Editor's Choice Award
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- Long-life laser light source
- Excellent, low input lag
- Good black level paired with high brightness
- Good out-of-the-box settings
- Calibrates well for the price
- Speakers sound thin
- Streaming apps are frustrating and quality is inconsistent
The Optoma UHZ50 might be marketed as a solid gaming projector—which it certainly is—but it also offers great performance for a movie night or watching cartoons in the morning with the family, all in an affordable, laser-driven package.
We are seeing more and more the release of solid-state projectors in favor of lamp-based models. There isn't the need with these projectors to invest every couple of years in a new light source, as there is with lamp models, and they run significantly cooler with less power draw (and therefore cost). And with laser light source projectors getting cheaper, the solid-state technologies are beginning to compete with the brightness of lamps.
Most home theater laser projectors you find today are of the ultra-short throw variety, but the Optoma UHZ50 is a standard throw option that comes in at under $3,000—it currently carries of a street price of $2,799—and is one of the only 4K HDR versions at that price. It's also the only one that is designed for gamers, touting a very low input lag of 16.7 ms at 60Hz and down to 4 ms at 240Hz. It's poised to become the go-to option for gamers who still want great performance while watching TV and movies.
The Optoma UHZ50 is a DLP projector with a single 0.47-inch DMD that uses 4-way XPR pixel-shift technology to achieve 4K resolution. It has a laser light source that is rated at 3,000 ANSI lumens (we measured 2,503, well within the accepted 20% ISO21118 tolerance). At the time of this review, it is one of the least expensive 3,000 ANSI-rated solid-state 4K home theater projectors on the market—only the ViewSonic LS700-4K (which did not review favorably for home theater) has a lower street price. (You can see a full list by searching the Projector Central Find-a-Projector Database). As with all laser projectors—and all solid-state projectors, for that matter—the UHZ50 doesn't require a replacement light source. The laser light engine is rated to last up to 30,000 hours until it reaches half brightness.
Compared to a LED projector, laser light has two distinct benefits. Laser technology currently has the potential to create a brighter image with more accurate color, although LED is making strides in this department (the BenQ X1300i 1080p LED projector has similar light output to the UHZ50 and it will be interesting to see if measurements of the upcoming X3000i 4K version will match it). Black level, and therefore contrast ratio, on laser systems tends to be better as well, which can lead to an image with more depth. Contrast ratio in particular is definitely one of the wins with the UHZ50 over recent LED projectors I've seen that have struggled with achieving decent blacks.
Over the past few years Optoma has put a good deal of focus into producing projectors aimed towards the home theater gamer, specifically in regards to low input lag, and the UHZ50 continues that (although it doesn't have the gamer-centric picture settings specific to different game types that I discuss in our BenQ X1300i review). With the UHZ50's Enhanced Gaming mode enabled, Optoma lists a low input lag of 16.7ms with a 1080p/60Hz signal—I measured 16.9 ms—and down to 4 ms if sent a 1080p/240Hz by a computer. While the projector is capable of high refresh rates, all three of its HDMI inputs are version 2.0, so 4K refresh rate is limited to 60Hz. (We've begun to see projectors with full-bandwidth HDMI 2.1, such as the JVC DLA-NZ7, but they are still far from the norm.)
One of the ways the UHZ50 achieves this low input lag is by turning off any extra processing functions—specifically menu items for Aspect Ratio, Zoom (digital zoom only, manual optical zoom is unaffected), Image Shift, and Geometric Correction. If you plan on gaming with the UHZ50 take extra care during setup that it's square and centered to the screen so no digital image adjustment is necessary (which is always best to avoid anyway as they can adversely affect brightness or add artifacts). To make sure your room's spacing is adequate for the 1.3x zoom, be sure to look at ProjectorCentral's Optoma UHZ50 Throw Distance Calculator. Near the manual zoom there is also a lens shift adjustment for vertical offset that ranges from 105 to115%.
Two additional points of note: Enhanced Gaming can be turned on for any picture mode—it isn't reliant on being in Game picture mode (although Game picture mode does boost shadow detail that can be helpful to see enemies in first-person shooters). And it is only available for sources plugged in to HDMI 1. So if you're running more than one console (or a PC as well), you'll need to run through an AVR for switching, or be ready to physically switch HDMI cables back and forth. I recommend the former, both for ease of setup and for the ability to have a robust sound system. The UHZ50 comes with speakers, and while they're serviceable in a pinch, their sound is thin and uninspired. For any sort of auditory immersion you'll need additional speakers.
Incidentally, Optoma's motion interpolation technology, PureMotion, is only available on the Home screen and for sources connected to HDMI 3. This could cause more HDMI cable switching, or needing to run two HDMI cables, if you're a fan of motion interpolation. Personally it's one of the first things I turn off if it's on and have only rarely used it for live fast-moving sports.
While many manufacturers are jumping on the Android TV OS bandwagon, Optoma has chosen to use their own solution. The projector doesn't come with any apps preinstalled, so anything you want needs to be downloaded from the Optoma Marketplace. There's a very important disclaimer on the Optoma website that I'll provide here in full. "Note: Optoma projectors run on a customized version of Android. Google Play Services not supported. Not all third-party apps will be compatible and can vary in quality and resolution." The Optoma Marketplace interface and that disclaimer make it look like the customized version of Android is either Aptoide, which Optoma has used in the past, or at least a close relative.
The Optoma OS is a bit better than the last Aptoide OS I used. Netflix, for instance, looks significantly better than the low-res option that used to be available (the UHZ50 upconverts what I suspect is a 1080p signal to 4K as it looks ever so slightly softer than the same program on my Roku Ultimate). But navigating app menus is frustrating, especially since the Optoma remote is not designed to act as a streaming remote and is missing transport controls. Beyond that oversight, I like that Optoma decided to include a smaller, thin remote. It's not overloaded with buttons and has a nice not-too-bright backlight that activates with a button press. Does it function well as a streaming remote? No. But Optoma Marketplace doesn't function all that well as a streaming service, so I'd recommend being ready to purchase a Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, or Chromecast (and make it the 4K version to take advantage of the UHZ50's resolution).
There's a good collection of connections on the back of the Optoma UHZ50. It comes with three HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2 (HDMI1 has eARC and allows for Enhanced Gaming, while HDMI 3 has PureMotion), three USB 2.0 (one for firmware updates), a digital optical out, 3.5 mm analog audio out, RS-232, 12V trigger, and 3D sync for an external RF emitter. There's also an included wireless dongle to plug in to one of the USB ports to enable wireless connectivity.
Color Modes. The Optoma UHZ50 has seven SDR picture modes—Cinema, HDR Sim., Game, Reference, Bright, User, and 3D—as well as HDR and HLG readily available. An ISF calibrator can unlock ISF Day, ISF Night, and ISF 3D picture modes for a calibration which can then be locked so errant adjustments (and extra calibration costs) can be avoided.
Bright picture mode tends towards green. This is often the case with a projector's brightest mode as we perceive green as brighter than red and blue, and while it isn't the most egregious green tint I've seen, it casts a pallid tone over everything. Cinema (slightly blue with better grayscale tracking) and Reference (slightly green with better color point accuracy) are better out-of-the-box choices. And while they both are watchable, I'd recommend a calibration to improve grayscale and an oversaturated blue. The UHZ50 has gain and bias controls for white balance/grayscale, and RGBCMYW color point adjustments to dial in a highly accurate picture.
Calibration was a bit of a dance between grayscale and color. After profiling the projector in the User picture mode using Portrait Displays' Calman color calibration software, my X-Rite i1 Pro 3 spectrophotometer, and my Murideo Six-G pattern generator, all color points showed a deltaE value of 2.8 or lower, with red, green, cyan, magenta, and yellow at 1.8 or lower. Grayscale was mostly at a deltaE of 3 or lower, except between 60 and 80% white where the projector bumped up above 4 dE and leaned slightly magenta. This was my middle-ground compromise. Grayscale could be improved at the detriment to color and vice versa. Both the Film and 2.0 gamma settings tracked closest to the BT.1886 curve and are best for a light-controlled room. If you have some ambient light, the Video and 1.8 settings (which both track closer to 2.0) could be a good solution. My SDR settings can be found below in the Calibrated Settings section, but as always only use them as a starting point as there can be significant variation between product samples.
HDR has two dedicated adjustments, HDR Picture Mode and HDR Brightness. The four HDR Picture Mode options—Bright, Standard, Film, and Detail—are fine adjustments to color saturation and detail. For most of my viewing I preferred to keep it on Standard (the default), which kept a nice balance to the image. HDR Brightness is an 11-point slider from 0 to 10 that changes the overall brightness. The low end of the slider can get pretty dim and lose shadow detail while the upper end (around 8 and above) can look blown out with bright material. To my eye, 7 gave enough extra pop. HDR calibration on projectors can be a bit finicky, so I chose to keep the out-of-the-box settings.
SDR Viewing. I'm not sure if it's because I've been stuck inside for two years awaiting a return to eating out at restaurants, but I've been on a cooking show kick. Recently I've been going back to some episodes from this season of The Great British Baking Show. While seeing the showstoppers being presented for Cake Week I caught myself salivating. They say we eat with our eyes first, and the UHZ50 certainly displayed a feast. The decorative colors of the cakes stood out and the detail accentuated the moistness of the cake's interiors.
The brightness of the UHZ50 holds up well against ambient light. With a six-year old, a lot of casual viewing is cartoons during the day with the curtains open. There have been plenty of projectors I've reviewed in the past where my son immediately asks for the curtains to stay closed, but that never happened with the Optoma. In Cinema picture mode, the colors of Nature Cat and Bluey are still vibrant and the image doesn't look washed out. Still, for anything with lots of darker scenes it's best to draw the curtains again or wait until evening, but that's a good general rule for any projector.
With that darker content you might be tempted to use the Dynamic Black brightness mode for increased contrast, but I'd recommend against it. There's sometimes a subtle shift in color tone when it's turned on and there are times you can also see it working, particularly when the image is fading to black. The fade isn't always smooth and instead there are distinct steps visible.
HDR Viewing. The lightsaber battle between Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren on the planet of Crait is one of my favorite cinematic moments of The Last Jedi (a movie full of beautifully constructed scenes). There's a bright yellow sun blaring behind the on-looking walkers that the UHZ50 displays with great brightness, the red of the planet's surface as Kylo's foot pushes aside the white salt is vibrant, and the detail in both Luke and Kylo's clothing is excellent. Skin tones all look accurate without deathly pallor or inadvertent sunburns.
The HDR Brightness slider wasn't consistent in how much it affected the image. With The Last Jedi (streaming on Disney+ through my Roku Ultimate) there was a pretty drastic range from dim image to overly bright as I described in the section above. But with Blade Runner 2049 on Blu-ray played by my LG UP870 (at 24fps) the setting changed to 3 (from 7) and didn't have any effect on the image brightness. Nonetheless, the picture looked great. This film is notoriously dark and difficult for projectors to properly display, but the UHZ50 did a really good job. The dark interior of Sapper Morton's home at the beginning of the film had great shadow detail to where I could easily see the imperfections in the wall's painted surface, and there was good depth to the room. It didn't feel flat as it can on lesser displays.
The projector had a bit more difficulty during the furnace scene when K finds the carved horse, but only during some of the wider dark shots. Detail is still visible in the metal surface of the furnace as K is crouching down in front of it.
Gaming. There is nothing quite like swinging through the buildings of New York City at night in Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Insomniac did such a great job with the graphics and controls on this game, it feels so intuitive to leap from one building to the next. Motion is smooth and there's loads of detail on the PS5. Even at 60Hz (the highest refresh rate for the game) I couldn't feel any delay while fighting criminals (which is of utmost importance in Miles Morales, as the fighting relies on combo timing to complete some great moves). It's important to remember to switch on Enhanced Gaming before playing as there's no auto low-latency mode. Delay with it off isn't terrible by any means (in the low 30s), but you can still feel the difference with it on.
When playing a game in 120Hz mode on the Xbox Series X (as long as you change the settings to 1080p/120Hz and turn off HDR), such as Psychonauts 2, everything is nice and fast. Motion is smooth and the bright, exaggerated colors of the game look great on the UHZ50. The same can be said for Sea of Thieves, but I preferred to re-enable HDR (which puts it into 4K mode and disables 120Hz). It adds to the graphics of the game, especially the detail and highlights of the sea.
3D Viewing. 3D looks great on the Optoma UHZ50. When Scott is sitting in the police car at the beginning of Chapter 15 in Ant-Man there's great depth—from the front windshield through the front and back seats to the rear window, you can see separation between each layer. That continues in Cassie's room as he battles Yellowjacket on the toy train set and thrown toys extend out of the image. There's also enough brightness in 3D that explosions still pop.
I used DLP-Link glasses and had no issues with losing sync, but there's also a 3D Sync out on the projector for an outboard RF emitter if you choose to go that route.
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Solid-state technologies have been seen as the future of immersive home theater projectors for a while now, and there can be little doubt that lamp projectors are on their way out in the entry and midrange markets. LEDs have been the dominant solid-state option under $3,000 unless you're looking for an ultra-short throw projector. But the cost of all laser projectors is coming down and they bring with them their benefits over LED—namely higher lumens output with better black level. The Optoma UHZ50 delivers on both counts.
The UHZ50's out-of-the-box performance is very good (although a calibration at this price point is always recommended to get the most out of your investment). The projector's color and grayscale accuracy can be dialed in well (although with some compromise over color vs. grayscale priority), 4K detail is excellent, it has incredibly low input lag for gaming, and its HDR performance is better than LED projectors in its class. You'll definitely want a speaker setup to pair with it, though.
Gamers will still lament that there's no HDMI 2.1 a year after the next-gen consoles were released (and I feel your pain), but a sub-$3,000 HDMI 2.1 projector is still a little ways away. There's a potentially worthy 4K LED gaming competitor on the horizon (the BenQ X3000i), but right now and for the foreseeable future the Optoma UHZ50 offers some of the best value vs. performance for a home theater gaming projector.
Brightness. The Bright picture mode with Constant Power 100% brightness mode outputs 2,503 ANSI lumens, which is 83.4% of Optoma's 3,000 rated ANSI lumens and within the 20% tolerance of the ISO21118 specification. Color brightness (with Brilliant Color at 10) is 59.2% of white.
With a full white field, Dynamic Black drops brightness by 1.7%, but it adds a purple-ish tint and with real-world material there are visible steps to its brightness adjustments and some flicker when it's working. Eco power mode drops brightness by 19% and Constant Luminance drops brightness by 12.8%. Constant Power can be set by 5% increments from 100% down to 50%. Brightness output measured consistently about 2.5% above the listed percentage, except for the 55% and 50% setting which straddle 55% output by 1% on either side.
Optoma UHZ50 ANSI Lumens
|Mode||CP 100%||Dynamic Black||Eco||CL 85%|
Zoom Lens Light Loss. From the widest zoom to the maximum telephoto setting, the light output in Bright lowered to 2,105 ANSI lumens—a 16% light loss.
Brightness Uniformity. Brightness uniformity in both the widest and telephoto zoom setting measured 78%, with the greatest difference between the middle top and bottom right portions of the screen, which was visible with a full white image. I didn't notice the difference while watching content or playing games.
Input Lag. The UHZ50 measured an input lag of 16.9 ms with both 1080p at 60 Hz and 4K at 60Hz signals with Enhanced Gaming enabled (without enhanced gaming enabled it was 33.6 ms.). A 1080p/120Hz signal had an input lag of 8.5 ms.
Fan Noise. The Optoma UHZ50 is rated for a typical level of 27 dB and a maximum of 29 dB using the multipoint standard in a sound-controlled environment. With the picture mode set to Cinema and the brightness mode set to Constant Power 100% in my living room that has a noise floor of 29.5 dB, I measured a noise level of 34 dB from a distance of 3 feet below the ceiling-mounted projector. Changing to Eco dropped the noise to 32.5 dB. I never found the noise to be distracting when watching.
- HDMI 2.0 (x3, one with eARC)
- USB (x3)
- Digital optical out
- 3.5 mm analog audio out
- 12V trigger
- 3D sync
Calibrated image settings from any third-party do not account for the significant potential for sample-to-sample variation, nor the different screen sizes and materials, lighting, lamp usage, 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. Always record your current settings before making adjustments so you can return to them as desired. Refer to the Performance section for some context for each calibration.
Included are the calibrated SDR settings for my sample in my dark room. HDR settings were left at their defaults.
Display Mode: Cinema
Color Temperature: Standard
Red Gain: -4
Green Gain: 0
Blue Gain: -9
Red Bias: 0
Green Bias: 0
Blue Bias: 0
Brightness Mode: Constant Power 100%
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma UHZ50 projector page.