Projectors Tests Reviews
Formovie S5: test / review
Published on: 01-08-2023 / Modified: 10-10-2023
While you're probably off on vacation in the sun, I'm continuing to test products ... it's been raining here for two weeks anyway. Today I'm going to introduce you to the Formovie S5, a battery-free portable projector that uses a laser source. Using a laser source offers a number of advantages, such as better brightness, contrast and color coverage. Laser projectors are generally more expensive than their LED equivalents, but Formovie has decided to break this trend by marketing this Formovie S5 for just over €500!
For Halloween, the price of the Formovie S5 drops to €480, it's the lowest price since launch and at this price, you won't find better!
Just a reminder:
Nobody pays me to test products, I test products in my spare time after work and my only source of income comes from the purchases you make from my links. If you appreciate my work, you can support me by buying your products from my links. This will allow me to continue testing other products, thank you!
Formovie, Fengmi, Wemax, Xiaomi?
Unless you follow projector news on a daily basis, I can understand that the multiplication of Chinese projector brands can be confusing. The Formovie, Fengmi and Wemax brands are all part of the Chinese Appotronics group. This means that these projectors are produced in the same factories and often share many components. Appotronics uses these brands to cover different markets. What's Xiaomi got to do with it? Xiaomi is a partner of Appotronics and some Xiaomi projectors are also produced by the same group. All roads lead to Rome, but many projectors come from Appotronics factories
Manufacturer web site:
Site where I have bought the Formovie S5: https://nothingprojector.com/products/formovie-s5-1100-ansi-smart-portable-alpd-laser-projector?variant=40877526843528lpd-laser-projector?variant=40877526843528&sca_ref=4432668.8PzggJJTbn
Price Formovie S5The list below shows the prices for the Formovie S5 from more than 50 sites around the world. If you are not satisfied with any price, you can subscribe to a price alert to be the first to be notified when the price drops.
The above links are affiliate links from companies such as Amazon, Gearbest, Aliexpress,... If you appreciate my work, I would be grateful if you could purchase these products through these links. It costs you absolutely nothing but I get a small commission that allows me to buy the material I test. Thank you very much!
TimelineAugust 1, 2023: delivery of Formovie S5 projector from NothingButLabel
Why this projector?When testing projectors, you always end up choosing one as your reference projector, and in my case I have the Xiaomi Laser Cinema 2. So you might think that I'm not very motivated to test inferior products, but that's not the case. I only use the Xiaomi when I'm watching a film for which a projector of this type is a plus. For the rest, I use all the projectors I can get my hands on, and this allows me to be surprised by entry-level projectors.
The Formovie S5 has the particularity of using a laser source instead of an LED source like many projectors in this price range. The advantage of using a laser source is that, in principle, this type of light offers wider color coverage, higher brightness and better contrast. On paper, this Formovie S5 crushes all the competition in this price range, but my test will enable you to see if this promise is kept in reality.
The Formovie S5 box is sober and elegant, and the choice of black with gold lettering gives an indication of the brand's positioning. This is a far cry from a basic Chinese product. The box doesn't open like most, you have to slide out the cardboard packaging to access the contents, and the contents are still protected by a thick layer of plastic.
The box contains the bare minimum: the projector, a remote control with 2 AAA batteries, a charger (US) and a Chinese manual.
The Formovie S5 is a projector designed for the Chinese market, which means that it is entirely in Chinese. Getting started is fairly straightforward: simply link the remote control to the projector and then click on the interface's default buttons to arrive at the main screen. From this main screen, you can change the language of the settings (and only the settings) to English:
Here's how to change the language:
1. Press the button to the right of the back arrow on the remote control. A small menu appears on the right of the screen
2. Click on the cogwheel to access the settings
3. Click the rectangle to the right of the wifi symbol, the one that looks like a triangle with a drop in the middle
4. Choose the 5th option in this menu, made up of two Chinese characters, and use the right arrow to display the English version
This will allow you to translate the projector's settings into English, for example to configure the image. This can be useful for calibrating the projector, but also for managing its positioning. The projector doesn't detect flipping, so you need to tell it that it's being used upside down. As I use this type of projector in the ceiling position, I had to find my way around in Chinese with the screen upside down until I changed the language and then the positioning of the projector.
As the rest of the interface and content are in Chinese, this is of little interest to users outside China. You'll need to associate an external solution with this projector, such as a Google Chromecast TV or an Nvidia Shield (I used both of these solutions to test the projector).
This is probably the most problematic point with this projector, as you'll need to associate it with another solution to play your films and series, but it's not an insurmountable problem. The advantage of an external solution like the ones I've used is that these products are maintained over time by big companies (Google, Amazon, Apple, ...), they will continue to work for a long time and in most cases applications like Netflix work where this is rarely the case with Chinese projectors.
The Formovie S5 is a portable projector, so you can easily take it with you. It's compact and lightweight, but unless you have very large pockets, it's too big to fit in a jacket.
On the front, you'll find the optical compartment, which hides a 0.23 DMD chip like the XGIMI Mogo 2 Pro, but with the addition of a laser source instead of LEDs for the XGIMI. This DMD chip has a resolution of 1280 × 720, so it's not really a full HD projector, but Formovie (and other manufacturers) achieve full HD resolution by combining several images very quickly. The end result is a good-quality full HD image, provided you don't project too large an image. I'll come back to this point later in this test.
On the other side of the front panel are the sensors which detect the projection distance and adapt the image size and focus to obtain a consistently sharp image.
There are no buttons on the sides, and the projector uses two types of material: black plastic for the front and fabric for the rear to give it a more premium look. This fabric probably serves no other purpose, as the sound emerges from the underside of the projector, whereas fabric is often used to hide the speakers on other projectors. Formovie chose Denon for its speakers, and you'll see or hear more about the results later in the review.
At the rear of the projector, you'll find a rather limited but interesting array of connectors. There's a USB 3.0 port where most projectors only have 2.0 ports, an HDMI 2.1 port, a headphone output and a USB type C port for power. A charger is supplied in the box and plugs into the USB type C port, but given the projector's low power consumption, you can use a simple smartphone charger, or connect a USB battery and make the projector completely self-sufficient. I tested this usb port on my UGREEN 100W charger and it worked without a hitch. This saves me having to use a plug adaptor, as the charger is for the American market.
On the underside of the projector, we find a format quite similar to what I saw with the XGIMI Elfin. First of all, there's a screw thread enabling this projector to be associated with a tripod, but there's also a circular output for sound. I tested this projector on a table, as well as on its back with its belly in the air, and found that it sounded better on its back. If you use a tripod, the sound can also travel freely, which is not the case if you place it on a hard surface.
This projector is a direct competitor to the XGIMI Elfin, so I'm going to compare these two projectors in this test to help you decide which is best suited to your situation. The projectors have quite different aesthetics, but the format is ultimately very similar. The XGIMI is a little larger and its USB port on the rear is a usb 2.0 port.
The remote control is quite similar to other projectors of this type, the button layout is a little different but I didn't have any problems with that, the buttons are where I expected them to be. The remote control is powered by 2 AAA batteries which are included in the package.
Projection roomMy projection room is rectangular, 4.6m by 2.9m (height 2.2m). I have two projection walls, one white wall 2.9m wide with just white paint with a possible 4m setback. I then have a 133 inch ALR screen on another wall with a possible setback of 2.8m. I mainly use the ALR screen except when the layout or type of projector is not suitable for this situation.
Battery autonomyThis projector is not fitted with a battery, but you can attach one to it, as it is powered by a usb type c port. It works without a problem with a charger of this type.
I could have used a racy title for this test by saying that this projector is ridiculous...only to say that what's ridiculous about this projector is its energy consumption. I measured just over 40W regardless of the light mode used. It's simply incredible that such a bright projector consumes so little power. When I saw this figure, I said to myself that maybe I could use the projector as a decorative element to project a beautiful image on a wall, it wouldn't cost much in the end!
If I place my decibel meter on the projector while it's running, I measure just over 40 dB and hear a slight operating hum. If I move the decibel meter 1m away, it only picks up the residual noise in the room, so this projector is very quiet.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, this projector's connectivity is rather limited in quantity but not in quality. The USB port is a USB 3.0 port, which will enable you to read files more quickly from a USB key or external hard drive. The HDMI port is an HDMI 2.1 port, and the USB type c port used for power supply will also enable you to use a battery.
The Formovie S5 runs under Fengmi OS and adopts the settings structure of all other projectors using the same operating system, such as the Fengmi V10 or the Xiaomi Laser Cinema 2. These settings can be accessed in two ways, either via the settings menu on the Chinese interface or via the settings button on the remote control. The first option will only affect the Chinese part of the projector, while the second will allow you to configure the image of the HDMI source you're going to use.
Fengmi OS offers just under 10 different image modes, each with its own settings, some producing a very cool image, others quite the opposite. I measured the colorimetry of each mode, and I'll come back to this point later in the test. There's also a custom mode where you can influence elements such as brightness, contrast, saturation, hue, sharpness and color temperature yourself.
There's a "game" mode that should in principle offer a better experience for gamers (console or PC), but you need to make sure that the trapezoid correction is deactivated, as this would adversely affect the projector's reaction time.
Here's a video of the usual clips I use for my tests. The clips are varied enough to give a good idea of the projector's capabilities. I also show the effect of the settings on the image, with quite significant differences where some configurations result in an image that's too cold and others in one that's too warm. I obtained the best delta E with a warm image configuration.
I also compared this projector with the XGIMI Elfin using strictly identical conditions on both sides. I used the "movie" mode of both projectors, they were placed in the same location and the video was taken with exactly the same parameters. The differences are not glaringly obvious; you have to freeze-frame in several places to identify any differences.
What we can see:
- the image is quite similar, but the colorimetry is a little different. The XGIMI is able to achieve better colorimetry after calibration
- sharpness is better on the XGIMI, freeze Tom Cruise's face and you'll see that he looks older on the XGIMI as wrinkles are more visible
- sound is more powerful on the Formovie
- the Formovie's contrast benefit is not obvious
I was eager to measure the Formovie S5's colorimetry, as its laser source should give it a color-space advantage over the competition, but unfortunately this is not the case. The Formovie S5 exceeds REC709, but not by a huge margin. The software I'm using doesn't allow me to calculate the exact percentage, but if I compare this result to what I obtained with the XGIMI Elfin, it's clear that the Formovie S5 doesn't overshadow the Elfin, and that's quite astonishing.
I measured colorimetry for each available mode, and here again I was a little disappointed, obtaining a dE of 9.98 for "standard" mode, 7.96 for "movie" mode, 8 for "child" mode, 9.60 for "game" mode, 10.82 for "display" mode, 6.69 for "eye care" mode, 9.91 for "sport" mode and 11.02 for "showy" mode. I had obtained better results with the XGIMI Elfin out of the box. In most cases, the image is too cold, with 9845K in "showy" mode and 7904 in "movie" mode, for example.
By playing with the parameters, it's possible to get a better result than these values, but I didn't manage to do better than the XGIMI Elfin. To achieve better colorimetry, you need to use the "custom" mode for color temperature and bring the blue down sharply below 900, bring the green down moderately to around 930 and increase the red to around 1100. I'm giving you these values as a guide, as your projection surface will play a major role in the settings. With these values and a white screen, I get a dE of 5.5 with a white of 2.7 and a temperature of 6780K.
I recalibrated my final screen and managed to get below a dE of 4 and a white of 0.7. I had to decrease the blue even more and increase the red. I now find the image a little too warm, but overall color fidelity is better.
The Formovie S5 has a theoretical brightness of 1100 ANSI lumens, and while it's undoubtedly technically capable of achieving this brightness, the reality is a little different, because in full light, the image is not of good quality. I tested the brightness of all the pre-configured modes and obtained results ranging from 750 to 1050 ANSI lumens. The brightest modes were "child", "showy", "display" and "standard", each with a different colorimetry
After calibration, I obtained a brightness of around 900 ANSI lumens, and if I compare this result with its direct competitor, the XGIMI Elfin, I obtained a brightness of 600 ANSI lumens after calibration. The Formovie is therefore significantly brighter than the Elfin, but that doesn't mean you can use it in daylight.
Here's a photo taken in daylight with side light that doesn't strike the canvas directly, the screen is a 1.2 gain screen and the projector is almost 3 meters away. The image is visible but completely washed out, the effect will be even more pronounced with more direct light:
Here's how it looks in the dark, the result is obviously much better:
Don't forget either that the projection distance will play a big part in the luminosity, the light decreasing with the square of its distance. I therefore don't recommend placing the projector more than 3 meters away without a screen with a gain, as the brightness may no longer be sufficient.
This projector's sharpness is good, provided you don't move too far away from the projection surface. For my tests, my projector was almost 3 meters away, and at this distance the projector shows its limitations. In the following images, you can see that you can no longer really distinguish 1-pixel lines and that chromatic aberration is visible
The Formovie S5 has a theoretical contrast of 1500:1, and with such a contrast it could take on projectors in another price range, but unfortunately I've never managed to achieve such a contrast. However, the result is not bad at all. Most projectors under €1,000 (and even over that price) use an LED source that offers a contrast of around 500:1. The Formovie does much better, however, with contrasts between 690:1 and 890:1. After calibration, I obtained a contrast of 838:1, which is much better than the vast majority of projectors in this price range. This is considerably better than the meagre 350:1 I obtained with the XGIMI Elfin.
The best modes for contrast are also those that offer the most brightness (see chapter on brightness). This brightness creates a wide gap between dark and light areas, but blacks will be far from black.
The Formovie S5 has a motion compensation mechanism, but you have to search a bit to find it in the settings - it's actually in the last settings. In theory, this mechanism prevents image tearing for rapid lateral movements, but unfortunately it doesn't work very well on this projector. Look at the white block at the top of the screen: the tearing is very visible when compensation is not activated, but it's still visible with maximum compensation. The XGIMI Elfin has much better motion compensation
Image size and projection distanceThe Formovie S5 has a projection ratio of 1.21, which means you'll get an image about 80cm wide for every meter of distance. It's important to bear in mind the presence of a fairly large gray border (over 2 cm), and distance will have an effect on light. The distance will depend on the type of screen used, but without any gain, I wouldn't recommend placing the projector more than 3 meters away. This will give you an image with a base of 180cm.
There's another element to take into account in relation to distance, and that's resolution. In theory, this projector projects a 1080p image, but by interpolation and at a distance of 3 meters, I can clearly see a degradation in image quality, with pixels more visible than with other projectors with true 1080p resolution.
The Formovie S5 is equipped with two Denon speakers that diffuse sound from below. I was surprised from the very first notes by the sound quality of this projector, even though Spotify had decided to play Rammstein. The highs are very well rendered, as are the vocals, but only if you don't push the volume too far. I placed the projector on a hard surface for this test, and beyond 50 at volume level, the sound began to lose quality.
The Formovie S5 has a "game" mode that should improve performance for games, but the result is not extraordinary. I measured an input lag of 130ms in normal mode and 61ms in "game" mode with trapezoid correction deactivated. This is clearly not enough for fast games, as I clearly felt when playing Asphalt 8, where the delay was perceptible in moments when you had to react quickly.
Encoutered bugsI don't think speckle can be considered a bug, but I did notice speckle on several occasions during my tests, particularly on frames with black backgrounds. I could see the white pixels waving around as if ants were roaming my screen. I never really noticed it in moving images, but on frames with high contrast and the edges of the screen, speckle is slightly visible.
ALR/CLR Projection screenAre you looking for a good ALR/CLR screen for your projector? I may have what you need:
ALR/CLR NothingProjector Screen
Test / Review conclusionThe Formovie S5 has many arguments to justify its purchase, starting with its price. With a price tag of just over €500 at the time of writing, it finds itself up against a XGIMI Mogo 2 Pro, a projector of inferior capacity (apart from the DMD chip). So we'll have to move up the price scale to find a competitor, such as the XGIMI Elfin, which costs over 600€.
The Formovie S5 is surprising in many respects, starting with its brightness relative to its size. It obviously can't compete with a fixed projector of over 2000 lumens, but for such a small format, it's without doubt the projector with the best size/brightness ratio. Its power consumption is ridiculously low, at barely forty watts!
The use of laser technology also gives it an advantage when it comes to contrast, offering almost twice the contrast of most LED projectors. However, it's important to manage expectations when it comes to contrast, because even if it's better than some projectors costing over €1,000, the contrast isn't extraordinary. Bear in mind that we're talking about a portable projector here, and in this product range, the S5 has one of the best contrasts.
I also looked for the best color balance, as the basic image is far too cold. It's possible to improve colorimetry by making the image warmer and getting closer to a more acceptable dE with a dE just under 4. This is a good result for a projector of this type, but the XGIMI Elfin achieves a better color balance.
The sound is excellent up to about half volume, the highs are particularly well rendered and it's quite impressive to get such sound on this type of projector.
If I limit myself to image quality, I'd say that the Formovie S5 is without doubt the best portable projector around the €500 mark. It does, however, have a few weaknesses. First and foremost, it lacks an international operating system, so you'll need an external solution. It also has some weaknesses in rapid image transition and input lag for gaming.
If I were to compare it with the XGIMI Elfin using my evaluation criteria, here's what I'd come up with
Brightness: Formovie S5
Contrast: Formovie S5
Colorimetry: XGIMI Elfin
Sharpness: XGIMI Elfin
Power consumption: Formovie S5
Operating system: XGIMI Elfin
Gaming: XGIMI Elfin
Motion smoothness: XGIMI Elfin
Audio quality: Formovie S5
Operating noise: Formovie S5
So we've got a 50/50 result here, but some of these criteria may be more important to you than others, and that's how you'll be able to decide between these two projectors. If, for example, you already own an external solution such as a Google Chromecast TV or an Amazon Fire TV stick, you don't need to buy anything extra to use this projector, and its purchase price becomes an indisputable argument. The difference in colorimetry after calibration is quite small, so it's not this point that should justify the price difference.
This projector is therefore a very pleasant surprise, and for just over €500, I can't think of a portable projector that can stand up to it (at the time of writing).
Usb C power supply
Operating system in Chinese (requires external solution)
Compensation for fast movements
Too slow for intensive gaming
Trapezium correction not always optimal
No rollover detection (e.g. for ceiling position)