Best in Class – Value $2000 – $3500: Optoma UHD65

I really do like this Optoma UHD65. For openers, it is just slightly sharper, thanks to its native higher resolution, than the Epson HC5040UB that took top honors in this Class.  Hey, there’s nothing wrong with the Best Value award.

Optoma UHD65 Front
The Optoma UHD65 has a 2716 x 1528 x2 resolution, pixel shifting to get to that 8.3 million pixels.

The UHD65’s 2716 x 1528 x2 resolution – as a pixel shifter that can put 8.3 million overlapping pixels on the screen, it does a little bit better than that Epson’s 1920 x 1080 x2 resolution which puts up half that – 4.15 million overlapping pixels. The difference in sharpness is modest (just as the true 4K Sony projectors are about as much sharper than this Optoma, as it is to the Epson). The Optoma, of course, is more than just 4K UHD sharpness from a single chip DLP.

Optoma UHD65 Overview

The UHD65 has good placement flexibility with a 1.6:1 zoom and modest vertical lens shift. Good, but not great, but to some of you, more important is that the lens functions are manual, so there is no Lens Memory, which means your choice in screens is limited to a typical 16:9 aspect ratio, rather than having the option (like I did) to go with a wide screen so that my movies, are the largest possible (but smaller HDTV).

Overall performance on 1080 content, including color, is fine.

When it comes to 4K, the UHD65 supports both HDR and BT.2020. Like all lamp-based projectors I’ve reviewed to date, none can achieve the full BT.2020, nor can they even fully achieve P3 (call that a subset). That said, the Optoma does a very good job tackling the expanded color space, yet interestingly, doesn’t do quite as well as the Epson 5040UB which gets the Best Performance award in this Class.

While all projectors compromise on the HDR, Optoma does produce a brighter overall image than most, with more brightness in the upper ranges (above 50 IRE). That solves much of the problem of some projectors seeming too dim when running HDR, but the trade-off is it makes the image a bit less dynamic, a little less HDR-ish.

In that regard, 4K Sonys and Epson 1080p pixel shifters both have a darker look to their imagery, but one that seems to have a more dynamic look. Those both win out over the Optoma on dark scenes, such as those I like to shoot in Passengers. In fairness, when watching the 4K version of Star Trek, that expensive Sony still looks great, while the Epson comes off a little dim on some of the scenes on the Enterprise when there’s strong background lighting. Hey, trade-offs.

So far, though, nothing I’ve said really makes the Epson the Performance winner.

If only the Optoma had made a better effort at Black Level performance. That’s the one area where the Epson crushes it. Now, if you are a regular, you know that I’m a big black level kind of guy. As I like to say, on brighter scenes there’s little difference between good $1000 projectors and good $5000 projectors. When it comes to dark scenes, the difference is often something approaching a night and day difference, or rather, the difference between night and early dusk. That is a huge difference.

That was the decider for me.

Here’s a comparison image for black levels – Epson at the top, Optoma below:

HC5040UB 4K shuttle floorplan
This photo of the Bigalow Shuttle floor plan shows the black levels of the Epson HC5040UB – compare to the Optoma UHD65’s black levels below.
UHD65_1080p_shuttle_floorplan
This photo of the Bigalow Shuttle floor plan shows the black levels of the Optoma UHD65 – compare to the Epson HC5040UB’s black levels above.

 

Now, if you aren’t putting your projector in a room you can fully darken, you’ll still see the difference I’m talking about, but it will be less critical. I’m not talking moderately lit rooms for sports, but rather, low lighting.

The UHD65 has a very nice 3-year warranty (always a plus) and it does have one other advantage over the Epson and some other competitors, in that it is noticeably quieter at full power than the Epson although in lower power modes, they are more similar, and more than quiet enough.

The UHD65 calibrates well, although it does seem to crush just near whites, but just the slightest. Dark shadow detail is great.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately the UHD65 is a fine projector with a great image. Like all the others, HDR is a bit of a compromise. My personal preference would be something a little less bright in the upper ranges, but at least the UHD65 does HDR without much “work.” It took months to come up with settings for the competition, the Epson HC5040UB, to get it looking better than the Optoma in that regard. However, we provide those settings for all to use.

That’s the story. A great value, and I favor it over the UHD60 ($500 less), because it’s better!  Period! Against the Epson, the other winner, it’s your call: primarily, the Optoma has a slight sharpness advantage, vs the Epson’s far better black levels.

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