This ultra-short-throw UHD laser projector from a California start-up is big on ambition – and boldly styled – but doesn’t quite convince Steve May
CURRENTLY BEING OFFERED on Indiegogo, the Vava Chroma VA-SP003 is an ultra-shortthrow (UST) projector with a bold design and big specification.
Vava might not be a household name, but then the California-based outfit isn’t following standard routes to market. You can register your interest in a Chroma for an early discount on the fund-raising site. The expected selling price is £ – the VA-SP003 is tipped to ship to backers in December – but there are savings if you’re prepared to commit.
Based on this review sample, however, we’d be lukewarm about jumping early.
Much like rivals from BenQ and Optoma, the Chroma UST is designed to sit around 100mm from a wall or screen, from where it can throw a picture some 100in. Setup is straightforward, with automatic focus and multi-point positional adjustment to get things quickly aligned.
Beneath the hood is a triple-laser light engine, coupled to a single-chip DLP DMD. Like its aforementioned rivals, the PJ outputs a 3,840 x 2,160 image but isn’t native 4K.
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This projector isn’t a wallflower when it comes to design. With chromed ribs and black fabric grille, it’s the kind of kit that wants to pick a fight with your interior designer. It’s big too, measuring 539mm wide, and weighs a punishing 11kg.
When it comes to picture performance, colour fidelity is definitely impressive. Images are rich – the company claims support for 106 per cent of the REC.2020 colour space – and animations look spectacular. Marvel’s What If… (Disney+) is a feast, with the HDR10- compatible Chroma adjusting its output for maximum contrast and sparkle.
Average picture brightness isn’t high, though. Vava quotes 2,500 Lumens, but in general use the projector doesn’t perform well in rooms with even middling ambient light. You’ll definitely want to pull the curtains. Blacks aren’t deep, although contrast can still impress in dark viewing conditions, and I didn’t note any DLP-borne rainbow fringing.
Motion handling is managed by MEMC (Motion Estimation, Motion Compensation), available in Standard, Resolution and Smooth strengths. Standard is the best option if you want to avoid soap opera effects.
Born in the USA
The Chroma VA-SP003 runs a simplified Android OS, with apps (including Netflix, YouTube and Disney+) from the Aptoide store. Our sample also came preloaded with Hulu, TubiTV, Paramount+ and HBO GO, none of which function in the UK.
The main Home Page has buttons for input selection and the Aptoide store. Connections are generous, with three HDMI ports, 3.5mm minijacks for audio out and AV in, USB and a digital optical audio input. I noted that the back panel alignment between the casing and HDMI board wasn’t great, and also experienced HDMI playback issues.
There’s also hardwired Ethernet in addition to dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The latter will let you pair a mobile device to stream music directly, but the PJ’s high operational noise makes it an unlikely alternative to a regular wireless speaker. Having said that, the 60W-rated onboard stereo speaker system, designed by Harman Kardon, presents crisp detail and a decent mid-range with tangible power.
The VA-SP003’s remote handset has built-in microphone for Amazon Alexa control. However, when I tried to partner the projector to test Amazon integration, Amazon itself cautioned that the device has not been tested by it. Hopefully this will be resolved prior to the PJ’s wide release.
Overall then, Vava’s beamer is an interesting addition to the UST projection scene, with excellent colour fidelity and an impressive sound system. But it comes with too many issues to fully recommend at this point
This ambitious UST PJ has a potent sound system and striking design, but suffers from limited brightness and operational issues.
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HDR: Yes. HDR10; HLG CONNECTIONS: 3 x HDMI inputs; USB; 3.5mm minijack input/ output; optical digital audio output BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): 2,500 Lumens CONTRAST (CLAIMED): 1,500,000:1 dynamic DIMENSIONS: 539(w) x 110(h) x 376(d)mm WEIGHT: 11kg
FEATURES: Triple-laser projector; built-in 2 x 30W sound system; lamp life rated at 25,000 hours; MEMC motion processing; Bluetooth; Wi-Fi; Android OS with Aptoide