Best of the Year 2019

If you just do the quick scan or our 2022 Best of the Year honorees, culled from all the products reviewed in the last 12 months, you'll know it was truly a banner year for home theater projection. The most telling stat is that nine of our 20 award recipients are living room UST projectors, which for the moment we're embracing as representative of the emergent "laser TV" category. Yes, I know this nomenclature has a very specific meaning in the Asian markets as a subset of the segment as a whole, but I feel confident in adopting it now as a generic term...at least until we start seeing LED versions successfully compete on brightness. That aside, the number of new brands and products that have come into this space in the last year to 18 months is nothing short of astonishing, and the fact that two of the eight brands honored in the UST space were utterly unknown to us and our readers before the year began should tell you something about the fierceness of the competition.

Remarkably, mainly because of their compression into a single year, four of this year's Best of the Year are traditional long-throw high end home theater projectors costing $5,000 and above (though it's notable that at least two of our UST winners also eclipse that lofty pricetag). These products traditionally have several years of lifespan, and if you're an engaged enthusiast, you know the emergence of the latest crop has resulted in some good fodder for shootouts and face-offs or whatever you'd like to call them. Wherever they've ranked in these competitions, by whatever rules were put forth by their hosts, I'm here to tell you that there's not one of these projectors that doesn't in some way advance the state of the art for home theater projection. With proper calibration and set-up—not as easy an accomplishment as you might think—each is capable of images that are simply breathtaking. And I'll put to you that if you really love movies, you should aspire to that.

In what is perhaps a sign of what's to come, three of our winning projectors can be categorized as products that are more about making projection fit our day to day desire for the bigscreen experience without the need for a permanent installation. The lifestyle category, as we like to call it at ProjectorCentral, presents critical new challenges for the industry. The niche for inexpensive portables that can expose the joys of projection to a broader audience has been well proven by the explosive cascade of garbage projectors available on Amazon. I do get that there are varying degrees of bad, and that less bad is better than worse bad. But there is a minimum level of bad that we want out there lest we spoil the concept for consumers, and the situation is made worse when a lack of industry regulation on specifications creates an uneven playing field. That is a subject for another day. But suffice to say that the lifestyle projectors recognized this year each earned their spot on the list because of their innovation.

Finally, four of the products on our list are standout commercial projectors that, yet again, drive home the technical advances our industry is making in squeezing more and more...and more...lumens out of ever smaller and lighter projectors. Laser technology, and the progress made there, has utterly transformed this business in the four-plus years since I took the editorial helm at ProjectorCentral, and it leaves me with a feeling of astonishment and curiosity about where it can possibly go from here. I'm sure that 2023 is poised to be yet another year of both advancement and evolution for all the industry segments we track, and we'll look forward to sharing with all of you the news as it emerges. —Rob Sabin



AWOL VISION LTV-3500

AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Tri-Laser UST Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $6,499
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AWOL-Vision was a newcomer in 2022 to the burgeoning Laser TV projector market and made an impression with its top-of-the-line attempt at an uber-bright, high-performance UST for living room use. It's 3,500 ANSI lumen rating towers above all but a couple of competitors, and features like an RGB triple-laser light engine that acheives better than Rec.2020 color gamut and a respectable built-in audio system helped it stand out further from the crowd and earn our Highly Recommended designation. (Read the full review).


BenQ X3000i LED Gaming Projector

Intended Use: Home theater, gaming
Price: $1,999
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BenQ's X1300i released in 2021 (and a 2021 Best of Year winner) was merely the 1080p warm up to this 4K version of the company's innovative new gaming platform. With a 3,000 ANSI lumen brightness rating from a four LED RGBB light engine (not LED lumens, mind you, but ANSI), it was the least expensive solid state projector you could buy at its brightness rating at the time of our review. That remains true today, but it is a host of other features and innovations, including full coverage of the DCI-P3 color space, input lag as low as 4 ms for 1080p/240Hz signals, and BenQ's special picture/sound modes for different types of game play, that continue to make it stand out. (Read the full review).


Epson ProCinema LS12000 Laser Projector

Intended Use: Home Theater
Price: $4,999
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Home theater enthusiasts have been waiting for years for an Epson projector that can deliver all the pixels in a 4K ultra HD signal to the screen, and they finally got it in the LS12000 and companion LS11000—along with an advanced laser engine that eliminates lamp replacements for the life of the projector. A bright 2,700-lumen light engine, an excellent high end lens, and great out-of-box color accuracy along with full calibration controls for super fine-tuning of the image make it an excellent value among premium projectors at its $4,999 price, and helped it earn our coveted Editor's Choice designation. (Read the full review).



Epson EqiqVision Ultra LS800 UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater, gaming
Price: $3,100
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Epson's follow-up to the LS500 UST falls short of delivering the full-4K resolution of its flagship LS12000 long-throw home theater projector (see above), but proved itself in our testing to be an outstanding television replacement thanks to its industry-leading 4,000-lumen brightness, decent out of box image quality tuned for bright-room viewing, and a new, breakthrough lens system with the shortest throw ratio of any laser TV projector on the market. (Read the full review).



Epson EB-PU2216B Large Venue Laser Projector

Intended Use: Education, House of Worship, Museums
Price: $27,700
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Along with the introduction in 2022 of a new flagship home theater projector in the LS12000 and a significant update in its laser TV line-up with the LS800, Epson completed a trifecta last year with a new platform for its large venue projectors that delivered advanced features in a smaller and lighter form factor. Most impressive is the EB-PU2120W, hailed as the world's smallest and lightest 20,000 lumen projector. But the EB-PU2116B, a 16,000-lumen model we tested, was no slouch with its modest 23.1 x 8.6 x 19.4-inch dimensions and 53 pound weight. Key features not offered by most of the competition include NFC capabilities for easy sharing of settings among fleet projectors, and compatibility with Epson's optional PixAlign accessory camera that hides away in a compartment on the front and, in conjunction with Epson's free software, greatly speeds setup of multi-projector installations. (Read the full review).


Formovie Theater UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $2,799
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The surprise triple-laser winner of our 14-projector 2022 Laser TV Showdown, the Formovie seemed to come out of nowhere. But Formovie is the consumer-facing brand of Appotronics, maker of the ALPD laser light engines used by several laser TV manufacturers, so it beckons from a company that knows well how to extract an excellent image from their own advanced tech. Advanced features like Dolby Vision HDR processing also combine here with a Bowers & Wilkins-crafted audio system that's the best we've heard from any UST to date. Priced at an aggressive $2,999, it's among today's best laser TV values.(Read the full review).



Hisense PX1-PRO UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $2,938
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Hisense followed up its well-reviewed, triple-laser L9G UST bundles that combine a fixed-lens projector with a 100- or 120-inch screen with this standalone model featuring adjustable focus for any image from 90 to 130 inches. With 2,100 lumens it's geared more toward darkened theater environments than for cutting through sunlight with the shades open, but its excellent image quality and super-wide color gamut that exceeds BT.2020 makes for great movie watching from an affordable $2,999 projector. (Read the full review).



JVC DLA-NZ8 D-ILA Laser Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $11,999
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2022 marked the continued roll-out of JVC's new generation of premium, native 4K laser projectors first announced in late 2021, and the middle model DLA-NZ8 (or RS3100 in the Pro line), priced at $15,998, proved to be the sweet spot. The company successfully transitioned its high-performing D-ILA LCoS technology, and its well-respected Frame Adapt dynamic tone-mapping, to considerably brighter projectors that never need lamp replacements. Features like full-8K resolution via advanced pixel-shifting found in the NZ8 and the step-up NZ9, HDR10+ support, and full bandwidth HDMI 2.1 ports were merely icing on the cake. And to JVC's credit, they've continued to support their native 4K line-up, including the lamp-based NP-5 (see below), with ongoing firmware improvements that are rolled out free to existing users. (Read the full review).


JVC DLA-NP5 D-ILA Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $4,999
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Along with adding solid-state laser light engines to its LCoS-based native 4K D-ILA projector line, JVC retained a single, upgraded lamp-based model in the DLA-NP5/DLA-RS1100 as the family's "value" play. At $6,998 it's hardly a budget projector and competes directly with the new LS12000 and LS11000 laser models from Epson and Sony's VPL-XW5000ES, which is recognized in our list below. But putting aside the skipping of the laser light source, it brings D-ILA's deep native blacks and many of the other advancements found in JVC's laser models to a lower price point. (Read the full review).



LG CineBeam HU915QB UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $5,665
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LG helped set the stage for the UST explosion with its introduction in 2019 of the high performance (and notably pricey) HU85LA, with its unique red-blue-blue+phosphor three laser architecture that was designed not for maximum color gamut, but to minimize rainbow artifacts and laser speckle. 2022's HU915QB is the update and represents LG's latest attempt at state of the art laser TV. It uses the same platform and short 0.19:1 lens found in the HU85LA, but with more refined features to improve image quality and even more extensive controls for tweakers and calibrators—including Calman AutoCal functions. The $6,499 price remains just as breathtaking, but the HU915QB is admittedly among the most sophisticated, well-polished, and best looking USTs on the market. (Read the full review).



LG CineBeam HU715Q UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $2,998
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After focusing first on making a technology statement in 2019 with the HU85LA UST laser TV projector, LG finally released in early 2022 its first single-laser+phosphor design in the HU715Q. Thanks to excellent image quality (including good dynamic tone-mapping for HDR), a full range of calibration controls, the company's refined webOS smart TV platform, and competitive pricing that makes it a great value, it reviewed well and earned our Editor's Choice designation. (Read the full review).



Optoma CinemaX D2 Smart UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater, gaming
Price: $2,995
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Optoma's replacement of the long-running and highly capable CinemaX P2 in the new CinemaX D2 Smart and CinemaX D2 amounts to a relatively modest update, but for one key advancement. With its Enhanced Gaming mode active, these projectors achieve the same super-low input lag and high frame rate capabilities we attribute to today's fastest dedicated gaming projectors, down to 4.4 ms with 1080p/240Hz signals. That pretty much makes this the first UST we've seen that could have been dubbed a gaming projector first. Optoma's decision to retain 3D playback in these new models also earns some kudos as this feature becomes rarer on new home theater projectors. (Read the full review).



Optoma ProScene ZU920TST Large Venue Laser Projector

Intended Use: Education, House-of-Worship, Museums, Conference Rooms
Price: $9,999
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Back in 2020 Optoma broke new ground with its release of the WUXGA ProScene ZU720T, a 7,500-lumen large-venue laser projector that sold for a then unheard-of $4,999 by virtue of its permanently attached (as opposed to interchangeable) medium zoom lens. The company quickly followed up with a short-throw version, the ZU720TST, and in 2022 released the ZU920T and ZU920TST. These bump brightness to 9,800 ISO/8,200 ANSI lumens while still providing tremendous value in their brightness class. (Read the full review).


Panasonic PT-VMZ71 Large Venue Laser Projector

Intended Use: Education, House of Worship, Museums, Conference Rooms
Price: $3,927
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Panasonic's PT-VMZ71 is a 3LCD, WUXGA laser projector that carries the distinction of being the smallest and lightest 7,000-ISO lumen projector in its class: 15.7 x 5.2 x 13.7 inches (WHD) and just 15.4 pounds. Though it's not fully loaded with every feature Panasonic can pile into a projector, it offers a versatile 1.6x zoom, wide lens shift range, and an attractive street price under $4,000 that further helps it stand out. (Read the full review).



Samsung Premiere LSP9T UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $5,997
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Originally released in 2021, the LSP9T was the first discrete triple-laser RGB UST projector to promise not just full DCI-P3 color gamut for HDR programs but also more than 100% BT.2020, in essence making it future proof for content not yet being widely produced. It was also the first projector to offer support for HDR10+. Along with the great image quality we saw in our review, it's also among the most well equipped laser TV projector's we've seen, including the excellent Tizen OS and streaming platform borrowed from Samsung's TVs, and one of the better built-in sound systems we've heard in this product class. (Read the full review).



Samsung Freestyle Portable LED Projector

Intended Use: Home theater, gaming, utility
Price: $440
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Samsung's Freestyle sits among a good number of 1080p resolution, LED driven lifestyle projectors you can find, and is far less bright than most competition at its rather lofty price point. But it is set apart by its unusual swiveling canister form factor, a modular design that allows attachment of some clever accessories, a well-equipped Samsung smart TV streaming platform, shockingly sophisticated calibration controls for this class of projector that account for superb color accuracy, and special functions that allow it to operate as an ambient mood light or a smart speaker. The award here accounts for both the product and Samsung's forward-thinking marketing that encourages consumers to think of a projector as far more than just a way to throw the kid's cartoons up on the wall. (Read the full review).



Sony VPL-XW5000ES SXRD Laser Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $5,333
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Sony did a major upgrade of its LCoS-based SXRD premium home theater projector line-up in mid-2022, and anchored the bottom end with this entry-level projector for under $6,000—it's least expensive laser model to date. Along with eliminating the lamp replacements required for its predecessor, it also bumped brightness by 500 lumens to 2,000 ANSI, all while retaining the excellent black levels and high performance SXRD is known for, and earning it a ProjectorCentral Editor's Choice designation in the process. (Read the full review).


Sony VPL-FHZ85 Large Venue Laser Projector

Intended Use: Education, House of Worship, Museums, Conference Rooms
Price: $6,465
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Sony's B2B division made its own contribution to the industry's "more-brightness-in-a-smaller-box" trend with the early 2022 release of the VPL-FHZ85, a 3LCD projector which touts 7,300 ANSI lumens from a compact 18.1 x 6.7 x 19.5 chassis weighing just under 29 pounds. Six interchangeable lenses and an update to Sony's Intelligent Settings feature that utilizes an ambient light sensor to further optimize the image for changing viewing conditions add to the package. (Read the full review).


ViewSonic X2000B-4K UST Laser TV Projector

Intended Use: Home theater
Price: $2,433
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Along with the Formovie Theater mentioned above, the ViewSonic X2000B-4K was one of the sweet surprises to come out of our 14-projector Laser TV Showdown last summer. Though it only ranked third in the overall Single Laser competition, it offers surprisingly good color accuracy and skin tones, and excellent contrast with deep blacks. Its Harman Kardon-designed sound system was also among the highest audio performers in the entire Showdown. (Read the full review).



XGIMI Halo+ Portable LED Projector

Intended Use: Home theater, gaming
Price: $799
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XGIMI distinguished itself in our a 2021 Best of the Year awards with its impressive Aura laser TV projector, and it would be hard this year not to call attention to the Halo+ in the lifestyle projector category. An update to the company's successful 1080p Halo portable, it offers a bump in rated output to 900 ANSI lumens and the sophisticated Intelligent Screen Adaption technology that was first introduced in the step-up Horizon and Horizon Pro 4K models. Along with super-fast auto-focus and geometric correction, if you're projecting onto a wall the projector will perform obstacle-avoidance; or you can just point the projector toward your projection screen and the system will automatically detect the screen edges and align the image. Gaming-friendly low input lag around 26.5 ms adds to its versatility. (Read the full review).

 

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