Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
- 3,500-lumen rating; designed for lights-on viewing
- HDR 10 and HLG support
- Full HD 3D
- Smart+ technology with onboard Alexa and Google Assistant, Google Actions and IFTT integration, and Optoma's InfoWall
- Unfriendly calibration procedure that requires manual re-entry of settings for each video source
- Can't use Dynamic Black (an auto-iris alternative) while in Eco power mode
Optoma's $1,799 UHD52ALV successfully meets its design criteria by providing a bright and mostly color-accurate image out of the box for lights-on viewing, and can successfully serve in a dark theater with some modest sacrifice of color and contrast. But enthusiast and professional calibrators should be prepared to jump through some hoops to get there.
The Optoma UHD52ALV is the latest step in a product line of 4K UHD projectors that includes the UHD51 and UHD51ALV. The key difference between those models was that the UHD51's RGBRGB color wheel gave it better color accuracy, while the UHD51ALV's RGBWRGBW wheel gave it a brighter image. The UHD52ALV builds on that design, with an RGBWRGBW wheel and an even higher rated brightness, at 3,500 ANSI lumens.
The UHD52ALV also adds to the UHD51ALV's smart features. Along with support for Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control of power on and off, the built-in 4K UHD media player, and more, Optoma touts the projector's compatibility with IFTTT (If This Then That) applets and Optoma's InfoWall. IFTTT will let you do things like automatically mute the projector when someone rings your smart doorbell or calls your smartphone. InfoWall works with a free app that lets you define a customized set of tiles, or information templates, that can show your choice of weather reports, news, your calendar, YouTube videos, or photos you've stored online.
Of course, the most important issue for any projector is whether it can give you a picture worth watching. The UHD52ALV does well on that score. Despite its emphasis on brightness over color accuracy, most color modes are highly watchable straight out of the box. And although there are some hurdles you need to jump over to calibrate the projector (more on that later), you can calibrate it if you want to.
The UHD52ALV pairs its RGBWRGBW color wheel with a 0.47-inch 4K DLP chip, which generates a full 3840x2160 pixels on screen using a 1080p micromirror array and TI's XPR fast-switch pixel shifting. It also supports both HDR10 and HLG—the emerging HDR standard for broadcast TV.
As with much of its competition, the UHD52ALV's brightest color mode shows an obvious green bias. Even with the bias, many will consider it at least usable for occasional viewing on a bright day in a room with lots of windows. However, the brightest modes most people will want to watch consistently are the Cinema and User modes. Neither has an obvious color bias even with default settings, and I measured both at about 1,820 lumens, which is bright enough to stand up to moderately bright ambient light with a 1.3-gain, 120-inch screen. For a dark room, it's bright enough to light up a 195-inch, 1.0-gain screen at the 16 foot-lambert (ft-L) brightness usually recommended for SDR content.
The compact 5.1 x 15.4 x 11.1-inch (HWD) size and 11.75 pound weight make the UHD52ALV easy to handle during setup. It's also easy to carry from room to room or to the backyard, where you can either take advantage of the onboard pair of 5-watt stereo speakers or connect to an external sound system.
Also helping make setup easy is the 1.3x manual zoom and vertical lens shift. Taking the shift into account, the lens offset is most suitable for a ceiling mount or for a flat surface a bit lower than the bottom of the screen. With the projector sitting on a table, and the shift at its lowest point, the image was above the centerline of the lens by a few percent of the image height. From that point, you can shift the image up by roughly 15% of its height. The ProjectorCentral Optoma UHD52ALV Throw Calculator can tell you whether the zoom range will be sufficient for your screen size and throw distance.
Here's a more complete list of the Optoma UHD52ALV's key features:
- 3840x2160 (4K UHD) native resolution with 0.47-inch DLP XPR chip
- Accepts input up to 3840x2160 at 60Hz or 4096x2160 at 30Hz
- 3,500 ANSI lumen rating, measured at 2,965 ANSI lumens
- RGBWRGBW color wheel
- Optoma Smart+ technology with Voice control through Alexa and Google Assistant, IFTTT support, InfoWall support
- HDR with four brightness modes; HDR10 and HLG compatible
- 500,000:1 contrast ratio with Dynamic Black mode
- Frame Interpolation (2D content only) to smooth motion
- Two HDMI 2.0b ports (w/ HDCP 2.2) for 4K UHD and HDR support
- 1.3x zoom lens
- Vertical lens shift: total shift of 15% of image height
- Full HD 3D with DLP-Link glasses
- 4000-hour lamp life with full power, 10,000 hours in Eco mode, 15,000 hours in Dynamic Black mode; replacement lamps are $249
- Two internal 5-watt stereo speakers; connects to external audio systems via 3.5mm analog stereo or S/PDIF optical out
- Built-in USB media player for up to 4K video playback
- Supports wireless display from mobile devices
- Comes with one Wi-Fi dongle; you can buy a second and connect them simultaneously to a mobile device and a network (for Alexa or Google Assistant control)
- 1-year warranty; 90-days on lamp
Color Modes. The UHD52ALV offers five color preset modes for SDR plus one User mode. In addition, there's one mode each for HDR10, HLG, and 3D plus a separate User mode for 3D. Using default settings, the SDR User mode gave virtually identical results to Cinema mode in both subjective tests and measurements using Portrait Displays CalMAN color calibration software, a Murideo Six-G signal generator, and an X-Rite i1Pro2 photospectrometer.
The Bright mode is best avoided because of its obvious green bias. Cinema, HDR SIM, Game, and Reference modes all offer good enough color accuracy with default settings so most people will judge them as being more than acceptable.
Straight out of the box, the Cinema and User modes delivered good RGB balance, as reported by CalMAN software, with just a touch of green bias at higher luminance levels. This was just barely noticeable in my pre-calibration viewing tests in some hues of blue sky that verged on turquoise. However the bias isn't enough for most people to find bothersome.
Measurements of both HDR SIM and Game modes showed a blue bias, which I could see in a clip of a Caribbean beach where the blue ocean looked far more realistic in Cinema mode compared with something approaching cobalt blue with HDR SIM and Game modes. Here again, the colors weren't off by enough to be an issue for most people. Reference mode had the best color accuracy, with a slight red bias. However, I measured it at only 691 lumens, which defeats the purpose of buying a projector that's bright enough to use in a room with ambient light.
The Cinema and HDR SIM modes delivered the best contrast, while Cinema mode did the best job of holding subtle gradations, which gives closeups of faces, for example, more of a three-dimensional look.
Under the category of bad news you have to take along with the good, the UHD52ALV was clearly not designed for people who care about calibrating their projector. If you adjust settings for a given color mode with a connected HDMI source, the projector remembers the source and uses those settings only for that device. Connect a different video source on the same input, and all the settings go back to their defaults. Switch back to the original source component, and the custom settings reappear.This device-specific settings memory does let you tweak the image differently for different sources. However, calibrating using CalMAN software and a pattern generator or computer as the video source will require marking down or photographing all your final calibrated menu settings so you can then manually reapply them to the input after you've reconnected your disc player, set-top box, or other source.
You will generally have to repeat this tedious process for each HDMI input you calibrate. There are some exceptions, as I discovered when I switched from my Blu-ray player to a FiOS box and saw the settings retained, but you can't count on the projector seeing any two random sources as the same. Optoma acknowledged this as a design oversight that will certainly be addressed in future models and may be addressed in the UHD52ALV as well in a firmware update.
For my viewing tests, I calibrated the projector, and re-entered the settings, in User mode. Given that CalMAN reported virtually identical results for both User and Cinema mode with default settings, the calibration for both should be virtually identical as well.
Although the default settings offered good RGB balance and grayscale, the same was not true for color accuracy. Color wasn't off by enough to bother most people, but the measured error was much higher than anyone who's serious about color accuracy would want. The target score for Delta E errors—the measurement of how far a color is off the ideal—is a maximum of 3 to 4, which is little enough to make it almost impossible to see a difference unless you place patches of color side by side. The User mode's scores for primary and secondary colors ranged from just under 9 to over 25, which is enough to be obvious when comparing with a reference image, but not enough for most people to notice without one.
Therefore, most of my calibration focused on color accuracy, adjusting the color management settings for hue, saturation, and gain for each primary and secondary color. I wasn't able to reduce Delta Es to the target of 3 or lower, but I brought them down significantly, to a range of just over 4 to just over 8. The calibration also wound up increasing grayscale errors slightly at darker levels while decreasing the errors at brighter levels. Image brightness on my 90-inch, 1.0-gain white screen after calibration was 37.2 ft-L after engaging the ECO power mode. Color temperature ended up just below the 6500K target. Using the Bright power setting in the User mode resulted in a peak white measurement of 65.2 ft-L, which is more than appropriate for ambient light viewing but too high for my dark-room calibration.
For HDR input, I reset the projector to Bright power mode and welcomed the extra fire power since projectors have trouble reaching the peak white that HDR demands at the expected image sizes. I adjusted grayscale gain and bias and improved color accuracy a bit by adjusting the hue, saturation, and gain. Measured brightness after calibration was 227 nits (66 ft-L).
Note that quite apart from the need to re-enter settings manually, calibrating the UHD52ALV can be frustrating. There's no way to keep the menu from timing out while you're waiting to see how your last adjustment affected the measurement. And once it disappears from the screen, it takes 16 button presses to get back to the color management system. Optoma says it's planning to add a menu timeout setting option in a firmware update.
1080p/SDR Viewing. Predictably for a projector designed for use in ambient light, the UHD52ALV's contrast and black level is less-than-ideal for 1080p/SDR viewing in a dark room. However, it's better than you might expect.
In a movie like Argo, which consists almost entirely of scenes dominated by midtones and lots of closeups and mid-range shots of people talking, colors for everything from flesh tones, to a red brick building, to the olive green uniforms for Marines guarding the embassy, to dirty brown sandbags all looked dead-on accurate, and closeups of faces maintained the kind of subtle shading that gives a solid sense of three-dimensionality. Even scenes that draw attention to the cinematography—like the dawn sky behind the silhouette of a mosque on the morning of the trip back to the U.S.—maintain all the dramatic visual impact they're meant to show.
In movies with dark scenes, like Batman Begins, when Bruce Wayne falls into what will become the batcave, blacks aren't totally black. However, they match the letter box bars framing the image, and they're dark enough to qualify as satisfyingly black by most standards, particularly if you use Bright power mode or turn on Dynamic Black. Either one makes the highlights where sunlight falls from above look that much brighter, increasing contrast. More important, in a room with ambient light—which is, after all, what this projector is intended for—you almost certainly wouldn't see a difference between the UHD52ALV's black level and the black level from a projector with a darker black.
Shortcomings for dimly lit scenes are obvious only in the most demanding clips. One of my go-to dark scenes for testing is in La La Land, when the two leads are walking on a road at night, with street lamps lighting the road and a dark wooded area beside it. I couldn't find any settings that would produce the level of contrast, three-dimensionality, or shadow detail I expect from that scene. And when I raised the ambient light level from dark to dim the image looked washed out, even when I set the projector to Bright power mode.
In other scenes in La La Land, most of which are all about brilliant, eye-catching color—as in the opening song and dance on a parkway filled with stalled cars—the colors were all spot on, but the image came up a touch short in contrast. In a room with a moderate level of ambient light, however, the contrast was at least a match for what I'm used to seeing in ambient light with projectors that deliver better contrast in the dark.
Very much on the plus side, I saw only a few rainbow artifacts with the UHD52ALV, and all of them were in a contrasty black and white scene I use precisely because it tends to bring the artifacts out.
The frame interpolation (FI), which has three levels in addition to Off, is also better than the versions in many projectors. Even without turning FI on, I saw less judder than typical in clips that are particularly prone to showing it. The Low setting came close to smoothing the judder completely, with just a hint of FI artifacts added. The Middle setting made motion even smoother, but added more obvious artifacts and a touch of soap opera effect. Along with still more smoothing, the High setting added more motion artifacts and soap opera effect, but neither was as obvious as with some projectors' High FI modes.
UHD/HDR Viewing. The UHD52ALV isn't immune from the rule of thumb for projectors that 4K UHD content with HDR is best viewed in dark or dimly lit rooms. However it delivers a bright enough image to raise the bar on how dim the light has to be, at least if you're willing to make some allowances for particularly demanding dark scenes.
In my tests, the projector delivered far better shadow detail, contrast, and sense of three-dimensionality with HDR versions of movies than the SDR versions. In the early falling-into-the batcave scene in Batman Begins, for example, it showed much more detail in the dark areas in the HDR version, and more subtle shading. And although the black level may not have been any darker than in the SDR version, it appeared darker because of the better contrast and tonal curve.
The improvement was far more impressive for the more demanding dark scene in La La Land, with the HDR version showing a darker-looking black plus the shadow detail that was missing from the SDR version. The better contrast also helped the picture stand up better to ambient light, although it still looked somewhat washed out even in dim lighting.
Brighter scenes in all the movies I sampled maintained the same spot-on color as in the SDR versions, with a little more vibrancy for some colors, and a small boost in contrast. The better contrast added a more three-dimensional look to every scene, and it made occasional splashes of color, like a mostly red, caged parrot at the airport in Argo, that much more vibrant.
The projector offers four HDR brightness settings: Detail, Film, Bright, and Standard. As with any HDR projector, you'll need to experiment and possibly change the setting depending on the content and the ambient light level. For the movies I looked at, I found Film and Standard worked best in a dark room, and Bright worked best with ambient light.
On our ProjectorCentral 10-bit HDR Grayscale test animation, which verifies 10-bit processing from input to image, I saw an almost imperceptible hint of banding in our dark gray wheel (video IRE levels up to 20) in the darker tones just before they turn to near black. The effect was subtle enough that I could have easily missed it if I weren't specifically looking for it. I didn't notice any banding in any of the movies I tested with.
3D Viewing. The UHD52ALV supports Full HD 3D using DLP-Link glasses. As with the 3D mode in most projectors, image brightness is lower for 3D than for any of the 2D modes. Even in a dark room, the image on my 90-inch, 1.0-gain white screen was dim enough to make some scenes look darker than they should, although it was still bright enough to be watchable. Potentially more troublesome is that 3D-related motion artifacts were more obvious than in most current-generation 3D projectors, if no worse than was typical several years ago. On the plus side, I didn't see any crosstalk in my tests, and you can customize the 3D mode and User mode separately, optimizing one for dark room viewing, say, and the other for ambient light. Note that the frame interpolation (FI) feature is not available for 3D content.
The UHD52ALV's high brightness combined with convenience features like voice control and Optoma's InfoWall help make the UHD52ALV a more obvious fit for a family room than a traditional home theater, though it can serve in either setting. The Cinema mode was bright enough in my tests to light up a 120-inch 1.3-gain screen in moderate ambient light. In my family room, using an 80-inch, 1.0-gain white screen next to a window, it was bright enough to produce a quite watchable image in daytime and an impressive picture—with good contrast and black levels and good enough color accuracy—with all the lights on at night.
Straight out of the box, and for both 1080p SDR and 4K HDR content, the default settings offer accurate enough color that only those with a particularly critical eye will spot any color issues, much less find them bothersome. You can calibrate for better accuracy, but be prepared for the frustration of the menus timing out repeatedly and the extra step of having to re-enter the settings manually if you use a signal generator or computer for the calibration patterns.
For those who do want to calibrate their projector, all this earns the UHD52ALV a qualified recommendation, limited to those who are willing to put up with a few hurdles to get the best image quality it can deliver. But skipping the calibration step makes setup easy, and you still get a highly watchable picture. For anyone who wants a projector to use straight out of the box—whether with lights on in a family room or in a traditional dark home theater with a larger-than-typical screen size—the Optoma UHD52ALV is easy to recommend without reservation at $1,799. Our positive star ratings and Highly Recommended Award reflect its excellent turn-key performance for the scenario it was designed for—lights-on viewing in any room where you might otherwise find a big-screen TV.
Brightness. With the 1.3x zoom lens set to its widest angle setting, the brightness measurements for both Bright and Eco power modes in each color mode were as follows:
Optoma UHD52ALV ANSI Lumens
Note that you can't use Eco mode at the same time as Dynamic Black, a feature which is intended to have the same effect as an auto-iris, but changes brightness by adjusting the power level.
Zoom Lens Light Loss. The full telephoto setting for the 1.3x zoom lens drops brightness by about 14%.
Brightness Uniformity (Maximum Wide Angle). 66%
Brightness Uniformity (Maximum Telephoto). 72%
Color Brightness. With default settings, the measured color brightness for all but one color mode was between 40% and 60% of the white brightness. This is enough of a difference so that color images may not be as bright as you would expect from the ANSI brightness measurements. The exception is the Reference mode, which was closely matched for white and color brightness.
Input Lag The lowest measured input lag for a 1080p signal was 75 ms. The projector did not recognize the Bodnar 4K meter we use in our tests, but Optoma says it should be the same as we measured for 1080p inputs.
Fan Noise. The UHD52ALV is rated at 29 dB in full power mode and 25 dB in Eco. You can hear it in quiet moments in a small room, but even in full power mode it is a low pitched, steady sound that tends to fade into the background, particularly in a family room with ambient noise. Optoma recommends using High Altitude mode at 5,000 feet and above. With High Altitude mode on, Eco mode is loud enough that those who are particularly sensitive to fan noise may want to apply some form of acoustic isolation. With full power mode, most people will want to.
- HDMI 2.0b with HDCP 2.2 (x2)
- VGA in
- USB A (reads files from USB memory; 3.0 to support 4K player)
- USB A (for Alexa/Google Assistant Wi-Fi adapter)
- USB A (Firmware upgrades/service)
- USB A (for Wi-Fi adapter for PCs and mobile devices)
- LAN (network Control, Alexa/Google Assistant, firmware updates)
- 3.5mm analog stereo in
- 3.5mm analog stereo out
- S/PDIF optical audio out (2 channel only)
- 12V Trigger
- RS-232 (control)
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma UHD52ALV projector page.