Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
- Low input lag
- High refresh rate capability
- Bright light output
- Mediocre HDR performance
- Low-end grayscale leans bright
There’s a lot of wariness from gamers about using projectors for playing games due to input lag, but with the Optoma UHD50X they can assuage those fears. Input lag is suitably low for all but the pickiest of gamers and it performs well as a multipurpose home theater projector in ambient light and dark room environments.
For decades, anyone who considered themselves a gamer was limited to a panel display—in the form of either a television or a computer monitor. Projectors were generally burdened with painfully slow input lag that caused playing a game to be exceedingly frustrating. But in the past few years, there's been an influx of low-input-lag projectors aimed at those of us who game that are becoming viable alternatives to TVs. Now the Optoma UHD50X has taken it a step further as the "world's first 240Hz cinema gaming projector." The benefits of a high refresh rate display are two fold for gamers: a possible reduction of input lag and better motion smoothing. Are these benefits realized with the UHD50X? And is it just a gaming projector or will it serve well as a home theater projector as well? Let's take a look and find out.
Easily the most anticipated feature of the Optoma UHD50X is its high refresh rate that can be enabled by turning on Enhanced Gaming Mode. But before you start up your Xbox or PlayStation there's a bit to know first. The 240Hz playback will only be accessible from a computer and at 1080p resolution, but that's not surprising considered that the maximum refresh rate supported by any console is 120Hz—also limited to 1080p. And right now, that's restricted only to the Xbox One. Nonetheless, each increase in the refresh rate comes with a reduction in input lag. With a 1080p signal, Optoma claims 23.8ms at 60Hz, 18.2ms at 120Hz, and 15.7ms at 240Hz. In our 1080p/60 test, we measured 24.7ms so it's reasonable to assume the 120Hz and 240Hz numbers Optoma publishes are accurate.
As stated, the image resolution for either 120Hz or 240Hz is limited to 1080p. This limitation is imposed by the HDMI 2.0 spec and not unique to the UHD50X. So even if you have a computer powerful enough to run a game at the projector's full 4K resolution and high refresh rate—which takes a lot of power and, with current hardware costs, money—the projector will be limited to 60Hz. (Right now the only way to do a high refresh rate at 4K is with two DisplayPort cables used at the same time for enough throughput.)
Expectation is that the next-gen Microsoft and Sony consoles will come with HDMI 2.1 and support high refresh rates in 4K (probably 120Hz). But the two HDMI ports on the UHD50X are 2.0 and 1.4, so 4K/120 will never be in the cards on this projector. The Optoma also doesn't have any anti-tearing technology (AMD's FreeSync is the only one supported on the Xbox One), so there is the chance of screen tearing artifacts since the refresh rate of the UHD50X can't be locked to the frame rate of whatever the console is outputting.
There was some speculation online that the UHD50X would include the new Texas Instruments DLP471TE DMD chip, but that isn't the case as it looks like that chip is still in development. Instead it uses the familiar 0.47-inch TI DLP470TE DMD chip with DLP's XPR technology, which recent UHD-resolution projectors in the sub-$2,000 price range use, with an 8-segment RGBWRGBW color wheel. The light source is a 240W traditional lamp that results in a published light output of 3,400 ANSI lumens and up to 15,000 hours of life in Dynamic Black mode, 10,000 hours in ECO mode, and 4,000 in Bright mode. With Dynamic Black on the contrast ratio is up to 500,000:1. This mode adds some dimensionality to darker images and is recommended for movie watching, but there can be audible changes to the fan noise when the image switches between bright and dark scenes that can be distracting. The ability to choose between Bright and ECO lamp mode is disabled when Dynamic Black is turned on.
The UHD50X has a 1.3x manual zoom, manual vertical lens shift, and manual focus. Further digital zoom, image shift, and keystone adjustments can be found in the menu but as always these should be avoided when possible as they can degrade the image. The throw ratio ranges from 1.21-1.59:1 and the projector has the capability to project an image size up to 300 inches. You can check the throw range using the ProjectorCentral Optoma UHD50X Projection Calculator to see if it fits within your theater setup.
DLP Brilliant Color is on board and defaults to a setting of 10 (on a scale of 1 to 10) on all display modes except Reference, which defaults to 1. At higher settings, the color brightness can get as low as 49% of white. This can make the white parts of images seem significantly brighter but can also cause them to blow out, especially in HDR. To the eye, a Brilliant Color setting of 10 looks brightest and works best in a viewing environment with ambient light, but in a dark room a setting anywhere from 1-5 depending on your taste is more desirable.
Another menu setting is UltraDetail that is meant to increase image sharpness and detail, but at any setting higher than 1 (ranging from 1-3), it adds a distracting amount of noise and begins to look artificially sharp. I preferred to keep it off for all of my viewing.
In addition to the aforementioned two HDMI inputs (one version 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 and one version 1.4), the UHD50X has a VGA in, 3.5mm audio in and audio out, optical S/PDIF out, USB 2.0 for service, USB to provide power (5V, 1.5A) to a streaming stick, RS-232, and a 12V trigger. Neither of the USB ports are capable of playing media files. On the top of the projector are buttons for power, menu selection, and navigation.
The white remote is small and light. It tapers in the middle and fits comfortably in a medium-sized hand. Buttons are on the smaller side and placed relatively close together, so someone with large fingers might have trouble pressing the buttons they intend. I didn't run into any issues, though. All of the buttons are backlit and bright enough that they can be startling and blinding in a dark room.
Key Features List
- 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) resolution with 0.47-inch TI DLP chip with XPR technology
- Up to 240Hz refresh rate at 1080p
- 3,400 ANSI lumens
- HDR10 and HLG support
- Enhanced Gaming Mode with input lag as low as 16ms
- Vertical lens shift with 1.3x manual zoom
Preset Modes. For SDR, the Optoma UHD50X has nine different display modes—Cinema, HDR Sim., Game, Reference, User, 3D (only accessible with a 3D signal), ISF Day, ISF Night, and ISF 3D. The ISF modes need to be unlocked by a calibrator. There are two separate HDR modes—HDR and HLG—dependent on the type of HDR signal being sent to the projector. The HDR can be adjusted further by selecting one of four HDR or HLG picture modes—Bright, Standard, Film, and Detail. Color Temperature can be selected from six different options, but the D65 setting, the aptly named default, is closest to the preferred 6,500K target. Grayscale and six-point color can be calibrated through the RGB Gain/Bias and CMS menus, respectively.
As with pretty much every projector, the brightest picture mode also has a green tint and isn't desirable to watch any content. The light output in Bright mode for our sample measured 2,699 ANSI lumens. [Editor's note: Optoma reported during our factcheck that this is lower than expected and inconsistent with the nearly 3,000 lumens measured for this specific unit at the factory, which fell within manufacturing tolerances. We are investigating further and will update our results as needed.— R.S.] Cinema dropped to 1,215. In HDR mode, the light output was 1,338 ANSI lumens. This is still a good amount of light to use the projector in an ambient light situation, especially if the Brilliant Color setting is set to 10 for extra punch. In a dark room, the picture looks better with Brilliant Color dropped to at least 5. I did experience a couple of anomalous moments with Brilliant Color set in the middle of the range. After a lengthy amount of time with the setting at 5, or after turning the projector on in the morning, half the image would be displayed at the 5 setting and the other half would be at 10 with a distinct line of separation down the middle. Adjusting the Brilliant Color setting would cause the separation to disappear and display normally again and there wasn't a consistency to it happening.
Using CalMAN 2019 software, a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, and a VideoForge Classic pattern generator, the out-of-the-box measurements were pretty good in the Cinema preset. Grayscale luminance up to around 50% of white was a little high leading to dark grays being a tad washed out, which was also partly due to gamma being low in the default Film gamma setting for this mode. Changing it to Standard (2.2) brought the gamma curve more in line with the target, although it was still a little under closer to black.
The color luminance of primary and secondary color points with Brilliant Color set to its default 10 were all expectedly low, which led to high DeltaE values (Cyan was the worst offender at almost 25). Lowering the Brilliant Color setting increased the color luminance, improving DeltaE values across the board. There was also a small decrease in color temperature bringing the average even closer to 6500K, from 6761K to 6540K.
Color in HDR reacted similarly to SDR adjustments. The four different HDR picture modes mainly affect the lower end of the EOTF curve and should be adjusted depending on the viewing environment and content. For me, Standard (the default) worked best in ambient light conditions, while changing to Film or Detail brought further dimensionality to the darker parts of the image.
1080p/SDR Viewing. The new season of Westworld is an interesting extension of the story into the human world as we follow Dolores' intended vendetta against her creators. In the episode "The Mother of Exiles" there's a scene where Serac speaks with Maeve in a restaurant to get her to help him find Dolores and take her out. There's some excellent detail in the hairs of his beard and the wrinkles around his eyes. When watching in a dark room, the depth to the color of his dark suit is very good with Dynamic Black turned on. It's not going to rival a JVC or an Epson 6050, but for only $1,599 it's commendable performance.
Skin tones throughout were excellent. Dark skin was a bit more orange than it should be, but it was only visible if you knew the material intimately and were looking for any discrepancies. Turning Brilliant Color up to 10 added a slight unnatural look to the image, especially when scenes would change from dark to light and vice versa.
Westworld was where I first noticed the noise that UltraDetail added to the picture. This was evident in the whites of dark scenes or, most egregiously, in the light blue daytime sky. I played around with going back and forth between off and 1, most often settling on the off setting.
Rainbows are always a concern with single-chip DLPs and color wheels. I'm not very susceptible to them and didn't encounter any with the UHD50X. But if you are a part of the group that sees them, just be sure to purchase the Optoma from somewhere with a generous return policy.
UHD/HDR Viewing. HDR is still a stumbling point for projectors and the UHD50X is no exception. The shadow details in the dark cityscapes of Blade Runner 2049 get lost for the most part. Keeping the HDR Picture Mode setting to Standard or Bright can help that, but you're still not going to see the depth of field that you might get on a television. In darker movies like Blade Runner 2049 or Solo it can mean losing some of the storyline, or at least being confused as to what's happening.
The opening snowy demo scenes of the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark disc have the opposite problem. The Standard and especially the Bright setting cause the detail in the snow crevasses to disappear. The Detail setting is much better suited for showing off a bright scene.
In all UHD material, the Optoma UHD50X exhibited excellent detail. The rust on the pipes in the orphanage of Blade Runner 2049 gave a real sense of the age and dilapidation of the building. And the collection of junk outside with what appear to be layers of rubble and ash add to the sense of despair in the landscape.
Gaming. The subset of PC gamers that look to projectors as a display solution isn't that big, but it's certain to grow with the release of the UHD50X. Seeing a desktop screen as a 120-inch diagonal is an experience, and with the Optoma, text is still clear and readable. Playing Overwatch at 240Hz was incredibly smooth with little to no evidence of screen tearing, even without anti-tearing technology. There was no question that the input lag was very low. For serious competition, it's still going to be too high considering that professional gamers look for input lag in the low single digits. But for anyone that's sitting at home aiming to get to the top of the frag list, the UHD50X isn't going to be the hindrance that we've come to expect from projectors.
120Hz on the Xbox One X is in general a smooth experience. With Shadow of the Tomb Raider in high framerate mode, button response was quick and the image was smooth. There were small instances of screen tearing along the top of the screen, but it wasn't excessive or distracting.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in 4K looked incredible. I was working through the final chapter of the story during the review and the climax was supported by colors that popped. While input lag is higher than in the higher refresh rates, I had no difficulty executing the proper timing for the jumping puzzles or fighting one of the Inquisitors hell-bent on my demise.
3D Viewing. 3D greatly benefits from the brightness of the UHD50X. There is excellent depth from front to back. In the fight sequence between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket on the train set in Ant-Man, the 3D is completely enveloping. As with all the other modes, Brilliant Color needs to be dialed back to at least 5 for more realism.
As a lifelong gamer and A/V enthusiast, it's been wonderful to see projector companies start to strongly court the gamer market over the past few years. The Optoma UHD50X is the next step in that progression. It has strong gaming performance with low enough input lag that you can leave your projector worries at the door.
Nonetheless, will the UHD50X be enough for what's coming down the pike? It is great for the market as it currently stands, but what happens when the next-gen consoles are released towards the end of 2020? The high refresh rates of the UHD50X will always be limited to 1080p resolution because of the HDMI 2.0 spec. It's all but certain both next-gen consoles will have HDMI 2.1 and 120Hz support (Microsoft has already confirmed as much for the Xbox Series X), but there's been no indication that the high refresh rate will extend to 4K—although I fully expect it will eventually with the increase in bandwidth that comes with HDMI 2.1. The decision doesn't solely rest with the console manufacturers, though. Game designers need to implement the capability in to their games.
So is it worth holding off on a projector purchase to see what might be with the new consoles? There's always going to be a next new thing coming, but the Optoma UHD50X is here now. It's a fun projector to play games on, be it computer or console, and it serves as a very good all-around home theater projector, especially if you have a room with ambient light.
Brightness. In the Bright display mode with lamp mode set to Bright and Brilliant Color set to 10, our test sample of the Optoma UHD50X measured 2,699 ANSI lumens with the zoom lens at its widest angle. As noted in the review, Optoma reported this figure as low and inconsistent with their own factory measurement for the same sample, which was just shy of 3,000 lumens. We are investigating further and will update our review as warranted. Color brightness in the Bright display mode with Brilliant Color set to the default 10 setting was measured 49% of white.
When switched to ECO power mode, light output on our sample dropped by 29% to 1,919 lumens. At the max telephoto position, the ANSI lumens dropped to 2,118—a 21.5% loss of light.
The full mix of display modes at the widest angle zoom setting measured as follow:
Optoma UHD50X ANSI Lumens
Brightness Uniformity. Brightness uniformity measured at 70%, with is not unusual for projectors in this price range. There were no perceptible hot or dark spots with real-world material.
Fan Noise. Optoma lists the fan noise of the UHD50X at 26dB, which is pretty quiet and likely below the noise floor of most rooms, including mine. In Bright mode, that number reaches into the mid-30s, which becomes perceptible although not too distracting during quiet moments. With Dynamic Black turned on, the fan speed adjusts with how bright the lamp needs to be. I found that the change in noise could pull my focus at times.
Input Lag. Without the Enhanced Gaming mode turned on, the Optoma UHD50X measured an input lag of 43.9ms in 1080p with our Leo Bodnar lag tester. This is decent for casual, non-twitch based games, although many will still likely feel the lag. With Enhanced Gaming turned on in 1080p, the lag dropped to 24.7ms. For competitive gamers this might still feel high, but casual gamers will find it to be completely acceptable. The 24.7ms measurement is in line with the published results from Optoma (23.8ms), which means their published numbers for 4K/60 and 1440p/60 (both 25.8ms) and high refresh rates (18.2ms at 1080p/120 and 15.7ms at 1080p/240) are likely accurate. I did not have a meter available to verify the 4k/60 lag, and in any event Bodnar's 4K meter does not currently support testing for any resolution at 120 or 240 Hz refresh rates.
- HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2, MHL 2.1
- HDMI 1.4a
- VGA in
- 3.5mm audio in
- 3.5mm audio out
- S/PDIF optical out
- USB 2.0 (service port)
- USB power (5V, 1.5A)
- 12V trigger
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma UHD50X projector page.