Epson announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Silicon Valley-based Sunvalleytek International Inc., the company that markets the VAVA VA-LT002 4K UST laser projector, charging false promotion of the product's brightness specification.
Specifically, Epson says that various online and retail outlets advertise the VAVA 4K, as it is widely known, as having either 6,000 or 2,500 lumens, and that third-party testing verifies that neither claim is accurate. Epson says the projector's actual performance averages 1,869 lumens using the industry-standard ISO21118 measurement methodology. That would constitute about 75% of VAVA's stated 2,500 ANSI lumen specification, but only about 30% of the unqualified 6,000-lumen number. ISO21118 measurements follow a similar technique as the still widely used ANSI spec, which averages brightness from several points across the image. The ISO spec calls for only 5 mesurement points vs. ANSI's 9 points, but ISO specs are sometimes used interchangably with the better-known ANSI in marketing materials.
This latest complaint is one in a series filed by Epson going back to 2018 against various brands for making misleading brightness claims. ProjectorCentral has previously reported on actions taken against the RCA brand marketed by Curtis International Ltd. and Technicolor; the Vankyo, WiMiUS, GooDee, and Bomaker brands sold primarily on Amazon; and most recently the Philips NeoPix brand. In those prior cases, the projectors in question were typically inexpensive portables which in some cases were promoted under non-descript and unqualified "lux" "LED Lumens," or "Lamp Brightness" specifications that are not cited under any established industry standard and provide no context for comparison with ANSI/ISO lumens. All of these cases resulted in reforms to the brands' marketing practices and in some cases the awarding of damages.
Epson's efforts on this front are intended to make a level playing field for all projector makers and protect everday consumers who may be attracted to a big brightness number without understanding the context with which those numbers were arrived at or even fabricated. This is similar to what the consumer hifi industry went through years ago when manufacturers used a variety of measurement methodologies to inflate amplifier specifications. The Federal Trade Commission eventually stepped in and forced a single industry standard in 1974, but the projector industry is unregulated with regard to either brightness or contrast specifications. Nonetheless, most respected manufacturers voluntarily cite ANSI or ISO brightness specs to allow easy comparison of products between brands. Contrast specs remain something of a wild west and ProjectorCentral recommends they be ignored except to compare the same brand's current models.
In a company statement, Epson specifically cited a recent pandemic-driven uptick in adpoption of consumer home theater and the need to protect consumers. "Vava's false lumens claims are misleading to consumers and this misrepresentation of performance creates confusion among people looking at viable home entertainment solutions," said Mike Isgrig, vice president, consumer sales and marketing, Epson America. "Ultimately, the industry suffers as a whole when companies misrepresent key performance claims and customers purchase products that don't meet their viewing expectations."
The VAVA complaint is somewhat different than earlier Epson actions, in that it cites a popular and heavily marketed 4K UST laser projector that typically retails for $2,799, making it by far the most expensive product Epson has publicly targeted with its brightness policing efforts. Despite the VAVA's relatively high ticket, however, it remains one of the least-expensive models in its 4K-resolution laser UST product class and is a competitor to Epson's own laser-driven living room UST projectors, which are rated at 3,600 and 4,000 ISO lumens.
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ProjectorCentral reviewed the VAVA 4K in April 2020 and warned readers to ignore the unqualified and seemingly arbitrary 6,000 lumen spec being promoted at the time on VAVA's website, though the company also listed brightness at 2,500 ANSI lumens. VAVA has since removed the 6,000 lumen reference but still cites 2,500 ANSI lumens as the max brightness.
ProjectorCentral's own review measurement came in slightly higher than the cited 2,500 ANSI lumens, but as noted in the review, it was conducted with a handheld luminance meter facing out from the screen and was subject to significant error due to the steep lens angle that prevents consistent measurements with such a device. An alternate measurement, taken directly off the center point of a 92-inch, 1.3 gain white test screen with a light meter designed for that purpose, showed that the projector reflected back a maximum of 54.8 foot-Lamberts in its brightest mode, which would equate to 38.4 ft-L with a perfect 1.0 gain reflector. The projector would be noticeably less bright at 120 inches and much more so at the stated maximum of 150-inches diagonal.
Overall, in our April 2020 standalone review and a December 2020 comparison review, we found the VAVA 4K to be a solidly-built projector with good components and features, but with some notable flaws in its overall color balance and user interface. Although several other competitive projectors, including the Epsons, have brighter light engines, in our tests the VAVA was able to achieve reasonable brightness in moderate ambient light with up to a 100-inch image and was never cited for a lack of brightness in our reviews.