Projector Reviews

Optoma CinemaX P1 Laser TV Review – Picture Quality 1

Optoma P1 4K UHD Laser TV Review – Picture Quality: Right Out of the Box Picture Quality, Skin Tones, Black Levels, and Dark Shadow Detail

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

The P1 offers multiple preset modes. Per Jason’s pre-calibration look and my viewing, Cinema is the best out of the box mode for color, with a proper color temp around 6500K. There are multiple modes. Cinema and Reference, the two most accurate (Reference is cooler), so from an out of the box standpoint, if you don’t need more lumens, Reference is your second choice, and many may like it better on sports viewing for its additional coolness (slightly more blue, less red).

If you do need near max brightness to cut through ambient light, then the best choices for non-HDR content are Bright – which is very cool blue, but the brightest mode (approaching 2000 lumens), HDR Sim, which puts more pop in the image, but may not look great for some things. Still color is more accurate, and cooler than the Bright mode. Game mode, which is intended for video games, is almost as bright, and I think it has the best color of the bright modes. Of course there’s a programmable User mode too.

HDR options are a different story. There really is only one setting for HDR content – or, rather two – one for HDR10 – the mainstream HDR solution, and the other for HLG (hybrid log-gamma) the HDR more designed for broadcast and streaming (but there’s still very little content streaming in HDR.) In this case, however, the HLG at this time only works with the media player. Whether additional HLG functionality will be added, I do not know. Optoma did say they are working with HLG in their R&D.

HDR has five presets, including Film which was the most accurate, but all are about equally bright. Count Film the best choice if you have your room fully darkened, for a good movie. Some of the others have more punch.

Ultimately though, Jason calibrated HDR using the Film preset because as he put it, it has the best color, closest to achieving P3 color.

Penn State - old game, looks just great!

Here’s another pre-calibration image – this time sports. To me this looks pretty darn good (but still one might want it a touch warmer).

The bottom line on out of the box performance of the Optoma CinemaX P1 laser TV: Both HDR and SDR content looks rather good right out of the box. In terms of other Laser TVs, the “out of the box” color and overall picture performance is pretty good, in line, with the LG HU85LA Laser TV I reviewed late last year.

The best color of the Optoma, though, without adjusting, is definitely more accurate, and balanced than either my recent VAVA review or the HiSense that I reviewed in late 2018. (Phil is starting a review on a newer Dual Laser HiSense Laser TV, as I finish this review).

Skin Tones

Skin tones start out very good in both SDR and HDR, and get better with calibration.  Overall, I think, post-calibration, SDR is especially good looking post calibration, but I have no issue with either.  I will say that Sony’s $4999 VS295ES – a traditional home theater projector – would be a great example of great skin tones, accurate, and natural. That would be my idea of the best around anywhere near the price.

The Optoma comes reasonably close to the Sony.  I can live with it certainly, in this regard.  I would say that a couple of projectors like the Epson UBs will calibrate even more precisely for even more precise rendering of color, plus the ability to do almost all of P3 color, while the P1 only gets about half way from REC 709 – the traditional color standard, and the superior color range of P3 color, that is the goal today.  That wider color may help with the better skin tones, but let’s not get too carried away.

Bottom line on skin tones: Overall good before calibration and definitely better with Jason’s settings! Sure, many of you will be satisfied with the color accuracy of the projector without adjustment, but, it can look a bit better. You won’t know until you try. Overall, the skin tones don’t seem quite as natural as the best. Sony comes to mind, but they are still fine for us moderately critical folks!

The Black Panther - 4K HDR, Film preset

P1 Laser TV - Black Levels

Black Level performance is really about the same as of most DLP projectors. There’s little difference between the native contrast of the different DLP chips used in today’s projectors,

The P1 offers up Dynamic Black which should help but I found it to not be smooth so I abandoned using Dynamic Black.

Unless a projector has a dynamic iris (none yet on UST home projectors), don’t expect great black levels. With a laser engine, the laser dims fast enough to “emulate” a good dynamic iris. That’s what I was hoping Dynamic Black would deliver. I was happier with it off.

Overall, I think its black levels were a definitely better than entry level (lamp based) DLPs. That seems to be the case with at least a few laser projectors we’ve reviewed. Still, the P1 really isn’t a match for an Epson UB, or any of the JVC LCoS projectors which are price competitive, but not UST designs.

Of course, those are completely different projectors in terms of placement. Epson is bringing out serious competition in their LS500. It does have a dynamic iris, but they are not putting their UB panels in it. DLP chips have better native contrast than the regular 3LCD ones, so it takes the dynamic iris to have approximate parity with the DLPs like this one.

I realize all these manufacturers are thinking “this is for the living room, not the theater.” True enough but folks can still turn out the lights at night.

Overall the P1 looked fine on the dark scenes I like from Passengers in HDR. I thought it did even better on the Bond night train scene that I use for all my home projector reviews, in good old SDR, as you can see it in the photo player with comparisons to other projectors.

120” diagonal image from a Laser TV, at night, in my living room! Truly awesome!

Bottom Line on Optoma’s P1 projectors black levels: As a family projector in a living room type world, the P1 is perfectly acceptable for most. Hardcore enthusiasts, though with more perfect rooms may want better. There’s a $24,999 Sony (the VZ1000ES) that effectively uses laser dimming and is far better than this projector, the LG, or any of the others. Of course, Sony is merely seven times the price, and it is also native 4K!

Dark Shadow Detail

Very good. Overall the P1 found virtually of the dark detail, when the Brightness setting is set up correctly. I did find a slight amount crushing of near whites however, that I couldn’t quite get rid of. Also of note, if the focus isn’t right on, you get some blooming around bright objects that can cost detail in that very immediate area.


bicycle image on P1
P1 4K UHD image from iPhone video at CES. Moderate to low ambient light. SI Black Diamond ALR screen

Shadow Detail is very good. Cranking up (badly overexposing scenes like the Bond night train scene, and the space wheel scene from Passengers), reveals virtually everything, just above black.

Queen with Adam Lambert, 1080i, cable, SDR

The bottom line on Dark Shadow Detail: Definitely very good, but could be even better. Definitely acceptable to just about everyone. I consider a very slight loss in the darkest detail to be less important than differences in black levels.

From the Greatest Showman 4K HDR

Next page: Handling of 4K HDR content on Movies, 1080p Movies, Sports, and HDTV viewing with ambient light present…