I am a huge fan of ultra-short-throw projectors, more commonly known as UST projectors. These are projectors that can sit mere inches away from the screen, and yet create a sharp and vibrant image at screen sizes that are either rare or simply not obtainable with the TV.
Unlike the relatively slow-moving world of dedicated home theater projectors, the UST category has seen explosive growth in terms of selection, with new models being released at an accelerated pace that speaks to the enthusiasm around this growing category.
The purpose of this list is to highlight what are currently some of the best options, given how many there are to choose between. They are not all the same, some models are clearly better for gaming, others have a focus on home theater.
Regardless of which projector you are considering, the one constant is that you do need a dedicated ultra short throw ambient light rejecting screen to get the most out of it. But, that does not preclude using one of these UST projectors in a darkened room, as you would a traditional projector.
Why UST Projection?
UST projectors provide an interesting middle ground between flat-panel televisions and the front projection systems of dedicated home theaters.
So first, the most important thing to know: Despite what you may see in UST marketing photos, these are projectors, so they perform best in a darkened room. But because of the physics behind their design, where the light source is located beneath the screen and projecting at a very sharp angle, UST projectors can leverage the qualities of a lenticular screen. This allows the projector and screen combination to deliver significant contrast even in a bright room. this is because the specialized screen offers an extraordinarily effective rejection of light coming from above. This is a key capability in living rooms, which typically have white ceilings that reflect back the light coming off the screen.
Concurrent to rejecting light from above, the lenticular UST screen is adept at reflecting as much of the projectors’ light output as possible. By comparison, ambient light rejecting screens that work with long throw projectors have issues with viewing angles, hot-spotting, and they're not as specifically effective at rejecting light coming from the ceiling. Plus, they just don't work with UST projectors, at all. In fact they do the opposite; they treat the light coming from a UST as rejectable light.
Another cool thing about UST projectors is they have dramatically dropped the price of 4K, high light output, laser-light-source projection. You will even find UST models that have triple-laser RGB light sources; these are projectors able to achieve extraordinarily wide color gamut reproduction—sometimes in excess of rec 2020.
An RGB triple-laser UST practically stands alone in terms of color gamut coverage. But finding something similar in a dedicated home theater, a long throw projector will cost an arm and a leg by comparison. This is why some users are exploring using USB projectors in home theater-like environments with totally controlled lighting.