The sudden surge in competition in the ‘really big screen’ world, where a new breed of affordable king-sized TVs has started rubbing shoulders with a fast-growing pool of ultra short throw projectors, has seen a number of new brands entering the AV scene. Xgimi, Nebula and Leica are just three of the relative newcomers to have graced the pages of What Hi-Fi? for the first time in recent months, and today we can add another name to that list of debutantes: AWOL Vision.
Founded in 2020 by a group of TV enthusiasts and headquartered in Delray Beach, USA, AWOL Vision has already earned a reputation across the pond for its 4K laser projector and screen solutions. Its ambitious new flagship LTV-3500 Pro ultra short throw model, though, deserves to see AWOL Vision becoming a household name everywhere.
This is the toughest part of the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro story to swallow. At £5999 / $5999 / AU$8499, it sits very much towards the top end of the current UST projector market.
It’s not absolutely the most expensive UST projector to come our way recently; that honour belongs to the recently reviewed Leica Cine 1, with its terrific build quality, ultra bright, ultra colourful pictures and unprecedentedly powerful sound. But it’s pretty much four times as expensive as Hisense’s Award-winning PL1 UST laser projector.
As we’ll see over the next few sections of this review, though, the tri-laser LTV-3500 Pro tries hard to justify its cost, from its design through to its specifications. The latter of which include a triple laser lighting system, some of the highest brightness and widest colour claims the projection world has seen, and an audio system good enough to make most built-in TV speaker systems sound puny.
If the LTV-3500 Pro is too rich for your blood, AWOL Vision has cheaper UST laser projector options available in the shape of the LTV-2500 (which drops the brightness to 2500 lumens) and the 3000-lumen LTV-3000 Pro.
The LTV-3500 Pro is one of the most stylish projectors around. From the artful way the front edge (as in, the edge facing out into the room when the UST projector is placed near your wall) combines sharp angles, curves and gleaming silver trim highlights to its polished grey finish, it adds up to a really attractive addition to your living room.
The main lens output is tucked at the bottom of a deep pyramid-like hole in the projector’s top, with the edges of the hole sporting a corrugated finish that contrasts beautifully with the polished finish elsewhere.
Even the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro’s remote control is a cut above the norm, dressed as it is in a gleaming metallic finish. The only pity is that the handset doesn’t feature any button backlighting.
Bold black metallic grilles cover the left and right sides, while the rear panel plays host to a pretty expansive set of connections by projector standards: three HDMIs, two USBs, a LAN port, a 3.5mm phono audio input and an optical digital audio input.
At first glance, you might think there are only two HDMIs, but the third is there, we promise. It’s just hidden behind a panel into which is tucked a free Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
There’s lots to get through here, as you might hope of such an expensive projector. The most up-front highlights find the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro using a triple laser lighting system (one laser each for the red, green and blue core colour elements) used to illuminate a DLP optical system. This optical system is rated to deliver a huge 3500 lumens of light – that’s 500 lumens more, even, than the ultra-premium Leica Cine 1 – and plays into an equally remarkable claimed colour coverage of 107% of the Rec 2020 colour spectrum (a colour spectrum that practically no content actually gets close to ‘filling’ these days) and 147% of the more widely used DCI-P3 colour spectrum.
Projector type Tri-laser
Screen size Up to 150 inches (claimed)
Processing Motion processing, laser auto light output control
Native resolution 3840x2160 (via DLP XPR pixel shifting)
Input lag with 60Hz in fast response mode 34.7ms
HDR support HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Dimensions (hwd) 15 x 60 x 35cm
Brightness isn’t everything, of course. So it’s good to find the LTV-3500 Pro also claiming a respectable ‘enhanced’ (so, not native) contrast ratio of 2500:1. Hopefully this will find AWOL Vision’s flagship projector able to deliver better black levels than many other HDR-chasing ultra-bright projectors have done in recent times.
The high brightness and f2.0-standard glass lens help the LTV-3500 Pro deliver images as big as 150 inches if you’ve got the wall or, ideally, screen space to accommodate them. That’s a good 30 inches bigger than most UST projectors can typically go, and counts as a very handy size ‘bonus’ over the new onslaught of affordable 98-100-inch TVs.
The LTV-3500 Pro’s brightness and colour prowess should help it both deliver more engaging pictures even if there’s ambient light in the room and handle high dynamic range better than most projectors can. AWOL Vision doesn’t leave the LTV-3500 Pro’s HDR appeal there, though. It’s also the first projector we’ve seen that’s capable of supporting all four of the AV world’s main HDR formats: the common HDR10 and HLG systems, and the ‘premium’ HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats.
The HDR10+ and Dolby Vision support means the projector can take advantage of the extra scene-by-scene picture information each format provides, with the projector also carrying a Dolby Vision menu section where you can tell the projector the size and gain level of the screen you’re using so that the DV algorithms can adjust their output accordingly.
The Dolby connection extends, too, to Dolby Atmos decoding through the two-channel 36W sound system, with the audio support also extending to DTS Virtual X.
Fans of 3D will be pleased to learn that the LTV-3500 Pro not only supports 3D but is being bundled by some retailers with one or two pairs of 3D glasses included – a nice touch given how increasingly difficult it can be to get hold of 3D glasses for some other 3D-capable projector brands.
Looking in more detail at the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro’s connections, things get off to a great start with compatibility with the Control4 Smart Home system, enabling the projector to be integrated into a wider home control set-up. Devoting a hidden HDMI to the connection of an included Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K makes great sense to us, too, as it gives you a really comprehensive, consistent and bug-free smart experience in place of the inconsistent, often app-lite smart platforms many other projectors offer.
The two visible HDMIs don’t support 4K/120Hz gaming feeds or VRR, but they can do 120Hz at Full HD resolution – though only in standard dynamic range. If you want HDR – and as we’ll see, with the LTV-3500 Pro you probably will – then your best bet is to set your console or PC to 4K/60Hz output.
Input lag measures 34.7ms in the projector’s Game mode with 1080p/60Hz feeds, which more or less halves with 120Hz feeds. These are both very competitive results by projector standards.
The LTV-3500 Pro claims a replacement-free lifespan from its lasers of up to 30,000 hours, and the LTV-3500 Pro’s set-up menus, finally, provide an impressively wide-ranging and flexible array of picture tools that actually prove invaluable for getting the best out of AWOL Vision’s new flagship projector.
For instance, there’s an eight-point geometry correction system rather than the more common six- or four-point efforts and, even better, a motorised focus system that does a brilliant job of getting the top corners of the UST image looking as sharp and crisp as the bottom corners.
There’s also laser output-based auto contrast optimisation, and most of the picture adjustments, especially colour and brightness, give you unusually fine but also wide-ranging control over their respective picture elements – something that helps the LTV-3500 Pro be unusually adept at switching between dark and bright room environments.
The AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro joins the recent likes of the Leica Cine 1 and Xgimi Horizon Ultra in delivering a genuinely spectacular out-of-the-box projection experience, adding to the body of evidence that suggests that projectors really can deliver HDR on at least some level, despite HDR being very much developed with TV screens rather than projectors in mind.
Both its brightness and especially its colour output go far beyond those you get with the vast majority of projectors. Every bit of the 3500 lumens claimed maximum light output seems to make it to the screen much more consistently than you’d usually expect. Bright HDR scenes such as the daytime desert scenes in the 4K Blu-ray of Mad Max: Fury Road blaze off your screen or wall with remarkable intensity in a dark room setting. Even if you’ve pushed the image size to its outer 150-inch limit.
What’s more, despite the exceptional full-screen brightness the LTV-3500 Pro can deliver, it still seems to find another brightness gear for the lightest highlights in an HDR image, despite – in keeping with every other current projection technology – not having any local light controls of the sort you get with OLED or local dimming LCD TVs.
The LTV-3500 Pro’s extreme brightness also helps its pictures hold up unusually well if there’s ambient light in your room. This is a key talent for any UST projector, really, given their likely placement in a living room rather than a dedicated home cinema space.
Running with its wide colour option active (as it always is automatically when the projector is receiving HDR), the LTV-3500 Pro also uses its high brightness to unlock a range of colour that’s as broad and vibrant as anything we’ve seen from the projector world to date. There’s no hint of the slightly washed-out look the LTV-3500 Pro’s level of brightness might have caused on projectors with less aggressive colour capabilities. In fact, colours look more like we’d hope to see on a premium TV than a projector, even when they’re running at much larger screen sizes than any remotely affordable TV can reach.
As with its high brightness, the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro’s extremely punchy colour potential joins its brightness in making its pictures unusually capable of withstanding ambient light, leaving them looking much less faded than usual. Especially if you’re able to partner it with an ALR (ambient light rejecting) screen.
Colours can at times come on a bit too strong, in fact, when using some of the LTV-3500 Pro’s picture presets. Skin tones, in particular, can become a bit jaundiced, while the richest reds, blues and greens can look a touch too heavy with aggressively mastered HDR shots. This is where that expansive colour control we mentioned comes in, allowing you to rein the image in to pretty much any level of vibrancy you feel comfortable with without the image starting to lose its balance.
It’s worth stressing, too, that over-cooked colours are much less likely to appear in the projector’s default settings if you’re watching Dolby Vision sources. In fact, AWOL Vision’s new projector delivers the most convincing and effective use of Dolby Vision we’ve seen on a projector to date, using the format’s extra scene-by-scene image data to deliver more dynamism but also more control and balance than it produces out of the box with any of the other HDR modes. Any notions that Dolby Vision doesn’t have a useful part to play in the projector world are pretty emphatically dismissed.
Controlled well by either Dolby Vision or some subtle tweaking of other presets, colours appear with typically excellent blend and tone subtleties, contributing to a picture that looks impressively sharp, detailed and three-dimensional even when you’re not using the projector’s 3D capabilities.
At which point it’s worth pointing out that while no consumer DLP projector gives you a true native 4K pixel count in the sense that it carries 3840x2160 mirrors on its control chip, the so-called ‘XPR’ system of ‘reflashing’ the mirrors a DLP projector does have multiple times per frame to build a 4K effect is considered by the consumer Technology Association in the US to be the real 4K deal.
The LTV-3500 Pro’s sharpness holds up pretty well, too, when there are camera pans or lots of motion to deal with. Even with 24p movie sources judder feels natural and clean, while its HD 120Hz gaming playback is suitably smooth and crisp.
Now that we’ve mentioned gaming, though, while its 120Hz SDR-only handling works perfectly well, we feel that the impact the projector’s exceptional colour and brightness has on HDR games makes sticking to 60Hz HDR feeds overall more satisfying. In fact, with its fast Game Mode response times added to its aggressively sharp and dynamic pictures, the LTV-3500 Pro’s 4K/60Hz game delivery is one of the most all-round fun projection gaming experiences we’ve had.
Many projectors that deliver enough brightness to make something out of HDR struggle to combine that brightness with good contrast and black levels. While it’s certainly not perfect in this regard, though, the LTV-3500 Pro is far from the worst offender we’ve seen, despite being so spectacularly bright. Black levels don’t really feel like a problem at all while viewing the projector in any sort of ambient light. And while there is a pretty noticeable grey wash over dark scenes during dark room viewing, it’s not as overwhelming or ‘flattening’ as we might have expected with such a bright projector. It helps disguise the black-level limitations, too, that the LTV-3500 is excellent at bringing out subtle details in dark areas of the picture.
There are a few other negatives to discuss, though. First, although it only affects pictures that contain quite small areas of really stand-out brightness, such as the Alien logo that gradually builds during the film’s opening credits on 4K Blu-ray, the LTV-3500 Pro can reveal some rainbow effect, where people susceptible to it may see fleeting stripes of red, green and blue light flitting over the highlight areas.
Much more consistently problematic, though, is a strange reddish tone that’s apparent during dark room viewing of pretty much any dark scenes. It’s fairly faint, but not quite faint enough for us to fully get used to it or ‘tune it out’.
Obviously, for the vast majority of the time a combination of the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro’s brightness, colour punch and likely positioning in a moderately bright room will hide or reduce the impact of all of its little issues. But our readers will likely want to indulge in serious lights-down movie nights from time to time, and while the LTV-3500 Pro manages to make the switch between dark and light room viewing better than most, there are just enough residual niggles with dark room viewing to prevent the picture performance from scoring a perfect five – especially with the price taken into account.
There’s plenty of room in the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro’s big, heavy body for a good speaker system – and it capitalises on this in mostly impressive fashion.
It can get seriously loud, for starters, and retains enough headroom even at high volume settings to accommodate the swelling extra pressure of an escalating action or horror sequence. The sound is nice and direct, too, thanks to the way the speakers face directly towards you.
There are also, though, limits to the LTV-3500 Pro’s audio talents. Dialogue can sound a little locked into the projector’s bodywork rather than being raised up to the level of the on-screen pictures, and the soundstage doesn’t spread as far across your room as those of the best UST projectors.
Heavy sustained bass can sound slightly compressed too, and a mild loss of presence in the low-mid/upper bass range can lead to the sound becoming a little ‘low-fi’ in its tone when the going gets tough.
While these issues mean the AWOL Vision LTV-3500 Pro falls short of the outstanding sound of the more expensive Leica Cine 1, though, it still sounds good enough overall to best most in-built TV sound systems and make adding an external sound system something you can look into at your relative leisure, rather than it being a day one necessity.
The LTV-3500 Pro adapts unusually well to both dark and light room environments, it sounds better than most TVs, and it is bright and colourful enough to both handle HDR unusually punchily and reach image sizes not even the new generation of affordable big-screen TVs can match. So while we might not have come across AWOL Vision before, the LTV-3500 Pro has done more than enough to make us confident we’ll be hearing much more from the brand in the future.
- Picture 4
- Sound 4
- Features 5
Read our review of the Leica Cine 1
Also consider the Xgimi Horizon Ultra
Read our Epson EH-LS800W review