Projector Reviews

VAVA 4K UHD Laser TV – The UST Projector For The Family: Summary

VAVA Laser TV – Summary: Big Picture, The Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

The VAVA is an affordable Ultra Short Throw projector, that is 4K UHD resolution, and comes with a built in media player. It has a hefty, built-in Harmon Kardon sound system (60 watts), and a good picture, but, it is a little rough around the edges. That’s fair, as this is their first home theater/home entertainment projector. It claims 2500 lumens.  This is a projector that will please a great many people.  The picture it puts up can look great.

VAVA Laser TV: The Big Picture

If this were 2003 or 2005, I could say that many projectors were rough around the edges. Today, however, while we still use that phrase to describe some projectors, most companies are serving up their 4th or even 10th generation of home theater/home entertainment projectors, so that for well-established projector makers, rough edges are “few and far between.” Still, anytime someone designs a mostly new projector, ie. A UST design, there will be more such edges, as we saw with most first-generation 4K capable projectors.

Since VAVA is rolling out their first projector, I did a little homework. VAVA is a brand of SunValleyTek,  established back in 2007..  As they explained to me, they used crowdsourcing primarily as marketing – to get the word out on this projector.  Clever.   A quick web search shows they have 100+ employees, and run the US out of No. California.

Projector Reviews Special Interest Award
This award goes to products that are either a cut above, but may have a rough edge. Or, if it is a quality, but specialized product.

Fortunately, none of the VAVA’s “rough edges” are fatal. The VAVA Laser TV will appeal to value seekers, as well as the DIY and early adopter types, who, for example, are more interested in the value, or rather performance for the price, than say the duration of the warranty, and don’t mind minor glitches that don’t ruin the viewing experience.

That description also probably includes people who like to buy crowd-funded gear, which is appropriate of course, since the VAVA Laser TV is an Indiegogo project. Update:  VAVA tells me they have fulfilled all of the crowdsourced orders, and are shipping to everyone now.

Let’s consider the VAVA 4K UHD Laser TV’s strengths:

Once we calibrated the projector (we publish our settings for you to use), the picture quality became really very good, certainly and within expectations. Good color, and respectable black levels for its class of projector (which is to say, about as good as any current UST projector under $10K), and of course, combined with 4K UHD sharpness, for a picture that can dazzle.

Pre-Calibration:  The VAVA looks pretty good, but wait until the next picture.

 

I’ve logged well over 100 hours on the projector in the 3 months I’ve had it.  (I had to do one firmware upgrade – I got mine right before production units were shipping.) 

 

The VAVA looks so much better, and more vibrant with our post calibration settings!

 

I can say most folks will really enjoy kicking back and watching all kinds of content, on a really large screen. Crank up the volume. Fun.

It is “living room” bright, when paired with the right type of screen, and if your living room has decent lighting control, for general viewing. If you want to watch movies,

Most significantly, the VAVA measured 1017 lumens after calibration in Standard mode (that would be 1097 lumens in High). That’s better than most, for a DLP projector claiming 2500! For example, BenQ’s popular TK800, 4K UHD DLP claiming 3000 lumens, by comparison, post calibration managed only 1007 – 10 lumens less despite being supposed to be 20% brighter.

Skin tones: If you use our settings, you’ll like the skin tones, as most will look really good. If you see bad looking skin tones, figure it’s the content, not the projector. I can think of a number of other projectors that can calibrate even better and have more perfect skin tones, but for most folks, the non-fanatics, I’m just quibbling.

skin tone - jennifer lawrence
4K/HDR, disc. This is post calibration, which really makes Jennifer Lawrence look good.

Nicely Quiet: Fan noise even in High mode is acceptable, not that it couldn’t be a bit quieter. Standard mode drops it by 3db or more and is reasonably quiet. The pitch is low so you are unlikely to notice at all, once the audio of what you are watching starts.

In terms of brightness, High mode is only 8% brighter than Standard, so many may choose to use Standard for the slightly lower fan noise.

The VAVA projector is easy to set up. Getting the networking up was quick and friendly, as was pairing the Bluetooth remote control. Adjusting it onto the screen, is either quick and easy with fast, physical setup, and using the Trapezoid Correction, or to do it with minimal/no digital correction, a matter of adjusting it in small fractions of an inch. I did get mine nice and rectangular, without the trapezoid control, but it would have been quicker if the projector had four adjustable feet.

If you have your sources handy – disc player, cable/satellite, etc. and your screen set up, you should be able to unbox the VAVA laser TV, setup, including aligning it and getting it up and running on your network, 10 minutes to get it all aligned, the rest is pretty much what you would have to do with any smart TV, getting it on your network…

And start atching one really big picture!

The VAVA is extremely bright when the lights are out, at night!
The VAVA is extremely bright when the lights are out, at night!

When it comes to some of the edges, The first thing I discovered in setting up the VAVA, is that some of the Settings menu was non-functional, fortunately, there’s a good work-around. If I make a change to the settings, nothing happens. Change from HDR On to HDR Off, and the picture remains the same… And so on. That would be a deal-breaker, except – there’s a better workaround that is superior to the Settings menu. I didn’t like the Settings design to begin with because I can’t see the image on the screen when I would try to adjust color, etc. (I was literally taking photos before, changing settings, then photographing again, to compare.)

The good news: Hold down the Menu button for 2 seconds and you get to the same controls, but those work. And, even better, you get to see the image on the screen so you can see what your adjustments are doing to the picture. In other words, the workaround, is way better than the original Settings design, even if it had worked. Yay! Menu button.

Warranty. One year parts and labor – (service at VAVA California). Sorry VAVA, most of the competition offers two and three years, including in at least one case, with an rapid replacement program. I do note, however, if you buy one on Amazon, they are offering a 1 year additional warranty for around $160. Still I strongly prefer manufacturer warranties.

Bluetooth. I had fast success the first device I paired, but weeks later, I paired the projector with a small Sony XB22 portable speaker. I had to keep messing with it before I got, it, but it ultimately worked. As mentioned elsewhere, I detected a slight amount of input lag. I suspect many won’t notice. But then I can’t necessarily attribute that solely to the projector, the devices can be at fault.

On the plus side, you can, alternately, feed audio to the projector from a Bluetooth source, ie. From my iPhone, to play music on the projector!

No CFI – Creative Frame Interpolation, aka “Smooth Motion.” This is just a nice feature that’s missing. It smooths motion. It’s best avoided on movies – as it changes “the director’s intent.” That’s because most movies are 24 fps, so it’s the feel of movies, that goes away.

But I find CFI very useful for sports. I have long said in many reviews CFI is a nice feature, but not essential, although mot people like it on their smaller TVs. Most projectors for home, in the VAVA Laser TV’s price range do offer CFI with controls to adjust “how much smoothing” to use.

The Competition

Competition for the VAVA Laser TV come in two forms: Other UST “Laser TVs” and alternative conventional longer throw projectors that sit in the middle or back of the room.

Let’s start with the USTs – the 4K capable Laser TVs. The most obvious competition is the Optoma CinemaX P1, which will be shipping by the time you read this. It is the next Laser TV on our review list. The Optoma lists for an extra $500, and has similar brightness. It comes with a two year warranty. It does not claim to go larger than 120” diagonal but a dealer assures me it focuses properly out to 130” diagonal. That’s the closest competition in terms of smart Laser TVs. There are older UST laser projectors such s the Dell, and others more commercial oriented, but I’d stick to ones designed for home use.

The LG’s HU85LA is very similar in looks, and in overall sound quality, but the LG definitely comes across brighter, and calibrates extremely well for excellent color, but, it’s selling around at over twice the price.

Epson will be rolling out their LS500 their 4K Capable Laser TV in Q1 2020. I’ve seen it at CEDIA. It seems to be extremely bright – a real step up. It is set to debut at $3999. Hisense has several models that come bundled with screens. None – if you figure the value of a screen, is selling for anything close to the HiSense price point. That about covers the UST Laser TVs.

Conventional projectors – There are a number around the VAVA’s price. The two of greatest note are the Epson HC5050UB. It does REC 709 color (like the VAVA, but puts out about 1800 lumens calibrated, so it is brighter than the VAVA and can work living rooms. But it is best in the dedicated theater, thanks to the deepest black levels without spending a lot more. The other is the BenQ HT5550. That’s a DLP using the same chipset as this VAVA. It has excellent color, plus a dynamic iris to help it have slightly better black levels than the VAVA, a difference not likely to matter unless the room is very dark.

Both of those are lamp-based. The Epson is a bit noisier than the VAVA. Both are conventional, requiring ceiling mounting, tabletop or rear of the room shelf mounting. That makes things more complicated, in terms of installation. Not a problem if your room is “dedicated” as in a dedicated home theater, but not considered desirable in typical living or family room.

The Bottom Line

The VAVA Laser TV is a 4K UHD projector with a nice sharp image on 4K content, capable of very good color, and very enjoyable viewing experience. It isn’t as feature-laden as some others, and it exhibits a number of rough edges, most of which VAVA can correct with a firmware update. (VAVA says it supports OTA (over the air) updating, a good thing, as well as by USB.  The warranty is on the short side, and there are those rough edges.

The VAVA Laser TV (Model LT002) sets up as about as easily as any of these UST projectors.

I found watching all kinds of content to be most enjoyable.  That’s especially true whenever I manage to put away my reviewing brain, and let myself get fully immersed in a variety of content.

If you are new to projectors – If you decide to go for it, to put a VAVA Laser TV and a proper screen in your living or family room, and you will almost certainly love it.

All considered, a very impressive first projector for VAVA aka SunValleyTek.

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