Portable Lifestyle Projectors Compete at 2023 Laser TV Showdown.

Related Read: WTF is a UST Projector?

Taking place on Thursday, October 26th, 2023 at ProjectorScreen.com’s New Jersey headquarters, the 2023 Laser TV Showdown was emceed and organized by ProjectorCentral’s Editor-in-Chief Rob Sabin. ProjectorScreen.com provided the test facility and retail shelf samples of all projectors. This avoids the use of cherry-picked units provided by the contending manufacturers.

SAMSUNG CSC
The minds behind the Laser TV Showdown, Brian Gluck of ProjectorScreen.com and Rob Sabin, from ProjectorCentral. Photo by Chris Boylan.

In this year’s Laser TV Showdown, a few of last year’s top performing models competed against brand new 2023 models. LG’s HU915QB was originally supposed to be included in the competition however the sample available at the event was not performing as expected so it was removed. All projectors competing in the event were current in the manufacturers’ lineup and available to purchase at retail as of the publication date of this article. Event sponsor Spectra Projection provided Reference-quality 100-inch screens for each projector. These were lenticular ALR (ambient-light rejecting) screens specifically designed for UST projectors so that each unit would be shown in its best light (no pun intended). ALR screens help UST projectors maintain brightness and contrast even in well-lit rooms. The competitors are listed below with links to ProjectorScreen.com and current MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested List Prices). Check links for current pricing.

NOTE: eCoustics is reader-supported. Purchases made using our links may generate a commission for the site and/or its writers.

UST Projectors Competing in the 2023 Laser TV Showdown:

The Technology

All but one of the competitors in the 2023 Showdown used DLP chips and laser lighting to create 4K resolution (3840×2160 pixel) projected images. The Epson EpiqVision LS800 uses a laser+phosphor light source combined with three separate LCD chips to create the image. And while the Epson LS800 does accept a native 4K signal and does support 4K HDR (high dynamic range), its effective resolution is technically half-4K (but still twice the resolution of a 1080p projector). But don’t let the numbers fool you. The Epson’s high brightness and rich colors made it a strong contender in the competition, particularly in bright room viewing.

Of the DLP projectors, the ForMovie C3 and Hisense PL1 use a single-laser+phosphor light source, while the other seven DLP projectors use a Triple Laser light source for enhanced brightness and color accuracy. Laser light sources can last up to 20,000 hours or more, which gives you many years of trouble-free, maintenance free viewing. Triple laser lighting eliminates the need for a color wheel so it can greatly reduce the RBE (Rainbow Effect) that can be annoying to some viewers with DLP-based projectors.

All of the projectors in the competition are designed for the North American market and include integrated smart TV services that will work in the United States with the exception of the ForMovie Cinema 3 (C3). The version tested is designed for the Chinese market and runs the FengOS operating system. There is an English language set-up option however for streaming services you will need to add a streaming stick like the Amazon FireTV Stick 4K, Google Chromecast, Apple TV or Roku. A global version of the C3 is expected to be shown at CES 2024.

Epson EpiqVision LS800 4K Pro-UHD UST Projector Front
Epson’s EpiqVision LS800 UST projector was the only model in the competition to use LCD chips instead of DLP. It’s high peak brightness (4000 Lumens) made it a strong performer, particularly in bright room viewing.

It Takes a Village

While the technology is cool, it’s the people who made this event happen. Emcee and organizer Rob Sabin spent many long hours (days, even) coordinating the event, identifying the contenders, setting up the back-end and selecting the material to judge the displays. He also led the tests and helped guide the judges as to what to look for in each of the clips, test patterns and stills. Brian Gluck provided both the projectors and the venue for the event (not to mention a never ending supply of food and refreshments). He also brought along his unbridled enthusiasm and positivity which helped carry the event participants through the many hours of eye-watering evaluations.

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“Is this cool or what?” Host with the most, Brian Gluck of ProjectorScreen.com basks in the glow of ten of the top UST projectors at the 2023 Laser TV Showdown. Photo courtesy of Mark Henninger.

Sammie Prescott, Jr. of AV ChromaCal, a professional ISF Level III calibrator and Contributing Technical Editor for ProjectorCentral, painstakingly calibrated each unit for optimal image quality overall several days. And judges for the event were hand-picked from the A/V editorial and professional calibration communities, many travelling long distances to participate. Kudos to all who made it happen.

2023 Laser TV Showdown Judges Panel

  • Chris Eberle, professional ISF-trained display calibrator, display reviewer for Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, display reviewer for Tom’s Hardware
  • Andy Grimm, projector reviewer and contributor for Home Theater Review, display calibrator
  • John Higgins, Managing Editor, Tech, at Reviewed, part of the USA Today Network, ISF-trained display calibrator
  • Mark Henninger, Editor-in-Chief for Sound & Vision, former Managing Editor for Home Theater Review, former Editor-in-Chief for AVS Forum, THX-trained display calibrator
  • Chris Majestic, owner of the popular YouTube channel Majestechs, a channel dedicated to high quality tech reviews and tutorials
  • M. David Stone, long-time projector reviewer for PCMag.com, veteran contributor for ProjectorCentral

Gentlemen, Start Your Projectors!

After a brief warm-up, all projectors were fed a series of test patterns, stills and video clips, each selected to highlight specific elements of picture quality such as contrast, black level, shadow detail, motion reproduction, image uniformity, overall brightness, color saturation and color accuracy. Tests included both SDR (standard dynamic range) content such as we’d see on broadcast TV and Blu-ray Discs as well as HDR (High Dynamic Range) content as we’d find on Ultra HD Blu-ray and in premium video streaming services.

The projectors were viewed in both bright and dark rooms to emulate how they would be used in the home. Judges were asked to provide scores for each category and the event organizers tabulated the votes and aggregated the results to find the top scoring displays in each category. The full composite scorecard for the 2023 Laser TV Showdown is included below.

After the scores were in and the testing was completed, each judge was asked to provide their picks for top three projectors overall. These picks were then tabulated in order to come up with the final rankings in the competition.

ust-projector-showdown-bright-lights-henninger-900px
Judges at the 2023 UST/Laser TV Showdown evaluated ten of the top UST projectors on a variety of content in dark and bright room viewing conditions. Photo courtesy of Mark Henninger.

The Results

Showing that last year’s performance wasn’t a fluke, the Formovie Theater won the Laser TV Showdown as the judges’ top pick for the second year in a row. The Formovie Theater had the top scores for those all-important contrast and black level tests, both in 1080p/SDR and 4K/HDR tests. It also took the top spot for color accuracy in 4K/HDR testing (though it did not perform as well as several other projectors for color accuracy on SDR content).

formovie-theater-900px
Formovie Theater UST Projector.

Hisense put in a very strong showing with the new PX2-PRO, tying for second place with solid scores across the board and a top ranking spot for 24p motion reproduction.

PX2-PRO-900px
HiSense PX2-PRO UST Projector.

Epson’s LS800 tied the HiSense for second place with the only LCD projector in the competition. Its 4,000 Lumens of peak brightness helped it to score highly on daytime viewing tests. It also earned high scores in skin tone/color accuracy tests in both 1080p/SDR and 4K/HDR tests.

EH-LS800B-900px
Epson LS800 UST Projector in black (also available in white).

Leica’s first entry into the US market, the Cine 1, which is based on a Hisense projector but with Leica’s own lenses and optics, also put up a strong showing with fourth place. The Leica projector scored highest overall for detail/sharpness, likely thanks to its superior glass. One of the six judges picked the Leica as his overall favorite.

Leica Cine 1 UST Projector Front Top
Leica Cine 1 UST Projector.

New Kid on the block, the Ultimea Thor T60 missed the top 4 but did take top scores in several testing categories, including color accuracy and overall contrastin bright room tests. The Thor lagged behind the leaders in most of the 4K/HDR tests but it did take the top spot for Wide Color Gamut content.

ultimea-thor-900px
Ultimea Thor T60 UST Projector.

For those who still care about 3D, the BenQ V5000i, Nexigo Aurora Pro and the Ultimea Thor T60 all support 1080p 3D content with optional active DLP-Link 3D glasses.

ProjectorCentral-ProjectorScreen-Showdown-2023-UST
Laser TV Showdown 2023 judges’ scorecard provided by ProjectorCentral.com.

For more details on the event, check out ProjectorCentral’s coverage by Rob Sabin: ForMovie and BenQ Rise to the Top in 2023 Laser TV and lifestyle projector Showdown.

Top 4 Projectors in the 2023 Laser TV Showdown:

The Bottom Line:

UST Projector technology continues to advance, yet this didn’t stop a model from 2022 (the Formovie Theater) from winning the competition for the second year in a row. Although its MSRP is $3,499, its U.S. dealer (and host of the competition) ProjectorScreen.com usually has it listed for $2999.99, putting it at price parity (or below) the other top performing projectors. Combine its video performance with the fact that it also has great audio performance and the Formovie Theater is still an excellent choice for most UST buyers.

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UST Projectors are not a “one size fits all” solution. Prospective buyers should take a close look at the scorecard to see how these projectors perform in the areas that matter most to you. Do you favor 4K/HDR content or High Definition/SDR programming like Blu-rays and live sports broadcasts? Do you plan to watch the projector mostly in bright rooms or dark? Does 3D capability matter to you? Or how about image lag for gaming? Based on your own personal preferences, several of these competitors could be your number one. And that’s what matters.

Check out a video recap with the 2023 Laser TV Showdown organizer and host here:

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Phillip Weissburg

    November 4, 2023 at 1:33 pm

    How much detail do we want to see…all the pockmarks in gangster’s face? I have the 1920 x 1080 Epson laser projector and its enough detail for me….Often we want speakers that can hit 22,000 hz but if you take the hearing test offered on youtube….I found out I cannot hear about 8,000 hz!!!

    • Chris Boylan

      November 6, 2023 at 9:28 am

      Phillip,

      You make a fair point. Resolution is usually lowest on the list of importance for overall picture quality. Joel Silver (ISF) rated it last behind contrast, color accuracy and color saturation. But as this is supposed to be about the *best* UST projector available today, 4K resolution is kind of “table stakes” at this point.

      Also, 1080p HD projectors don’t generally support 4K content nor HDR. More than resolution, HDR and the wider color gamut of Ultra HD/4K content allows these projectors to create more lifelike images with better color accuracy and better color saturation than 1080p projectors.

      The Epson in this competition is not a “true” 4K projector – it accepts 4k content and HDR. But it can only reproduce half the resolution of HDR (twice the resolution of 1080p HD). But that didn’t stop it from performing well in the Showdown. Its high brightness, excellent contrast, color accuracy and color saturation allowed it to perform better than several of the true 4K projectors.

    • Thomas J Dunn

      November 6, 2023 at 12:19 pm

      Deciding between epson ls 800 and awol 3500 for living room ( day light) replacement. Why wasnt awol 3500 included in showdown? How would it do in comparison to ls800?

      • Ian White

        November 6, 2023 at 3:03 pm

        Thomas,

        That’s a question for the organizers. Chris Boylan was there as a participant. I’ve seen the AWOL once in person and thought it was pretty good but not the best UST I’ve viewed so far.

        IW

  2. Raul Hernandez

    November 5, 2023 at 6:21 pm

    The AWOL 3500 PRO was not included? Strange. Also, 3D is important to me as well as Dolby Vision. So, only two of the competitors interest me.

    • Chris Boylan

      November 10, 2023 at 5:01 am

      The event organizers picked the competitors. I did see the AWOL 3500 Pro at CEDIA Expo and I have to say it looked pretty good with 3D content (“Avatar”).

  3. Dustin Gordon

    November 5, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    How do they not include the AWOL vision ltv3500pro? They’re an American based company with several models consistently pitted in non-biased reviews with these models and consistently beating them. It’s exclusion really cheapens the credibility of this “showdown”.
    *Not an owner of an AWOL product

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