Samsung The Premiere LSP9T Ultra Short-Throw 4K Projector Review
John Archer samples a hugely impressive new ultra short-throw projector…
The Premiere LSP9T
Triple Laser Ultra Short-Throw 4K Projector
SGD $12,299 RRP
If you love movies, you probably love going to the cinema. And if you love going to the cinema, you probably love a big-screen experience. And if you love a big-screen experience, then you’ll find yourself yearning to create one in the comfort of your own home.
Sadly at this point, all that love usually becomes unrequited, as the challenges of affording a huge TV or accommodating a home cinema projector in your living room become too much to handle. That’s where Samsung’s new Premiere LPS9T comes in. It’s a home cinema projector capable of producing images bright enough to withstand living room levels of ambient light, and is large enough to fill a 130-inch screen from a throw distance of mere inches. And it does all this costing tens of thousands of dollars less than any 100-inch or more TV we’ve ever heard of.
The LSP9T is not the first projector to target such a specific brief. Sony can probably claim to have got the ultra short-throw (UST) home cinema projector ball rolling with its high-end LSPX-A1 ‘Life Space’ model back in 2017. Since then, however, the market has evolved at pace, to a point where there are now UST models available across a wide range of price points.
So much has the ‘projector TV’ market evolved that by today’s standards, the Premiere LSP9T’s asking price is actually pretty high. This immediately piles performance pressure on its attractive shoulders – pressure ramped up by the fact that this is the first true home entertainment projector we’ve seen from Samsung for over a decade. Can this South Korean brand strike gold at the first time of asking, after being out of the game for so long?
The Premiere LSP9T’s design sports the now familiar core ultra short-throw projector shape, where the image appears through a long, thin aperture fitted into a wide, flat top edge. It’s quite a bit larger than most regular projectors, but only slightly above par for UST models. The light from the laser illumination system needs to have some room, after all, to bounce around a bit inside the projector on its way to delivering a 130-inch image, even when the projector’s sat so close to your wall or screen that it’s almost touching it.
Most of its bodywork is finished in an attractive gloss white that looks great in modern living rooms but could appear a touch clinical within more traditional decor. The only non-white bit is its rear side – or arguably its front, given that this is the bit that faces into the room when the projector’s sat on your sideboard – which sports a grey felt cover.
As we’re coming to expect with UST projectors, this felt cover hides a speaker system easily powerful enough to compete with a premium TV speaker system. In fact, you could almost class it as a built-in soundbar. It serves up 40W of power that’s fed into a 4.2 channel speaker array, with extra sound dispersion provided by so-called Acoustic Beam technology. This uses more than forty separate apertures to channel the sound all around your room, even reflecting it off walls to create a larger, more immersive soundstage.
Connectivity is closer to premium TV levels than most projectors get, too. For starters, there’s a tuner built-in, something you seldom see in the projector world. There are also three HDMIs rather than the usual two, all offering 4K HDR support. One even supports eARC, enabling Dolby Atmos sound to be passed through to connected external AV receivers, should the LSP9T’s built-in audio system not be enough for you.
There’s also network connectivity via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, a powered USB port for powering HDMI video dongles, an IR Link jack, and an optical digital audio output.
Gamers may be disappointed to learn that the Premiere LSP9T’s HDMIs don’t have enough bandwidth to support playback of the 4K/120Hz graphics now available on the PS5, Xbox Series X and latest top-end PC graphics cards. To be fair to Samsung, though, no other projector we know of supports 4K at 120Hz either.
The Premiere does support HDR playback, though, in the industry-standard HDR10, live broadcast/stream-friendly HLG+, and ‘premium’ HDR10+ formats. The latter provides extra frame-by-frame picture information you don’t get with basic HDR10, to help compatible devices produce better contrast and colour. The Premiere LSP9T is actually the first projector to provide HDR10+ support.
In keeping with Samsung’s TVs, the LSP9T does not support the Dolby Vision HDR format, which operates in a similar way to HDR10+. Since Dolby Vision support isn’t found on any other mainstream projectors to date either, it’s fairer to focus on the HDR10+ support as an unexpected bonus rather than seeing the lack of Dolby Vision as a significant flaw.
The LSP9T supports a full raft of smart features. In fact, it carries the same ‘Eden’ smart platform found on Samsung’s latest TVs, complete with a tidy, logical graphical interface and pretty much every streaming app you could want. You can even control the projector and its smart system using your voice, and there’s support for Apple AirPlay 2, Android and Apple screen mirroring, and even Samsung’s Tap Play system, where just tapping a recent Samsung phone against the projector’s bodywork can establish a content sharing connection.
While it’s great to see the LSP9T going to so much trouble to make itself a true living room (as opposed to dedicated home cinema room) projector, it hasn’t yet justified its relatively high price tag. To explain that, we need to take a look inside. At the heart of its premium ambitions is an unusual triple laser system, where separate lasers are used to deliver the separate red, green and blue picture elements. This means there’s no need for the usual spinning colour wheel element required with most other DLP-type projectors. And since there’s no need for a colour wheel, the picture should be able to benefit from more brightness and a wider colour range than most other projectors – even laser-lit models.
The LSP9T promises a literally eye-catching brightness of 2,800 lumens, while the claimed colour gamut is an even more remarkable 147% of the so-called DCI-P3 colour standard used in the commercial cinema world. Here, on paper at least, is the real heart of why this projector costs more than many of its rivals. If its combined brightness and colour claims are borne out by real-world use, it has the potential to break new picture quality ground.
There are a couple of other big advantages of its laser lighting that may also help you swallow the price more easily. First, Samsung claims an effective working lifespan for the lasers of 20,000 hours. That’s four times even the longest-lived UHP lamps that projectors typically use. Even better, there should be little-to-no degradation in light levels throughout the lasers’ life, whereas UHP lamps start gradually losing luminance from pretty much day one. Using laser lighting also means the LSP9T can be switched instantly on and off like a TV, rather than waiting for it to warm up and cool down as per regular lamp projectors.
Set up is a little more complex than with a regular throw projector. There are no zoom or image shift options, but this puts more of an onus on making sure you position your screen (if you’re using one) very precisely relative to the sideboard position of your projector. Achieving geometrical and focus accuracy right across the image is involved too, relying on a complicated and time-consuming – but ultimately effective – set-up screen that lets you tweak the image geometry at nine different points.
The last thing to cover before finding out if the Samsung lives up to its promising specs is its claimed 4K resolution. This is not 4K in the way you’d normally expect; the projector doesn’t simply carry 3,840x2,160 actual pixels; only Sony’s SXRD and recent JVC projectors provide that. Instead, the DLP-based system in the LSP9T deploys Texas Instruments’ double flashing technology to essentially deliver multiple pixels per frame from a lower-than-4K number of actual DLP micro-mirrors (which essentially function as DLP’s true pixels).
Views on whether this approach gives you full 4K resolution vary, although we’ve typically found it to deliver pictures that look better than HD, while the key Consumer Technology Association in the US has declared itself satisfied that the LSP9T’s approach can be classed as true 4K.
It’s immediately obvious that the Samsung LSP9T really is unlike any projector we’ve seen before, particularly when it comes to colour. The triple laser approach yields incredibly wide-ranging and impactful colours – the most vibrant and vital tones I’ve seen from a projector, in fact. With notably vivid 4K Blu-ray titles such as Mad Max: Fury Road and The Greatest Showman, the extent to which colours pop off the screen in a dark room setting is jaw-dropping. The vibrant reds of Barnum’s circus jacket and the gleaming costumes of his fellow performers, for instance, enjoy the sort of intensity normally only found in the world of high-end televisions.
The Premiere LSP9T represents the first time I’ve felt compelled to talk about a projector’s colours in terms of volume (the combination of brightness and saturation) rather than just tone. Previously any projectors that have attempted to provide true wide colour support have had to rely on special colour filters that invariably cause significant image dimming. With the Samsung though, the far wider than normal colour range and far higher level of brightness it produces add up to a truly volumetric colour experience. This gives both the picture as a whole and specific objects within it a spectacular sense of solidity and three-dimensionality.
The danger here, of course, is that the LSP9T’s ultra vibrant colours will slide into showboating, drawing undue attention to their dazzling reds, greens and blues rather than delivering a balanced, natural-looking picture. This really doesn’t often happen at all, though. Instead, the vibrancy simply feels like the most fulsome representation in the projector world of the sort of intensity that today’s high dynamic range and wide colour picture sources are capable of.
Confirming that the Samsung’s bold colours aren’t just there to show off, the projector also does a great job with more subtle tones, at least in bright scenes. Skin tones look natural and subtly shaded, avoiding both the plasticky and blocky/patchy look you get with projectors (and TVs) that aren’t able to delineate the shades of people’s skins with sufficient subtlety. Densely detailed areas of colour such as grassy fields, woodland or brickwork look beautifully defined, with clear tonal differences between individual leaves, blades of grass and bricks. There’s no sense of such dense content blending into a general mush of colour as can happen with projectors and TVs that don’t have enough colour finesse to keep either their resolutions or bold colour saturations company.
Having 2,800 lumens of laser-driven – and therefore highly focused – brightness uninterrupted by a colour wheel also provides the LSP9T with just the sort of potent and highly adjustable light source that a convincing colour palette needs. What’s more, while the Samsung’s punchiness is at its most intense and enjoyable in a dark environment, it also helps the projector hold on to much more watchable and bold images than most projectors when there’s ambient light to compete with. In fact, for this product’s most likely target audience, this ability to still deliver a highly enjoyable watch in a typical, light-infused living room will be even more of an attraction than the explosive looking colours.
The LSP9T lives up to its 4K billing handsomely. Native 4K sources look rich in texture and detail, as well as crisp and clean. This is a particularly impressive feat given this is an ultra short-throw projector, from which uniform focus across the image can be difficult to achieve. The sharpness doesn’t feel artificial or processed, and nor does it disappear in a mess of judder or blur where a scene contains lots of motion and/or camera pans. In fact, thanks to know-how developed by its TV division over the years, Samsung has equipped the Premiere LSP9T with arguably the most effective and flexible motion processing system I’ve seen on a projector.
Typically the most difficult performance area for lifestyle projectors is contrast. Delivering the sort of brightness required to function in potentially bright rooms is usually at odds with delivering dark scenes that convince during serious movie nights with the lights down and the curtains drawn. Samsung has tried harder than most to address this thorny issue though, with the Premiere’s Dynamic Black feature.
The idea behind this is that it simultaneously uses processing to enhance the apparent intensity of bright parts of pictures, while actively reducing the projector’s light output to improve black levels. While this sounds like marketing mysticism on paper, it turns out to be pretty effective in the projector’s Bright and Standard picture presets, helping the LSP9T produce something approaching decent black levels in dark scenes.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to be sure if Dynamic Black is still functioning at all in the Filmmaker Mode and Movie presets the Premiere LSP9T provides with a nod to serious dark room viewing. If it is, it’s certainly functioning on a much lower level. As a result, dark scenes in these two modes tend to look much greyer during dark room viewing. It isn’t disastrously so, especially as the projector’s inherent brightness helps it retain impressive amounts of shadow detail in dark scenes. However, the greyness is enough of an issue to make dark scenes look fractionally unbalanced (in favour of bright, colourful content) and unconvincing.
The Premiere LSP9T’s presets generally need a bit of work. For instance, while the Filmmaker Mode (the LSP9T is the first projector to carry this third-party preset, designed by the UHD Alliance) and Movie presets produce images that track nicely to established standards, they can also feel rather flat and muted, even in dark room settings. Yet, while the Bright and Standard modes look gloriously punchy in dark rooms and hold up well in bright ones, they can suffer with a strange loss of colour refinement in dark scenes, where skin tones suddenly become rather monotone and plasticky in a way they never look in bright scenes. This lack of refinement with dark colours disappears entirely if you switch across to the Filmmaker Mode or Movie preset – but black levels become greyer and the colours flatter.
I suspect for many viewers the best all-round option will be the Standard mode, with its colour setting nudged up a little. Though I couldn’t help but reflect while trying to optimise the LSP9T’s pictures that it would have been helpful if Samsung had provided the option of manually adjusting the potency of the Dynamic Black feature, rather than it just doing its own thing automatically with each preset.
Now that I’ve started on the Premiere LSP9T’s imperfections, another is that the unit I tested exhibited a touch of red bleed around white text or small bright objects, presumably due to a slight misalignment between the RGB lasers. This was minor enough not to interfere with regular images or cause a general loss of sharpness, though.
Another unexpected issue is the rainbow effect. This can see stripes of pure colour appearing fleetingly over areas of stand-out brightness. Some people are more sensitive to seeing this than others, and so given that the LSP9T doesn’t exhibit it as aggressively as some DLP projectors, it’s unlikely to be a deal-breaker for many people. The fact that it’s there at all, though, is quite a mystery given that I’d previously considered it a side effect of DLP projection colour wheels – which, of course, this Samsung doesn’t use!
The Premiere LSP9T’s built-in speaker system sounds better than most TVs. Particularly impressive is how far the sound is projected from the projector’s body. The soundstage is so big that it’s hard to believe that the built-in ‘soundbar’ is producing the whole thing, rather than just being responsible for vocals while other invisible speakers are handling everything else. Even voices are cunningly lifted slightly by the projector’s audio processing. They seem to be coming from the images above rather than from the projector’s speaker below the screen.
The soundstage retains lots of well-placed and coherent detail despite its size, and there’s enough volume and midrange dynamics to satisfy a pretty large room. In an ideal world, there would be more meat to the speaker system’s bass rendition. As things stand, sometimes battle scenes start to sound a little thin just when you feel like they should be going up to eleven, in the immortal words of Spinal Tap. Overall, this is one projector that doesn’t need to be partnered with a separate sound system, which may help break down any residual resistance you may have about its price.
Samsung’s revelation last year that it was getting back into home cinema projectors after a decade-plus hiatus came as a bolt from the blue. The Premiere LSP9T proves that the company made its projector decision not just because it thought it ought to, but because it really felt as if it could contribute something new to the projection world.
For most projectors, delivering the punchiest and most vibrant picture I’ve seen from any model in its class would have been enough. Yet for the Premiere LSP9T, these dazzling pictures are just one part of a much wider ambition – to create the experience of a TV, only bigger. By the time you’ve factored in its ultra short-throw design, powerful built-in sound, integrated tuner and sophisticated smart TV platform, it achieves its ambition successfully enough to have even Samsung’s own premium TV division looking nervously over its shoulder.
I’ve spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology. In that time I’m fairly confident that I’ve reviewed more TVs and projectors than any other individual on the planet, as well as experiencing first-hand the rise and fall of all manner of great and not so great home entertainment technologies.
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