Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
- 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
- Feeble web streaming platform
- Confusing and inconvenient settings memories
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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 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
Sharpness: 3 (default is 8, scale goes from 1 to 15)
Color: 0 (default is zero, scale goes -50 to +50)
Color Temp: Standard
Color matching at default settings: Hue, Saturation, Gain
H-6, S0, G-1
H-19, S4, G-7
H-22 , S12 , G=-19
H-31, S-4, G-5
H-22, S-4, G0
H-18, S-8, G-5
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
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)
Color:-20 (subject to content)
Tint: 25 (from default of 0...subject to content...takes a lot of the red out of flesh tones)
Color Temp: Standard
Color matching: Hue, Saturation, Gain
H0, S6, G35
H0, S5, G30
H-12 , S5, G=20
H-36, S0, G30
H-37, S0, G30
H38, S0, G30
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
Dark-room SDR, 0.6 gain UST ALR screen
Picture Mode: User
Brightness: -12 (subject to content)
Contrast: 5 (subject to content)
Color: 0 (subject to content)
Tint: 20 (subject to content))
Gamma: Standard (2.2)
Color Temp: Standard
Color matching: Hue, Saturation, Gain
H-6, S-2, G6
H-30, S21, G3
H-20 , S5, G-6
H-29, S-6, G24
H-17, S-3, G7
H-29, S-11, G4
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%
Bright-room SDR, 0.6 gain UST ALR screen
Picture Mode: Game
Brightness: -11 (subject to content)
Contrast: 8 (subject to content)
Color: 0 (subject to content)
Tint: 15 (subject to content)
Gamma: (Standard 2.2)
Color Temp: Cool
Color matching: Hue, Saturation, Gain
H-3, S-2, G24
H-31, S8, G5
H-20 , S5, G=0
H-30, S-9, G23
H-25, S-6, G13
H-23, S-9, G14
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%
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma CinemaX P1 projector page.
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.