Jeremy Laukkonen is automotive and tech writer for numerous major trade publications as well as the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. A fan of EVs since the early 2000s, he stays up-to-date on the myriad complex systems that power battery electric vehicles.
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Excellent image quality in FHD and 4K UHD
Ultra short throw and very easy to set up
Harmon Kardon sound is fantastic out of the box
Decent value for your money
Custom Android system feels dated
Difficulty getting apps to run
Menu system confusing at times
Audible humming noise during operation
This projector has it all, from an ultra-short throw to juicy 4K UHD graphics, and a built-in Harman Kardon soundbar. Roll the dice on this crowdfunded newcomer, and you won’t be disappointed.
Vava provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test, which he sent back after his thorough evaluation. Read on for his full take.
VAVA doesn’t have a long history in the world of ultra-high definition (UHD) projectors, but they’ve made major waves with their crowdfunded VA-LT002 4K UHD Ultra-Short Throw projector, and that isn’t just a joke about how much water this massive beast could theoretically displace. With a remarkably short throw distance, the ability to adjust between 80 to 150-inch projections, fantastic picture quality, impressive built-in Harman Kardon audio, and a reasonable price tag, this projector seems poised to go head to head with just about any brand name projector on the market.
I recently unpacked one of these projectors, courtesy of VAVA, and plugged it into my own home theater setup. Over the course of a couple weeks, I tested it with a few different screens, in a variety of lighting conditions, and with several types of media, including the onboard system and my 4K Fire TV Cube.
When VAVA first unveiled the VA-LT002 as a crowdfunding project on Indigogo, they drew interest with a devastating three strike knockout: an attractive price, a killer feature set, and a sleek modern design. VAVA ultimately delivered on all three fronts, but the design in particular is quite attractive and likely to fit in just fine with any home theater setup.
While the body of the projector is white, it’s wrapped in a flecked gray fabric that gives it a nice two-tone look. When viewed from straight on, all you see is the soft gray fabric, which also serves to hide the speaker grills of the built-in Harman Kardon soundbar.
When VAVA first unveiled the VA-LT002 as a crowdfunding project on Indigogo, they drew interest with a devastating three strike knockout: an attractive price, a killer feature set, and a sleek modern design.
The top of the unit is white and nearly featureless, except for a prominently featured power button. The top surface also slopes down to meet the angled glass that covers the optics. In addition to the lens, this bar also conceals sensors that allow the unit to immediately switch off to avoid damaging your eyes should you inadvertently look into the lens. My test unit also had some imperfections in the glass, or perhaps some debris trapped inside, but it had absolutely no effect on the image quality of the projector.
The back of the unit features all of the inputs and outputs, including the power input. It uses standard C13 input and ships with a cord that’s compatible with your region’s power outlets. The internal power supply does the heavy lifting here, meaning you can pipe anywhere from 100-240V at 50Hz or 60Hz into this projector, and it will chug along just fine.
You’ll also find the rest of the inputs and outputs in the same place, including three HDMI inputs, a USB port, analog audio out and AV in, an optical audio out port, and an Ethernet port if you want to hook up a wired internet connection. That’s about it. The design is minimalist, but the overall effect is quite nice.
The idea of switching from a TV to a projector can be daunting at first, mostly due to the setup process. Some projectors are quite difficult to set up, but the VAVA VA-LT002 projector turns that entire idea on its head. This projector is almost as easy to set up as a TV, although you may have to spend some additional time fine-tuning things like color and focus.
When you set this projector up, the first step is to find something to set it on. The height of the unit has a direct impact on where your screen needs to be positioned. So if you already have a projector screen, you’ll need to play around with the desk, console, or TV stand that you place the projector on.
Some projectors are quite difficult to set up, but the VAVA VA-LT002 projector turns that entire idea on its head.
Since this is an ultra-short throw projector, lining it up and getting everything set up is extremely easy. The basic process involves squaring the projector up about 7 inches from the wall, turning it on, and then telling it whether you’re using a screen or a wall. It then provides you with a convenient set of instructions on how to properly position your screen if you need to hang one, and how to adjust your projector in order to achieve the desired display size and height.
If anything is crooked, and you can’t fix it by physically leveling and adjusting the projector position, built-in settings allow you to tweak an eight-point warping function to tilt, stretch, or otherwise line the projection up with your screen.
Built-in settings allow you to tweak an eight-point warping function to tilt, stretch, or otherwise line the projection up with your screen.
As part of the setup process, you also have the option to connect to your Wi-Fi network or hook up an Ethernet cable. If you do connect to the internet, you’ll be able to use the built-in Android 7.1 operating system to download apps and stream video.
If you need to, you can also adjust the focus of the lens to achieve a sharper overall image, and adjust the colors to your liking. The projector worked just fine right out of the box, although some minor tweaks did improve the picture quality.
My first impression of the VA-LT002 after completing the setup process was strong. In the menus of the built-in Android system, the picture was remarkably bright and clear, even in a brightly lit room with the shades wide open. That isn’t exactly the most ideal viewing situation, especially in a room with a wall full of south-facing ceiling-length windows, but the picture was still surprisingly sharp and viewable even if the colors were washed out.
With the shades drawn, and as the evening drew near, the performance of the VA-LT002 improved exponentially. Basic 1080p content looked fine, while 4K content viewed via Blu-Ray and my Fire TV Cube looked fantastic. Shadows left a bit to be desired during the day in my too-bright home theater room, but colors really started to pop as day turned to night, and shadows grew deep and cavernous.
The one drawback here is that the VA-LT002 doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of picture adjustments. This projector is aimed more at general consumers who just want something that works well enough right out of the box, so home theater enthusiasts will be disappointed in the lack of fine control over things like HDR tuning, gamma selection, and the lack of the calibration menus you get with other high-end projectors.
The VA-LT002 does provide controls for adjusting red, green, and blue, but they’re fairly basic. You also get a number of preset mode and color temperature options that lock in a specific brightness and color temperature. For example, the standard/standard setting sets the brightness almost to the maximum and the color temperature quite high, while the movie/warm setting is significantly less bright, but provides more realistic colors with lower color temperature.
While the ultra-short throw and the great picture quality are both marquee features, the built-in Harman Kardon soundbar is hard to oversell. When I downloaded and fired up the YouTube app in the built-in Android system and loaded up some music videos, I was blown away at how well the onboard sound managed to fill the room, with respectably deep bass and crystal-clear higher tones.
While the ultra-short throw and the great picture quality are both marquee features, the built-in Harman Kardon soundbar is hard to oversell.
When viewing more traditional content, including both movies and TV shows on both Blu-Ray and streamed via my Fire TV Cube, the built-in soundbar continued to impress. Dialogue came through surprisingly clear without being drowned out by sound effects or the soundtrack, and I only ever plugged in my actual surround sound system just to test the S/PDIF output. That worked fine as well, but the headline here is that the Harman Kardon soundbar really helps the VA-LT002 punch above its weight.
This projector is too heavy and bulky to be easily portable, but the quality you get out of the built-in soundbar would definitely tempt me into hauling it outside with my portable Visual Apex screen for backyard movie nights if this unit was a permanent resident in my home theater instead of just a visitor.
The VA-LT002 comes packed with a basic suite of connectivity options that provide plenty of ways to get media on the device. To start, you get three HDMI ports, including one that supports HDMI ARC.
When you first set up the projector, you’re prompted to connect to Wi-Fi or plug in an Ethernet cable. To that end, it supports 802.11ac and can connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. This allows you to connect to the internet to download firmware updates and apps, and also to stream content to compatible apps.
The VA-LT002 also supports Bluetooth BT4.2 (Dual Mode), which is primarily used to connect to the remote control. You can also use it to pair compatible devices to the onboard Android system, including your phone, which you can then use to control compatible apps.
The last connectivity option you get is a USB port that you can use to update the system firmware, play media files, and sideload Android apps. The video player that comes with the system can handle a bunch of different file types, and you can play movies and other video files directly from the USB drive or network attached storage (NAS) if you connect the projector to your home network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
The last feature of note is related to safety instead of connectivity. Since this is a short throw projector that’s designed primarily to be set near the floor under the screen, it has a built-in sensor that tells it if anything has passed in front of the projector. When that sensor is tripped, the projector switches automatically to a low light mode and provides a warning. This failsafe can help prevent eye damage if anyone accidentally ends up in a position where the projector could shine in their eyes.
The VA-LT002 runs on a custom version of Android 7.1 that feels dated. It’s usable, and the menus are snappy and fast to load, but it’s a poor match for such a high quality, high-end projector.
The built-in Android installation utilizes the Aptoide smart TV platform and does not have native access to the Google Play Store. That means app availability is spotty and can be a bit frustrating if you’re used to the seamless process of downloading and installing apps to your Android phone or even the Android-based Fire TV.
I tried half a dozen of the included apps and couldn’t get any of them working. I also tried downloading apps like Disney+ and Netflix, but was met with errors in most instances and was unable to get anything actually up and running. The one streaming app I was able to successfully use was a third-party YouTube app, which gave me a taste of the high-quality video and sound that the VA-LT002 is capable of putting out.
The built-in video player also worked okay, but the custom Android installation provided more frustration overall than anything else. I finally just plugged in my Fire TV Cube, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, and said goodbye to the Aptoide-driven quagmire.
With an MSRP of $2,800, the VA-LT002 represents a significant investment for most home theater enthusiasts. The question is whether that high price tag is justified, and it definitely is. You can find cheaper projectors with decent enough specifications, but the combination of the ultra-short throw, massive projection size, fantastic picture quality, and integrated Harman Kardon soundbar all help to justify the price.
This isn’t the projector you’re looking for if you’re working on a tight budget, but anyone looking for a high-end unit with these features should be pleased with what they get at this price point.
With a similar feature set and a street price around $3,700, it’s clear that the Optoma Cinemax P1 (see on Amazon) is a direct competitor of the VA-LT002 in the high-end consumer-grade 4K short-throw laser projector market. The VAVA projector is a good deal less expensive, but the Optoma P1 has some features that make it worth at least considering.
While these are very similar 4K projectors, the Optoma P1 is just a bit brighter. The P1 is rated at 3,000 ANSI lumens, while the VA-LT002 puts out 2,500 ANSI lumens. This is a slight difference that you won’t notice in low light or full darkness, but it’s still a slight edge that the P1 holds over the VA-LT002.
The Optoma P1 packs in premium sound like the VA-LT002, but the Harman Kardon soundbar in the VAVA projector takes the edge here. This is probably less likely to swing your decision, especially if you already have a home theater, but the fact is that the VA-LT002 is just louder, more immersive, and higher quality.
The Optoma P1 also offers some connectivity options you don’t get from VAVA, like compatibility with both Google Home and Alexa. However, it’s only rated to project images between 85 to 120 inches, while the VAVA projector will give you a crisp picture on anything between 80 to 150 inches.
Overall, the Optoma P1 provides a handful of benefits, but it’s hard to justify the extra expense. The VAVA VA-LT002 is the better deal.
A fantastic feature set and decent price for an ultra-short-throw 4K laser projector.
For their first attempt at a projector like this, VAVA really knocked this one out of the park. If you’re in the market for a short-throw projector, you want to watch 4K content, and you have enough space for a screen between 80 and 120 inches, you owe it to yourself to check this projector out. It isn’t exactly a game-changer, and there are a few let downs like the custom Android install that lacks Google Play Store, but the feature set and image quality you get out of the VA-LT002 is excellent at this price point.
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