There has been something of a revolution in the world of projectors over the last couple of years. While ultra short throw projectors (UST) are not a new concept, historically they were most commonly seen in an office or school environment, projecting text and charts onto a screen a few feet away.
This technology has been transformed by the advent of ALPD laser projection, meaning that the latest crop of UST machines, sometimes knows as laser TVs, are high-tech media Swiss-army knives, capable of projecting beautiful images, smooth 4k video and immersive gaming at up to 120" onto almost any surface in your home from only a few inches away.
This convenience, combined with high quality built-in sound and a smart operating system means these laser powered UST projectors now offer a giant TV-style experience, with greater flexibility, easier installation and often at a fraction of the comparable cost.
So how do you choose the right one? Let's look at eight key considerations to ensure the UST projector you choose will make you smile every time you switch it on.
Tip 1: Image - Look for ALPD laser technology
In recent years laser projection has moved from movie theatres into the home cinema world due to advances in technology and reductions in cost. Laser brings multiple advantages over traditional bulb based projectors in terms of efficiency, low heat output (which means less fan noise), color reproduction and contrast. Compared to LED based offerings it tends to be brighter and delivers greater contrast as laser light is perceived as brighter by the human eye.
ALPD stands for advanced laser phosphor display. The best laser TV UST projectors such as the WEMAX Nova feature an ALPD 3.0 light engine - delivering all of the benefits of laser projection from a combination of red and blue light. There are also an increasing number of new machines which include ALPD 4.0 - indicating use of an RGB triple laser array for even greater color depth and accuracy. WEMAX will shortly be launching its own triple laser UST projector, you can join our community HERE for updates, information and competitions.
So - by choosing a UST projector with ALPD technology you can expect brilliant, vibrant and color accurate results that are long lasting, laser light engines are normally rated for more than 25,000 hours of use!
Tip 2: Image - Be bright!
Do you want to use your new UST projector in the daytime? `Or in a room which may possibly have the lights on? `You are not alone. Thankfully if you choose a laser - based projector with 2,000+ ANSI lumens then other than projecting it onto a surface that is in direct sunlight (average sunlight can be well over 50,000 lumens!) you are going to have a great experience.
Look for a machine which offers you its brightness in a recognized industry standard such as ANSI or ISO, this indicates the manufacturer has taken the time to properly measure and report this metric using a reputable and repeatable methodology.
At WEMAX this is important to us, and we only report accurate benchmark results. For instance when we say that the WEMAX Nova will deliver 2,100 ANSI lumens, we mean the projector you purchase and receive will be able to do this for you exactly as it did when we tested it.
The advice here is to choose a projector from a reputable manufacturer that gives its luminosity in a recognized industry standard and for maximum flexibility look for 2000 ANSI lumens or higher.
Tip 3: Image - Resolution and Color
Most ultra short throw projectors come in one of two flavors when it comes to how many pixels they can project onto a surface, namely good old 1080p and the wonderfully detailed 4k. Given the size of the image you can produce with a UST and the fact that t hey can be used in smaller spaces than more traditional projection devices, this is a difference you will notice.
There is a great array of 4k material available now through the main streaming services. Our advice here is if your budget stretches, go for a 4k capable projector and enjoy.
When it comes to color, by choosing an ALPD powered solution you are likely to be treated with the full HDTV color space (also known as 100% Rec.709) on tap. If you are looking to stream 4k content then you should also look for HDR10 compatibility.
To enjoy the most out of the streaming content that is available, choose a projector like the WEMAX Nova which not only accepts, but generates a 4k resolution, look for HDR10 for the best compatibility and know that ALPD devices will give you an excellent color gamut.
Tip 4: To screen or not to screen?
Setting up your new UST is straightforward. Place it in front of the surface you wish to project on, switch on and square the image by rotating the projector. Move it towards or away from the surface until you have the image size required and then focus. Finally use the keystoning tools for fine adjustment until you have a sharp rectangular result.
There is one consideration here. You can get excellent results by projecting onto a wall - however due to the acute angle of the projected image, it can show up and be affected by imperfections in the surface, resulting in slight distortion of the image, if this happens then the answer is a simple one, use/ install a fixed frame screen. There are different flavors on offer here, from a wall mounted offerings to more costly electric options. What is highly recommended if you are looking at installing a screen is to consider one which is ceiling light rejecting (CLR).
CLR screens (sometimes known as UST ambient light rejecting) are specifically designed to work with ultra short throw projectors and not only offer a quality projection surface but enhance the brightness of the image by limiting the amount of non-desirable ambient light which reaches your eye and reflecting more of the light that you do want.
The learning here is that wall projection is likely to be good, but in most cases adding a screen will be better and combining your UST laser projector with a CLR screen such as this one will deliver maximum results.
Tip 5: Audio - Make Sure the Specs Sound Good
How do you want your new UST to sound? Awesome, right? It pays to consider how you will be using it. If you are looking to use the on-board audio system then you are in luck, the Laser TV form factor allows for some impressive audio to be included and most often it is front-facing meaning you will receive the full benefit of this audible goodness. Look for a minimum of 20W (RMS) of power in order to be room filling and ideally from separated speaker units. The Nova, for instance, features two 10W full range drivers and an additional two 5W tweeters for a total of 30W output.
If you already have a home cinema audio system or soundbar you want to use, then check the UST you are considering has the connectivity you need. Important options here are optical out, 3.5mm connection, Bluetooth audio and /or HDMI ARC.
Regardless of whether on-board or external sound is your preference, also check whether Dolby audio and DTS-HD compatibility is present as this allows it to deliver the most from your content.
One final consideration is fan noise. The use of laser means that even with the higher brightness output offered, modern UST projectors are on the quiet side. Aim for a machine rated at 35 decibels or less and you should not find it to be intrusive or noticeable when enjoying your home cinema setup.
In summary, while the UST form-factor lends itself to excellent audio, for the best experience, ensure the projector has a good on-board sound system and/or the right connectivity for external systems, is Dolby compatible and rated for low fan noise.
Tip 6: Operating System - How Smart Do You Want to Be?
When choosing your new ultra short throw it is not just about the hardware. Current models come with a variety of operating systems offering different levels of intelligence and app compatibility.
These can be divided into three camps, the first is those with no smart technology, offering instead simple menus and requiring external devices to deliver content. Next up are those with proprietary systems, these tend to be a half-way house, delivering access to a limited range of apps and akin to the experience on some of the original smart TVs. At the top of the tree we have Android TV, this not only brings you maximum app compatibility thanks to on-board Google services, it also has Chromecast capabilities built-in.
If you are looking to connect external devices, then regardless of the OS, also check what is on the back of the projector. Ideally it will offer 3 or more HDMI ports (rated at 2.0 or better to enable full 4k compatibility) and at least one full size USB for powering your TV sticks or similar.
Built-in smart technology can be excellent and truly allow your new UST to be a complete entertainment system. For maximum app compatibility look to an Android TV based device, ideally with at least 2GB of RAM for smooth operation. This will also deliver additional benefits such as voice control, easy casting/ screen sharing and much more.
Tip 7: Do You Want to Play a Game?
While still not in the realm of the 1ms response times of monitors designed for hardcore gaming, manufacturers have worked hard to reduce the latency of their laser-TV offerings so that casual online and local-gaming experiences are smooth and buttery.
Check whether your UST of choice has a gaming mode (normally available once an external HDMI device is connected). This reduces the amount of internal processing and in turn speeds up response times so that your next round of fighting, shooting, racing or intense puzzling is as immersive and rewarding as possible.
If you are going to connect a console, PC or gaming device, check for gaming mode in the projector specs to reduce latency, and of course, remember to switch it on.
Tip 8: Great Technology Does not Have to Break the Bank
At WEMAX we believe in delivering cutting edge tech at affordable prices. To own a projector with the specs recommended in this article can cost between $1,600 and $5,000. Cheaper models are available but tend to be limited to 1080p with much lower brightness output or designed for portable rather than home cinema use.
Whatever your budget, but from a reputable manufacturer and retailer and ensure your purchase is backed by a decent warranty and support service.
The WEMAX Nova is one of the most affordable 4k home cinema UST projectors currently available. It is frequently available for around $1,600 (join and follow the WEMAX community and/or WEMAX newsletter for updates and offers).
We hope that whichever UST projector you purchase, by following the above tips it will bring you a fantastic home cinema experience for many years.
Please note: Images showing screen projection in this article were taken during daytime with ambient sunlight in the room
WEMAX (an Ampula Inc. brand.) is a California-based technology company on a mission to provide shared rich, visual experiences wherever you go. WEMAX provides one-stop solutions to deliver visual applications that are intelligently connected with your home or small business. The team believes that maximized visual experiences not only increase our daily productivity, but also bring people together and enhance each person's individual experience. WEMAX products create that special moment to enrich the day-to-day aspects of life.