AAXA 4K1 – 4K LED Projector - A First Look Review

Posted on May 20, 2019 by Art Feierman

AAXA's small portable projector is rather unique so far.  With the 4K1's MSRP of only $999 and a claim of 1500 lumens under the hood, it is definitely a true home entertainment projector that is 4K capable.  I would not call it a serious "home theater" though. Serious 4K home theater projectors start at roughly twice the price.

It is, to my knowledge, the smallest 4K UHD DLP projector to hit the market yet - although, no doubt other "pocket" projector manufacturers will have their own entries, later, if not sooner.  Still, not everyone is going for small size and portability. For example, so far, LG - maker of many pocket projectors, has gone "large" with both of their 4K capable entries (and both are $2999 MSRP or higher, so not competition).  (At this price point, so far, LG only offers 1080p.)  I have spoken with AAXA - this is just the first of their 4K capable projectors - more to follow!

Although I don't really get into it in this short "fiirst look," understand that while most of the interest in the 4K1 will be on the home side, it is an intriguing portable business/education projector.  It's certainly bright enough to handle conference rooms and small classrooms without difficulty.  But, it is most likely to be in such rooms as a portable projector, for a presentation, or event.  With plenty of horsepower from the 4K1's LED light engine, small footprint, and under 4 pound weight (not counting the power brick), it truly is portable, although no battery pack.  I don't think I've seen a "pocket" projector yet, with more than 1000 lumens, with an internal battery pack. Most with battery packs are far less bright.

So, count the 4K1 as a definite possibility if you need a very sharp, very portable projector, for various business or family uses.

front view 4K1
The short throw lens, and two small 2 watt speakers (and the 4K label) grace the front of the 4K1 projector!

The AAXA 4K1 arrived, and within a couple of days I pulled it out of its small box, and set it up on one of my tables in my theater.  This AAXA projector is a short throw projector, so it filled my screen from about less than 8 feet.  The lens does not have zoom capability, so you'll move it in and out slightly to get a proper fit to your screen - assuming you are using a screen (great idea if you care about picture quality) instead of a wall.

All screen images were taken with the default Standard Color mode. That turns out to be on the very cool side, so notice the strong blues.  There is a warmer setting that would have worked out better, especially for skin tones. Look for better images in our full review.

Journey to the South Pacific image - IMAX 4K. Vibrant colored scene!

Placement and Control of the 4K1

The typical projector needs about 10 feet and a few inches to fill a 100" 16:9 screen.  Shorter throw projectors tend to be a popular design for projectors that get moved around a good deal or at least are not permanently mounted.  Gamers often like to have the projector placed between them and the screen.  The 4K1 isn't exceptionally short throw.  For that same 100" 16:9 screen the front of the 4K1 needs to be 104" from the screen, rather than the usual 120" - 136" inches back.

Speaking of that, the small remote control is not a credit card type - thank you AAXA -- but the single IR sensor on the projector is low on the back.  You do want to be behind the projector because there's not enough remote range to get a bounce off the screen if you are in front of the 4K1 projector.  OK, that's reasonable, it is a short throw projector.  Still using the remote could be a pain depending on where you are sitting relative to the projector.

4K Capable – 4K UHD DLP

What we have here are basic 4K capabilities.  The 4K1 projector uses the same 0.47" 1920x1080 x 4 pixel-shifting setup as found in most of the $1000 - $2500 DLP projectors.  It may well be the least expensive projector to offer that 4K chipset. It is very small, and feels really solid!  Historically, we probably, if you check our reviews, have favored more AAXA pocket projectors than those from any other pico and pocket brands.  That is to say, they are generally particularly well done and good values.

The 4K capabilities, will, of course, attract many folks to this projector, but before you pull the trigger, there are some important things you need to know.

The AAXA 4K1 does handle 4K content, but it does not handle HDR for higher dynamic range, nor does it attempt P3 color.  Let's not worry about P3 color, as there are only about 2 or 3 DLP's under $3000 that even get close, out of perhaps 2 dozen projectors.

The 4K1 claims a 30,000 hour life to its RGBB LEDs.  I'll let Dave tell you about the two "B"s (blues), in the full review.  I will say, that in my few hours of viewing I did not notice any RBE - rainbow effect. That is noteworthy as I am one of the minority, that sees those rainbows.  Count that a real plus for this DLP projector.

The 4K1 Projector is Impressively Sharp

Feeding the 4K1 4K content means you end up with a very sharp, 4K image, but one who's overall picture quality (other than sharpness) won't be noticeably different than watching any 1080 content, whether HDTV, sports, or movies on 4K1.   Check out how it compares here with a $1500 BenQ 4K UHD HT3500, and a $3000 Epson 4K capable pixel shifter (HC5050UB).

You've got to admit after looking at the comparison close up shots of the shed on the pier... the AAXA is sharp!  I am impressed. Getting a really sharp image on the screen is helped by the 4K1 having electronic focusing.   Ever try to get perfect focus on a projector when you have to stand 8-10-15 feet away - how good are your eyes? -art

When a projector has power focus, we can stand next to the screen and squint to get the sharpest possible focus, I really like the electronic focus feature.  Nice touch! Very!

Gaming with the 4K1?

Darn, I measured the input lag with my Leo Bodnar input lag device, but can't find my notes. We'll get back to you in the full review, with the numbers.  Best I can recall, it isn't really fast, but I don't remember.  If I had to guess - upper 30ms to 60s.  So, anywhere from respectable to a bit too slow.  We'll let you know the real number soon enough.  My bad!  If it scores under 40ms, that makes it a reasonably respectable gamer!

Setting up the 4K1

back of 4K1 projector
The back of the 4K1 projector, showing inputs and outputs

Setting up is a snap. There's a separate power brick - a pretty hefty one, plug all that in, and also an HDMI input from one of your sources, (or an SD card for the media player) and power up from the remote control - or small power switch on the back left.  The 4K1 weighs in at 3.8 pounds without the power brick which probably adds almost a pound to the total weight.  There are two HDMI inputs, as well as USB, and also the stereo audio output (aka headphone jack), and the SD card slot for the built-in media player.  Although the media player does not directly support Microsoft Office docs, it does work with an array of video, photo, and audio formats: MP3 / WMA / OGG / WAV / AVI /BMP / JPG / GIF / TXT.

Relative to larger projectors, it is a power miser with a max power consumption of 130 watts.  (Most lamp-based projectors draw 230 - 400 watts.)

Sound and Audible Noise

The audio  - coming out of a pair of 2" two watt small front speakers (easily seen, behind the grill works), produces significant volume, but, of course, no serious bass.   Don't worry - if you want big sound, and have anything from a large boom box to a full surround sound system or soundbar, and you can feed that from the audio output (aka headphone jack).   If using the internal speakers, you get a nice bounce off of your wall or screen from those front facing little guys, so you end up with a large-seeming sound source.

One issue with the 4K1 is fan noise,  At full power, or medium power it is pretty noisy.  They claim 30 db, but that may be at the lowest power setting which is reasonably quiet.  The medium setting is still noisier than most larger projectors, but at least in the ball park.  Full power results in a fairly loud "whooshing" type sound as the projector blows a whole lot of air out the vents at high speed.  I have quickly forgotten about the noise even at high power during sports viewing, but I'd be looking at medium or low settings for my movie viewing.

4K1 Picture Quality

Journey image
A dusk scene from Journey to the South Pacific

I already mentioned that it does SDR - standard dynamic range - (not HDR) , whether in 4K or not.  Not everyone cares, about HDR, especially at this low price point, with a solid state light engine. The competition at $1000 - $1500 are almost all lamp based.

But, I digress. Color!   Color is fine for "home entertainment" but the lack of a full set of color management controls will limit the accuracy of this projector.   If you have never adjusted the picture of your 5-year-old LCDTV, you are probably just fine with the color. But, if you are an enthusiast looking for very accurate color and really natural skin tones, this isn't the projector for you.

Black level performance is typically entry-level DLP projector  - so again, not serious home theater. It is odd watching fav scenes from Passengers in space, and seeing them without HDR.  Very different, (and not dark enough for space!

Additional Thoughts, Regarding Smarts, Millennials

The 4K1 is also media player oriented.  I didn't use the media player at all. I'll leave discussing those capabilities and performance aspects to Dave in his full review.

Also, like most good "pocket" projectors, the AAXA is a smart projector.  That's good, and sometimes not so good.  Mostly good. The only thing that bothered me with the "modern" (smart TV like) menu layout, is that to adjust color, you don't get an overlayed menu so that you can see the effect of your adjustments, instead, you exit the picture, enter Settings, go to color, select mode, or color temp controls, and then get to look at the changes you made, on real content, a couple clicks later when the image re-appears.  On the other hand, I generally like the newer smarter controls overall.

I can see the appeal to millennials, and other "cord cutters."  ]Lisa, my "millennial" daughter who owns what is now an old Optoma ML750 pocket projector. She used it anytime she wanted a "big screen" (instead of phone or laptop) when she lived in NYC with roommates but no TV.

I think she'd love the extra sharpness (huge step up - her projector is a 720p pocket projector).  But, Lisa would likely be disappointed with the 4K1's color - hey, that's only fair, she's reviewed a number of projectors for Projector Reviews over the years - and is: "my kid" so I've been pitching picture quality including accuracy as part of my home theater mantra, since she was a little kid.

AAXA 4K1 Brightness - Real Life

The big surprise.  I was rather blown away with the overall brightness of this projector.  While I didn't do measurements - Dave will in his full review, it is putting a lot of bright on the screen.  (Some of that bright on 4K content is the lack of HDR, but, my point is, this tiny little projector can cut through quite a modest of ambient light with almost no effect, and handle more significant ambient light rather well.

My theater image with my all my mid, and rear room recessed lights on, gives you a good idea.  The image projected in this photo is just slightly smaller than 100" diagonal! (Note the lighting hitting the closest chair (which is intentionally NOT directly under that light, to get an idea of room lighting. (Photos always look dark or bright projectors like this one look badly overexposed, if you set the camera to accurately show how bright the room is.

Consider the AAXA 4K1 to be as bright as most of those 4K UHD projectors claiming 2000 or 2200 lumens, and might seem as bright as some of the 3000-lumen models.  Part of that is due to the solid-state LED light engine. Part may be due to my expecting to watch 4K content with HDR on, and that is typically a bit darker.  Generally, people perceive solid state projectors to seem a little brighter than lamp ones of the same measured brightness.  I did no measurements but Dave will have them in the full review.

theater lighting
I was pleasantly surprised with the actual brightness of the 4K1. Shown with all my mid and rear down light on (7 LED lights - at about 40%)

The Bottom Line: 4K1 Projector

Small, very sharp - seems as sharp as any of the other reasonably priced 4K UHD DLPs with the same chipset - and of course, 4K capable (without HDR).  It offers two HDMI inputs, and the aforementioned media player onboard that can be fed from the USB on the back.

I played and improved the color a bit, but there are limits to the adjustments so that this is not a projector for "perfectionists" or even those, "serious home theater aficionados!"

But, it is a portable-ish projector (but it can be ceiling mounted) that can be much fun for the whole family or perhaps a serious gamer (if the lag is low enough), or anyone who just loves having a really large image to get immersed in.  I doubt that most folks who are sports fans, and want a really large picture will be seriously concerned with the color handling!

Certainly, the AAXA 4K1 is a most interesting projector with some real strengths and some limitations.  But then, "there are always trade-offs!" Still, it is an impressive 4K capable projector for $999.

That's it for me - and my 2 cents!~  Check out the full review which should be live in very early June 2019! -art

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