Optoma CinemaX P1 4K DLP Laser Projector
Projector Central Editor's Choice Award

Editor's Choice Award

Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.

  • Performance
  • 4.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Pros
  • Accurate out-of-box image quality
  • Easily tuned for dark and bright rooms
  • Effective 3D playback
  • On-board audio system compatible with outboard subwoofer
  • Automated app-driven geometric correction
  • Voice-commands and IFTTT smart home automation
Cons
  • Feeble web streaming platform
  • Confusing and inconvenient settings memories
Our Take

Optoma's CinemaX P1 delivers high brightness, good out-of-box image quality, friendly ergonomics, and thoughtful features to achieve an exceptional price/performance quotient.

The recent explosion of interest and product introductions in ultra-short-throw (UST) living room projectors has been an exciting development that could bring the joys of bigscreen projection to a far broader audience than ever imagined. The Optoma CinemaX P1, released last fall, was one of the most anticipated of the new generation of 4K, laser-driven models. At $3,799 (up from its initial launch price of $3,299 following Optoma's response to tariffs and unanticipated strong demand), it falls between VAVA's $2,799 VA-LT002 (see our review here), Optoma's own recently introduced CinemaX Pro at $4,999, and Epson's anticipated LS-500, which starts at $4,999 mated with a 100-inch screen. Above that are more premium models such as LG's $5,999 HU85LA (currently discounted as low as $5,600), which we reviewed favorably last year, and the three Hisense Laser TV packages based on the 120L10E1 projector, which start at $7,999 for the projector alone or $8,999 with a 100-inch screen (watch for our review). Also still pending is ViewSonic's announced X1000-4K, a more aggressively-priced $1,699 model targeted at the broader mass market that will use a solid-state LED light engine rather than a brighter and more expensive laser light source.

CinemaX P1 three quarter

Features

As with the LG and the VAVA, the P1 features some thoughtful industrial design intended to blend-and-not-offend when the unit is spotted atop a console in a family room. But while those manufacturers opted for white styling and a Scandanavian-modern look, Optoma went space age with a jet-black casing and two-tone gray-and-black fabric grille across the front that protrudes at a convex angle—as if to help break the wind when the thing takes flight.

Behind the grille is a stereo soundbar featuring an approximately 2-inch full range aluminum cone driver and 2.75-inch paper cone woofer for each channel, driven by a total of 40 watts of amplifier power. The woofers are housed in their own ported chambers to improve bass response from the small drivers. Unlike the more perfunctory speaker pair integrated with the LG HU85LA or the upcoming Epson LS-500—and more akin to the VAVA VA-LT002 , ViewSonic X1000-4K, and the Hisense models—the included audio system here is substantial. Designed by Optoma's sister company NuForce, it should be more than enough sound for most customers the P1 is targeted toward, though it's not without its limitations. I'll say more about the sound quality below.

Inside the P1 is a long-life (20,000 to 30,000 hours) laser light source that generates 3,000 ANSI lumens of spec'd brightness. (The CinemaX Pro, which is targeted at the integrator channel, offers similar features but 3,500 ANSI lumens, which comes presumably at the expense of some sacrifice in color accuracy.) The P1 utilizes a single blue laser and a phosphor wheel to generate white light that is then fed to a RGBYRGBY 8-segment color wheel to generate the projector's colors. The projector is rated for 1.5 million:1 contrast ratio with its DynamicBlack feature engaged. For high dynamic range content, the P1 handles both HDR10 and HLG (the emerging standard for broadcast HDR) and is spec'd for 10-bit processing and an unspecified wide color gamut. I measured its color space at 79% DCI-P3 in its default HDR mode (where wide gamut content comes into play), or 117% of the smaller Rec.709 HDTV gamut. (As reported below, this could change following a planned late-spring firmware update.) UHD-resolution images come courtesy of the latest generation 0.47-inch Texas Instruments DLP XPR chip.

Optoma's UST lens offers a 0.25 throw ratio, which makes it longer than either the LG's 0.19 lens or VAVA's 0.23 lens and will result in slightly longer throw distances than those projectors for the same image size. This is something to keep in mind because it may require that some shallow credenzas or AV stands sit a bit further from the wall than those other projectors. The image for the P1 is specified at 85 to 120 inches diagonal in 16:9 aspect ratio, with throw distances at 5.7 inches out from the screen for an 85-inch image, 10.1 inches for a 100-inch image, and 14.5 inches out for a 120-inch image. These specs are from the back edge of the projector, which is 14.5 inches deep and 5.25 inches tall with its feet. In my studio, filling a 100-inch screen put the front of the projector at 25 inches out from the screen while resting on a platform approximately 15 inches below the bottom edge of the screen. You can visit ProjectorCentral's Optoma CinemaX P1 Throw Calculator for more info.

Optoma claims "precision optics" for the P1's lens, and having lived through evaluations of the LG and VAVA, I have no reason to doubt them. Whether it's the slightly longer throw ratio or some other attentions paid to design, I found the P1 extremely sharp and able to maintain focus across a large screen area. There was superb pixel-revealing detail when the projector was zero'd in at the screen center, and the sacrifice of focus in the upper left and right corners that often occurs with UST optics was modest at a 100-inch image size. I was also happy to see that the motorized focus control could be called up and tweaked against actual content and not restricted to a test pattern.

The P1 boasts an Android operating system and a variant of the third-party Aptoide streaming app store employed in some previous Optoma and ViewSonic projectors, as well as the VAVA UST. Unfortunately, my experience with the Aptoide platform is that if you're lucky enough to download apps that actually work for your projector, they're not likely to work without flaw or with any ergonomic ease. In this case, I got both Netflix and Amazon streaming directly to the projector, but the apps only support much lower resolution than the UHD programs I watched, not even 1080p to my eye. Plan for the modest expense of a 4K Roku, Amazon, Apple or other streaming media player to plug into one the projector's HDMI ports, which will work flawlessly and deliver the highest quality video the major services can deliver. I used a 4K Chromecast Ultra stick as well as a Roku Ultra media player and got stunning UHD from Netflix and Amazon.

Optoma CinemaX P1 lifestyle 1

Smart voice control and automation features are another extra. To begin, Optoma has its own InfoWall app that can be called up on the projector to provide you with a screen that reproduces an on-wall art gallery and the option for widgets like weather or a picture-in-picture inset for watching content. It's a cool feature, but activating it on screen requires calling up the Optoma Connect app on your smartphone, and I found its ergonomics inconvenient and clumsy to use. Beyond this, the P1 offers both Alexa and Google Assistant capability that allows basic voice commands (on, off, volume, input selection and some others) and, in an unexpected twist, compatibility with IFTTT (If This Then That) automation. For those unfamiliar, IFTTT is a freeware-based DIY automation standard that allows control of a wide range of smart home devices (lights, thermostats, outlets, cameras, etc) and lets you program conditional events, such as muting the projector when someone rings your smart doorbell.

The compact brushed-black metal remote supplied with the P1 communicates via Bluetooth or IR and never needs battery replacement thanks to a mini-USB port on the bottom for charging via any USB charger or powered USB port. It's backlit, which is required to see any of the legends on the keys, but the remote is a quick learn in any event and easy to use. It offers just a few buttons, most of which are dual function with either a short or long press. There are buttons for power, for switching to the Bluetooth audio-only mode, to access the main settings menu or a convenient slide-out quick menu while watching content, to call up the signal-info screen or the powered focus, and a button that takes you to the Home screen for access to apps or onboard media stored in the projector's 9.4 GB of internal memory, and also enables an air-mouse that's useful for the web browser app and some others. There's an easily-found volume rocker on the bottom. The only obvious thing missing is a Mute key, for which they obviously ran out of buttons. Accessing the mini slide-out menu opens directly to this function, or you can just click down on the volume slider—though Optoma would be well served with faster action from the rocker.

Setup

The CinemaX P1 is restricted to front- or rear-projecting tabletop installation; it cannot be inverted for a ceiling mount. The fan pulls cooling air in from the back of the projector (the side toward the screen), and expels it from both sides, which all require 19-inches of clearance if you drop the projector into any sort of enclosed space.

The beauty of an ultra-short-throw projector is that it does not require long cable runs through walls and ceilings, and, like a regular TV, can be placed at the front of the room atop a console that houses other related source and sound components. The benefit is a giant image you still can't get at any reasonable cost from a flat-panel. But due to the extreme projection angle of the lens, USTs can be tricky to set up and require patience as you play with big swings in image geometry that result from tiny movements of the projector.

CinemaX P1 top

Modern UST projectors provide multi-point warping to simplify this process. Optoma's is the most sophisticated system I've seen, with options to let you pull in up to 32 different points (or much fewer) around the perimeter of the screen to bring the image into alignment, and it even allows for correction of internal points within the image for manual adjustment of up to 81 points total. Even more impressive is the Optoma SmartFIT smartphone app (iOS or Android), which automates this entire process from a smartphone on the shared WiFi network. You start with the included SmartFIT distance cards, which hook to the front feet of the projector to help you set the correct distance from the wall or screen for an 85-, 100-, or 120-inch image. The projector is then loosely aligned with a test pattern that places a black border just inside the screen edges and a yellow border that falls on the wall just outside the screen perimeter. The app then steps you through alignment of your phone camera with a target test pattern, and when you take the picture the image snaps magically into alignment. Cool!

The downside? As with the vertical keystone correction commonly found on long-throw projectors, it's always best to physically move the projector into alignment to avoid the processing and potential for image degradation associated with these features—although, the reality is that the average user will never see a difference on real content. Nonetheless, Optoma warns that use of the SmartFIT app or other geometric correction will increase input lag time, and if gaming is a priority they recommend that the projector be aligned physically to the screen, or vice versa. That said, our measured input lag for the projector, with or without geometric correction, was the same and relatively high. You can see our test results in the appendix at the end of the review.

Input connections on the P1 are sufficiently robust, and include three HDMI version 2.0b with HDCP 2.2 copyright management. One HDMI port is on the right side as you face the projector alongside a powered USB 2.0 suitable for reading media from a flash drive, plugging in a streaming dongle, or charging the remote. Another USB 2.0 media reader is on the back, along with a third USB dedicated to service and firmware updates. For audio output, one of the HDMI ports is ARC-enabled, and there are both optical digital and analog stereo (3.5 mm) audio outs. I discovered that the analog output not only remains active when the internal soundbar is playing but also tracks level along with the projector's volume control. This made it suitable as a subwoofer output, which I'll also say more about later. Bluetooth audio input is on board so you can utilize the audio system for streamed music or Audible titles from your smartphone, and you can do so with no image thanks to the projector's audio-only mode. Lastly, an RJ45 Ethernet port is also provided as an alternative to a WiFi network connection.

Performance

Color Modes and Calibration. The P1 has six primary color modes for 1080p/SDR (standard dynamic range) content: Cinema, HDR Sim (for simulating an HDR effect with SDR), Game, Reference, Bright, and User. Beyond this, there are dedicated modes that activate with the detection of HDR10 or HLG HDR content, and another for 3D. Then, there are locked ISF modes that can be accessed by calibrators to store tuned modes for Day, Night, HDR, HLG, and 3D.

Much to my satisfaction, the Optoma's out-of-box image quality in at least a couple of modes was very good, and with minor adjustments by eye worked well (in either a dark or moderately bright room) for either my 92-inch matte white, 1.3 gain Stewart Studiotek 130 reference screen or my 0.6 gain, 100-inch Elite Aeon CLR UST ALR screen. Furthermore, the P1 offers a deep selection of controls for full calibration and tuned up well, thus making a good image even better.

With out-of-box picture settings, the default Cinema mode looked a bit too red and cartoony but provided enough light for viewing in moderate ambient light on the larger, low-gain ALR screen. Reducing the Color (saturation) control and pushing the default Tint setting away from red and further toward green took the glow out of faces and delivered acceptable brightness with natural-looking colors and nicely delineated flesh tones. The Game mode, which is even brighter, could also be made to work in this environment with similar subjective tuning.

Optoma CinemaX P1 lifestyle 2

For dark-room viewing, the less-bright Reference mode looked nearly spot-on to my trained eye, and proved to be so with measurements. It is obviously tuned to follow industry mastering protocols that include a neutral gray color temp, appropriate and not overblown brightness or color saturation, reasonably accurate color points, and decent contrast/gamma that gave the image nice dimensionality without either crushing shadow details or washing out the image.

For any given preset mode, the P1 provides access to the usual basic picture controls (Contrast, Brightness, etc.), but also selections for gamma and color temperature, RGB gain and bias, and a RGBCMY color management system (CMS) for adjusting the hue, saturation, and gain for the primary and secondary color points. The CMS also includes additional RGB gain adjustments for white. There is a 10-position slider to set TI's BrilliantColor, which adds more white brightness as needed; for most presets it defaults to 10 for the brightest image, but in Reference mode it defaults to 1 to better preserve color accuracy. There is also a Power slider that adjusts laser power from 50% up to 100%, and provides three DynamicBlack settings that increase perceived contrast by adjusting the laser power based on content in a manner that mimicks a dynamic iris.

The projector has a few odd quirks in terms of how it stores and/or returns to its different picture modes. Alterations you make to the various presets—Cinema, Reference, User, or HDR for example—are stored and carry across all the HDMI inputs. However, I noticed that—similar to the UHD52ALV that we recently reviewed, the P1's HDMI inputs recognize the EDID identifier of specific components and automatically restore the last settings used regardless of what calibration might have been done to that input in the interim. Therefore, calibrating something like the Reference mode on the HDMI 1 input with my Murideo Six-G pattern generator and Calman software, and then plugging in my disc player or cable box, resulted in the projector restoring whatever preset mode and settings were last used with that source and ignoring the new settings. You can even end up with two different Reference modes on the same HDMI input, each with settings specific to a different source component.

This required the extra step of having to record calibrated settings and re-entering them once the permanent source was connected, and to do this for each preset I calibrated for each source (i.e., one for dark-room viewing and one for bright-room viewing). I also noticed that the projector responded with different settings to different signal resolutions coming from the same source, whether or not it had invoked its HDR mode. This cropped up with my Panasonic DP-UB820 UHD Blu-ray player when jumping from UHD-resolution HDR discs back to 1080p SDR content, where the projector would exit the HDR mode and automatically select its default Cinema mode instead of the previously calibrated Reference or other mode. I had to go to the menu each time and manually reselect my preferred viewing mode for SDR content. The same thing happened when I watched regular 1080p SDR Blu-rays and switched from straight 1080p output on the player to scaled 2160p SDR output. Fortunately, Optoma says that particular issue will be addressed in an upcoming firmware update expected by mid-June.

Bottom line: There are a few ways you can end up watching with settings you didn't plan for if you're not vigilant, and maybe not the final settings you think you installed for a particular input. None of this is insurmountable and I eventually got the P1 giving me the separate tunings I wanted from my cable box, UHD BD player, and streaming media player. But unless I'm missing something, I'm at a loss to understand why Optoma's engineers think this behavior is necessary or even helpful for everyday users, who won't be swapping sources with any regularity, and why they didn't recognize how problematic it is for professional installers or calibrators who must do extra work setting up sources for clients or worry that their good work tuning the display will go wasted because the customer was forced to swap out a cable box and the projector suddenly defaulted back to a less-desirable picture mode.

CinemaX P1 on

Ultimately, I ended up calibrating and storing separate modes for dark-room SDR and dark-room HDR viewing on the 1.3-gain matte white screen to make my initial critical assessment of image quality, then tossed those aside and created separate tuned modes for the UST ALR screen I suspect many users will employ for dark-room SDR, dark-room HDR, and bright-room SDR. A UST ALR screen is highly recommended for any living-room UST projector you intend to use in ambient light—critical for use of the projector as a day-to-day TV replacement—and like any screen it should receive its own calibration that optimizes the image for its own gain and color characteristics.

Here's the quick rundown of what I ended up with. My calibrated settings are found in the appendix at the end of the review.

Dark-room SDR, matte white screen. I started with the Reference mode, which measured almost perfect out-of-the-box grayscale and color points. DeltaE errors (a measure of accuracy) were a bit outside of the ideal 3-or-under readings, but were easily brought in with modest adjustment of the RGB Gain and Bias and the CMS settings. I noticed that even with my calibrated settings on this and pretty much every other mode, fleshtones still had a tendency to lean a bit red and that desaturating with the overall Color control and pushing the Tint control toward the right (toward green and away from red) often resulted in a superior and more natural result on screen. This varied with the content, however. Post calibration, the P1 achieved a maximum 32.1 foot-Lamberts (ft-L) on the 92-inch, 1.3 gain white screen.

Dark-room HDR, matte white screen and ALR screen. The projector's default HDR mode looked pretty good out-of-the-box, and my attempt to calibrate the color points to 50% saturation for the DCI-P3 color space did not yield a subjectively good result. Eventually, I defaulted back to the original color points and just did a bit of tuning on the grayscale to get the red, green, and blue white balance in decent shape. With some modest subjective tuning for each title—always a requirement for HDR for the best picture—I was satisfied with the look of most titles. The P1 has a four-position HDR control that becomes available with an HDR10 or HLG signal and adjusts tone-mapping to accommodate brighter or darker mastering found on individual movies. The Detail setting provides the least bright highlights and the most detail in the bright areas; Film (the default) steps up the highlights a bit while still retaining some bright-area details; Standard is brighter yet and modestly blows out the highlights on typical HDR titles while gaining more visceral and emotionally effective brightness; and Bright yields exceptionally bright and typically badly blown-out highlights on most HDR titles, and it can look noticeably washed out on some. My preferred setting varied by movie, but I often leaned toward Standard mode to gain some impact at the expense of occasionally seeing crushed detail around bright objects. Optoma says the upcoming firmware update will address the misapplication in some conditions of the Rec.709 color space to HDR content instead of Rec.2020, which could have an effect on HDR color and how the these HDR settings handle bright highlights. It may also affect the measured color gamut we reported for the HDR mode. In conjunction with the HDR control, the Brightness and Contrast controls were also effective in tuning the right amount of black level and peak white for specific HDR movies.

The HDR mode in its default settings and with my modest grayscale tweaks measured a maximum 64.2 ft-L or 220 nits off my 1.3-gain matte white screen. That was more than enough to get a punchy result for dark-room viewing on the ALR screen as well, and even for HDR in moderate ambient light on the ALR screen—which obviously lost much of its HDR impact but nonetheless resulted in a nice, bright picture.

Dark-room SDR, ALR screen. I opted for the User mode, which displayed moderately high errors in both grayscale and color points before calibration, but which cleaned up nicely on grayscale and just a little less so for the color points. I noticed that on both my calibrations for the ALR screen, using the User and Game modes, adjusting the 100% RGBCMY color points for the lowest errors (as is normal practice), resulted in color saturation sweeps that presented more significant errors in the mid-brightness tones for most of the primary and secondary colors. This may be a side result of the default maximum setting for BrilliantColor, but given the low gain of the screen I was loath to sacrifice any brightness with a lower setting. Ultimately, with both calibrations I chose to accept higher color errors at 100% brightness knowing that the 20%, 40%, 60% and 80% saturation points were more accurate. My calibrated settings at the end of the review reflect this. After calibration, the User mode—which had delivered a nice punchy 48.8 ft-L on my smaller, white screen—was good for 19.7 ft-L off the larger, low-gain ALR screen.

Bright-room SDR, ALR screen. I started with the Game mode, which provided the brightest image of any preset except for the very green-looking and undesirable Bright mode. Both grayscale and the color points were moderately out of whack as measured off the ALR screen with DeltaE errors that ranged up to about 11 in the mid-tone grays and about the same for the blue primary color point before calibration. (A DeltaE of 10 is considered the limit of where everyday viewers might think something amiss.) After grayscale and CMS adjustments this mode reflected 29.1 ft-L off the ALR screen (as measured in a dark room).

SDR Viewing. After calibration on the matte white screen, I stumbled onto an HBO broadcast of Pearl Harbor that looked so stunning in 1080i off my cable box that I rummaged through my disc collection and took the Blu-ray for a spin. The green fields and brown crops in the opening farm scenes had a nice glow from the sun without looking artificial, and later on, the white shirts of the military officers, the white T's of the enlisted Navy men enjoying a boxing match on the deck of their ship, and the white uniforms worn by a team of nurses at the hospital all had a nice crisp pop and an appropriately neutral balance. Caucasian faces were easily delineated, from the creamy white skin of the primary love interest, played by Kate Beckinsale, to the darker complexions exhibited by the male leads Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. A darker face, that of black actor Cuba Gooding Jr., was brown with no hint of orange seeping in, as can happen with some projectors that push red. Brighter colors, like the red on the Japanese planes and flags, came off the screen with some dimensionality but again, did not look cartoony or unnaturally pushed. That was also true later when I watched a few scenes in La La Land, where the mix of highly saturated red, green, blue, and yellow wardrobe and props repeated throughout the movie can look overdone on a badly tuned projector. Here the reds, especially, had a beautiful eye-catching pop but weren't glowing.

PearlHarbor Nurses TouchstonePictures
Crisp nurses uniforms from Pearl Harbor showed a nice, neutral white, and the projector did a fine job delineating the varied skin tones of the ensemble cast. (Credit: Touchstone Pictures)

The projector did an excellent job scaling 1080p and 1080i to its native UHD resolution, though I found it critical with most content to turn down the Sharpness control to a maximum of 3 or 4 (on a scale that runs 1 to 15) to avoid unnaturally exaggerating and calling attention to either video noise inherent in broadcasts or the film grain in some movie titles. That adjustment made, I was mightily impressed by the crispness of the image on both 1080p and UHD content, particularly for a UST projector, and with the largely consistent focus that reached almost fully into the upper corners. On letterboxed movies the active image always remained extremely sharp at all points, and a shot in Oblivion I use to check focus at the edges—a close up of the lead character's hand watering a plant at center screen—revealed all the inherent detail in the webbing of a gun holster strap and the woven texture of his vest that bleeds off the upper-left corner of the screen. Full 16:9 images were just the slightest bit soft on the corners when the center screen was well focused, but this was never noticeable on the vast majority of content and in any event wouldn't be spotted by viewers concentrating on the action at mid screen.

Contrast was good-to-excellent on most SDR movie fare, and as usual it was the dark-scene torture tests that revealed the limits of the P1's deep black level. That said, darker content, such as Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, benefitted greatly from switching on the DynamicBlack feature, which was usually turned off for most of my viewing in favor of using the 100% or 90% fixed Power settings. On the shot at the beginning of Chapter 12 that shows a sweeping aerial view of the Death Eaters crowded onto a moonlit rock, the heads of Voldemort's many disciples popped nicely off the screen and all manner of facial detail was visible. The overall scene, which looks washed out and marked by a gray haze on most projectors, retained nice depth and shadow detail here. The projector still couldn't deliver anything near the black level of my JVC DLA-X790 reference projector, but for what amounts to a very bright laser projector, this was a very respectable image on a scene that trips up a great many projectors.

HDR Viewing. As mentioned, I calibrated the HDR mode to get close to the industry-standard neutral gray D65 white balance point and made content-specific adjustments to the Contrast, Brightness, Color, Tint, and HDR tone-mapping controls as needed. I also turned off the PureMotion frame interpolation feature, which even in its least impactful setting imparted more soap opera video effect than I like to see. (You can read more about detail about the PureMotion feature in the appendix at the end of the review.)

Viewing in a dark room on my 92-inch, matte white, 1.3 gain reference screen I liked what I saw with HDR content, and liked it only a little less with the ALR screen due to the overall loss of brightness. Watching the UHD HDR Blu-ray of Lucy, the Scarlett Johansson sci-fi thriller, I found the pictures bright and punchy, and colors essentially accurate. In one scene in chapter 6, a scientist played by Morgan Freeman is addressing a lecture hall, and the camera stops on a string of five or six audience members, men and women, each seemingly of a different age, and from different nationalities—a broad mix of skin tones that were all easily delineated and natural. There were many well-rendered outdoor sequences in this movie as well; quick vignettes of a cheetah stalking its prey, for example, or street scenes shot in natural light in Paris. A macro close up of some crystals of a drug on a shiny silver tray, ready to be sucked up with a straw, showed off gorgeously saturated red in the straw and a mesmerizing iridescent blue in the crystals, and the bright highlights on the straw and a few of the crystals at center screen took good advantage of the projector's HDR capabilities.

Lucy blue crystals w straw
The blue of the crystals and red straw from a scene in Lucy were stunning in HDR. (Credit: Universal Pictures)

On yet another scene in Lucy, in a shot of what looks like a lunar eclipse, I was able to see the projector's 10-bit color processing at work. When viewed off the regular Blu-ray in 8-bit 1080p SDR, the sun is encased here in a series of different colored brown rings as the light fades from its center—obvious and coarse banding artifacts. The same visual in 10-bit HDR showed noticeably fewer and smoother transitions. The projector also exhibited very clean and nearly invisible transitions on our ProjectorCentral 10-bit HDR Grayscale Wheels animation, which verifies 10-bit processing from input to screen.

Although the HDR tone-map control has only the four settings mentioned earlier that are tuned relatively tightly, one of these was usually about right for most HDR movies. Lucy was mastered in HDR for brightness peaks of 1,000 nits maximum and 400 nits average, which is typical for many HDR titles. I set the HDR control to its Standard setting, which on this movie resulted in some blown out-details in the highlights, such as when an early human is experimenting with fire on a mountain with some white cliffs in the background. Adjusting the HDR control to its less bright Film or Detail settings restored some detail in the cliffs but still resulted in some blooming; the control just ran out of range for this scene. More critically, however, turning down the control from the Standard setting sacrificed too much of the brightness and HDR effect I like.

Some outlier HDR discs, such as The Meg, are mastered so hot that they present an HDR torture test for most projectors. This movie is encoded for a 4,000 nit Max CLL (peak highlights) and 1,193 FALL (frame average light level), and I have seen it washed out to the point of being unwatchable on several projectors that claim to be HDR capable. Even in its least-bright Detail mode, the Optoma struggled to deliver solid contrast on the brightest scenes shot on the water, but it beautifully rendered many of the indoor cabin scenes punctuated by bright sunlight streaming in, and did a good job delivering detail in a tough underwater shot of a shark cage being lowered into the sea in which the halo of light surrounding the cage is often blown out on other projectors. Once again, the upcoming promised firmware revision may affect how the projector handles highlights. We'll update our review as needed following the update.

3D Viewing. The P1 automatically senses Full 3D content when it appears at one of its inputs and kicks in its dedicated 3D mode. You have the ability to tune all the image parameters as you wish, though the image looked pretty good out of the gate and I chose not to calibrate beyond some subjective tuning of the Brightness, Contrast, Color and Tint controls as the content demanded. The most critical positive factor was the brightness, which was abundant enough to achieve an engaging image through DLP-Link glasses in a dark room, even on my low-gain ALR screen (though it was obviously much punchier on the smaller white 1.3 gain).

The Walk, the bio-pic that convincingly reconstructs Philippe Petit's high wire performance across New York's World Trade Center towers, exhibited just a slight lean toward red-orange flesh tones in the default 3D mode, even after some subjective tuning, but it did not exhibit any obvious overall color tint in a black-and-white memory sequence that starts off the movie. Colors looked reasonably natural on outdoor scenes, such as in the green meadow where Petite's team practiced with the bow-and-arrow they would eventually use to breach the gap between the buildings with a fishing line. With the default settings or even when turning down the Contrast (peak white) control, I saw that bright highlights were punched up and might bloom a bit, but this loss of detail was a reasonable price to pay for a brighter 3D image. The 3D effects were themselves solid, with no ghosting apparent in the cable that stretched between the towers or the diagonal anti-sway cables that ran off it to the sides of the buildings.

Puss In Boots two cats
In 3D, the CinemaX P1 was able to display a great dynamic range with bright highlights against good shadow detail. (Credit: Dreamworks)

The animated feature Puss in Boots also looked great, and showed surprising dynamic range in simultaneously rendering bright highlights and shadow detail in a scene that takes place in a dark saloon. All in all, 3D on the Optoma got a solid passing grade and shouldn't be a deterrent for fans of the format looking for a UST solution. That's important given that some USTs, including the high-end LG, don't even offer 3D playback.

Audio. The CinemaX P1's audio system offers five listening modes including Movie, Music, Game, Sport, and Night. The Movie and Music modes were the best to my ear, but having just come off my review of the VAVA 4K UST projector, which has a surprisingly capable Harman Kardon sound system, the Optoma was initially something of a let-down. The P1 gets reasonably loud but lacked the same dynamic capabilities and relatively rich bass (for its size) exhibited by the VAVA. Its full-range drivers, though good-sounding for any tabletop system, also didn't exhibit quite the same level of midrange and high-end detail as the VAVA's two-way tweeter/woofer configuration, and the projector didn't spread the sound quite as well across the front stage in its Movie mode as the VAVA did in its Theater audio setting (which applies some obvious spatial processing). To be clear, the P1's sonics are a huge step up from the built in speakers of any television and an impressive solution for most rooms that lack an outboard sound system. But given the demands of real home theater audio I found myself frequently yearning for more authority and power and more fullness from the midrange on down.

That said, my prayers were answered and the audio was catapulted to a whole new level once I hooked up my day-to-day 10-inch subwoofer to the projector's 3.5 mm analog audio output, using an inexpensive 3.5 mm plug-to-RCA stereo cable adapter. As mentioned, the analog output signal from this jack tracks the remote's volume setting along with the internal speakers, and with some tuning of the subwoofer's low-pass filter and level controls, I got a good sonic match with the projector.

Without the subwoofer, the soundtrack for Pearl Harbor, which comes off the Blu-ray at a slightly lower level than some other movies, required tapping out the volume control in my space on the big attack scene and still lacked any real visceral impact from the pop of machine gun fire or the bullets striking the metal ships, much less the impressive explosions. At this volume level, my sound meter was averaging around 75 dB and was hitting peaks around 85 dB, which is loud enough for most folks but not loud enough for a truly dynamic home theater experience. With the subwoofer engaged, the system worked less hard to get much louder, dynamic peaks were truly impactful, and everything filled in beautifully down through the bass region. The volume control, instead of being set to its maximum of 100 to get reasonable volume in my large space, never had to go past 85, and the loudest peaks were now hitting 98 dB, which represents an enormous jump in volume on the logarithmic decibel scale. Similarly, the virtual race that takes place at the start of Ready Player One, with its extremely dynamic car crashes and explosions, got as loud as 101 dB, with good clarity, with the volume set only in the 80s. To be clear, that is insanely loud for any closed space and nothing to be endured for more than a few seconds. But suffice to say the listening experience went from "okay" to "holy cow!" after dropping in the sub.

Ready Player One Car Chase
The car chase in Ready Player One was extremely loud while retaining clarity even without being at max volume. (Credit: Warner Bros.)

Music with the subwoofer also sounded much better. A big, close-up vocal of John Mayer singing "Still Feel Like Your Man" off The Search for Everything CD sounded a bit thin without the sub, but with it active the deep bass on this track suddenly appeared and Mayer's voice took on more of the weight and dimensionality I'm used to hearing on my day-to-day hi-fi. And the jazz-infused soundtrack of La La Land, which is well-punctuated with tuneful string bass lines, suddenly jumped to life. If you buy the P1 and will be using its built-in sound system, plan on spending at least an extra $100 to $150 for one of the inexpensive, well-reviewed subwoofers from Dayton Audio or Monoprice and don't look back.

Conclusion

At $3,799, the Optoma CinemaX P1 currently costs $1,000 more than the least expensive 4K UST laser projector. It repays its premium handily with higher brightness, a better out-of-box picture, and much more, and brings to bear all of Optoma's long experience building projectors with the image quality and features enthusiasts want. The fact that they've done so while still retaining the P1's design goal of functioning as a turnkey family room smart TV is commendable. This is what I'd hoped for when we saw established projector brands announce they were jumping into this emerging UST space: Well-engineered products that satisfy the needs of everyday consumers while respecting the work of Hollywood creatives with the tunings, tools, and performance to extract accurate images from our favorite content. It is nothing less than what the best high end televisions have delivered for years, and we should expect nothing less from manufacturers who wish to replace those TVs with projectors.

We'll need to take a closer look now and going forward at how the Optoma holds up against more expensive laser USTs, including the well-polished LG and Hisense models and the upcoming Epson. But there's no question that this projector squarely hits an enviable sweet spot between price and performance. Until such time as another manufacturer comes in with a better UST at the same or cheaper cost, you won't go wrong with the CinemaX P1.


Measurements

Brightness. As mentioned in other UST reviews, taking ANSI lumen measurements for a UST projector with the conventional handheld luminance meter we normally use can result in inconsistent results because the meter must be held at the same consistent angle toward the lens for multiple measurements across the screen, and the reading varies significantly based on the angle. I've built a jig to assist with this, but still can't say yet with certainty how accurate the readings are. With the Optoma CinemaX P1, three different sets of measurements were taken in the projector's brightest Bright mode, with a different but consistently held angle applied to the meter each time. The ANSI readings were 3,735 lumens, 3,535 lumens, and 2,628 lumens. I don't yet know which angle is the most accurate, though additional research with a reference long-throw projector should eventually reveal that.

Given this uncertainty, I've taken to also grabbing measurements directly off my 1.3-gain matte white screen using a Klein K-10 colorimeter, which takes reliable light measurements from a distance but, unlike an ANSI measurement taken into the lens, is affected by the reflectivity of the screen material. Using it to measure units of lux off the screen at the traditional ANSI tic-tac-toe points, and accounting for the image size by converting lux to lumens as is done with ANSI measurements, resulted in a reading of 4,073 ANSI lumens. Reducing that by 33% to account for the screen's 1.3 gain results in a final reading of 2,729 ANSI lumens—surprisingly close to the lowest of the three measurements taken directly into the lens with the handheld meter. With a projector rated for 3,000 ANSI lumens, both numbers are essentially within the accepted 10% ANSI tolerance.

All of that said, I have been providing in our reviews of UST home theater projectors what I know is a reliable and potentially useful set of different data: an accounting of the foot-Lambert readings from the Klein K-10 off my 92-inch, 1.3 gain reference screen for each of the projector's color modes with its default settings. The table below reflects this, and reveals quite substantial light output for the CinemaX P1 in most of its viewing modes, with the maximum reading at 85.5 ft-L in the Bright mode. Accounting for the screen gain suggests 57.3 ft-L on a similarly-sized 1.0 gain screen, though readers should be aware that larger screens will net lower brightness. These tables will be most useful over time for comparing the light output of competing UST projectors we review.

The P1's Brightness setting allows the projector to be set for 100% Power for maximum brightness and scaled down to 50% in 5% increments. At the 50% setting it measured 46.8% less brightness than at full 100% power, and at the 75% setting it measured 72.7% of full power. The default Brightness setting is 100% Power for all color modes except the HDR mode, which defaults to the DynamicBlack 1 setting.

Optoma CinemaX P1 Brightness (Ft-L)*

Mode/Color Temp Brightness (ft-L) Color Temp (K)
Bright / Cold 85.5 7200
Cinema / Standard 43.1 5060
HDR Sim / Cool 58.8 6810
Game / Warm 67.7 6430
Reference / Standard 38.4 6080
User / Standard 57.6 5670
HDR** / Standard 61.2 5480

* As measured on a 92-inch, 1.3 gain matte white screen. Color Temp settings are the default for each mode.
** With Dynamic Black1 Power and Film HDR mode defaults.

Screen Uniformity. Using lux measurements taken off the reference screen with the Klein K-10 colorimeter in the projector's Bright mode, brightness uniformity measured 73%. The brightest of the nine measured sectors was the middle-bottom, closest to the lens, and least bright were the upper left and right corners, which is consistent with UST projection. The drop in brightness from bottom to top is gradual and not detectable in any content.

Rainbow Artifacts. Given this projector's use of a color wheel to create color, the potential for rainbow artifacts exists. But I only saw them on the screen momentarily on some black and white test patterns, and typically only saw them when my eye caught the light emerging from the top of the projector. That said, I am not terribly sensitive to rainbows, and the projectors on which I find them disturbing are typically the worst offenders. Other users have reported seeing rainbows on the P1. If you are sensitive to rainbows or don't know if you are, our advice, as always, is to buy from a source that will accept your return.

Frame Interpolation. The CinemaX P1's PureMotion control has three settings besides Off that are labeled 1, 2, and 3. At no time with any signal type or in any color mode was the PureMotion control grayed out, but changes to the control were not detectable with 3D content. When it did work—with either 1080p/24, 1080i/60, or 2160p/24 HDR signals—it was most effective for smoothing judder on camera pans but didn't do much to reduce the blurring of fast motion on my test clips used to check this. The number 1 setting introduced a modest but noticeable degree of soap opera video effect on 24p film-based content that did not increase at the higher settings, even though the judder-smoothing effect improved. I'm generally not a fan of introducing SOE to movies and usually left PureMotion in the Off position.

Input Lag. Input lag was measured at 1080p/60 and 2160p/60 with a Bodnar lag meter. The numbers appeared to be the same for all picture modes, and neither engaging the PureMotion frame interpolation nor the geometric correction appeared to affect the readings. Using the Game picture preset for measurements resulted in a reading of 121.8 ms with a 4K UHD signal, and 171.6 ms for 1080p/60. These are high numbers that would not be recommended for competitive first-person shooter online gaming. Optoma says its planned mid-June firmware update will address this with the introduction of a "Game Mode" toggle setting that will increase the internal refresh rate while bypassing the SmartFIT and PureMotion circuitry. This is expected to result in 70-75 ms input lag for both 2160p/60 and 1080p/60 signals. That level of input lag would be considered more acceptable for casual gaming. We'll remeasure and edit our review as needed after the update.

Fan Noise. The P1 proved extremely quiet in day to day use, among the most quiet I've experienced. The ventilation is smartly designed with four whisper fans expelling air brought in from the back, two each on both side panels. As a result, they don't generally need to run very fast, and the noise component is a low-pitched hush that was barely audible from six feet in front of the projector with the sound turned off. The projector's noise is rated at 26 dB in lab test conditions; my SPL meter measured 33.5 dBA, which is close to the noise floor in my room. The fan was totally inaudible over any kind of soundtrack, and neither changing the picture mode to the brighter options nor adjusting the laser power setting seemed to have any effect.

Optoma recommends activating the High Altitude mode above 5,000 feet. Doing so vastly increases the noise, however, which jumped to a very loud 49.7 dBA from the same six-foot distance. The much higher fan speeds also increased the pitch and made the noise more distracting. It was easily audible over all but the loudest movie playback and from more than 20 feet away while I worked in my office alcove at the back of the room. Given that the projector needs to be near its screen, those living at high altitude should take note and consider planning for a ventilated enclosure or a rear-projection install that would allow the unit to be acoustically isolated.

Connections

CinemaX P1 back connections CinemaX P1 side connections
  • HDMI 2.0b (x3) with HDCP 2.2, one with ARC
  • S/PDIF optical digital audio out (Toslink)
  • Analog stereo audio out (3.5 mm)
  • Bluetooth wireless in
  • USB Type A 2.0 (4K media player)
  • USB Type A 2.0 (media player, power)
  • USB Type A (firmware and service)
  • Ethernet (RJ-45)

Calibrated Settings

Calibrated image settings for any projector from any third-party do not account for the significant potential for sample-to-sample variation, nor the different screen materials, lighting, or other environmental factors that can affect image quality. Projectors should always be calibrated in the user's own space and tuned for the expected viewing conditions. However, the settings provided here may be a helpful starting point for some users. Always record your current settings before attempting adjustments so you can return to them as desired.

Refer to the Performance section of the review for some context for each calibration. As reported, subjective tweaks with content following calibration often resulted in lower numbers for the Color control and higher numbers for the Tint control to affect the most natural Caucasian skin tones. I also frequently retuned Brightness (black level) and Contrast (peak white) for the most pleasing results.

Dark-room SDR, 92-inch, 1.3 gain matte white screen

Display Mode: Reference
Brightness: -7
Contrast: 7
Sharpness: 3 (default is 8, scale goes from 1 to 15)
Color: 0 (default is zero, scale goes -50 to +50)
Tint: 20
Gamma: 2.4

COLOR SETTINGS:
BrilliantColor: 1
Color Temp: Standard

Color matching at default settings: Hue, Saturation, Gain

Red
H-6, S0, G-1
Green
H-19, S4, G-7
Blue
H-22 , S12 , G=-19
Cyan
H-31, S-4, G-5
Yellow
H-22, S-4, G0
Magenta
H-18, S-8, G-5
White
Red Gain 2, Green Gain -6, Blue Gain -15

RGB Gain and Bias

Red G: -5
Green G: 0
Blue G: -1

Red B: 0
Green B: 0
Blue B: -1

Brigthness Mode: 90% Power

PureMotion: off

Dark-room HDR, 92-inch, 1.3 gain matte white screen and 0.6 gain UST ALR screen

HDR Picture Mode: Film
Brightness: -7 (subject to content)
Contrast: 11
Sharpness: 4
Color:-20 (subject to content)
Tint: 25 (from default of 0...subject to content...takes a lot of the red out of flesh tones)
Gamma: 2.4

COLOR SETTINGS:
BrilliantColor: 10
Color Temp: Standard

Color matching: Hue, Saturation, Gain

Red
H0, S6, G35
Green
H0, S5, G30
Blue
H-12 , S5, G=20
Cyan
H-36, S0, G30
Yellow
H-37, S0, G30
Magenta
H38, S0, G30
White
Red Gain 0, Green Gain -9, Blue Gain -9

RGB Gain and Bias

Red G: 1
Green G: 1
Blue G: 1

Red B: 0
Green B: 1
Blue B: 0

Brightness Mode: DynamicBlack 1

PureMotion: Off

Dark-room SDR, 0.6 gain UST ALR screen

Picture Mode: User
Brightness: -12 (subject to content)
Contrast: 5 (subject to content)
Sharpness: 3
Color: 0 (subject to content)
Tint: 20 (subject to content))
Gamma: Standard (2.2)

COLOR SETTINGS:
BrilliantColor: 10
Color Temp: Standard

Color matching: Hue, Saturation, Gain

Red
H-6, S-2, G6
Green
H-30, S21, G3
Blue
H-20 , S5, G-6
Cyan
H-29, S-6, G24
Yellow
H-17, S-3, G7
Magenta
H-29, S-11, G4
White
Red Gain 0, Green Gain 4, Blue Gain -4

RGB Gain and Bias

Red G: 0
Green G: 0
Blue G: 1

Red B: 1
Green B: 1
Blue B: 1

Brigthness Mode: 100%

PureMotion: Off

Bright-room SDR, 0.6 gain UST ALR screen

Picture Mode: Game
Brightness: -11 (subject to content)
Contrast: 8 (subject to content)
Sharpness: 3
Color: 0 (subject to content)
Tint: 15 (subject to content)
Gamma: (Standard 2.2)

COLOR SETTINGS:
BrilliantColor: 10
Color Temp: Cool

Color matching: Hue, Saturation, Gain

Red
H-3, S-2, G24
Green
H-31, S8, G5
Blue
H-20 , S5, G=0
Cyan
H-30, S-9, G23
Yellow
H-25, S-6, G13
Magenta
H-23, S-9, G14
White
Red Gain 4, Green Gain -1, Blue Gain -5

RGB Gain and Bias

Red G: 1
Green G: 0
Blue G: 0

Red B: 0
Green B: 1
Blue B: 0

Brightness Mode: Power 100%

PureMotion: Off

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma CinemaX P1 projector page.

To buy this projector, use Where to Buy online, or get a price quote by email direct from Projector Central authorized dealers using our E-Z Quote tool.

The Optoma CinemaX P1 is also sold outside of the United States of America as the Optoma UHZ65UST. Some specifications may be slightly different. Check with Optoma for complete specifications.

Comments (16) Post a Comment
Mike Posted May 19, 2020 4:42 PM PST
Great review! Would love to hear a comparison of all the current UST systems when you have the other reviews complete. I have owned 3 Optoma projectors in the past, and all of them have exhibited some kind of handshake issues on one or more inputs. Did you have any issues establishing/maintaining a connection at any of the resolutions? How long did the projector take when swapping between resolutions - especially anything into or out of HDR modes?

Keep up the great work!
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 19, 2020 4:50 PM PST
Thanks, Mike. We're slowly building a base of 4K UST reviews, and I'm making it a point to do these reviews myself for now so we have a consistent reviewing methodology and comparitive perspective. The HDMI handshaking wasn't exactly zippy but nor was it bothersome to the point of my noticing it and becoming annoyed. The only exception was with 3D content, which didn't always sync up quite right and definitely took longer to sort itself out. Otherwise, connections were always well maintained during viewing once they were established.

As noted, this particular projector has an issue with not returning to its previously used SDR mode when it comes out of HDR. This is being addressed in upcoming firmware revisions due soon. Otherwise, it follows this silly protocol Optoma seems to have introduced in recent projections, including the UHD52ALV we reviewed, where it uses the HDMI EDID identifier to (apparently) memorize or replace settings specific to the source rather than to the input. That's just not helpful in my view.
Kevin K Posted May 19, 2020 7:06 PM PST
Getting into the projector game myself, so I been reading your reviews and this one is hands down the most in-depth review from you I have seen so congratulations on all the hard work!

Would you say for 3,700 usd it is still better than the optoma UHD 60 from picture quality stand point?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 19, 2020 7:10 PM PST
Kevin, these are totally different animals intended for very different installation environments and viewing scenarios. The P1 is an excellent and high-value option in its UST living-room projector product class, which by definition involves compromise from a traditional dark-room, long-throw home theater projector like the UHD60. If your dream is to recreate an escapist movie theater environment in a room with controlled light, and you don't have any logistics issues with cabling or aesthetics with placing a projector at the middle or back of the room, you will get deeper black levels and better contrast, and probably better color, from the UHD60 or any number of directly competitive models--albeit, these will likely be lamp-based rather than laser driven, which means some added cost over time for lamp replacements.

On the other hand, if the up-front installation of a UST is a requirement, and you'll be mostly using the projector in a multi-purpose room with some degree of ambient light, the UST projector, in combination with an ALR screen, is the right solution. You can still turn off the lights when you want to, but you likely won't get the black level and contrast, and perhaps not the color accuracy or the best performance with HDR content, that you will with a good dedicated dark-room theater projector. You will also likely sacrifice at least a modest degree of image sharpness at some edges of the screen due to the nature of UST optics. These new laser TV UST models are very good in this regard compared to less pricey USTs intended for business and classroom use, but there's only so much the manufacturers seem able to do in this regard.

If you have a dedicated space for a dark theater and only plan on watching movies or special events rather than day to day TV in an active family space, I'd go with a classic long-throw projector. Your samebudget will buy you a better picture.
Fred Posted May 19, 2020 7:48 PM PST
Is the optoma pro worth the extra money and is the lg without a color wheel a better looking projector?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 19, 2020 8:08 PM PST
Fred, I haven't seen the Pro to say what you get or sacrifice for a rather considerable premium; about $1,000 after discounts from what I can see online. My understanding is that it is the same projector with a more powerful laser source that accommodates the extra 500 lumens of output and also facilitates a higher rated contrast ratio, with should be due to the extra brightness, not to any drop in black level. My best guess is that Optoma developed this product to compete better with the upcoming Epson model rated at 4,000 lumens, and to perhaps give installers a model they can make more margin on. At some point I hope to have a look at it. But I believe what makes the P1 special is its value at the lower price point, and though more brightness is better for an ambient light projector, 500 lumens isn't a huge jump for that kind of money if you really need extra brightness for your space beyond 3,000.

As for the LG, I'll be looking at that again in the coming days after not seeing it for a while, and actually just plugged it back in. I'm immediately impressed again with the image quality, and I expect the final analysis in comparison will be that the three-laser system that accounts for a chunk of the premium in the LG will be a worthwhile spend for those who care deeply about image quality and have the coin. But I won't swear to that just yet.
Mike Posted May 21, 2020 6:11 PM PST
One other piece of information that I have only seen one reviewer give for a review with ambient light: The amount of light in lux at the seating position and at the screen. Even an average would be useful to understand and compare with our living rooms.

The one reviewer that I read about using a UST ALR screen had the ambient light at 600 lux, which seems very high to me. My room varies between 100-300 lux depending on the time of day.

It’s hard to get out and see anything being stuck in quarantine these days, so we really have to rely on these reviews.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 22, 2020 7:58 AM PST
That's an interesting idea that I like -- it never occurred to me to give some kind of reference point for ambient light, even though the directional aspects of where the ambient light is coming from has a direct effect on the subjective image quality and can of only so much value. In my room, I have recessed high hats in the main viewing area, with one just three feet forward of the center of the screen; I can turn those on or off from their own switch. That's a total worse-case scenario torture test, short of large windows or a skylight. Another switch controls high hats that are well off to the left which provide moderate light to the whole room without shining directly onto the screen. Also, I have some separately switch accent lighting that's relatively low to the ground in that area. And there's a small table lamp with a shade next to my couch viewing seats about 10 feet back from the screen, which throws some light directly on the screen but in a more diffuse way. I usually try all the different combinations during an eval. I'll give some thought to how I might quantify all that. Thanks for the suggestion, Mike.
David Rivera Posted May 22, 2020 4:25 PM PST
Rob does it again! Out of the park review. Highly detailed and instructive as to the particulars of the P1. I was going to pair the P1 with an Elite's ALR UST screen, but based on your measurements and observations, I'm now considering SI's 1.2 Slate screen. I want to maximize contrast and black level, as I will be exclusively using at night with no lights. I do have one question Rob. I 'm somewhat sensitive to the Rainbow effect. This being a DLP chip projector, I 'm wandering if you observed rainbow effect. Thanks Rob.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 22, 2020 5:35 PM PST
Glad you find the review helpeful, David. I would definitely look into some higher gain options on the screen, though have a look at other dedicated UST options that might have higher gain; our new screen article is a good place to start (see the Ultimate Guide to 4K UST TV Projectors on the homepage).

I very occasionally saw rainbows for a moment on various test patterns or when my eye caught the lens, but not much -- to the point that I didn't even bother to comment on them in the review. I'll correct that. BUT...I tend to be very insensitive to rainbows...
IPD Posted May 23, 2020 5:11 PM PST
David,

I've been using mine for almost 6 months now, and I don't notice any rainbows.

For those asking, I've done some gaming on mine. With platformers & side-scrollers, I don't seem to have input lag sufficient to negatively impact gameplay. The reality is that a 3-color phosphor (no color wheel) and a lack of pixel shifting is what will likely be required to get input lag as low as possible. That, and manual adjustments only.

For anyone interested, I'm using mine with 2.1 external speakers--which makes the P1 function as a center channel for a 3.1 experience. This makes the audio about as sublime as you can get without putting rear fill speakers in for a 5.1 or more.

This is precisely what Rob says. It's a perfect living-room TV replacement. It's a high enough quality product to make many reconsider setting up a dedicated home theater. And the cost--even factoring in an extra $1000 for a UST screen and a 2.1 speaker setup--is now in the "attainable" realm for most of us mortals. Having read the review on the Vava (which I can only infer is similar in performance/features to Xiaomi models)--I'm confident the P1 is the sweet spot for this generation of projectors.

P.S. I use mine mainly thru HDMI from a HTPC. I have noticed that the projector will occasionally flicker if/when it senses the signal has been lost (eg. PC goes into sleep mode). This can be remedied by switching to the menu and then back to the HDMI input you were using. I'm not sure what causes this, but if anyone cares--there you go.
David Rivera Posted May 24, 2020 12:30 PM PST
Thanks Rob for the response and guidance.
Greg Posted May 25, 2020 1:56 PM PST
I ordered mine a few days before your review went live, as I found a nice discount online from a big retailer. My first impressions - this thing is BRIGHT. Seems like no matter what I do, when there is no ambient light, things like menus on my AppleTV are basically eye-piercing white. I keep playing around to find the right settings. Film/TV show content is simply stunning. Everything I hoped for. I am using a fixed screen, not ALR, and even if I leave my curtains open, I see no reason for a special screen as long as you know it's flat. I will say I'm seeing rainbows. This is my first experience with a DLP projector. I replaced an Epson LCD (4010 I think?). No one else in my family notices it, and I mainly only see it with bright white lettering. I'll get used to it, I'm sure. Last thing is gaming - I play a ton of MLB The Show on PS4, and it's borderline unplayable (the timing involved with batting and a pitching meter make for a tough test). Rob/community - it seems like if I turn off HDR from my PS4, that things improve - does that make sense? And I have zero keystone or other picture manipulation turned on, so that's not it. (I found getting a straight picture was super easy on its own). Haven't used the sound since I have a 7.1 setup (wish I could use this as the center channel). Bottom-line review for me would be about an 8/10...my expectations were perfection, of course, so there's some disappointment weighing it down with the rainbow and input lag, but when it comes to stunning picture quality, it's unbelievably impressive. One last question - Rob/anyone else - have you noticed any time where the projector seems to struggle to find the right color palette? Like a scene changes, and the skin tones are one shade (guessing unadjusted?) and then a second later they adjust to my configuration setting...maybe I'm just being overly critical looking for flaws. Still very happy and would buy again...Had to replace my old projector as it was failing, and my low ceilings would make the huge 4k projectors too big hanging from the ceiling, and placement would be right above my seating area, so this is literally perfect for my room. Just figured I'd share for anyone else looking to buy.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 26, 2020 3:59 AM PST
Thanks for these helpful observations, Greg. Some quick responses:

Regarding brightness -- yes, it's a powerful light engine and in the default Cinema setting, the Game setting, or especially the Bright setting, it's a lot of light. You can use the Power setting (found at the bottom of the picture settings menu for any of the modes) to turn it down for your environment or taste. The Reference mode is the least bright but most accurate out of the box. Also, if it's white in particular that's too bright, that is corrected by turning down the Contrast control, which should rightfully be called the "peak white" control.

Re: Rainbows -- it's been pointed out by other readers that I neglected to discuss this in the review, which is an oversight. I'll add a section this week in the review appendix. I saw few if any, and primarily only saw them when my eye caught the light emerging from the lens area and not directly on the screen. BUT...I am concluding the more time I spend with DLP projectors that I tend to be insensitive to them. This projector uses a single blue laser, a phosphor wheel that creates white light from it, and a traditional color wheel to create colors. It is not by design immune to rainbows, but I can only comment on my own experience, which wasn't bad.

Re: gaming -- as reported in the review appendix with the measurements, this projector had high input lag. In fact, its performance with 1080p signals, at 172 ms, was the worst I've measured on any projector. It's 4K lag, at 121, was also quite high, and that's without any HDR processing active. The lag is poor enough and I gather the complaints have been loud enough that Optoma intends to address it directly in a firmware update mentioned in the review scheduled for no later than mid-June. It will introduce a new Game mode that will supposedly disable the geometric correction and turn off frame interpolation if it happens to be turned on...but I actually didn't see any difference in measurements when I toggled these things during testing to check there effect. I'm inclined to think that the correction circuitry may somehow still be in the loop even when it's off, but I don't know that. What we do know is that the firmware fix is supposed to deliver lag times around 70-75 ms, which should greatly improve the gaming experience.

Re: the color settings -- the odd shifts in color settings you see when you make input changes seems to be the result of Optoma's foolish decision to memorize the EDID (the HDMI identifier) associated with each individual source and adjust its color accordingly -- an entirely useless and troublesome feature in my opinion and one I wish they would make go away. So at the very least, if you've adjusted the settings for a particular source, the projector will take a moment to identify it and then shift internally to whatever color mode and settings you set for it. The exception to this is if you're watching HDR, in which case the projector has a firmware glitch that will cause it to return to its default Cinema mode when you go back to SDR no matter what other tuned or untuned mode you were previously using for that. This is also scheduled to be fixed in the next firmware, along with another HDR glitch that causes the projector to default to Rec.709 color space with HDR instead of Rec.2020, which would allow it to more effectively utilize its extended color gamut.

That said, if you are seeing color shifts from scene to scene, after the projector has already negotiated a new source, this could be the result of some unintended effect of the DynamicBlack contrast setting. Try turning that off and tuning without it, or changing the DynamicBlack setting (there are three), to see if there's a difference.
Seam Posted May 30, 2020 8:52 AM PST
I am interested in this for rear projection (I have a little more than 36" available behind the screen area). Can you offer any input on rear projection with this projector? I'm also curious how the speakers would work with rear projection.

One more - I can go larger than 120" - can you comment on moving the projector farther back for a larger screen? Thank you for this great review!
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 30, 2020 9:12 AM PST
Seam, the P1 does provide the option for rear projection, and as the review indicates, a 120 inch image requires 14.5 inches from the screen-facing side to the screen, and another 14.5 inches minimum of component depth. So you'd require approximately 29 to 30 inches of depth for a 120 inch screen, which you say you have. You could indeed get a few inches more of screen size from the projector by moving it further back with the extra six inches of space you have, but as I've noted in previous writings, manufacturers specify a maximum image size on these USTs because it's the most for which they feel comfortable assuring buyers of a sharp and undistorted image across the full screen. Keep in mind that, even at 100 inches, I've seen some modest image distortion or lack of focus at the top corners on every UST I've looked at, and this will be more obvious as the image gets bigger. You're also going to want to know you've got a bit of extra space in moving the projector around to align the image and not counting on pushing it all the way to the back of the projection chamber. So although I won't say you couldn't get perhaps 130 inches out of some of these projectors (as some folks have said they accomplished with the LG HU85LA, for example), pushing image size isn't something I'd recommend without great caution. That also assumes the throw ratio even permits a 130 inch image in the space you have available, which would have to be calculated. Perhaps some of our readers who have done this can share their experience.

The other factor to consider for rear projection is the effect of the screen material used. You'll be forgoing an ambient-light rejecting screen in favor of a darkened chamber between the projector and the screen, which will keep ambient light out of the light path but won't reject any room lights that are on in the viewing area and washing over the screen from that side. And since these screens are transmissive, you'll want to be sure to get a good quality rear projection screen that won't cost you brightness when the light passes through it.

You will not be able to use the built-in sound system for a rear projection set-up. If you think about it, the side of the projector where the speakers are will be facing the back of the projection chamber, pointing away from the screen. If you're cutting into a wall to mount a rear-projection screen and have 36 inches of space behind it, the most straightforward solution is to create a recessed cubby below the screen to house a nice soundbar that can be fed by the projector's HDMI ARC connection or optical audio output. An even better solution would be a fully discrete surround sound system with three front speakers mounted behind the wall (either in-walls or satellite speakers in cubbys hidden by grill cloth) and accompanied by a pair of surround speakers at the back of the room. But this is a much more complex setup that requires an A/V receiver, all the speakers, and probably a universal remote to simplify the system operation.

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