Projector Reviews

VAVA 4K UHD Laser TV Review- Picture Quality

VAVA 4K UHD Laser TV – Picture Quality: Right Out of the Box Picture Quality, Skin Tones, Black Levels and Dark Shadow Detail

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

Like quite a few home entertainment projectors, this VAVA isn’t at its best, “right out of the box” in term of picture. Basically, all the modes tend to be on the pretty cool side, with bluish whites –  other than that, not bad at all.  Ideally you want 6500K, which is considered to be a warm white, and is the standard for movies.  I personally prefer a more “neutral” color temp around 7000K – 7500K for my sports viewing (and that helps with dealing with ambient light, too).

In this image you can see the strong shirt to blue, before any adjustments. Journey To the South Pacific: 4K UHD (P3 color but the projector does REC 709 – standard HDTV and Blu-ray color – not as good as P3, the movie theater standard for color. Few projectors can achieve P3, some keep it to REC 709, because they just can’t do P3.

While the picture, right out of the box, is very watchable because it doesn’t suffer too heavy greens, which is what many projectors have at their brightest. If you use our calibration settings, that Jason worked out, you’ll end up with a very noticeably better-looking picture. You’ll find all the settings on our calibration part of this review.

similar image to the previous one, but this one is post calibration, with warmer color.

Here’s another pre-calibration image – this time sports. To me, this looks pretty darn good (but still one might want it a touch warmer.

A very good looking image, despite the healthy amount of ambient light. I can watch football all day, with this picture, and, I did just that, three weekends worth – mostly NFL, but college games as well (“We Are Penn State”)

Bottom line on out of the box performance of the VAVA projector: While it is cool overall without any changes, it is very watchable. Using our calibration settings won’t get you to perfect, but you will like your VAVA projector better, with our settings.

Skin Tones

Skin Tones out of the box, of course, have a too strong blue component, but the real test is how good they are post adjustment. We calibrated one mode. Most of the modes provided, before we did anything were pretty similar, not as much variation as with most projectors.

This photo player contains both pre-cal, and post-calibration images for revealing skin tone quality and color accuracy.

Note the two similar frames from The Black Panther, the pre-cal skin tones of the elite Wakanda soldiers being very “pale.” By comparison, the second image, I believe, looks a whole lot more correct. I should mention these photos were both shot with moderate ambient light.

It is not just the color, also the gamma of the image, or in this case, since this is HDR content, the EOTF, essentially a dynamic gamma.  The point is, it’s not just the color, but the overall picture that is greatly improved.

The bottom line on skin tones: Use our settings! OK, many of you will be satisfied with the color accuracy of the projector without adjustment. But, it can look quite a good bit better.

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

Black Levels

Black Level performance is typical of most DLP projectors. There’s little difference between the native contrast of the different DLP chips used in today’s projectors, (unlike 3LCD where there is a very significant difference, for example, between all the under $2000 Epson 3LCD projectors (for home), and their higher-end UB (ultra black) series).

As a result, most DLP projectors designed for the home have similar black levels – unless the projector has a dynamic iris (none yet on UST home projectors), or with a laser engine, they have the laser light engine emulate a dynamic iris.

The VAVA has neither an iris, nor does it do dynamic laser dimming (some DLP projectors use dynamic lamp dimming), but the lamps brighten/dim too slowly to be very effective (no match for a good dynamic iris).

One of the usual extremely dark scenes from Mockingjay Part 1. 4K/HDR

The black levels were a bit better than entry-level (lamp-based) DLPs, which seems to be the case with at least a few laser projectors, but no match for the projector with the best black level performance at the price (the standard distance Epson 5050UB). Of course, that’s a completely different projector in terms of placement…

When watching the VAVA Laser TV in my new testing room (dark surfaces), only on the really dark scenes do I become aware of the less than awesome black level performance that most lower-cost projectors have.

Overall, the dark scene viewing wasn’t bad in my dark testing room, but a serious home theater fanatic will want better blacks. There’s nothing out there in affordable UST projectors, however, that would really significantly best this VAVA.

Better is using the VAVA in a more family environment – living room, den, family room. Both in the temporary summer rental property before we moved Projector Reviews, and when set up in the living room of our new home, those are different environments – walls, floor and ceiling not dark. Also lots of windows in the daytime. For daytime viewing like sports and casual TV, black level performance is diminished with all projectors. Thus the difference between this VAVA, for example, and that Epson UB mentioned above, is definitely less noticeable.

Black Panther night scene
A ight cityscape scene. (Black Panther, 4K/HDR in my theater. On scenes you notice differences in black levels far less than really dark scenes with limited lights.

Come evening, if you turn off all the lights in my living room, it still has more ambient light that the testing room. That’s true, if for no other reason that the content on the screen is hitting the light walls, and some is bouncing back to slightly dilute the image on the screen. Now the differences between great black levels and typical (the VAVA) become a bit more noticeable, but it takes more of a man cave/dedicated home theater to maximize the differences.

This post calibration, CGI enhanced image from Ghostbusters 2016, looked really good! 4K/HDR.

Bottom Line on the VAVA projectors black levels: As a family projector in a living room type world, the VAVA is perfectly acceptable for most. Hardcore enthusiasts, though with more perfect rooms will want better. In a UST projector, only the Acer 7860, which did have dynamic laser dimming is a good bit better, but it’s discontinued. There’s a $24,999 Sony (the VZ1000ES) that also uses laser dimming and is far better than either the VAVA or the Acer. Still, Sony is just less than 10 times the price!

Dark Shadow Detail

No real issues here. Overall the VAVA Laser TV reveals almost all of the very darkest detail when the Brightness setting is set up correctly.  Unfortunately this photo is too underexposed too reveal all those details.

The VAVA did good job showing the dark detail in the frames for the windows. Unfortunately, this image is a bit too dark.

It does seem to lose some detail in the dark night marching scene from Mockingjay 1. (Note, the exposure could have been a bit brighter in this image), even post-calibration, but the loss of detail in the greys just above black is acceptable. Perhaps slightly better controls could fine-tune that more.

The bottom line on Dark Shadow Detail: Definitely acceptable, overall, pretty good, but could be a touch better. Definitely acceptable to almost everyone. (A slight loss in darkest detail is less important than, than differences in black levels.)

Another extremely dark scene from MockingJay Part 1.

Next page: Handling of 4K HDR content on Movies, 1080p Movies, Sports and HDTV viewing with ambient light present…