Optoma UHD65 DLP Projector Reviewed

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Optoma UHD65 DLP Projector Reviewed

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2017 is the year that DLP front-projection fans got in on the 4K action. I recently reviewed the $8,999 BenQ HT8050, the first DLP projector on the market to use Texas Instruments' 4K DLP chip. Optoma was second to market with its new UHD60 and UHD65 DLP projectors, which carry much lower price points than the BenQ--$1,999 and $2,499, respectively. They also carry a more comprehensive list of features. Just a few weeks ago, Optoma added a third model to the 4K line: the new UHZ65 ($4,499) has the same specs as the UHD60 but uses a laser light source instead of a bulb.

Both the UHD60 and UHD65 are single-chip DLP projectors with an RGBRGB color wheel. Both will accept a full 4K/60p 4:4:4 input signal, and both support High Dynamic Range playback (HDR10) and the wider DCI-P3 color space. The main difference between them is that the UHD60 has a higher brightness rating of 3,000 lumens with a stated dynamic contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, while the UHD65 is rated at 2,200 lumens and a 1,200,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. The UHD65 is designed to deliver a better black level and thus is targeted more at the dedicated home theater market, so naturally that's the one I chose to review.

As I discussed in my review of the BenQ model, debate exists over whether or not these DLP projectors should be considered true 4K models or be grouped with the pixel-shifting (aka wobulation) designs from JVC and Epson. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. The digital micromirror device (or DMD) on the TI chip has a resolution of 2,716 by 1,528; there are a total of 4.15 million micromirrors on the chip. That's better than the basic 1,920 by 1,080 resolution at the heart of the pixel-shifters, but it's still half of the 8.3 million to get a 3,840 by 2,160 UHD resolution. However, as TI explains it, the DMD's fast switching speed allows each micromirror to display two pixels, resulting in the full UHD resolution on the screen. Is that true? We'll get to that answer in a moment.

In addition to its 4K-friendly features, the UHD65 also offers Optoma's PureMotion de-judder/motion-smoothing function, Dynamic Black technology to improve image contrast, and dual four-watt integrated speakers. TI's 4K chip does not support 3D, so that feature is absent here.

With those formalities out of the way, let's dig in and see what the UHD65 can really do.

The Hookup
The UHD65 is certainly a more substantial projector than recent budget Optoma models I've reviewed, such as the HD27; however, it lacks the size, heft, and build quality of higher-end models like the BenQ HT8050, JVC DLA-X970R, and Epson LS10000. It weighs just 16 pounds and has a glossy black finish. The only thing that really jumped out at me about the UHD65's appearance is the fact that this projector is wider (19.6 inches) than it is deep (13 inches); usually it's the other way around, but that's not a huge concern, especially if you plan to ceiling-mount it. The lens is located front and center, with a manual focus ring around it and a fan vent off to one side. The UHD65 uses a 240-watt bulb that's rated between 4,000 and 15,000 hours, depending on which lamp mode you use.

Optoma-uhd65-back.jpg

The connection panel is located on the back and includes two HDMI inputs, only one of which is full 18-Gbps HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 and MHL compatibility. The other is HDMI 1.4a. (Optoma has clearly marked the UHD-friendly input.) You also get a VGA input, but no analog component/composite inputs--which is a common omission in these new 4K-friendly models. A rare perk found on this projector is an optical digital audio output, allowing you to pass the multichannel audio signal being input through HDMI out to a compatible audio system; you also get a 3.5mm analog input and output. For control, you get RS-232 and LAN ports, plus a 12-volt trigger. The Type A USB port does not support media playback but can supply power to a connected peripheral like a wireless HDMI receiver.

In terms of setup features, the UHD65 is better than your average budget projector but still a bit limited. You get 1.6x zoom and 15 percent vertical lens shift (but no horizontal shift), both of which are performed manually via dials that are hidden in a recessed chamber on the top side of the projector, under a pop-up panel. The 1.6x zoom was high enough to allow me to still place the projector in my usual equipment rack at the back of my room, located 12 feet away from my 100-inch-diagonal Visual Apex drop-down screen. But the limited vertical lens shift forced me to set the UHD65 lower in the rack than I normally would, which created a viewing issue when I sat on the couch that resides right in front of the rack. Obviously this is less of a concern if you plan to ceiling-mount the projector. Keystone correction is available, and the projector cabinet does include four adjustable feet.

Optoma-UHD-dials.jpg

The UHD65 has seven picture modes: Cinema, Vivid, Game, Reference, Bright, User, and a new one called HDR. Advanced picture adjustments include six color-temperature presets and RGB gain/bias controls; a seven-point color management system with hue, saturation, and gain adjustments for each color (including white); seven gamma presets; five color gamut options; and the PureMotion control to engage frame interpolation and reduce film judder (you can choose between three levels). One common adjustment that's missing here is noise reduction. The UHD65 adds a new Dynamic Range menu option that lets you set HDR for Auto, Off, or SDR-to-HDR and choose between four HDR Effects (film, detail, standard, and bright).

The UHD65 doesn't have an auto iris that automatically adjusts itself to suit the content being displayed; instead, it relies on a feature called Dynamic Black that adjusts the brightness through the lamp rather than the iris. If you enable Dynamic Black (and I'll explain in the next section why you should), then you can't change the projector's lamp mode. If you disable it, then you can choose between Eco and Bright lamp options within each picture mode.

The aspect-ratio options are Auto, Native, 16:9, 4:3, SuperWide, and LBX (an anamorphic mode to accommodate the addition of an anamorphic lens and remove black bars from 2.35:1 films).

My sources for this review were an Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player and an Apple TV serving up Netflix and PlayStation Vue for TV content.

Performance
I always begin the formal evaluation process by measuring a display's various picture modes to see which is the closest to HD reference standards out of the box. In this case, the Reference and User modes (which are very similar to each other) had the best numbers out of the box, but honestly those numbers weren't all that great. The Reference mode's color accuracy was excellent; all six color points measured reasonably close to the Rec 709 HD standard, with red having the highest Delta Error at just 2.95 (any error under three is considered imperceptible to the human eye). However, the gray-scale numbers were sub-par: the maximum gray-scale Delta Error was up at 14.9, the RGB balance was pretty uneven, and the gamma was a very light 1.59.

To my eyes, though, the picture looked more accurate than those numbers were suggesting, so I suspected something was amiss. Now, my policy is to measure each mode exactly as it comes out of the box to get my "pre-calibration" numbers. In this case, the gamma was way off in all of the picture modes, and I noticed that Dynamic Black is turned on by default in all of the picture modes. I suspected that to be the culprit--that the shifting lamp brightness was causing problems for my Xrite I1Pro 2 meter. The simple act of turning off Dynamic Black in the Reference mode (which is something I would do to calibrate the display anyhow) took all of the measurement numbers from "not that great" to "very good." The gray-scale Delta Error fell to 4.3, the gamma was closer to 2.2, and all the spikes and dips in the RGB balance disappeared. This was more in line with what I saw with my own eyes as I watched TV and movies through the uncalibrated Reference mode: a generally neutral color temperature with natural-looking skintones, a solid black level, and color that was very rich and lush without seeming exaggerated.

I still chose to perform a calibration and in doing so was able to eke out an even more accurate image. At the end of the process, the maximum gray-scale Delta Error fell to just 1.71, the gamma averaged 2.34, and all six color points had a Delta Error under 1.5. In other words, the Optoma UHD65's Reference mode is a fantastic option for those who crave a highly accurate HD image.

Now let's talk about image brightness. As I mentioned in the opener, the UHD65 has a lower brightness rating (2,200 lumens) than its lower-priced brother, the UHD60 (3,000 lumens). Measurements revealed that this projector isn't quite as bright as other more expensive 4K-friendly models like the JVC DLA-X970R, Epson Pro Cinema 6040UB, and Sony VPL-VW650ES, at least in picture modes that are actually watchable. The Bright picture mode was indeed the brightest--measuring 56 ft-L in a 100-IRE full white field--but it's so inaccurate, it's not a realistic option. The Cinema and Vivid picture modes are the more viable choices in terms of accuracy, if you want a brighter mode for a room with some ambient light. They measured 44 and 47 ft-L, respectively. Of the two, I'd choose the Cinema mode, which delivers better color accuracy out of the box. In this mode, I was able to enjoy a decently saturated picture with daytime TV content with the room lights on, but really this projector isn't designed to deliver the high brightness offered by many home entertainment projectors.

What the UHD65 is designed to do is deliver a better black level, for a more theater-worthy presentation. And that's exactly what it does ... as long as the Dynamic Black function is enabled. I pitted the Optoma head to head against my reference Sony VPL-VW350ES native 4K projector and ran through my standard arsenal of black-level demos scenes from The Bourne Supremacy, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Flags of Our Fathers, and Gravity. When Dynamic Black was tuned off, the UHD65 wasn't competitive with the Sony, serving up a mediocre black level and rendering a rather dull, flat image. With Dynamic Black enabled, the Optoma actually bested the Sony (slightly) in black level and contrast. In Gravity, the blacks of space looked deeper while the stars still shone brightly. Based on memory and my notes, I wouldn't say that this Optoma would beat a JVC D-ILA projector (still the reigning champ in black level and image contrast) or one of Epson's UB models in black-level performance, but I was very impressed with what I saw from a $2,500 projector. Even a Thursday night college football game through PlayStation Vue was a pleasure to watch; I was smitten with just how lush, rich, and detailed the picture looked.

Speaking of detail, let's return to the question of whether or not we should consider the UHD65 to be a 4K projector. To get the answer, I used the same resolution test patterns that I used when evaluating the BenQ HT8050 (the Video Essentials UHD USB stick and an Ultra HD Blu-ray test/calibration disc provided by Samsung), and not surprisingly I got the same results. With the "full resolution" UHD horizontal and vertical line patterns on the Video Essentials stick, the UHD65 did pass the lines, but they were uneven in brightness and were less defined than they were through my native Sony 4K projector, where they looked crisp and precise. The pattern looked a bit like when you add overscan to the image, creating some roll-off in detail. This was true with both still JPEG patterns and HEVC video patterns. When I've tested pixel-shifting models from Epson and JVC, those 4K line patterns were completely blank because pixel-shifters are technically 1080p--so the UHD65 does pass more resolution than those models, but I'm reluctant to embrace it as full 4K. When I switched from line patterns to the precise 4K dot pattern on the Samsung disc, the UHD65 did not pass the individual black and white dots they way a native 4K display will.

Nevertheless, with real-world UHD content, I struggled to see a big difference in detail between the native 4K projector and this model on my 100-inch-diagonal screen. If my screen were larger, maybe I could, but with my setup, I was very pleased with the UHD65's detail level.

With HDR content, if the Dynamic Range menu option is set to Auto, the UHD65 will automatically kick into HDR mode on top of whatever picture mode you're already in. So you can choose any picture mode as a base starting point. Using my HD Fury Integral box to generate HDR patterns, I measured the brighter picture modes (Cinema, Vivid, and HDR) to see which one handled HDR signals most accurately. The Cinema mode, with HDR Effects set to Bright, proved to be the best choice. Obviously a projector can't get as bright as the new HDR TVs to take full advantage of HDR material's peak brightness. The UHD65 measured about 155 nits with a full white field in HDR mode. (The only other HDR-capable projector I've measured in HDR mode is the more expensive JVC DLA-X970R, which put out 179.6 nits.) The question is, how accurately does a projector render HDR content within its own brightness capabilities? In the Cinema HDR mode, the EOTF (aka the new gamma) tracked almost perfectly along the target, and the gray-scale Delta Error was right round the DE3 target. The color points are farther off the DCI-P3 targets than projectors like the JVC DLA-X970R and Epson 6040UB (which, admittedly, are more expensive).

I watched a variety of scenes from UHD Blu-ray discs like Sicario, The Revenant, Batman vs. Superman, Pacific Rim, and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and was pleased with the results I saw. This projector's inherently good contrast and detail allow HDR content to look rich and engaging, and bright elements (like the red lasers from Superman's eyes in Batman vs. Superman or the crackling fire against a night sky in The Revenant) had decent pop.

Click over to Page Two for Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...


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HTR Product Rating for Optoma UHD65 DLP Projector

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

5

Overall

4.5

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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