Formovie Theater review: A formidable $3,000 Dolby Vision UST projector

Triple laser, stellar color accuracy, good sound and a (mostly) positive Android TV experience.

Steve Dent/Engadget

On the one hand, Ultra Short Throw (UST) projectors offer a top-notch home theater experience at a fraction the cost of a comparably sized TV. On the other, features like Dolby Vision that you expect on a good 4K TV are nowhere to be found on any projectors, UST or otherwise.

That just changed with the launch of the Formovie Theater home projector. At a street price of $3,000, you get up to a 150-inch picture, a triple-laser 4K DLP projector with Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, speakers tuned by Bowers & Wilkins and Android TV. With Formovie’s color management system, it also promises color accuracy we’ve only seen on $5,000+ models like Samsung’s Premiere.

I’ve had a chance to test the Formovie Theater in a variety of scenarios, including Netflix, Prime, Disney+ and other streaming services along with a Blu-ray UltraHD player. Cutting to the chase, it was very impressive, apart from one or two issues.

Design and features

Formovie Theater UST projector
Steve Dent/Engadget

Though you may have never heard the name Formovie, it’s a joint venture between two better-known entities, Xiaomi and Appotronics. The latter makes the ALPD laser engines used in a number of projectors, including Barco commercial movie theater models. The Formovie Theater is based on the Fengmi T1 sold in China, but adds Dolby Vision and a color management system (CMS).

It has a nice-looking, discreet design that would fit into most living rooms. The rectangular dark-gray-and-black body is relatively small, with a pair of fabric-covered main speakers on the front and two tweeters on the side. As usual on UST projectors, the triple-laser light source and lens element are located in a trough at the top, with a sensor designed to shut off the powerful light should you poke your head in front of it (which I did, multiple times). It’s cooled by a fan that can be mildly distracting during very quiet passages.

It uses a 0.47-inch Texas Instruments XP DLP chip with a 1080p native resolution and 4X pixel shifting that effectively delivers a true 4K image. With 2,800 lumens of light power, it’s in the mid-to-upper-range of UST brightness levels. The triple laser allows it to cover 113 percent of the Rec 709 and 107 percent of the HDR BT.2020 color gamuts, while delivering an excellent 3,000:1 contrast ratio.

It also eliminates the rainbow effect that happens with single lasers and a color wheel. The $3,300 Hisense PX1-Pro and $3,500 Vava Chroma are some of the few other models in this price range with a triple laser engine – others (LG’s CineBeam HU915QB, the Samsung LSP9T and AWOL Vision LTV-3500) are $5,000 and up.

Formovie Theater Projector
Steve Dent/Engadget

The Formovie Theater is also the only model for sale in the US with official Dolby Vision certification. As you probably know, Dolby Vision is an advanced form of HDR (high dynamic range) that uses dynamic metadata programmed by content creators on a frame-by-frame basis. To that end, brightness, color and contrast levels are generally superior to the HDR10 found on most projectors.

Keep in mind that projectors, even the latest UST models, generally aren’t as bright as 4K TVs – so you lose some impact of Dolby Vision. However, the Formovie can display more colors than any TV and even most monitors out there, so you do get the HDR benefit of a wide gamut and billions of colors. Other models like Samsung’s Premiere support HDR10+, which is similar to Dolby Vision but much less widely supported.

Another key feature is Android TV 11.0 support. Unlike with some other projectors, it supports 4K and Dolby Vision HDR streaming, so you can get the most out of Disney+, Apple TV+ and other supported services. It also comes with YouTube and numerous other apps, along with Google Assistant voice control. And you get a decent remote to access all that content, adjust picture settings and more.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention Netflix there. As it stands, the Netflix app isn’t supported by Formovie’s Android TV implementation. “At this time we are negotiating with the Netflix team, however, we can't commit that Netflix will work on our device in the near future,” a spokesperson told me. Sure, you can use a $30-50 4K streaming stick, which I did, but it’s unfortunate that the world’s most popular streaming service isn’t available natively.

Formovie Theater review: A formidable $3,000 Dolby Vision UST projector
Steve Dent/Engadget

Other than that, however, the Android TV experience is good, with every other streaming app (Disney+, Prime Video, YouTube, etc.) working well. It has Chromecast built-in so you can cast from your phone, tablet or PC. The remote is basic but functional, with dedicated buttons for YouTube and Google Assistant. The latter can be activated by the usual “Hey, Google” command that’s picked up by the projector’s far-field microphone.

In any case, Formovie is still ahead of some rivals in terms of its smart TV implementation. Optoma’s latest UST projector, the CinemaX D2, only offers smart TV features through an external dongle, for which they charge a cool $200.

It comes with three HDMI inputs at the back, including one with eARC enhanced audio capabilities. It also offers SPDIF digital output, a 3.5mm line out, two USB-A ports and an ethernet input. The 42-millisecond lag time (according to Projector Central), is sufficient for light gaming, but not anything beyond that.

Finally, the Formovie Theater has a fairly impressive audio implementation. The built-in speakers are tuned by HiFi company Bower & Wilkins, and it supports Dolby Atmos surround sound if you have a compatible soundbar or 5.1 system.

Image and sound quality

Formovie projector review
Steve Dent/engadget

Setting up the Formovie Projector was fairly straightforward on my 100-inch ALR screen. At that size, the bottom of the screen sits 14.6 inches from the bottom of the projector at a distance of just nine inches away. Once the projector is roughly in place, you use the thumbwheel controls on the feet to level it front to back and side to side. It’s best to avoid keystone correction as it can distort the picture, but it’s there if needed. Some focus adjustment may be required the first time you use it, but it’s best to wait until the projector has warmed up.

I had high expectations for the Formovie Theater’s image quality, and I wasn’t disappointed. I started by testing it in an environment with daylight coming in to see how it would function as a TV substitute.

With just “Movie” mode selected in SDR (standard dynamic range) mode, I saw a vibrant 4K image with natural-looking colors and accurate skin tones. Sharpness was good, though not quite up to what I’ve seen with Samsung’s much more expensive Premiere models. It’s likely that the lens (a critical piece of gear on a UST projector) isn’t quite as good, though something obviously has to give on a projector costing less than half as much.

Color accuracy is lower “Sport” or “Vivid” modes, but they offer the most brightness and highest contrast levels, well over 3,000:1 – the best of any UST projector. So these are good settings for watching regular cable TV, sports and so on, even with a fair amount of ambient light coming in. Other settings include “Standard,” “Game” and “Child,” designed to work well for kids’ shows and cartoons.

Formovie Theater UST projector
Steve Dent/Engadget

Next, I switched over to Dolby Vision mode, with the projector displaying the Dolby Vision logo when it detects a source. I found it best to use this mode with the room as dark as possible.

I watched desaturated scenes of Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit, detailed segments in Prime Video’s LOTR: Rings of Power and the bright and punchy F1: Drive to Survive from Netflix. I also watched MIB International, Thor: Ragnarok, Loki, and other movies and series, along with Aquaman and Earth on Blu-ray UltraHD.

Right out of the box, colors in Dolby Vision HDR mode looked accurate through a variety of sources, with much better detail in the shadows and bright sections than in SDR mode. Colorful scenes in MIB International and Earth showed off the wide range of colors and gamut available. Skin tones were pleasing and colors generally looked accurate. However, contrast was slightly reduced compared to the SDR. Another very small issue is that very bright scenes lacked detail, possibly because the projector isn’t tone-mapping them correctly.

I also looked at HDR10 content from Prime Video (which mostly supports HDR10 and HDR10+, and offers just a few Dolby Vision shows), including Bosch and The Boys, along with some 4K HDR10 YouTube content from Mystery Box. Again, Everything looked very punchy and bright, with colors that seemed to pop out of the screen.

Formovie projector review
Steve Dent/Engadget

The Formovie Theater has a slight blue bias out of the box, but it has a wide array of controls to correct that (white balance, grayscale and a Color Management System). Using an Xrite i1 Display Pro, I was able to get a nearly perfect white level, but frankly, it was a tiny adjustment – something hard to see by eye. However, you should definitely turn on the “Color Space” mode (it’s off by default) or it won’t read the correct gamut from your source.

As for audio quality, the Formovie’s sound was crisp and free of any distortion, matching some soundbars I’ve heard. Dialogue was clear, whether from deep or high voices, so I never missed any key moments. It even offers good soundstage that projects out to fill out the large screen.

It lacked bass as you’d expect, but overall, sound was surprisingly good for built-in speakers. I’d imagine that most people springing for a product like this would also invest in a 5.1 home theater setup to get the best out of the projector’s Dolby Atmos support – but the Formovie’s speakers do the job very well if you don’t.


Formovie projector review
Steve Dent/Engadget

The $3,000 Formovie Theater offers features and image quality not found in any other UST projector even remotely in this price range. With a triple-laser engine and Dolby Vision, it delivers a bright picture, high contrast and accurate colors. And if you’re not quite satisfied with the picture right out of the box, there are a wide range of controls to adjust and calibrate it.

When you’re not in movie purist mode, it’s also a great projector to use with some daylight streaming in for sports and regular TV. And the audio capabilities are a strong bonus, giving you a very minimalist setup if you don’t feel like splurging on a 5.1 surround sound system. The main disadvantages are the lack of Netflix support and a slightly noisy fan.

Best of all, the pricing is on the low end for a UST projector, and spending an extra couple of thousand dollars doesn’t give you a lot more. In fact, if you really want Dolby Vision, the Formovie Theater is the only UST projector option available.

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