Ultra Short Throw (UST) projectors are the way to go if you want a big picture without taking up too much space and would rather not buy a huge OLED or LCD TV. Philips has ventured into the UST arena before with its Screeneo U3 model, but the company’s new Screeneo U4 seems to strike a much better balance between budget and general concerns.
Available exclusively for pre-order at indiegogo for the affordable starting price of €599/$620, the Screeneo U4, which will launch in August, is competitively priced with some of the best portable projectors we’ve reviewed recently, such as Samsung’s The Freestyle and Xgimi Halo. Similar to these, it’s a DLP model with a very living room-friendly design, boasting a dark matte aluminum and ABS case with curved edges. This sets it apart from other UST projectors, most of which tend to be overly large and appliance-like.
Given the low price, you wouldn’t expect the Screeneo U4 to output 4K footage, although this 1080p resolution model accepts a 4K/60Hz video input and can handle HDR10 sources. A projection ratio of 0.25:1 means you can position it 7.7 inches from a wall or projection screen for a 60-inch image and 12 inches away for an 80-inch image. At just 4.8 x 3.2 x 8.8 inches and weighing 3 pounds, the Screeneo U4 is designed to be portable, while its autofocus and auto keystone features instantly score a perfectly sharp, correctly positioned image once you’ve set it to visualization.
The Screeneo U4’s spec sheet cites the brightness of its LED-powered light engine at 400 lumens. Following in Epson’s footsteps in providing detailed specs, Philips’ numbers are for color brightness and white – something that should have a real-world visual impact. Other specifications cite Rec.709 (HDTV) color space coverage at 108% and light source life at 30,000 hours. Input latency is 30ms, which is impressive for a model not specifically designed as a game projector.
A pair of HDMI inputs on the Screeneo U4 allow you to connect a game console and a Roku, Fire TV or other streaming stick, while a USB Type-A port can provide power for the latter options. An onboard 2.1 sound system with 2 x 15 watts can serve as an audio system, or you can use the Screeneo U4’s dual Bluetooth outputs for an instant audio upgrade by connecting to an external Bluetooth speaker or soundbar. or wireless headphones (a pair of them, if you want).
Analysis: When it comes to projectors, smaller may be better
The best 4K projectors in the ultra-short throw (UST) category offer an easy way to get a huge 100-inch or larger image in your living room. And they do it without the inconvenience of having to install a box that emits an image from afar and requires careful control of the room’s lighting to achieve good image quality.
While the benefits of UST projectors, which require installation just inches from the wall to work their big-screen magic, are undeniable, they are often unappealing devices with more than a passing resemblance to a heater or other large appliance.
Some companies like Xgimi with the 4K Aura model bring design expertise to the UST projector game, but the Aura costs $2,800 — an amount well beyond the reach of many home budgets. It’s also what you can expect to pay for some 85-inch TVs, and they offer a nearly equivalent big-screen experience, but with significantly higher brightness on tap to benefit HDR viewing.
At just €599/$620 for an 80-inch picture, Philips’ compact Screeneo U4 appears to be just the ticket for casual gaming or sports, or a family movie night. More to the point, the projector itself is discreet and actually looks good.