The results of this year's ProjectorCentral/ProjectorScreen.com Laser TV and Lifestyle Projector Showdown events are in, and in what looks a lot like a repeat of last year, the Formovie and BenQ brands once again took top honors.

In particular, the Formovie Theater Laser TV UST projector that surprised judges in the 2022 Laser TV Showdown with its excellent performance crushed its competition this year in most categories tested and was most favored by the judges overall, while the Formovie X5 and BenQ X3100i were the judges' top picks among the Lifestyle projectors.

Showdown23 skintones

As exhibited in the scorecards below, the Hisense PX2-Pro and Epson LS800 tied for the 2nd Place spot among the Laser TVs, while the high-end Leica Cine 1 took 3rd Place.

Among the Lifestyle models, the XGIMI Horizon Ultra and Hisense C1 took 2nd and 3rd Place honors behind the Formovie X5 and BenQ X3100i based on the judges' overall preferences.

The dual-event held last week at the ProjectorScreen.com headquarters in Pompton Lakes, NJ ended up including nine UST contestants and five transportable lifestyle models, and was conducted entirely under the editorial aegis of ProjectorCentral. Among the USTs were six triple RGB laser projectors and three single laser projectors demo'd side-by-side simultaneously. Images were shown on matching 100-inch diagonal Spectra Projection Vantage ALR UST screens with a 0.5 gain lenticular material that significantly rejects overhead ambient light and offers extremely low lateral spash from screen to screen. Nonetheless, 1-foot deep black barriers were added between screens this year to insure images weren't affecting the adjoining screens.

Showdown23 Calibration

The five Lifestyle projectors were viewed on Spectra Projection Gamut screens, also at the 100-inch size. These use a traditional matte white reference material with a 1.0 gain intended for dark room viewing. They were placed side-by-side in the same plane to avoid light splash and viewed head on by the roving judges.

Along with Spectra Projection, which generously provided all of the screens used in the competition, sponsors included AVPro Edge and its sister company Murideo. AVPro Edge provided a trove of gear used for signal distribution, including an AC-MX-88 matrix switch that allowed easy network-based switching among five sources described below, and two 4K-compliant distribution amplifiers (a 1-in/8-out AC-DA18-AUHD-GEN2 and a 1-in/4-out AC-DA14-AUHD GEN2) allowing distribution to up to 11 displays simultaneously. The company provided Bullet Train Ultra High Bandwith active fiber optic HDMI cables in lengths up to 15 meters (49 feet) to feed the projectors as well as standard HDMI interconnects for rigging sources and distribution components. Murideo supplied its 8K Six-G signal generator as a source of test patterns, and its 8K Six-A HDMI analyzer, which proved useful as a 4K video monitor to queue content while other material was playing on the test screens. All of the equipment worked flawlessly.

The scorecards and links below list each of the 14 projectors tested and provide basic specs and product images from the ProjectorCentral database.

How We Tested & Scored

Six judges were recruited from the audio/video press to assess the projectors across a range of image criteria, all experienced editors and projector reviewers, most with experience calibrating displays. They included Chris Eberle, professional ISF-trained display calibrator and a display reviewer for Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity (hometheaterhifi.com) as well as Tom's Hardware (tomshardware.com); Andy Grimm, projector reviewer and contributor for Home Theater Review (hometheaterreview.com); John Higgins, an ISF-trained calibrator and Managing Editor, Tech, at Reviewed, part of the USA Today Network (reviewed.usatoday.com/tech); Mark Henninger, Editor-in-Chief for Sound & Vision (soundandvision.com) and a THX-trained display calibrator; M. David Stone, projector reviewer for PCMag.com, and Chris Majestic, YouTube projector reviewer and influencer.

Additionally, Chris Boylan, Editor-in-Chief of BigPictureBigSound.com, came in to join ProjectorCentral editor Rob Sabin in judging audio quality for the UST Laser TV projectors during a dedicated listening session that followed the main event. More details about the audio testing are below.

Sammie Prescott, Jr. of AV ChromaCal, a professional ISF Level III calibrator and Contributing Technical Editor for ProjectorCentral, calibrated all the units for optimal image quality in advance of the event and was on site prior to and during the event to assist with fine-tuning. To avoid manufacturer hand-picked samples, the vast majority of units used in the Showdown were either plucked from ProjectorScreen.com's inventory or purchased directly at retail for the event.

Both the Laser TV USTs and Lifestyle projectors were judged in three different viewing modes including SDR Dark Reference (1080p content with the projector optimized for a dark theater environment), SDR Day (1080p SDR with lights on), and HDR Dark Reference (4K HDR content in a dark room). Specific clips were selected to challenge the projectors on everything from color accuracy, contrast, black level/shadows, and fine detail to their handling of motion. Sources included 1080p Blu-ray discs played from Oppo BDP-103 and UDP-203 disc players, 4K HDR content from a Kaleidescape movie server and player, 1080p programs from a Roku Ultra streaming media player, and static test patterns from the Murideo pattern generator.

Showdown23 chess

Numerical scores were given on scale from 1 to 10 (with half point increments allowed) for most criteria. The averages for all judges on a given test criteria appear in the scorecards and can be used to identify the strongest performers for that criteria within each viewing mode. The judges were coached to assume that a score of 7.5 to 10 represented excellent to reference quality performance (for a UST projector); 5 to 7.5 was good to excellent, 2.5 to 5 was fair to good, and under 2.5 represented poor performance.

In addition to the numerical scores, each judge was asked immediately following the UST and Lifestyle evaluations to rank his overall top three projectors based on image quality. The breakout of the judges' selections as shown in the scorecards were aggregated to create our top three rankings and identify our winners rather than averaging the different criteria across different picture modes to create an overall numerical score that penalizes close-scoring projectors by pushing them further down in rank. Generally speaking, the rankings identify the top performers in key image criteria, but also reflect the judges' subjective assessment of what rose to the top after several hours of evaluation.

The Audio Tests

Although a standalone surround-sound system or soundbar is always recommended to accompany a projector, UST Laser TV projectors are promoted as a TV replacement and typically come with some sort of integrated audio system. The quality of these systems varies widely and it's important that potential buyers be able to identify which projectors have decent sound and which will likely require an outboard audio solution.

To create a fair playing field, each projector was moved to the same location within the testing room before being auditioned with essentially the same movie/TV and audiophile music tracks. The movies included soundtracks with both subtle ambient effects like rain and highly dynamic explosions or thunder along with sometimes demanding music scores, while the music—everything from EDM tracks to sweet, soaring vocals—helped reveal overall frequency balance, timbral accuracy, and bass extension. The projectors were given a numerical score of 1 to 10 in each of five categories: Bass Performance, Overall Volume/Dynamics, Accuracy/Timbre, Music Imaging, and Movie/TV Imaging.

Showdown23 BrightRoom Focus2

Each projector was tested in all of its available sound modes to determine the best-sounding mode for movies or music. In most cases the projector's Movie or Theater mode was preferred, even for listening to music. The benefit of spatial processing in these modes to help spread the image usually outweighed the slightly reverberant effect these modes sometimes impart on vocals.

Along with the scores for each criteria, the projectors were grouped into three tiers. Tier 1 projectors represent the best of the group and typically very good to excellent sound, though virtually all Laser TV projectors, not to mention the compact lifestyle projectors we tested, suffer from insufficient bass and limitations on dynamics due to their small cabinets. Tier 2 is a step down from Tier 1, but something you could live with despite some deficiencies (such as a lack of overall volume or dynamic range, which may not be an issue for some people or rooms). Tier 3 projectors may be suitable for watching TV news or sports where dialogue is the main event, but fall short when pressed even modestly with a dynamic soundtrack or music. If you target a projector with Tier 3 sound, plan on adding an outboard solution.

The scores and tiers in the audio scorecards speak for themselves, though here are some highlights. Similar to our audio results from the 2022 Laser TV Showdown, the Formovie Theater, with its Bowers & Wilkins-designed Atmos sound system, came away the clear winner on sound quality. The Formovie Cinema 3 also sounded surprisngly good given its small cabinet. Most of the other projectors fell into Tier 2, with acceptable to very good sound quality, but often with a limitation on volume/dynamics that may come into play in larger rooms. As in our 2022 Showdown, the Hisense models were among the worst performers for sound quality, eclipsed this year only by the Leica Cine 1, which is based on a Hisense triple-laser platform and seems to have inherited similarly poor audio chops. These projectors sound veiled, lack timbral and tonal accuracy, and are easily overwhelmed by the bass component of any demanding soundtrack or music track.

Showdown23 TheMeg

The audio system for a lifestyle projector designed for portablity and quick setup is even more critical since you're not likely to be carrying around a soundbar to use with the projector. Fortunately, none of the sound systems for the five projectors we tested fell into the dreaded Tier 3, but the XGIMI Horizon Ultra and Hisense C1 proved to be in a class by themselves, with excellent timbre, surprisingly solid dynamics, and a decent amount of bass for their small cabinets. Not surprisingly, both use audio by Harman International, with the XGIMI hosting a Harman Kardon system and the Hisense featuring a JBL-branded design. Along with good accuracy and unveiled, open sound, the XGIMI was a standout for its optional DTS Virtual X sound mode, which provided by far the most spacious imaging among these box projectors. The Hisense C1 was nearly as good overall, and also stood out by being the only projector among 14 in the Showdown whose 3.5mm headphone jack can be configured as a subwoofer output that tracks with the projector's main speakers when you adjust the volume. It was judged as a standalone projector, but if you're able to add an inexpensive sub for at-home setups, it catapults the audio quality to an entirely new level.

Final Scores

The image and audio scorecards for the 2023 Laser TV and Lifestyle Showdowns are below. For specs and images of individual products, current pricing, and access to our reviews where applicable, click the projector model below. You can also read more coverage of the 2023 Laser TV Showdown and Lifestyle Projector Showdown at ProjectorScreen.com.

UST Laser TV Projectors

BenQ V5000i
Epson LS800
Formovie Cinema 3
Formovie Theater
Hisense PL1
Hisense PX2-Pro
Leica Cine 1
Nexigo Aurora Pro
Ultimea Thor T60

Lifestyle Projectors

BenQ X3100i
Formovie X5
Hisense C1
JMGO N1 Ultra
XGIMI Horizon Ultra

ProjectorCentral ProjectorScreen Showdown 2023 UST
ProjectorCentral ProjectorScreen Showdown 2023 USTAudio
ProjectorCentral ProjectorScreen Showdown 2023 Lifestyle
ProjectorCentral ProjectorScreen Showdown 2023 Lifestyle Audio

 
Comments (21) Post a Comment
Mike Posted Nov 3, 2023 7:55 AM PST
Love the changes this year, especially the direction on evaluation that provided a greater spread among the projectors. Thanks to PC, Rob, ProjectorScreen.com, editors and all the judges for such a long evaluation shootout.

I love the subjective picture quality rankings for top 3 from each judge. That s a good measure to ensure that the numbers jive with judges opinions. One question. Was “picture quality” defined prior to the ranking, perhaps based on dark room HDR viewing, or was it left up to the judges to make that determination?

Thanks again for all the hard work!
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 3, 2023 8:00 AM PST
Thanks, Mike. No, the judges made their decisions about their top 3 based on their own internal weightings and subjective leanings toward whatever might be important to them. Some may have looked overall at the total performance they saw, some might have leaned more, for example, at the projectors that did the best with the most demanding dark content and/or provided best blacks/contrast. I do think with a room full of experts much of their decisions would have been largely focused on the dark room performance overall.
Jeff Johnsen Posted Nov 3, 2023 9:23 AM PST
Thank you for the hard work and for hosing this event!

Why wasn't LG's HU915QB, Samsung LSP9T, and AWOL's LTV-3500 included in the event?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 3, 2023 9:30 AM PST
Jeff, I'll address these separately:

- Samsung LSP9T: With a large number of fresh models to pick from we quickly made the decision to only consider the very strongest competitors from last year's event. The LSP9T didn't fair that well in 2022, but more critically, in my opinion having reviewed and lived with it, it's high degree of demonstrable laser speckle disqualified it this year. You may recall that the LSP9T was one of the very first if not THE first RGB triple laser projectors in this category, and frankly, it's showing its age now in this particular regard. Speckle isn't non-existent on the newer models, but I'd guess the judges would have clobbered the LSP9T on this front.

-LG HU915QB: We actually did have a unit on hand but became concerned quickly that its Calman Auto-Cal'd image, which was spot-on on paper, wasn't truly giving this model a fair representation of its best performance. Keep in mind that the HU915 is now a pretty well-known entity that came in second overall in the 2022 competition and has reviewed quite favorably with ProjectorCentral and elsewhere. The only responsible and fair thing to do was drop it from the competition. We're considering the possibility of doing a little mini-Showdown in the coming months taking the top performers from this latest round and putting it against the HU915 and maybe a couple of others that didn't make it into the event.

- Regarding AWOL: To be perfectly transparent, following our 2022 Showdown in which AWOL's LTV-3500 projector didn't fare as well as the company would have liked, a member of their management team made public efforts on social media and in the forums to discredit our event, and therefore (in my eyes) discredit me and ProjectorCentral, which ran the evaluation portion of the affair entirely with the assistance of six fully independent judges from the audio/video press. (Nonetheless, we went ahead with a post-Showdown review at ProjectorCentral in which we gave the projector a fair and positive review.) Putting aside their demonstration of bad form, the company has spent the last few months threatening legal action against our Showdown partner ProjectorScreen.com, promoting unsupported claims of bias and control of editorial aspects of the event they did not have, and which they have had to pay their attorney to defend against.

Although we did not reach out to AWOL with any inquiry about this year's Showdown, and I had no serious intention of including them given their proven lack of respect and trust in our editorial process, I personally received a carefully worded email from this member of their management team in the days prior to the event asking that we not include any AWOL products. It said in part, "The past history has not fared well for Projector Central, Projector Screen and AWOL Vision. It's best to avoid the fallout that happened from last year's event and we are currently taking legal action against one of the organizers involved, which most likely will lead to a biased result." Their lawyers were cc'd.

I take my editorial responsibilities very seriously and, after nearly 30 years of working at A/V magazines and websites that review products, I work hard not to let politics, personalities, or advertising relationships get in the way of making sound editorial judgements. I have, in the course of this career, been on the receiving end of a few irate company owners or product managers who didn't like the results of their reviews, sometimes even the same ones repeatedly. Some of them worked at brands that couldn't be ignored. This isn't one of them.

Bruce Posted Nov 3, 2023 11:32 PM PST
I watched a review comparing the XGIMI Horizon to the Hisense C1 from @theHookup YT channel. The reviewer promoted the Hisense C1 as top recommended and stated that the XGiMI , although performing well in many categories, could not make his recommendation list based upon a subpar black level floor and unacceptably low contrast ratio. I believe that he stated his review was based upon an XGIMI unit received before they pushed out a recent firmware upgrade that was to improve upon contrast performance. Is is possible that this showdown was conducted after the new firmware upgrades were installed. Otherwise, Im trying to understand why non of the 2023 showdown reviewers found similar subpar results in contrast/black level performance. And also placed it second overall over the Hisense C1
Alberto Posted Nov 4, 2023 12:13 AM PST
Great job done! I only need to include some projectors such as Casiris H6, Samun, LG and others from Awol, also after analyzing several of the lifestyle projectors, I sincerely believe that the Jmgo ultra 4k looks better in its performance than the ForMovie X5, since without automatic trapezoidal correction, improves the image and sharpness, Greetings from Mexico!
Mike Posted Nov 4, 2023 4:46 AM PST
Amazing job doing triple calibrations for each projector!

From Projector Screen Blog link… “ All of the UST projectors in the Laser TV Showdown were calibrated in 3 modes; SDR Day (Bright Room), SDR Dark Room and HDR Dark Room with all calibrations performed by ISF level 3 certified calibrator, Sammie Prescott, JR.”

Would love to see all the calibration measurements before/after for each instance!

Especially the LS800 as it doesn’t have any accessible CMS adjustments that I can find.
Mike Posted Nov 4, 2023 4:26 PM PST
Awesome work, just wish AWOL 3500 was included.
Bill Posted Nov 5, 2023 6:10 AM PST
Thanks for the reviews and your results often to be my goto guide as I can not test many of them before buying.

This time I will respectfully disagree with your test results on one category, the chromatic disorder. I found JMGO N1 Ultra 4K has significant chromatic issues on large white characters to easily sopt. Bought a few of them to hope some were better but they were all the same. Therefore I am sure their optical system is not good. Not sure if you noticed this or if chromatic characteristic was one of test categories but I think should be included. Not sure how others you tested on this.

Having 3 LGs UST and non UST laser projectors, none of them showing that much chromatic issue. Projector is all about visual experiences and optical qulity is critical, like cameras or any optical devices. Hope you can explain.
Fred Posted Nov 5, 2023 6:39 AM PST
Thank you, Rob, and all the judges, editors, and everyone behind the scenes on this showdown.

I'm very interested in Hisense L9H and hoped it would be included in this showdown. Any reason it was not included? And if possible, could you share some thoughts about this projector compared with this year's UST candidates? Thanks again for all the hard work!
Mmm Posted Nov 5, 2023 9:28 AM PST
I’m a bit disappointed ; Most of the usts seem to have been selected at random., and the omissions are just as? Some models are from 2022 and only some are from 2023?

I mean the yt channel the hook up did this already.,he’s just one guy and he managed to compare exclusively 2023 usts in one tidy place. He’s affiliated with projectorscreens as well!
yilmaz Posted Nov 6, 2023 1:39 AM PST
As usual, kudos to Rob and ProjectorCentral team for the comprehensive showdown.

Just curious, any reason why LG's HU915QB, Nomvdic P2000, AWOL 3500 is not included?
Robert Shields Posted Nov 6, 2023 5:54 AM PST
So, You leave off tge AWOL projectors and think this is worth doing? Big miss in my opinion.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 7, 2023 10:32 AM PST
My comments regarding the non-inclusion of AWOL is offered above in my response to Jeff at the top of the comment stack.
Adarsh Posted Nov 8, 2023 2:30 AM PST
Across categories, how would the last in the UST category, the Formovie C3 compare against the first in the lifestyle category the Formovie X5?
Jacob A Posted Nov 8, 2023 6:54 AM PST
I wish you had written up small reviews of the top 3 finishers.

I’m glad AWOL wasn’t involved. Least professional company I have dealt with in years!!!!! Their product is NOT as good as they claim and they’re no to be trusted.
Joel Posted Nov 8, 2023 1:34 PM PST
In the case of the projectors that offer it, why no comparison on which handles 3D best? A shame that with all these "expert" shootouts, none ever compare one of the most desired features. (Wish i were still in NJ to see for myself.)
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Nov 8, 2023 2:01 PM PST
Sorry we couldn't do this. We discussed possibility of trying to look at 3D, but there are some very practical limitations on what you can do with a room full of judges in one very long day, which is what this one really turned out to be.
Jordan Posted Nov 8, 2023 5:52 PM PST
Great job putting this all together! Really like the format and ranking system. What I would also really love is some footage of each of these projectors shared on Chris Majestics YouTube channel. Maybe some behind the scenes footage as well. I'm also curious how the lifestyle projectors would compare pre-calibration, as I don't believe many consumers in this segment have professional calibration equipment or the desire to pay for it.

I'm also curious how some the lifestyle projectors would compare against standard focal length models in the same price range such as the Benq HT3560, Epson HC 3800, and Optoma UHD-55.
Mike Posted Nov 13, 2023 10:19 AM PST
I had same question as Bruce. Would love to know thoughts on vastly different results here regarding contrast and black levels of C1 vs Xgimi when compared to the measurements gathered from the excellent review of the lifestyle projectors on @theHookup YouTube. Contrast and black level of Xgimi looked very poor based on that review, but seems to have done much better here.
Brooks Posted Nov 18, 2023 3:47 AM PST
I have the same question as Bruce and Mike and hope you can elaborate on the results. The Xgimi Horizon Ultra has higher score in black levels than Hisense C1. This is the most surprising result - and every other comment on forums and reviews favours the Hisense in this area. Did you do any measurements or was it purely 'experienced' black levels when observing the screens side by side?

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