Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The Optoma GT5500 home entertainment projector stands out for its combination of ultra short throw, 3,500 lumen brightness, and low street price, at only $1,299. It's currently the least expensive full HD (1920x1080), 3D ultra short throw model on the market and one of the few meant specifically for home entertainment. It's also the only one designed with gaming in mind, which is reflected in a reasonably short lag time of 34 ms.
The ultra short throw is the most compelling attraction. It lets you place the projector inches from a wall-mounted screen and get a bigger image than any comparably priced HDTV. For an immersive gaming experience, the ultra short throw also lets you sit as close to the screen as you like without worrying about casting shadows. Even better, the 10.7 pound weight makes it a lot easier to move the GT5500 into place than a big-screen TV, while the position--immediately in front of the screen--makes it just as easy to connect.
The 3500-lumen brightness is more than enough to let the recommended maximum 100-inch image stand up to ambient light in a family room. Another benefit is that the 16-watt mono speaker delivers usable sound quality and sufficient volume to fill a small to mid-size room-you can use an external sound system but you don't need to.
The GT5500 offers six predefined picture modes. None are customizable. Change any setting, and the modified version becomes the one new User mode, overwriting the previous User mode setting. As with many projectors, the Bright mode has an obvious green bias and a tendency for some colors to be dark and dull. It also shows tints at most gray levels between black and white. The same is true to a lesser extent with Blackboard mode, which is the second-brightest choice.
However, the other four presets all deliver much better color quality than Bright or Blackboard mode, although some colors are a touch darker and duller than they should be in all modes but sRGB. Three of the four also show fully neutral grays at all levels from black to white, with Movie mode doing almost as well, except for a slight yellow-green tint in the brightest shades.
Even ignoring the two brightest modes, color quality overall is just a hair better for color graphics and games than for photorealistic images, where you're dealing with memory colors like grass and sky along more subtle shading, as with skin tones. I saw a hint of posterization in faces in one particularly demanding clip, for example. Even with video, however, colors and gradations are well within an acceptable range.
The GT5500 also handles most other video quality issues well. It did a good job holding both shadow and highlight details, for example. I saw a touch more noise than typical, but I saw it only in clips that tend to cause the problem, and it wasn't obvious enough for most people to find annoying.
Rainbow artifacts are not much of a problem on the GT5500. If you are particularly sensitive to DLP rainbows, you'll notice them rarely enough with color content that it's hard to believe anyone would be bothered by them. They show more often with black and white video, but that's true of many single chip DLP projectors. Keep in mind that one important advantage of the single-chip DLP design is that it eliminates any possibility of chip misalignment, which is a potential issue for all three-chip light engines.
3D Video. The GT5500 supports both DLP-Link and Vesa RF glasses for 3D, although the RF glasses require Optoma's $49 optional RF emitter. As with most 3D projectors, the image quality is essentially the same as for 2D for those attributes that both 2D and 3D share. In addition, the projector handles 3D-specific issues well. I didn't see any crosstalk in my tests and saw barely a hint of 3D-related motion artifacts. Like many projectors, the GT5500 offers only one predefined 3D mode. As a pleasant surprise, the 3D picture is brighter than expected, although still dimmer than the 2D modes.
Data Presentations. When using the GT5500 for data and graphic presentations, colors are vibrant and well saturated in all picture modes except the two brightest ones. These have noticeably dull, dark color--which is due to the amplifying of white brightness over color brightness to achieve the brightest possible picture with word processing documents, spreadsheets, and other data images with white backgrounds. More important for many presentations, the image holds detail well. Black text on white, for example, was highly readable at 5.0 points in my tests. White text on black was crisp and readable even at 4.5 points.
Brightness. Because this is a home entertainment projector, it makes most sense to report the results with HDMI in the chart below. However the measured brightness is generally higher with a VGA connection, and is as much as 45% higher in Movie mode. Blackboard is about the same as HDMI and Bright mode is only a little brighter with VGA, at a measured 3558 lumens.
ANSI Lumens with HDMI input
Video Optimized Lumens. Our pick for Video Optimized Lumens depends on what you're watching. With one movie, we saw the best color quality when using Vivid mode with no adjustments. With another, the better choice was Movie mode with no adjustments. The two are close enough in brightness that you might want to pick an image size based on the lower brightness Movie mode, and switch between them as needed, possibly adjusting the ambient light in the room as well. At about 1100 lumens, Movie mode is bright enough for a roughly 95" diagonal, 16:9 image in moderate ambient light. Vivid mode boosts the brightness to 1250 lumens, making it bright enough for up to a 100" image with the same ambient light.
Presentation Optimized Lumens. For presentations, the aptly named Presentation mode offers the best balance of eye catching color and brightness, at about 1680 lumens with an HDMI connection or 2120 lumens with VGA. With either connection, the brightness level is high enough for the recommended maximum 100" diagonal image in moderate ambient light.
Brightness uniformity. The measured 51% brightness uniformity is low even for an ultra short throw projector. Using a solid white or light color image, it's easy to see a bright wide center swath covering about 80% of the screen width compared with dimmer areas--of roughly 10% of the image width-¬-on either side.
The good news is that most people accommodate to this level of difference fairly quickly and become unaware of it. It also helps that the drop off is on either side, while most images tend to focus your attention on the 80% of the screen where the brightness is more uniform.
Color brightness. The GT5500's color brightness is a reasonably solid 62% to 72% for Vivid, Movie, and sRGB modes, which explains why these modes offer brighter, more vivid color than the brighter modes. In Bright mode, color brightness is 19% of white, and Blackboard mode is 32% of white, which is consistent with some colors being dark and dull in those modes. Presentation at 45% strikes a balance between the brightest and most color optimized modes.
Fan noise. Optoma rates the noise level at a quiet 28 dB, but in Eco mode only. Bright mode is a bit louder. The noise quality for both is a steady whooshing that, for me at least, isn't intrusive even in quiet scenes when watching a movie. If fan noise is one of your pet peeves, you might feel otherwise, but with the projector right at the screen, you won't hear it from typical seating distances except during unusually quiet moments.
For altitudes of 5000 feet and above, high-altitude mode is easily audible from 40 feet away even in Eco lamp mode, with Bright mode significantly louder. If you have to use High Altitude mode, you'll want to stay with Eco mode.
Input lag was 34 ms in all modes.
Lamp life. Optoma rates the lamp at 3000 hours in Bright lamp mode, 5,000 hours in Eco or Dynamic mode, and 6,500 hours in Eco+ mode. (Dynamic mode adjusts lamp power based on the brightness of the image. Eco+ mode lowers lamp brightness when the image doesn't change for an extended period.) Lamp replacements are $249.
Warranty. The price includes a one-year warranty for parts and labor, including the lamp.
At 10.2 pounds and 4.7" x 15.2" x 12.2" (HWD), the GT5500 is light and small enough to move from room to room. As with any ultra short throw model, however, getting the image perfectly squared off is tricky enough that you're best advised to install it permanently. The ultra short throw allows installation in a wall mount above the screen, but the more convenient choice is to place it on a flat surface just below and in front of the screen.
Like most ultra short throw models, the GT5500 uses a mirror as the final element in its lensing system, with the image emerging from a window near the back of the projector. Throw distance is measured from the window.
For the recommended 80" to 100" image, the throw distance is roughly 18" to 22", with the front of the projector about 8.5" to 12.5 inches from the screen. You can also use a slightly larger image, but that tends to create geometric distortion and focus issues.
With the GT5500 on a table, the window near the back is in a notch that dips about 2" lower than the top surface. The offset shifts the image above the unit, so the bottom of the image is roughly 19% of the image height above the window. For a 100" image, that puts the bottom edge about 9" higher than the window or 7" higher than the top of the projector.
As with any projector that depends on a standard lamp, keep in mind when installing the GT5500 that it will likely drop by about 25% in brightness over the first 500 hours of use, followed by a continued, slower brightness loss after that.
The easy way to compensate for the decline is to initially set the projector up so its low lamp mode will be bright enough for the image size and ambient light level, then switch to the Bright mode as the lamp ages. Thanks to the GT5500 offering several predefined modes with good color quality, however, you might also consider starting with one of the lower-brightness predefined color modes, then switching to brighter modes as needed.
Maximum image size. If you want an image larger than 100", you'll have to look elsewhere.
Rainbow artifacts. If you watch a lot of black-and-white films or video, you may find rainbow artifacts bothersome if you see them easily.
Missing features. The GT5500 lacks some features you might expect on a home entertainment projector, most notably frame interpolation and support for Rec. 709.
Only one custom setting. With only one User mode, which is overwritten every time you make a change to a predefined mode, you're limited to storing only one custom setting.
The $1299 Optoma GT5500 is the least expensive ultra short throw projector on the market that can deliver a full HD (1080p), 100" image bright enough to stand up to the ambient light in a typical family room. For movies and TV, it delivers HD resolution, vibrant color, and a bright, 100" image. And the ultra short throw eliminates any need for ceiling mounts or for snaking cables through walls and ceilings, which makes the GT5500 as easy to install as an HDTV. Gamers will also appreciate the fast lag time.
All this makes the GT5500 easy recommend as the only projector at any price at this writing that combines 1080p resolution, full 3D support, 3500 lumens of brightness, a 34 ms lag time, and the setup convenience of an ultra short throw.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma GT5500 projector page.