- Highly portable; doubles as Bluetooth speaker
- 4K UHD resolution and LED light source with life up to 30,000 hours
- Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatible
- Good out-of-box picture quality
- Middling HDR performance
- Input lag too high for serious gaming
The Optoma UHL55 delivers a very good 4K picture for the price and serves as a great lifestyle projector for casual backyard movie nights or gaming sessions, but serious enthusiasts or gamers may be better served elsewhere.
The Optoma UHL55 DLP LED projector, with a $1,799 list price and widely available at this writing in early November for just $999, is part of the company's Home Entertainment line. It stacks up against another lifestyle projector we've recently tested—the $1,499 ViewSonic X10-4K. Like that model, the UHL55 is built to be portable and easy to set up and watch. Also like the X10-4K and some other projectors in this class, the UHL55 has a fixed zoom lens with auto-focus and auto-keystone features—although its 1.2 throw ratio is higher than the Viewsonic's 0.8, so it sits further from the screen for the same image size. The UHL55 includes built-in Bluetooth speakers, can be used in an Alexa or Google Assistant home system, and runs on the Android OS system.
Optoma UHL55 Features
The Optoma UHL55 employs a RGBB LED engine, as opposed to a traditional lamp. The light output is rated for 1,500 ANSI lumens, and the engine has a half-life of up to 30,000 hours. The LEDs allow the projector to turn on relatively quickly in comparison to lamp projectors—it can take as little as 23 seconds to get a picture on screen from the projector being off. The lens has an integrated cover that is controlled by a lever on the top of the projector. Sliding the lever to the open position also turns the projector on. Next to the lens cover lever are button controls for focus, volume, and to select audio mode or turn the projector off. The projector can also be turned off by simply closing the lens cover.
As with most budget 4K DLP projectors, the UHL55 uses a second-generation 0.47-inch Texas Instruments DLP chip with XPR technology to acheive the full pixel-count required for UHD video. This rapidly flashes a 1080p-resolution image four times in the course of a single frame of 4K video, but it's unlikely your eyes would know the difference from a native 4K projector—even if you could get one at this price. This newer chip version also addresses the prominent black border found with the first-generation XPR chip. While there is still a slight dark gray border around the image, its visible effect is minimal at a normal viewing distance. And if your projection screen has any masking it will disappear.
The UHL55 is a fixed-zoom projector with a throw ratio of 1.2. For a screen diagonal of 100 inches, the projector will need to sit 8 feet, 9 inches from the screen. You can use our Optoma UHL55 projection calculator to determine the throw distance for your preferred image size. For a straight-on image that does not require keystone correction, the projector will need to be placed with the lens, which is offset, just above the bottom of the screen. There are four screw-adjustable feet to correct any tilt of your mounting surface. The UHL55 can also be ceiling mounted (the four feet can be taken off and those points used for a mount with M4 screws), but there's an extra concern to be aware of. The projector has an external power brick that weighs 1.2 pounds and the cable from plug to brick is only 5 feet, 7 inches long, so you'll need to find a way to mount the power brick either on the ceiling with the projector or somewhere nearby. There is both auto and manual keystone adjustment if you want to use it—which is likely if you purchase the UHL55 for its portability and quick set-up facilities. Also, if you place the projector 2.5-6.5 feet from the screen, its auto-focus feature works quite well. Anywhere outside of those bounds requires the use of manual focus, which is also quick and easy. There's an included test pattern in the menu to facilitate setup and focus.
Since the Optoma UHL55 is meant to be a mobile home theater solution, it has two built-in 8W speakers that fire out the front of the unit below the lens and are supported by Dolby Digital decoding. They sound decent for what they are. The system's tonal balance exhibits a midrange push that helpls support dialogue, although volume is a little limited. Still, the speakers have enough output for casual movie watching with friends. The projector can also double as a Bluetooth speaker. Pairing with a source is easy. You enter Audio Mode either by pressing the Bluetooth button when the projector is off, or directly when the projector is on, then select the Optoma from you device's Bluetooth menu.
In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, the UHL55 has Wi-Fi built in to allow streaming from any of the apps available through the Marketplace, which is powered by the Android OS. The major apps—such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video—are available to download and install, but their load times through the Android OS are very slow. Also, the Netflix app does not support UHD or HDR. If you want to use any streaming services, I recommend getting a streaming stick like a Roku, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire. All of these devices have user interfaces that are far superior and faster than the Android OS on the UHL55.
Physical connections are on the back of the projector below the exhaust fans. The UHL55 has two HDMI 2.0 HDCP 2.2 ports, two USB (one 2.0 and one 3.0 that can provide power to those aforementioned streaming sticks or be used to play 4K content), an optical audio out for PCM or bitstream, a 3.5mm analog/headphone audio jack, and an Ethernet port. The HDMI inputs can both be selected through the Source menu, while the USB can only be accessed using the Media Player app.
There is a Smart Home app preinstalled on the Optoma UHL55 that guides you through setup with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. The process involves creating an Optoma Device Cloud account and adding the projector to it before linking that account to the Alexa or Google skill. Once connected the projector can be voice-controlled to change inputs, adjust volume, or turn power on and off.
The remote is small and lightweight. It uses Bluetooth transmission, so line of sight isn't a concern. There's no backlight, but it's rather intuitive to use, with a directional pad in the center and the most used buttons (Home, Menu, and Back) located directly above the pad.
Optoma UHL55 Key Features
- 3840 x 2160 (4K UHD) resolution with 0.47-inch TI DLP chip with XPR technology
- RGBB LED light source
- Rated for 1,500 ANSI lumens
- HDR10 support
- Auto focus and auto keystone
- Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatible
- Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
- Two 8W speakers with Bluetooth capability
- Sliding lens cover
Preset Modes. The Optoma UHL55 has seven available SDR display modes for 1080p content: Cinema, HDR Simulated, Game, Reference, Bright, User, and 3D (only available when playing from a 3D source). In addition, an ISF calibrator can unlock ISF Day and ISF Night modes during calibration. There's also an HDR display mode when an HDR signal is detected that has four different HDR brightness settings including Bright, Standard, Film, and Detail. Within each display mode you get a choice of Standard, Cool, and Cold color temps, seven different gamma settings, RGB Gain and Bias adjustments for fine-tuning the color temperature (grayscale) at high and low brightness levels, and a color management system for adjusting primary RGB and secondary CMY color points.
The aptly-named Bright display mode is the brightest of the bunch and measured an average light output of 1135 ANSI lumens. This is short of the rated ANSI lumen specification of 1,500 lumens, though it's not an unusual occurrence among LED projectors we've measured recently, including the ViewSonic mentioned earlier. It's important to note that since this is from a LED light source, your perceived brightness is likely to be higher than the number suggests. (You can read more about LED lumens here.)
Unfortunately, that measured brightness from the Bright modes comes at the cost of an extremely green picture, which is also not unusual for many projectors in their brightest mode, though in this case it was unwatchably green. Optoma says the Reference mode provides the most accurate Rec.709 color out of box, though I felt the Cinema mode offered the better color balance visually and it delivered more light output, so I chose to work with that preset. This mode came in at 658 lumens—which again, should be perceived by most viewers as having a brightness that would measure higher on a lamp-based projector. The brightness in Cinema was enough for casual daily viewing in a room with ambient light, but for any critical movie consumption I had to wait for night to avoid the loss of dark detail. Brightness uniformity measured at a very good 83%, and there were no visible hot spots during normal viewing.
Using CalMan software, a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, and an AV Foundry VideoForge Classic pattern generator, the Cinema display mode color temperature was only slightly over the target 6500K at 6847K; it ran a bit cooler the closer it got to a full white field, topping out just over 7000K. With the gamma menu setting at 2.2, measured gamma was just under at 2.12—in fact, all the gamma settings measured very close to their menu label indicators. Grayscale tracking was excellent, with DeltaE values ranging from 1.6 to 2.3 up to a 90% white field and jumping up to 4.1 on a full white field that exhibited a slight blue tint that was only easily discernible in test patterns.
The Rec.709 color points measured a bit off in the Cinema mode, however. Red, green, and blue were all a little oversaturated, with blue being the least accurate with a DeltaE of 8.1. The CMS allows for some fine-tuning of the color, but it didn't go far enough for perfect, or near-perfect accuracy. Still, even the out-of-box result was good enough for the casual use a lifestyle projector like this is likely to see, and in any event, a professional calibration would cost 25% the price of the projector itself.
The four different HDR brightness settings do very little to change the brighter parts of the image, with only minor adjustments to the EOTF curve and no change to the max light output. The Film and Detail settings were a bit too dark in movies with low-light scenes. I settled on the Bright option for most viewing. In HDR, the average measured brightness is 559 lumens.
1080p/SDR Viewing. I've been feeling the call to revisit one of my favorite animated films, and what I consider to be a Miyazaki masterpiece, Howl's Moving Castle on DVD. There's a scene where Sophie and Markl need to extract a flying machine from the castle, and it can really show off the colors of a display. The Optoma handles the greens, pinks, and blues of the outside field as well as the complex muted tones of the castle very well, with no oversaturation readily apparent.
The detail while watching Rogue One on Blu-ray was excellent. The distress on the metal body of K-2SO or in the jackets of the Rebels helped drive home the desperate state of the Rebellion. There was some loss to that detail in the blacks that could be seen, or more correctly couldn't be seen, as the unlikely band attempted to find Galen at the refinery on Eadu. The dark, storm-ridden planet is missing some of the depth in the rocks and chasms of the landscape where there is instead some crushed blacks.
On a positive note, something that was happily missing was any sign of rainbow artifacts that sometimes plague DLP displays.
UHD/HDR Viewing. Keeping with the Star Wars theme, Solo is an excellent test for shadow detail from pretty much opening to credits, but the best scenes are Lando's introduction and the Falcon's flight through the Maw. Some of the same black-crushing issues seen with SDR present themselves in HDR as well. As Han and Lando play Sabaac, for example, the faces in the crowd around them are lost and it looks like a far more intimate game than it is meant to be. In the Maw, the lightning crashes miss some of their impact because of the limited light output against the black around the Millennium Falcon. Through all of it though, there is excellent fine detail from the 4K signal and there were no color banding issues.
My go-to gaming test for HDR is Sea of Thieves on the Xbox One X because of the absolutely stunning water effects and brilliant sun shining in the sky. The white caps of the waves are captured beautifully on the UHL55 with some excellent depth to the color of the water. The sun shines nicely in the sky, but it misses the punch of some extra brightness that's just not there—a not uncommon experience with HDR on projectors.
3D Viewing. 3D on the UHL55 looked fantastic. There's no evidence of crosstalk and there isn't a large dip in light output from 2D viewing. Scott's training montage in Ant-Man had great depth as he runs with the ants and during his fight with Falcon. Colors still look good without any significant loss in vibrancy.
The Optoma UHL55 LED DLP projector comes out of the box with some excellent grayscale and reasonably good color. Its brightness is a little low for an HDR projector, however, and blacks are a bit crushed as well, so there's some loss of detail in dark scenes. Its input lag, as noted below in our measurements, is also on the high side for anything but casual gaming. Serious movie buffs and gamers may do better picture-wise with one of the conventional UHD budget projectors in the $1,000-$1,500 price range.
But you should keep in mind that those won't look like the squarish and stylish UHL55, travel as well, set-up as quickly and easily, double as a Bluetooth audio system, provide on-board streaming and Wi-Fi connectivity, or function as the hub of your voice-activated smart-home. If these unique characteristics have their appeal for your intended use, you'll find the Optoma UHL55 a capable all-in-one entertainment center that goes whereever you need it to and extremely affordable for a 4K projector at its currently discounted price.
Brightness. The UHL55 has an adjustable menu to adjust overall brightness of the LED light source from 100 percent down to 50 percent in increments of 5 percent. The Bright display mode, at 100 percent brightness, measured 1,135 ANSI lumens, and also brings the rated life of the light engine down to 20,000 hours. This is below the rated specification of 1,500 ANSI lumens but is typical of the variance in results we get with measurements of most LED-driven projectors. Also, as noted in the review, the Bright mode is very green and not desirable even for high ambient light viewing. The next brightest mode was the Game mode at 784 lumens. Color brightness in Bright mode with full brightness measured at 50% of white.
Below is the measured ANSI lumens for all picture modes at the 100% brightness setting.
Optoma UHL55 ANSI Lumens
Brightness Uniformity. Brightness uniformity measured at a fairly high 83%, a very good result. There was no perceptible hot spot or dim areas in the image.
Fan Noise. Fan noise for the Optoma is listed at 28dB and can't be heard unless you're sitting right next to the projector. However, there is a high-pitched whine that can be distracting during quiet passages. High altitude mode increases fan noise significantly and can be heard at all times.
Input Lag. In all display modes, the 1080p input lag on the Optoma UHL55 measured 66.9ms. If you're only playing casual games that are not dependent on any timing, that lag should be fine. But for any serious gaming that requires twitch-based reactions, such as Soulcalibur or Overwatch, that input lag would cause some issues for your play. I did not have the necessary equipment to measure input lag with 4K/UHD signals.
- HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCD 2.2 (x2)
- USB 2.0
- USB 3.0
- S/PDIF optical out
- 3.5mm headphone out
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma UHL55 projector page.