Should you buy an ultra short-throw projector?
There are many types of projectors catering to different sized rooms, spaces and experiences. You can go big or you can go small; you can go for a projector that works in a bright room or one that replicates the cinema screen experience in your home.
One type of projector that’s not as well known is the ultra short throw projector. They allow for a big screen image within a small space.
If that last sentence piques your interest, here’s what you need to know about whether you should buy a projector that could replace your TV for good.
What is an ultra-short throw projector?
An ultra-short throw projector uses a combination of wide-angle lenses and mirrors to beam an image onto the screen/wall in front of it.
The ‘ultra-short’ is the key part of this projector’s abilities. Unlike other projectors, it doesn’t have to sit at a distance to fire its image onto a screen, reducing the amount of space required for installation.
You’ll also find them referred to as UST and possibly even laser projectors, as the majority of them (but not all) use laser projection technology to create the image.
What are the benefits?
As an ultra-short throw projector doesn’t require as much space, this gives users a degree of flexibility in terms of positioning as it can hug the wall and still produce a massive image. Take the XGIMI Aura, for example, it can produce an 80-inch image on a screen from 4.3-inches away.
That means ultra-short throw projectors are an excellent choice for smaller rooms or those who don’t have the space or the capacity for a more permanent installation.
- Big screen size
UST projectors can’t conjure up an image as big as most ‘regular’ projectors, but those projectors aren’t really the competition UST projectors have in mind.
They’re intended target are TVs. Compare an ultra short throw projector’s 120-inch image to a TV and there’s no real competition in terms of size or price. 100-inches is considerably bigger than a TV, which tend to go as high as 85- to 88-inch sizes. And while £2000 may seem a lot for an ultra-short throw model, compared to a 88-inch TV they’re competitively priced.
- Laser light for bright rooms
The combination of laser technology and high brightness means an ultra short throw projector can compete well against the wash of ambient light.
Other benefits of USTs using laser projection technology is they last longer than projectors that use bulbs or LEDs, and the picture quality is sharper, crisper, and more colourful, particularly useful for HDR sources.
What are the disadvantages?
- Sound can struggle
Most projectors incorporate a sound system for convenience, but few really convince. UST projectors fare better, the shape and size of their body lends itself better to a built-in soundbar, but that doesn’t always mean that the output is what you want.
While audio tends to be decent, limp bass and lack of directionality mean they will not outperform an external sound system.
- They’re relatively expensive
For all the praise we mentioned about UST projectors offering more value than a TV (at least per screen inch), they’re not exactly cheap. £2000 is considered to be ‘affordable’, with some UST projectors going for twice if not three times as much.
If you want one of the more feature-complete options with smarts and dynamic HDR support, you’ll have to dig deep to afford one.
- Can struggle in dark rooms
Cinema is about the experience of watching a film in a dark room, and in this context ultra-short projectors can struggle.
They labor to create the depth and detail needed for ‘true’ black levels. The results can be blacks that look grey because they sacrifice black depth for more detail, or slightly crushed blacks that reduce detail.
Another issue is the rainbow effect, where stripes of pure colour flash in the brighter parts of an image. It’s not too common, but can distract if you’re particularly sensitive to it.
Should you buy an ultra short throw projector?
Any decision on purchasing a product depends on what you want. Ultra Short Throw projectors can be capable big-screen TV replacements, with many of them offering smart features and HDR support. For smaller rooms they make sense, but they can also be used in bigger rooms and their ability to create an image much bigger than any TV is a huge part of the appeal.
There are disadvantages: cost is one, not just of the projector but the probable need to invest in a sound system along with a projector screen. HDR will always be an issue for a projector as they can’t go as bright as a TV can. You’ll also have to make peace with the fact that projectors and deep, detailed black levels don’t always go together.
It puts the ultra-short throw projector in an odd area of not being affordable enough for casual use, and a performance that’s not quite up to the exacting standards of AV fans. If you can live with that compromise, a UST projector is worth considering.