4K Review: Optoma UHZ65 Laser Projector
Built around a 4K UHD 0.66" DLP chip and Optoma DuraCore laser technology, the Optoma UHZ65 delivers a unique combination of leading edge technology for $4,499 street. It is one of Optoma's Professional--as opposed to Consumer--projectors and the top of the line in the company's UHD (lamp-based)/UHZ (laser-based) series. More important, it delivers the visual impact you would expect at this price, with rich, saturated color and visibly high contrast.
Much of the credit for the superb image goes to the DLP chip's 3840x2160 resolution, for showing fine detail, and the light engine, which uses an RGBY color wheel. The UHZ65 offers 99% coverage of the Rec.709 gamut as well as support for Rec.2020 and DCI-P3. It also supports HDR10, and it delivers a rated 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio with its Dynamic Black setting. Also helping is that the HDMI 2 port is Full Speed 18Gbps and HDCP 2.2-compatible, which means it can handle up to 4K 60P (4:4:4) 10-bit signals for 4K HDR. A second port is HDMI 1.4a.
The laser light source is designed to last the life of the projector, with a rated lifetime of 20,000 hours in full brightness mode. In addition, although the UHZ65 isn't IP5X certified for dust resistance, Optoma says it is IP5X compliant. The two features together make it maintenance free. Never having to buy a replacement lamp also translates to lower running costs. The UHZ65 can easily be less expensive over its lifetime than a lamp-based model that costs less, but needs a replacement lamp every few thousand hours.
Another key feature is the high brightness. To actually see the advantage of 3840x2160 resolution, you need a large enough image for the human eye to resolve the additional detail from typical seating distances. Optoma rates the UHZ65 at 3000 ANSI lumens, and it measured just below that at 2845 ANSI lumens. That's enough for a 16:9 image as large as 240" diagonal in a dark room, or 150" in a family room with moderate ambient light.
Optoma UHZ65 Picture Quality
The UHZ65's image quality for film and video is every bit as impressive as you would expect from the price. Along with fine detail, it delivers rich, natural-looking color and both a high enough contrast ratio and the subtle shading needed to add a convincing sense of three dimensionality. Surprisingly, given the visibly high contrast, a solid black image has a noticeable glow in a dark room. However, the black areas don't get any brighter if you add bright elements to the image, which is the more important factor for contrast.
There is also no visible change in black level when you change brightness by adjusting the power level, which has settings from 50% to 100% in 5% increments. So the higher the power level, the better the contrast will be. If you use the UHZ65 with a small screen in a dark room, you may have to settle for somewhat lower contrast, since the higher power levels may be too bright. However, this won't be an issue for the screen sizes you need in order to see all the detail available at 3820x2160 resolution, particularly in a room with ambient light.
Color accuracy with default settings for the Cinema color preset is good enough to use straight out of the box. There's a slight blue bias compared with a calibrated projector, but it is easy to adjust to neutral color. And unlike most color presets for DLP projectors, Cinema mode is designed to offer accurate colors with Brilliant Color at 10--the highest setting--for maximum white brightness. Most of the same comments apply to Reference mode, except that its default setting for Brilliant Color is 1, which translates to being off. Reference mode also has lower contrast than Cinema mode.
Bright mode has an obvious magenta shift with default settings, but color accuracy improves significantly if you drop Brilliant Color to 1 from the default of 10. Game mode maintains color accuracy fairly well and delivers good contrast, but it loses subtle gradations the eye uses as cues to three dimensionality. The loss in depth won't matter for games and animations, and the high contrast will be a plus.
There's also an HDR Sim mode that's meant to add an HDR look to SDR content by enhancing gamma, contrast, and color saturation. The enhancement goes a little too far, however, leading to oversaturated color. The actual HDR mode is available for HDR input only, and does a far better job.
You can customize any of the preset color modes or the one User mode to taste. In addition, the UHZ65 is ISF certified, so if you pay an ISF-certified technician to calibrate it, the menus will also include ISF Day and Night modes. The color modes in the menu also includes 3D, but there is no support for Blu-ray 3D. The UHZ65 supports only PC-based 3D.
Optoma's version of Frame Interpolation (FI) is called PureMotion. As with any version of FI it introduces a digital video effect that can be a distraction for watching film but can enhance the crispness of live or recorded video.
With default settings for Cinema mode, PureMotion is on and set to 1, the lowest of its three levels. Level 1 smoothes motion only a little while adding a slight, but obvious, digital video effect. Both increase at each step, with judder completely gone at the highest level, and filmed content looking like live video in most scenes. I didn't see any motion artifacts at the lowest level, and fewer artifacts at the highest than with most FI features. You can also turn FI off if you prefer.
HDR. Because projectors have inherent limitations for HDR--particularly in a room with ambient light--they can be designed to handle HDR in one of two ways. One choice is to stay as close as possible to the technical specs for HDR, which will give you an image that's so dark overall it is almost unwatchable for many scenes. The other choice is to fudge a little on the specs to get as much of the benefit of HDR as possible for projector technology, while still offering an attractively bright image. The UHZ65 takes this second approach and delivers what it aims for: a sufficiently bright, compelling image for both bright and dark scenes.
When the UHZ65 detects HDR input, it automatically switches to HDR mode as the only color preset available. The mode uses gamma settings designed for HDR as well as Rec.2020. The combination, straight out of the box, delivered a highly watchable image with a Batman v Superman 4K HDR disc. Sun-drenched scenes were suitably bright, dark scenes were bright enough to hold shadow detail well, and colors were nicely saturated.
As advertised, the UHZ65 accepts input up to 4K 60p 10-bit with 4:4:4 subsampling. That translates to having sufficient bandwidth to work with all 4K HDR players and other hardware. It also supports HDR10. There is no support planned for Hybrid Log-Gamma, the HDR standard for broadcast TV.
Optoma UHZ65 Performance
Brightness. Rather than usual Bright power mode with one or two Eco modes, the laser-phosphor light source allows 11 settings, with 100% power the brightest choice, 50% power the least bright, and nine steps in between in 5% increments. The measured ANSI lumens for the 100%, 75%, and 50% settings, with the zoom lens at its widest angle setting, are as follows.
Video Optimized Lumens. The Cinema and Reference color presets both offer close to accurate color without any adjustments. Cinema delivering the brighter image of the two, and it doesn't lose any brightness if you adjust it to eliminate the slight blue bias. At 1633 lumens, it is bright enough for a 185" diagonal 16:9 image in a dark room or a 115" image with moderate ambient light.
Presentation Optimized Lumens. The UHZ65 is obviously not designed primarily for presentations, but it can handle them well. Bright mode with default settings is the obvious choice for presentations that don't include photos. Some colors are significantly shifted, but the 2845 lumens can give you a 130" or larger image that can stand up to ambient light.
Low Lamp Modes. The 10 steps in power levels below 100% behave as advertised, lowering the measured brightness by 5% of the full brightness at each step down to 50%.
Zoom Lens effect. The 1.6x zoom lens offers good flexibility for how far you can position the projector from the screen, but with enough loss of brightness to notice. At the full telephoto setting, the lens curtails light by about 23% compared with the wide-angle setting. That's not unusual for a 1.6x zoom lens. But it is enough that for maximum brightness, you'll want the UHZ65 as close to the screen as possible.
Brightness uniformity. The 56% measured brightness uniformity is unusually low a home theater projector. The variation across the screen is easy to see with a solid white image, with the left and right sides obviously not as bright as the broad center swath. Fortunately, most film and video images break up the field of view enough to effectively hide the variation, and the eye will tend to interpret any visible difference as being part of the original image. It helps too that the brightness drops off only near the edges of the screen, where you're least likely to be looking while watching a movie.
Input Lag. Using 1080p content, the input lag with all color modes is 80 ms with FI off and 147 ms with FI on at any setting.
Low Rainbow Activity. With three different movies, I saw rainbow artifacts occasionally in one, less often in another, and exceedingly rarely in a third. Few people, if any, should find them bothersome.
On-Board Stereo. Any projector that costs as much as the UHZ65 pretty much demands being paired with a high quality external sound system. That said, the UHZ65 includes two on-board 4-watt stereo speakers if you need them. Sound quality is on a par with a typical large-screen TV, and the volume is enough to fill a good-size family room.
One minor issue with movies on 1080p Blu-ray discs is that if you jump ahead or back the audio and video fall out of sync with no easy way to match them up again. However, this happened only when I allowed the Blu-ray player to auto connect at 3840x2160 and upscale the image. When I set it to connect at 1080p, and let the UHZ65 upscale the image, the audio and video stayed in sync.
Fan Noise. Optoma rates fan noise at 33dB at 100% power and 29dB at 50%, which makes it a little louder than most home theater projectors. At 100%, you can hear it from 10 feet away at quiet moments as a steady, low-pitched whoosh. But even from 5 feet it will fade into the background for anyone who isn't particularly bothered by noise. At 50% power, the fan noise is low enough that it is unlikely anyone will find it bothersome from 5 feet away.
High Altitude mode, which Optoma recommends using at 5,000 feet and above, is loud enough at all power settings to notice in quiet moments from anywhere in a typical-size home theater. If you need to use High Altitude mode, and particularly if fan noise is one of your pet peeves, consider positioning the projector behind a false wall or behind the screen to help deaden the sound.
Lamp life. The laser-phosphor engine is meant to last the life of the projector. Optoma rates it at 20,000 hours in full brightness mode, and says it should last even longer at lower power settings.
Warranty. The price includes a three-year warranty for the projector, including the light engine, with express advanced exchange.
Optoma UHZ65 Set Up
The UHZ65's 1.6x zoom and modest vertical lens shift offers a modicum of placement flexibility for a ceiling mount or a flat surface. The size and weight--6" x 19.6" x 13" (HWD) and 25 pounds--all but rule out installation on a rear bookshelf, but you could place it on top of a high cabinet behind the seating area. Intake and exhaust vents are on the sides, and the back needs only 3.9" clearance. Also, if you want to use 4K HDR, you'll need a cable that's 4K HDR compliant.
Throw Distance. The UHZ65's throw distance for a 150" 16:9 diagonal image is roughly 15.25 to 24.25 feet. Keep in mind that at the long end of the range, the lens will curtail brightness by about 23%. For highest brightness, you'll need the projector as close to the screen as possible. See the Optoma UHZ65 Projection Calculator to find the throw distance range for your desired screen size.
Lens Shift Range. The modest vertical shift is enough to provide some flexibility in placement. It can also let you correct for installing a ceiling mount a little lower or higher than you meant to, or, if you're replacing a projector, it can let you reuse a ceiling mount without having to move it.
The total vertical shift range is 21% of the image height. With the UHZ65 sitting on a table, and the lens in the lowest position, the bottom line of the image is 3% of the image height below the centerline of the lens. With the lens in the highest position, the bottom line of the image is 18% of the image height above the centerline of the lens. There is no keystone correction or horizontal lens shift.
Limited lens shift and no keystone correction. With no horizontal lens shift and no keystone correction, the UHZ65 has to be at the vertical midline of the screen to avoid geometric distortion. The vertical shift is also limited, but any vertical shift is better than none.
Lens is not motorized. The manual lens means there is no Lens Memory feature for constant image height shifting between, say, 16:9 and Cinemascope 2.41 aspect ratio. If you want to set up this capability you'll need a separate anamorphic lens.
Limited 3D. The color modes in the menu includes 3D, but there is no support for Blu-ray 3D. The UHZ65 supports only PC-based 3D.
HDR support is for HDR10 only. There is no support for Hybrid Log Gamma, the HDR standard for broadcast TV.
At $4,499 street, the Optoma UHZ65 is the least expensive projector by far that offers both true 3840x2160 resolution on the screen and a laser-phosphor light engine designed to last the life of the projector. It also offers 99% coverage of REC.709, supports HDR10, and accepts input at up to 4K 60p (4:4:4) 10-bit, giving it the bandwidth to work for HDR with all Blu-ray players and other hardware.
Most important, the UHZ65 delivers images notable for their high contrast, saturated color, and sense of three dimensionality. The default settings for Cinema mode need only a little tweaking to match the colors from a calibrated projector. And for spot on color, you can have an ISF Certified technician calibrate it. It is also bright enough in Cinema mode for a 185" diagonal 16:9 image in a dark room or a 115" image in a family room with moderate ambient light
For HDR input, the UHZ65 supports REC.2020. And unlike some models--which make HDR content unwatchable by damping down the overall brightness--it takes as much advantage of HDR as possible while keeping brightness high enough to deliver a compelling picture even in dark scenes.
The lack of a powered lens limits the UHZ65's usefulness for a CIH setup unless you add an anamorphic lens, and the limited lens shift combined with a lack of keystone correction limits flexibility for positioning the projector. However a motorized lens and greater lens shift would also drive up the cost significantly, so it is a fair trade off.
Ultimately, the UHZ65 is a unique choice in today's market. There is simply no other home theater projector that offers true 3840x2160 resolution and a laser-phosphor light source for anything like the price. That combination along with the top tier image quality--high contrast, eye catching color, and three-dimensionality--makes the Optoma UHZ65 a bargain at $4,499.
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