Optoma stuns the projector world today with its release of the Optoma UHD60, a projector featuring TI's new 4K DLP chip, priced at $1,999. Also released today is a higher performance variation of the same model called the Optoma UHD65, priced at $2,499. These are the first 4K projectors to come to market anywhere near this price level.
Optoma UHD60 and UHD65
(the UHD60 is white)
Preliminary Notes -- Our Assessment So Far
We have had a pre-production test sample of the Optoma UHD65 since last Wednesday -- not enough time to complete a full review. And we'd rather save the full review for a production unit anyway. However, we've spent a lot of time with the UHD65 in the last few days, so here is our take on it so far.
Some of the key video processing components were set to OFF when the UHD65 came out of the box. So the picture was improved considerably with some calibration work, especially after experimenting with some of the unique controls such as PureContrast and PureColor which operate independently of and in addition to the conventional picture controls. Once we were able to get the UHD65 dialed in, it was capable of producing a beautiful, razor sharp 4K picture that is quite remarkable for its price of $2,499.
The Big 4K Question
The Optoma UHD65 uses the new 4K DLP chip which puts 3840x2160 discrete pixels on the screen. However the chip itself has 2716x1528 micro-mirrors and pixel-shifting technology is used to achieve the result on screen. The HUGE question is whether this method of achieving a 4K picture can match the image detail of fully native 4K chips.
To answer this, we set up our UHD65 side by side with the Sony VPL-VW365ES, a native 4K projector that retails for $9,999.
Now of course such a test is hugely problematic from the outset -- there is no way to isolate the imaging precision of the chips themselves from other factors such as the optical precision of the lenses, very subtle chip misalignment in the 3-chip engine, ANSI contrast variances not related to the chips themselves but other factors in light engine design, or other video processing features that would affect perceived image acuity. What we can do is set them side by side and note the differences in picture characteristics without making too many initial assumptions about what is causing them.
With those caveats in mind, we fired up our trusty OPPO UDP-203 4K Blu-ray player and the Scarlett Johannson movie LUCY in 4K UltraHD, and we were able to see side by side how these two projectors interpret the same 4K source.
Initially the VW365ES appeared to have a subtle advantage in image sharpness. However, the UHD65 has a factory default on its Sharpness control of 8 on a scale of 1 to 15. Once that slider is moved to 11, the resolution of extreme detail such as hair and subtle skin textures appeared identical on both projectors. A subsequent evaluation of Sharpness test patterns revealed no objectionable artifacts related to the boost in sharpness processing.
Based on our first independent look at a native 4K projector against a single chip 4K DLP projector, there is no question that the 4K DLP chip is capable of producing a 4K video image that is the visual equivalent in image detail of a native 4K chipset. Whether it can produce a visually equivalent image with complex stationary 4K graphics is a separate question that we have not had time to look at, and that test would be more stringent.
to manual zoom slider and lens shift control
This is not to say that the UHD65 and the VW365ES are equivalent projectors -- not at all. Image resolution is only one factor in overall image quality. The VW365ES is brighter, has higher ANSI contrast, better image depth and uniformity, and a variety of other features. It produces the higher quality picture overall, but it should for 4x the price. The remarkable aspect of the story is that the Optoma UHD65 produces an impressive 4K picture and stands its ground remarkably well against the Sony VW365ES for $2,499.
After comparing the UHD65's image sharpness to the Sony VW365ES, we then set it up against the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB. The 5040UB uses a similar pixel shift technology to enhance the image resolution of its native 1080p 3LCD chips. Though the 5040UB produces a picture that is much higher in apparent resolution than a standard 1080p projector, the UHD65 clearly exceeds the sharpness and 4K image detail of the 5040UB when they are placed side by side with a 4K source signal. There should be no surprise here since the 4K DLP chip has double the number of mirrors on the device that the 3LCD chips have. Moreover, the pixel shifting on the 3LCD 1080p devices result in partial overlay of one pixel upon another, whereas the shift technology on the DLP chip, though it overlays, is able to define a second discrete pixel.
Now ... TWO important qualifiers. First, the image detail advantage of the UHD65 over the 5040UB exists ONLY with a native 4K UHD source. Once you switch to a standard 1080p input, these two projectors look identical in image sharpness. And this is no surprise. The UHD65 is able to display image detail that exists in a 4K signal that the 5040UB cannot, but it cannot create 4K detail that is not there. So with 1080p signals both projectors are upscaling 1920x1080 information and practically speaking they end up with the same results (detail wise).
Second, once again we must qualify the observation--we are comparing image sharpness and detail resolution only, not all components of image quality. And in point of fact, the 5040UB has similar advantages to the VW65ES--it is brighter than the UHD65, it has higher ANSI contrast, better image three-dimensionality and uniformity. So we would not say one is "better" than the other. They each have competitive advantages over the other, and it depends on what is most important to you. If you want incrementally higher contrast, the 5040UB will give you that. If you want maximum image detail from your 4K UltraHD Blu-rays, the Optoma UHD65 is the clear choice.
Frame Interpolation -- Do you need it?
A key difference between the two projectors released today is that the UHD65 has Optoma's PureMotion processing, commonly known as frame interpolation, while the UHD60 does not. This is designed to smooth rapid motion, reduce motion artifacts, and reduce or eliminate the highly annoying judder commonly seen most frequently in camera panning sequences. Does it work, and do you need it?
We tested the UHD65's PureMotion processing with 1080p/24, 1080p/60, and 2160p/24 inputs. Frankly, this feature is outstanding, perhaps the most impressive frame interpolation processing we've seen yet. In most FI systems we see a trade-off between motion smoothing and judder reduction on the one hand, and the appearance of the digital video effect on the other. The trick in most FI implementations is to choose the Low setting in order to reduce some of the motion artifacts without having the processing be so aggressive as to create the hyper-real "soap opera" look.
The UHD65 gives you three option on PureMotion -- 1, 2, and 3, with three being the most aggressive. The fascinating thing about the UHD65 is that even the lowest setting is extremely robust, virtually eliminating judder while introducing either no digital video effect at all, or in some cases just a very slight hint of it that most people would not notice or object to. To the contrary, with 1080p sources the effect tends to impart a slight sharpening to the picture that most viewers would consider beneficial.
Furthermore, in addition to the digital video effect most people don't want, most FI systems tend to introduce other undesirable motion artifacts in certain situations. On the UHD65, when studying clips in which those artifacts should show up, they don't. This PureMotion processing is remarkably clean.
Oddly enough, the lowest setting, PureMotion 1, is so potent in eliminating motion artifacts and judder that there is little left for the more aggressive settings, 2 and 3, to do. When switching to 2 or 3, one does not see much additional improvement in smoothness on the one hand, or strangely, not much additional hint of soap opera effect on the other.
The bottom line is that the PureMotion frame interpolation system on the UHD65 performs surprisingly well. In our view the extra $500 you pay for the UHD65 is worth it just for the PureMotion processing alone. We would consider the richer color from the RGBRGB color wheel and the (possibly) incrementally higher contrast of the UHD65 over the UHD60 additional bonuses.
These are preliminary readings based on our pre-production test sample. They will be updated once we have the chance to review a production model.
Brightness. The UHD65 is rated at 2200 ANSI lumens. We measured the maximum output of our test sample at 2024 lumens in Bright mode, which is a decidedly green-pushed color mode, not ideal for optimum video display. Nevertheless, all of the better calibrated modes for video and game display are of ample brightness for home theater:
Eco mode. Eco mode reduces brightest by 31% from Bright mode and extends anticipated lamp life from 4000 to 10,000 hours.
Zoom lens effect. The projector is at its brightest when the 1.6x zoom lens is set to its widest angle position (largest image for any given throw distance). When set to its longest throw telephoto position, lumen output is curtailed by 28%. This is in line with expectations for most 1.6x zoom lenses.
Brightness uniformity. Depending on the zoom lens position uniformity averages around 70% with the brightest portion of the image in the center to lower center of the screen. While 70% uniformity is lower than ideal, in our experience it is typical of most popular lower priced DLP home theater projectors. On a 100 IRE white pattern the image fades somewhat on the left and right edges. With active video on the screen the edge fading will not be noticed by the viewer since the video breaks up the image and the eye is focused on the action in the middle 80% of the screen anyway. But it is visible on a solid color image such as a test pattern.
Fan noise. Fan noise is low in volume and moderate in pitch. Overall it is unobtrusive. It is quieter than most low priced home theater projectors, but not as stone quiet as the very best in this regard. We suspect very few users will have any problem with it.
Input lag. The input lag measured 82 ms with PureMotion (frame interpolation) set to OFF, and 154 ms with Pure Motion ON.
Rainbow artifacts. Since this is a single-chip DLP light engine, rainbow artifacts will occur on occasion. In our many hours of viewing so far, they are few and far between, causing no distractions of consequence.
On-board Audio. Most advanced home theater projectors do not have speakers on-board because manufacturers assume you will have independent surround sound. The UHD65 does have audio on board, and it is surprisingly good for what it is. It is not as tinny and thin as the vast majority of projector speakers are. It obviously does not have the bass depth or power of a good sound system, but it is clear, clean, and distortion free all the way up to its maximum of 10. It is not overly loud, but it will give you very decent sound track reproduction if you happened to need it.
3D. There is no 3D capability on these models.
Throw range.According to our measurements on the test sample, the UHD65 has a 1.56x zoom lens with a throw ratio of 1.42 - 2.22, which will let you hit a 120" diagonal 16:9 screen from a distance of about 12.3 to 19.2 feet.
Lens Shift and Vertical Offset. This projector has a limited vertical lens shift range, equal to about 18% of the picture height, and no horizontal lens shift. In addition, there is a built-in vertical offset, or fixed projection angle. With the lens shift at its lowest setting the entire image is above the centerline of the lens, and the centerline intersects the bottom edge of the image. From this position, using the manual lens shift, the bottom edge of a 120" diagonal image can be raised a maximum of 10.75 inches. Conversely if you ceiling mount the projector you can lower the top edge of a 120" image up to 10.75 inches below the centerline of the lens.
There is no keystone adjustment on this projector. So you may not tilt the projector to hit a screen, planning to square it up with keystone.
With the built-in vertical offset, no significant vertical lens shift range and no keystone, mounting the projector on a rear shelf or rack behind the seats will in most cases be impossible to manage. In theory you could place it on a coffee table or low table between the seats, but given its minimum throw distance, this may mean you are sitting farther back from the picture than many home theater fans would prefer.
So the bottom line is that most users of this projector will want to ceiling mount it above and behind the seating area. As always, do some planning and get your throw distance and offset geometry squared away before hanging the screen and drilling holes for the ceiling mount.
Our initial experience with the Optoma UHD65 pre-production sample is quite satisfying. It required professional calibration to get the best performance from it, but once that is done the extreme image detail and overall picture quality with 4K source material is outstanding for the money. It has ample brightness for dark room home theater use. It shows very good but not leading edge contrast and black levels, but certainly the contrast and black levels are sufficient to produce a balanced and thoroughly engaging video image.
The frame interpolation system is simply outstanding, and with PureMotion 1 active it delivers an amazingly smooth, stable picture that is virtually free of annoying side effects. In our view the PureMotion processing is a substantial advantage of the UHD65 over the UHD60, and easily worth the extra money.
We look forward to seeing a final production unit, and we will write a formal review once we've had time to put it through its paces. But from what we've seen so far it looks like the Optoma UHD65 is going to rock the projector world with its price/performance proposition. There is simply no such thing as a high precision projector with an extreme detail 4K video image anywhere near its price. If you want to see ALL of the detail in your 4K UHD Blu-rays or other 4K sources on a very large home theater screen, the Optoma UHD65 is an exciting new way to do it without breaking the bank.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma UHD65 projector page.