A (mainly) positive Android TV experience, a triple laser, outstanding color accuracy, and superb acoustics.
On the one hand, Ultra Short Throw (UST) projectors provide a premium home theatre experience for a fraction of the price of a similarly sized TV. On the other hand, none of the projectors, UST or otherwise, have any of the features like Dolby Vision that you would find on a nice 4K TV.
With the recent introduction of the Formovie Theater home projector, that has changed. For $3,000, you can receive a triple-laser 4K DLP projector with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, speakers tuned by Bowers & Wilkins, Android TV, and a 150-inch screen. Additionally, it boasts the color fidelity we’ve only seen on $5,000+ models like Samsung’s Premiere thanks to Formovie’s color management system.
I’ve had an opportunity to test the Formovie Theater in a number of situations, including with a Blu-ray Ultra HD player and streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, and others. To be brief, it was really impressive, with a few minor hiccups.
Design and features
Although you may not be familiar with the name Formovie, it is a partnership between Xiaomi and Aptronics, two more well-known companies. The latter company manufactures the ALPD laser engines used in several projectors, notably Barco models intended for commercial movie theatres. Based on the Fengmi T1 offered in China, the Formovie Theater also includes a color control system and Dolby Vision (CMS).
It has a stylish, understated appearance that blends nicely with most living areas. The body is rectangular and dark grey and black. It has two tweeters on the side and two primary speakers that are wrapped in fabric up front. As is customary with UST projectors, the lens element and triple-laser light source are housed in a trough at the top, with a sensor that will turn off the intense light if you stick your head in front of it (which I did, multiple times). It is cooled by a fan, which may be moderately annoying during really silent sections.
It delivers a real 4K image using a 0.47-inch Texas Instruments XP DLP chip with a native 1080p resolution and 4X pixel shifting. It falls into the middle to upper range of UST brightness levels with a light power of 2,800 lumens. With a fantastic contrast ratio of 3,000:1, the triple laser allows it to cover 113% of the Rec 709 and 107% of the HDR BT.2020 color gamut.
Also, it gets rid of the rainbow appearance that occurs when using a color wheel with a single laser. The only other versions with a triple laser engine in this price range are the $3,300 Hisense PX1-Pro and $3,500 Vavae Chroma; other devices (LG’s Cine Beam HU915QB, the Samsung LSP9T, and Lost Vision LTV-3500) cost $5,000 and above.
The only model with official Dolby Vision certification available for purchase in the US is the Formovie Theater. Dolby Vision is an advanced type of HDR (high dynamic range) that uses dynamic information set by content creators on a frame-by-frame basis, as you are surely aware. In light of this, brightness, color, and contrast levels are typically better than HDR10, which is the standard for most projectors.
Remember that projectors, even the most recent UST versions, typically don’t have the same brightness as 4K TVs, which means that some of the Dolby Vision effect is lost. You do receive the HDR benefit of a broad gamut and billions of colors thanks to the Formovie’s ability to display more colors than any TV or even most monitors now on the market. The HDR10+ standard, which is comparable to Dolby Vision but considerably less generally used, is supported by other models like Samsung’s Premiere.
Support with Android TV 11.0 is another important feature. It supports 4K and Dolby Vision HDR streaming, unlike some other projectors, so you can make the most of Disney+, Apple TV+, and other supported services. Together with Google Assistant voice control, it also includes YouTube and many other apps.
You’ll see that I left off Netflix from that list. As it stands, Formovie’s Android TV implementation does not support the Netflix app. A spokesman told me, “At this time we are talking with the Netflix team, but we can’t commit that Netflix will work on our gadget in the near future. It’s sad that the most widely used streaming service in the world isn’t natively supported; yes, you can use a $30–$50 4K streaming stick, like I did.
The Android TV experience is good overall, and all other streaming apps (such as Disney+, Amazon Video, YouTube, etc.) function well. You can cast from your phone, tablet, or computer thanks to Chromecast’s built-in functionality. The remote is simple but effective and has buttons specifically designated for YouTube and Google Assistant. The latter can be called up by using the projector’s far-field microphone to issue the standard “Hey, Google” command.
In any event, Formovie continues to adopt smart TVs better than some of its competitors. Only an external dongle, which costs a cool $200, is available for use with Optima’s newest UST projector, the Cinemax D2.
Three HDMI inputs are provided, one of which has e ARC enhanced audio capabilities. Moreover, it has an ethernet connection, two USB-A ports, a 3.5mm line out, and SPDIF digital output. According to Projector Central, the 42-millisecond lag time is enough for light gaming but not for much more.
The audio implementation in the Formovie Theater is also really impressive. If you have a sound bar or 5.1 system that is compatible with Dolby Atmos, it supports it and has built-in speakers that have been adjusted by the hi-fi business Bower & Wilkins.
Image and sound quality
With my 100-inch ALR screen, the Formovie Projector setup was fairly simple. At that size, the projector’s bottom is just nine inches from the bottom of the screen, which is 14.6 inches distant. Once the projector is roughly in place, you can level it front to back and side to side using the thumbwheel controls on the feet. Keystone correction should be avoided because it can distort the image, although it is available if necessary. When using it for the first time, some focus adjustment could be necessary, but it’s better to wait until the projector has warmed up.
The Formovie Theater met my high standards for image quality, and I wasn’t let down. I began by experimenting with it in a setting.
I saw a beautiful 4K image with true-to-life colours and correct skin tones with only the “Movie” option in SDR (standard dynamic range) mode selected. Although not nearly as sharp as Samsung’s considerably more expensive Premiere models, sharpness was still good. Something has to give on a projector that costs less than half as much, so it’s likely that the lens—a crucial component on a UST projector—isn’t quite as good.
The “Sport” or “Vivid” settings offer the greatest brightness and contrast levels—well over 3,000:1—of any UST projector, but color fidelity is less accurate. So, even with a moderate amount of ambient light entering from the room, these are ideal settings for watching typical cable TV, sports, and so on.
The projector now shows the Dolby Vision logo when a source is detected after I switched to Dolby Vision mode. It worked best for me to use this setting in a completely dark environment.
I viewed desaturated portions of Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit, in-depth sections of LOTR: Rings of Power on Prime Video, and Netflix’s vibrant and energetic F1: Drive to Survive. Together with Aqua man and Earth on Blu-ray Ultra HD, I also watched MIB International, Thor: Ragnar, Loki, and other films and television shows.
Colors in Dolby Vision HDR mode were correct from a variety of sources right out of the box, with substantially more clarity in the dark and light areas than in SDR mode. MIB International and Earth’s colourful scenery demonstrated the enormous array of colours that are possible. Skin tones seemed well, and colours appeared to be correct in general. Contrast was, however, marginally diminished when compared to the SDR. Another very minor fault was that highly bright scenes lacked detail, perhaps as a result of the projector’s improper tone-mapping.
I also looked at some 4K HDR10 YouTube video from Mystery Box and some HDR10 content from Prime Video, which mainly supports HDR10 and HDR10+ while only offering a few Dolby Vision shows. These shows included Bosch and The Boys.
The Formovie Theater comes with a small blue bias, but it offers a large number of options to rectify it (white balance, grayscale and a Color Management System). I was able to achieve a virtually ideal white level with an Xrite i1 Display Pro, but it was only a small change that was difficult to perceive with the naked eye. The “Color Space” mode, which by default is disabled, must be activated if you want it to interpret your source’s color gamut correctly.
The Formovie’s audio quality was comparable to several sound bars I’ve heard in terms of being clear and distortion-free. No matter if the voices were deep or high, the dialogue was clear, thus I never missed a crucial detail. It even provides an excellent soundstage.
The $3,000 Formovie Theater projector delivers features and image quality that are unmatched by anything else in this price range from UST. Dolby Vision and a triple-laser engine produce a clear, high-contrast image with true color. There are numerous controls to calibrate and alter the picture if you’re not entirely happy with it when it comes out of the box.
It’s also a terrific projector to use with some daylight pouring in for sports and everyday TV when you’re not in movie purist mode. If you don’t feel like splashing out on a 5.1 surround sound system, the audio capabilities provide you a very simple configuration. The primary drawbacks are a fan that is a little noisy and the absence of Netflix support.
The pricing is competitive for a UST projector, which is the best part, and spending an extra $2,000 won’t get you much more. In reality, the Formovie Theater is the sole UST projector choice if you really want Dolby Vision.