It’s a good time to be in the market for a home cinema projector. We’ve seen a number of excellent models landing in 2020, though two in particular seem to have more in common than the year they released in.
In mid-2020 we got to test out the crowdfunded Vava 4K laser projector – an exceptional mid-price beamer with ultra short-throw projection, a max 150-inch picture, 4K HDR support, and a stylish home-furnishing appearance. It quickly took its place in our best projector guide, though a recent model from electronics giant Samsung is weirdly similar at first glance.
It is only at a glance, though. Samsung’s The Premiere projector – a brand new model we just gave five stars in our review – has a very similar appearance, with a white, rectangular shape with softly curved edges, a slanted upper surface to tilt the lens towards a wall or screen, and a gray fabric mesh hugging the viewer-facing side.
Both models are 4K HDR laser projectors, and high-performing ones at that – but there are a few key differences between them. Samsung’s beamer is the world’s first to support the dynamic HDR10+ format, which adds in scene-by-scene metadata to improve picture setting calibration; it also packs in the smart TV OS used in new Samsung TVs, whereas Vava’s projector (and most on the market, to be honest) make do with very basic interfaces.
The Premiere is also about twice the cost, at £6,999 / $6,490 / AU$10,999 instead of the Vava’s $2,799 (the latter is a US-only model). Fittingly, you are getting a jump in picture quality with that jump in price.
You can compare the two designs below:
So, what's your point?
We should clarify that we’re not assuming any kind of purposeful imitation from either brand – the kind of plain white styling and gray mesh finish shared by both projectors is hardly new to home gadgetry, and we’ve seen similar aesthetics to everything from headphones to smart speakers.
It does, however, speak to a growing trend towards gadgets that look more like furnishings than, well, gadgets. Curved edges, light and non-metallic colors, as well as textile materials all help to blend AV kit with its surroundings. (We should note, as well, that the ultra short-throw projection technology will limit the size and shape of each projector in a similar fashion.)
Samsung's blog post on The Premiere's design confirms this, calling it "a seamless match with any environment" – and writing that "Rather than appearing as just another rigid electronic device, The Premiere is finished with fabric materials that help the product merge naturally into any space."
Perhaps it also speaks to a desire by both manufacturers to pursue an inoffensive aesthetic that lets the actual projection do the talking – rather than alienating viewers with a beamer that demands attention with its hardware design.
One of the great virtues of projectors is that they take up less space than their TV counterparts, being smaller and generally less assuming in their design. Projectors are far easier to overlook, hide away, or blend in with your decor, and both of these beamers do a good job of being nice to look at when they’re not in use, and nice to watch in action when they are.
The final similarity, of course, is that we’d recommend both of them, depending on what your budget for a new home cinema projector is. Just make sure you’re buying the one you intended to.