What the Optoma ZH403 is designed for
It is ideal for:
- Mid-to-large size classrooms, conference rooms, boardrooms
- Digital signage in retail and museums
It is also good for:
- Exhibits and displays in museums
- Medical presentations and education
- Simulations (with edge blending provided through software or external hardware)
What the Optoma ZH403 gives you...
- 4,000 ANSI lumen rating
- 1,920 x 1080 native resolution with 0.65-inch DLP chip
- RGBY color wheel delivers bright yellows
- Maximum 4096 x 2160, 60Hz input resolution; supports 4K UHD
- HDR10 and HLG support
- DICOM Sim mode for medical education and presentations
- Full HD 3D; upconverts frame rate—from 60Hz to 120Hz or from 24Hz to 144Hz—for smoother motion; requires DLP-Link 3D glasses (not included)
- 300,000:1 contrast ratio (Dynamic Black enabled), 1800:1 (full on/full off)
- Dynamic Black setting adjusts brightness based on image content, much like an auto iris
- 1.3x zoom lens, 1.21 - 1.59:1 throw ratio
- Auto and manual +/-30 degree vertical keystone
- Onboard 10-watt mono speaker
- Two HDMI ports: one each HDMI 1.4a, HDMI 2.0b with MHL
- Virtually maintenance-free, 24/7 operation; IP6X-certified dust resistant optical engine
- 360-degree orientation in any axis
- Light source rated for up to 30,000 hours in Eco mode, 20,000 hours at full power
- Compact and light weight for a 4,000-lumen laser projector; just 9.4 pounds
- Supports Crestron, Extron, AMX, and Telnet
- Can set to turn on automatically with a power-on timer or power strip
- Closely-related Optoma ZW-403 available with WXGA (1280x800) resolution and 4,500 ANSI lumen rating
- 2-year warranty for the projector, 5-year or 12,000-hour warranty for the light source
Connection Panel Inputs
- HDMI 2.0b (HDCP 2.2, MHL)
- HDMI 1.4a
- VGA/Component in
- 3.5mm analog audio in
- 3.5mm analog audio out
- USB Type A (Power only)
- micro USB (Service only)
- LAN (control only)
Physical Attributes. With the projector on a table, all connectors are on the top half of the rear panel, with the Kensington lock slot near the right lower corner as viewed from behind and the power connector near the left lower corner. As viewed from the back also, the exhaust vent covers the right side panel, the intake vent covers the left side panel, and the security bar is near the bottom of the left side, towards the front.
Setting Up the Optoma ZH403
Throw Distance. The 1.3x zoom lens offers some welcome flexibility for positioning the projector. For a 150-inch diagonal image at the projector's native 16:9 aspect ratio, for example, the range is roughly 13.2 to 17.3 feet. You can use the Optoma ZH403 Projection Calculator to find the range for the image size you want.
Mounting and Lens Offset. The ZH403 is most appropriate for placement on a table just below the screen or inverted in a ceiling mount above it. With the projector on a table, the 100% lens offset puts the bottom edge of the image roughly even with the centerline of the lens. There is no lens shift, but if you have to tilt the projector to point to the screen, the ZH403 offers both auto and manual vertical keystone correction for +/-30 degrees. The compact size and low weight for a 1080p laser-based, 5,000-lumen projector—it's just 9.4 pounds—also helps make it notably easy to handle during setup.
PerformanceThe ZH403's measured brightness in its brightest mode was 3,681 ANSI lumens, a solid 92% of its 4,000 lumen rating. The measurements in each color mode (HDMI input, lens at its widest angle position) were as follows:
Optoma ZH403 ANSI Lumens
Note that in portrait orientation (90 degrees in roll), the brightness automatically drops by 10% compared with the brightness at a standard orientation for a projector. At a 225 to 315 degree rotation in roll it automatically drops by 30%.
Low Brightness Mode. The ZH403 power settings run from 100% (full power) to 50% in increments of 5%, with the measurement for each setting roughly matching the stated percentage. Brightness was reduced by 7% at both the 95% and 90% settings, for example, 16% at the 80% setting, and 45% at the 50% setting. There is also an Eco setting, which has the same effect as setting power to 50%. The power level also affects light-source life, rated for 20,000 hours at 100% and 30,000 hours at 50%.
Zoom Lens Effect on Brightness. Compared with the full wide angle setting, the ZH403's full telephoto setting reduced measured brightness by 12%. This is a small enough drop to ignore in most cases when considering how far to position the projector from the screen.
Presentation Optimized Lumens. For presentations, the aptly named Presentation mode delivered the best balance of color accuracy, contrast, and brightness, making Presentation mode with default settings our pick for presentations, even for those that include photos. At 3,050 ANSI lumens it's bright enough to light up a 140-inch, 16:9, 1.0-gain screen or a 160-inch, 1.3-gain screen in moderate ambient light.
Colors in Presentation mode are suitably neutral, with no obvious color shift even in photos. Black backgrounds in graphics mode are more of a dark gray than black, but since most presentations are in rooms with ambient light that would wash out a dark black, this won't generally be an issue. At least as important is that photos offer acceptable contrast even in dark rooms.
Most people would consider almost all of the other modes acceptable for presentations as well, the one exception being DICOM Sim, which is meant for medical imaging like MRIs and x-rays. Note too that you can also fine tune the colors if you like with settings for Hue, Saturation, and Gain for red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, and white.
Bright mode showed a minor green shift, but less so than for most projectors' brightest modes. Colors in graphics were still eye-catching, but contrast was poor enough that it made photos look almost foggy and made graphics with black backgrounds look gray even in ambient light.
Cinema mode delivered better contrast and black level than Bright mode, but wasn't a match for Presentation mode. It didn't show a pervasive color bias, but blues shifted significantly towards green and orange shifted toward red, while yellows stayed on hue, presumably thanks to the yellow panel in the RGBY color wheel. Game mode was similar to Cinema mode, but with a little lower contrast.
We saw the most accurate color with sRGB mode. Straight out of the box, it delivered colors for both graphics and photos that were close to what I know they should be. It also offered the best contrast and black level.
Video Optimized Lumens (SDR). Thanks to its delivering the most accurate color of all the color modes, the best contrast, and the darkest black level, sRBG with default settings is the obvious pick for video. Its measured 1,072 lumens is enough to light up a 150-inch, 1.0-gain screen in a dark room or a 95-inch, 1.3-gain screen in moderate ambient light. Keep in mind that even though the projector can accept 3840x2160 input, it has to convert the input to the DLP chip's native 1080p to show it. Somewhat counterintuitively, the image was a little sharper when I left my Blu-ray player resolution set to Auto, so it would first upconvert the content to 3840x2160 and the projector had to convert it back, as compared with setting the player to 1080p to avoid the two conversions.
Contrast, Black Level, and Three-Dimensionality. For 1080p film and video content, the sRGB mode offered contrast, black level, and shadow detail comparable to a sub-$1,000 home theater projector, which is better than many high brightness projectors meant for business and education can manage.
4K UHD HDR. The ZH403 automatically switches to its one HDR mode when it detects 3840 x 2160 HDR input. Unlike the HDR in earlier generation business and education projectors with HDR support, the picture was highly watchable.
An A/B comparison between 4K UHD HDR and 1080p SDR versions of the same movies showed that the image was a little sharper with 4K UHD content, shadow detail was noticeably better, and colors had better saturation. However reds and yellows were a little dark compared with the color for 1080p content. There is no HDR Brightness setting, but the HDR Picture Mode gives some of the same flexibility for adjusting tone mapping for HDR. Setting the mode to Bright rather than the default Standard improved the issue with reds and yellows somewhat in scenes dominated by midtones without hurting dark scenes.
Full HD 3D. The ZH403 supports Full HD 3D with DLP-Link glasses only. A minor issue is that although the projector automatically switched to the single 3D picture mode to match the input from a Blu-ray player in my tests, it sometimes required a manual command to switch back to 2D mode with a return to 2D input. Fortunately, that's made easy by one-button access on the remote to the 3D on-off menu.
As with any 3D projector, the 3D mode isn't as bright as any of the 2D modes. Very much on the plus side, however, the 3D mode is brighter than typical compared with the brightest 2D mode. The ZH403 produced a usably bright 90-inch diagonal 3D image on my 1.0-gain screen in low-to-moderate ambient light. It also handled 3D well otherwise. I didn't see any crosstalk, I saw just a hint of 3D-related motion artifacts, and color was suitably neutral with default settings.
Brightness Uniformity. The test unit delivered 64% brightness uniformity at its full wide angle setting and 71% at its full telephoto setting. Using a solid white image, the difference was visible at both settings as being brightest at the bottom center of the image and slightly dimmer going both up and towards each side. However even 64% is better uniformity than many inexpensive home theater projectors can manage, and it's little enough that's its hidden by any image that breaks up the field of view with text, graphics, or a photorealistic picture.
Rainbow Artifacts. On test images that are designed to bring out rainbow artifacts, rainbows were more obvious with the ZH403 than with many current models. However, even as someone who sees these artifacts easily, I found that most images were rainbow free. As with any single-chip projector, if you know you see rainbows easily or don't know if you do, be sure to buy the projector from a source that allows easy returns, so you can test it out for yourself.
Input lag. The Bodnar 1080p lag meter measured the ZH403's 1080p input lag at 32.8 ms with all settings in all modes.
Onboard Audio. The onboard 10-watt speaker delivered enough volume to fill a small-to-mid-size room. However sound quality in the test unit was wanting. The audio had so much clipping that I couldn't make out spoken words even in scenes I'm familiar with, although I could easily make out the tune (but still no words) in songs. Optoma says the audio quality is normally better than what I heard, and that the speaker in the test unit was likely damaged. In any case, if you need higher volume or better sound quality, you can connect an external audio system through the 3.5mm audio out port.
Fan Noise. The fan noise rating for the ZH403 is 32 dB at 50% power to 34dB at 100%. But because the fan speed varies depending on the internal temperature, I heard no noticeable difference between 100% and 50% settings in my tests. Both were loud enough to hear in a quiet room from 15 feet away, which still makes them quieter than most laser projectors in this brightness range. Few people, if any, would consider fan noise an issue for the kinds of applications the ZH403 is meant for.
Optoma says that High Altitude mode is needed at 5,000 feet and above. Turning it on raises the volume enough that if you need to use it, you'll probably want some form of acoustic isolation.
Our Take on the Optoma ZH403
At this writing, the DLP-based Optoma ZH403 is the least expensive native 1080p laser projector on the planet by several hundred dollars, and its aggressive price is even more impressive when considered alongside its performance. Quite simply, the combination of features and performance is spot on for the kinds of applications the projector is meant for, most notably presentations and occasional video in a mid-to-large size room as well as digital signage and museum exhibits.
The ZH403 is bright enough to light up a 175-inch, 1.3-gain screen in moderate ambient light in its brightest mode, a 160-inch screen in its optimized presentation mode, or a 95-inch screen in its optimized video mode. And most people would consider the brighter modes usable for at least occasional video if they need the extra brightness.
For 1080p SDR content and using our preferred settings, the ZH403 delivered eye-catching color for graphics, suitably neutral color for photos and video, and good enough contrast, shadow detail, and three dimensionality to make movies and video highly watchable. It also supports HDR well enough to make 4K UHD HDR video content highly watchable as well, with a noticeable boost in both color saturation and shadow detail. And the Dicom Sim mode makes it appropriate for medical presentations.
The combination of long life for the laser—up to 30,000 hours—and suitability for 24/7, virtually maintenance-free operation, also makes the ZH403 an excellent choice for digital signage as well as for museum exhibits and displays. The support for 360-degree orientation, along with the small size and light weight, make it a particularly good choice for setups—including simulations—that require unconventional orientations for the projector.
The sum total of features and performance make the ZH403 an impressively capable projector and a more-than-solid value for the $1,249 price. The combination should put it high on your short list if you need a laser projector for a mid-to-large size room, display, or exhibit.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma ZH403 projector page.
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