Optoma CinemaX P1 Laser TV Review – Special Features

Optoma CinemaX P1 Laser TV – Special Features: Smart Projector/Android, 4K UHD, Ultra-Short-Throw Design – Placement Related, NuForce Audio System, Bluetooth Audio

A Smart Projector – with Android OS, and Apps, Alexa and Google Voice Control

The Optoma P1 is typically smart – typically because we’re seeing most “smart” projectors using the Android operating system. LG, for one, goes it alone, and offers Alexa, etc. on their more expensive laser TV – the HU85LA. That’s the smartest I’ve seen so far. That’s OK, I find the Android operating system does well enough.

IFTTT support means that the DIY types and the folks buying from an AV dealer and getting a custom install, can have lots of additional smart abilities added via IFTTT. That could be anything from turning off lights, to lower shades, or starting a smart popcorn machine.

When it comes to smarts – I do wish Optoma had gone with a bigger remote. I like that the remotes of some others, like the LG and the VAVA, have microphones for voice control, and have lots of buttons such as one button for Netflix, one for Amazon… It’s the usual trade-off between “old school” remotes with lots of buttons and shortcuts, and “new school” which is about limited control and using smart menus.

Overall, it seems to be a good Android implementation. Still, it is no match for the capabilities of the much more expensive LG, but comparable to the close competition. Keep in mind that there are other more expensive laser TVs that also use Android’s operating system, and have similar abilities to the CinemaX P1.

One of the P1's sets of menus, this provides access to sources, settings and smarts

Laser Light Engine

20,000 hours at full power, 30,000 in Eco! Those are good numbers for a laser – fairly typical, although we see a few claiming a little less (lowest rating from a competitor has been 20,000 in Eco)

The P1 uses a traditional single blue laser, and combines that with a color wheel, with phosphors that the other colors. There are other laser configurations. Most Epson projectors use two blue lasers, (and phosphors, to create the other primaries..) The LG HU85LA, which is another UST Laser TV, uses a 3 laser system, and no light wheel. The VAVA Laser TV – also uses a single blue laser and phosphors.

laser engine P1
Looking down at the light from the laser engine. The P1 detects faces and dims the laser light to protect us.

Lasers, whether 1, 2, or 3, offer really big advantages over lamp-based projectors, even beyond the obvious – having to spend typically a couple of hundred dollars for a new lamp, every couple/ years, vs. a decade… Also significant for those who want the best picture – with laser engines, color shifts over years, not months, and the lasers will dim (about 50%), over 25,000 hours, not over 2500 to 5000 hours as with lamps.

Don’t worry about the 1,2, or 3 lasers, what counts is the finished product. A great single-engine laser could easily best a poorly designed dual laser… You get the idea.

4K UHD

Many of you already know what 4K UHD is, but let me lay it out again for those relatively new to 4K UHD projectors. 4K UHD is a standard for displaying 4K content. The way we talk about resolution these days, there are 5 types of “resolution” that can handle 4K, that is be “4K capable.”

The Optoma CinemaX P1 Laser TV like the vast majority of 4K capable projectors isn’t native 4K – the highest resolution. Native has the smallest pixels. All else being equal the smaller the pixels the more detail. But native 4K still starts at $4999.99 list as of this review.

· Native: use chips or panels with 3840×2160 discreet pixels no pixel shifting, or 4096×2160, or 4096×2400 (which is the highest of the native 4K projectors) start at $4999.99

There are now dozens of 4K capable projectors under that price:

· Pixel shifting projectors using 2716×1528 pixels. (the next highest res). These use pixel shifting – firing each pixel twice, those pixels are 2x the size of native, but by overlapping them we can put in more detail that without that pixel shifting. Example – LG HU85LA UST Laser TV

· The Optoma P1 is in this class: (as are the vast majority of 4K UHD projectors). Pixel shifting projectors using 1920×1080 pixels, but firing 4 total times while overlapping. These pixels are 2x the area that of the pixel shifters above, so lower in detail. The least expensive of these (not laser, or UST) are about $1000 street price.

· Pixel shifters that are 1920×1080 but only pixel shift twice. Same sized pixels as the one immediately above, but by firing them only twice overlapping, in theory, a touch less detail. (this is what you normally find with 3LCD and LCoS projectors). These are not 4K UHD, just 4K capable, using pixel shifting.

· 1080p projectors without pixel shifting. Some can now read 4K content and downscale to 1080p. These projectors (few) offer the advantage of being a bit more future proof than 1080p projectors without any 4K capabilities (the vast majority of them)

The thing is – image processing plays a big role. If you have ever cranked up sharpness on a display, things seem to have more contrast, but you also lose detail. You may perceive it as sharper, not being aware you are losing some detail, which is, perhaps what counts most. As I’ve said in plenty of reviews, you can take, for example, the 1920x1080x2 pixel shifters, or those with x2 and make them seem sharper than a good native player. But there are always trade-offs. A lot of such processing for perceived sharpness typically adds a touch of hardness to the picture. (Consider that perceived slight hardness as a form of noise.)

Lucy's eyes
The P1 is very nicely sharp (Sharpness setting at 5 (default is 10, but "slightly over the top)."

With the P1, like other UST’s the unusual optics never seem to be quite as clear seeming as high-quality optics on longer through projectors. To me, unless the focus is almost perfect across the whole screen (hard for even longer throw projectors), the P1 and other UST’s seem to have a touch of a ghost (think looking closely into most mirrors), but less noticeable. That said, the experience is still a sharp one. Because of the close throw, however, unless you manage a perfect alignment of the projector to screen.

Ultra-Short-Throw Design – Placement Related

One thing that really surprised me about the Optoma P1, is that one of its placement specs has a lot of range error. That is, let’s take my setup, which is hitting a 120” screen. The manual states that the default height is 17.4” that is, the feet of the projector will be 17.4” below the bottom of the screen surface.

OK, that’s fairly typical of these UST projectors/laser TVs, except that the manual states that there is a variation from projector to projector due to the optics. Now with normal throw projectors, I’ve never heard of that. Sure there’s probably some variation, but out of being 10 feet back, maybe a fraction of an inch.

The P1, however, indicates that the actual measurement could be anywhere from 404mm which is 15.9 inches, to 531 mm, which is 20.9 inches! That’s -1.5 to +3.5 inches!

Looking at my setup, you can see that the ceiling is lower in the cutout for the entertainment center where my screen is. With my current table, the projector sits too high. For me to fill the full 120”, I would need the projector placed about 4 inches lower, or my screen would have to be higher (except the low ceiling prevents that. This P1 seems, however, to be pretty close to the default.

This can pose a challenge for a tight placement as I have. My only solution is to get a lower table for the projector.

The point is, if you have a tight installation, if these Optoma CinemaX P1’s vary by as much as they say, which for a 120” screen is a full five inches of height, then the variation from unit to unit could be a problem. For most folks, however, they will have a nice, normal wall to mount their screen on. Bottom line, RE: placement – be aware of the height variation possibilities.

Audio: NUForce – Brings Sound Bar Quality to your Laser TV

The P1 has “big sound!” One part of Optoma the company, is NuForce, a well known and highly respected company, known for soundbars, especially for gamers. Audio has never been a big thing with home theater projectors, in part because they have no speakers.

sound bar is built in
The built in NuForce soundbar is isolated from the light engine so vibrations don't affect the image. Freq. Range: 90hz - 20,000hz

Typically, only the lower cost “home entertainment” projectors (including gaming projectors) would have sound. Basically few regular projectors over $2000 have any speakers on board. If you have decided to dedicate a room to your home theater, and buy a high quality projector, well then you want a sound system to match, and that’s not a couple of 5 watt speakers dumped into a small projector box. That’s why serious home theater, whether $2500 or $25K tend to have no built in sound.

The exception are these Laser TVs. They are complete systems, in that all they technically need is a wall to shine the image, on, a source, and power.

With Laser TVs, it is the Laser TV itself that is likely your “control center” instead, say, of having an AV receiver.

As a result, that’s the main reason laser TVs all have sound systems built-in, since you aren’t expected to have an external receiver and speakers. The P1 is typical in that regard. (BTW when I say “built-in”, a sub-woofer or an external sound system can be hooked up to the P1.)

Think of the P1 as having a quality soundbar built-in, instead of some very basic sound. They aren’t the only folks, though. HiSense (we are currently also reviewing their Dual Laser laser TV), ships their Dual Laser with a subwoofer. They also take their sound seriously.

Even the VAVA we reviewed a couple of months ago (and the least expensive 4K capable laser TV we’ve reviewed), has a nice Harmon Kardon sound system built in. (I reviewed these two projectors in two different homes, not sure which has the better sound, but my best guess – the H/K sound is probably a touch tighter, more accurate, the P1’s NuForce, more room filling, warmer, fuller sound, with more “upper bass” and lower mid range. That’s my best guess.

The NuForce sound system has plenty of horsepower. Optoma claims 2×19 watts to drive the four speakers inside. Those consist of two full-range drivers (one for each channel) and two separate “woofers” to handle the low end.

Now, it happens that I’m a “retired” “audiophile” (long ago I sold really high-end audio). I care about highly accurate sound reproduction and have spent fortunes in the past on my gear. If I had to judge, I would say that the P1’s audio isn’t quite as accurate overall as that VAVA’s H/K system, but the P1 definitely has more muscle and is likely the more fun handling loud action movies.

On the other hand, the CinemaX P1 seems to do a bit better on bass than the significantly more expensive LG. With the LG, I rigged up a sub-woofer to help with the bass. That setup definitely did better bass than this P1, but without the sub, the P1 has a bit more low end punch. I won’t say “tighter bass” (i.e. clean bass that doesn’t overwhelm the mid-range), as I haven’t heard any of these laser TVs having anything that resembles really tight bass.

The bottom line for non-audiophiles: Pleasing audio overall, and no shortage of volume!

For a little more audio commentary:  The P1 doesn’t seem to have a really strong top end, (hard to say though, as my hearing isn’t what it once was), and it does have a healthy amount of upper bass/lower midrange, that does seem to obscure a bit of the mid-range detail (certainly compared to my audio system). Most folks will just love the room-filling sound. Action and Sci-Fi flicks rock, although like all the others (except probably the HiSense with its included sub-woofer), it can’t punch/shake the house on those heavy, deep, bass from explosions and other sound effects, but it does better than I would expect from most “soundbars” and other in-projector speaker systems. Having two, rather small woofers, btw, doesn’t mean you get low, powerful bass.

Overall, when listening to music, vocals, in particular, were good, but with rock bands perhaps, too much bass guitar, drums and other lower-end instruments can tend to hide some of the vocal detail. It’s no match for my high-end type sound systems in either of my rooms, but it certainly handles the audio better than, for openers, any LED/LCD TV on the market without a sound bar, and should best all the lower-cost sound bars for that matter (and no configuring to do.)

In addition to using the onboard NuForce “soundbar”, other options are adding a sub-woofer using the analog output, as long as the sub has an analog input. Now that’s an awesome capability that most home entertainment projectors with onboard speakers lack.

If you really are into those action and sci-fi movies like I am, adding a respectable sub-woofer sounds like a great idea! Adding that deep bass for an extra couple of hundred dollars (give or take) makes sense to me, in the overall cost of your system.

Turning off the internal NuForce speakers is an option. Using the Digital Optical Output provides support for Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus, so you can feed a full-blown sound system.

In addition, HDMI ARC is supported via HDMI 1 — which in turn supports Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus, and ATMOS (Pass-Through).

The Optoma P1 is obviously extremely versatile in terms of audio capabilities. About the only combination of audio that I can think of that the P1 can’t do, (Optoma said “in this generation”), is to use the onboard speakers as front left, center, and right, and add rear speakers to complete the 5.1 surround sound. But as noted you can feed the audio to a full 5.1 audio system, i.e., a receiver and speakers.

More P1 Sound Options: Bluetooth Audio – In

The Optoma P1 is happy to perform for you as a stereo system. Simply pair your fav device – smartphone, computer, tablet, game console, anything that can output audio over Bluetooth, and turn on the P1.

bluetooth menus
This is the Bluetooth menu of the CinemaX P1. Unusually capable for a home projector / laser TV

 

The P1 has an Audio-only mode. When you press the power button when the P1 is on, the option appears to either power down, or switch to Audio only.

If you switch to Audio Only, bingo, you have a respectable, room-filling sound system to play your favorite tunes on. And because it is audio-only, the power consumption is in line with a soundbar – pretty minimal, as opposed to running the projector in full mode with the laser light engine consuming many times more juice. A nice touch!

I note that unlike some projectors the P1 lacks Bluetooth output. That is another a nice touch – to send audio to a larger sound system wirelessly, such as a Bluetooth “boom box” or small Bluetooth stereo. With Laser TVs, however, since they already have comparable sound with their “soundbars” built-in, outputting Bluetooth to those systems likely isn’t buying you better sound.

And, there’s also the problem of potential lag between video content being watched and the external sound system. The P1 has an audio latency control so there are no syncing problems between its onboard audio and the video. Most devices don’t yet offer timing adjustments for lag, so are not good solutions, if/when their sound and picture are out of sync. We saw the syncing problem using the Bluetooth out of the VAVA. Optoma simply avoided a potential problem by not providing Bluetooth audio out. Since Optoma offers alternatives to using Bluetooth, I don’t see lacking Bluetooth out to be an issue.

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