Posted on May 26, 2020 By Art Feierman
Optoma CinemaX P1 Laser TV Review – Summary: Big Picture, The Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons
The thing about Laser TVs such as the Optoma CinemaX P1: Laser TVs really aren’t really any more complicated than say, having an LCD TV in the same room, mounted on the same wall, be it in your living, family, or other common room.. (Please note, A laser TV will definitely make any room less of a “common room” and more of an extraordinary one.)
That is the attraction of this new class of projectors. Traditional projectors are far more complicated, most demand separate sound systems, separate sources (they are dumb as rocks mostly), etc. With a projector like the Optoma P1, mount the screen at the right height (or use a wall), set the laser TV on a table just below the bottom of the screen. Get quickly setup with your home’s network, as you would any smart device, and you are ready to start streaming content to “the big screen.”
Sure, plug-in cable/satellite, 4K Blu-ray players, and other toys, but the P1 is smart and is a TV. No, it’s not like the LG projectors which do include a TV tuner, but between streaming and optional satellite cable, it’s a TV!
The Optoma P1 is priced with a list of $3799. At this time that makes it the second least expensive 4K capable Laser TV we have reviewed, and, I believe it’s the second least expensive one sold in the US. The VAVA lists for about $1000 less, but the street price difference is a good bit less than that. The P1 is a 4K UHD DLP projector claiming 3000 lumens. Our measurements came out well below that, but part may be due to the difficulty in measuring UST projectors (always a challenge). Still, we’ve measured well below claim (while still others have met or beat our claim over the years), using our method.
4K/HDR from The Black Panther
Aurora - Jennifer Lawrence - in Passengers - 4K/HDR Excellent skin tones.
Optoma P1 in the foreground, a scene from Ghostbusters 2016 with vibrant colors, behind/above it.
Passengers - 4K HDR content. The next five images are not 4K, but 1080 resolution and Standard
The P1 does fine if the room isn't as massively bright as mine is on a sunny day. This image taken on a recent cloudy day. Not bad!
Football player from a Penn State game. (We are...Penn State!) 1080i content - SDR.
More SDR content. The pre-game activities - Superbowl. 1080i SDR.
More SDR off of cable. 1080i.
No matter, the P1 post-calibration (we provide our settings you can use, on our calibration pages), produces just shy of 2000 calibrated lumens doing HDR content. I’m pretty pleased with any projector that can achieve at least 2/3 of their brightness claim – post calibration.
Even without calibration count the P1 as doing some pretty good color in its best picture modes, Cinema for regular SDR content is a little better than HDR, but both are good out of the box. After Jason got done with it, it looked even better. Not the best post-calibration accuracy, but really good.
The projector is low profile, and physically attractive in black metal (and black cloth around the built-in NuForce soundbar). Speaking of that, the P1 produces plenty of sound volume. While its 4 speakers include two small woofers, however, there is really no serious mid or low bass – no surprise.
The audio surprise is that unlike any other UST projectors reviewed so far, the CinemaX P1 can run its internal speakers (aka soundbar), and feed bass to a separate subwoofer at the same time (analog, not Bluetooth). In fairness, the HiSense Laser TV Phil is reviewing at this time, ships with a separate subwoofer, so they definitely have bass figured out. Still, the ability to run the internal speakers with an external sub-woofer is a feature I’ve been yelling at home entertainment projector makers for years to add. Great job Optoma!
Overall, the P1 is an excellent choice, value-wise, for a Laser TV. You will, however, need a screen on top of the projector’s cost. True, you can use a wall, but if you are spending this much on a projector…it would be unfortunate to use a wall instead of a screen.
We recommend screens specifically designed for UST projectors and have ALR (ambient light rejecting) properties. Unfortunately, this type of screen paired with a UST projector isn’t near as good at dealing with that ambient light, as regular projectors with regular (not UST) ALR screens. For that reason, when you have a very bright room in the daytime – like my living room – and lack good lighting control, the P1 will be limited in daytime use. It will be far more viable, however In rooms with decent window coverings. This P1 would work fine in any room at my place – except the living room, at least until I get proper shades for my doors and windows.
In fact, it the P1 was killer looking on a super bright day – but only in my theater – there I just closed my shades, and turned off the light – making my theater darker than nighttime in my living room.
The point being, your room is an important factor. And I should point out that few folks are likely to suffer from the kind of day time lighting I have to deal with, which includes 160 sq. feet of mostly west facing glass doors with the thinnest white see-through privacy drapes (probably blocks 5% of the light at the most).
Now, with my room, I rarely use P1 projector on sunny days, but it is very watchable on overcast days, as you can see here:
We are remodeling! (Soon – Covid-19 put us months behind.) When I’m finished, I will have dark sunshades (no, definitely no blackout shades for this room) on all those huge glass doors. When I’ve got my new shades, even with the large 120” screen, I expect that I will have no problem watching my sports on the sunniest days, but will likely still save critical movie viewing until evening or night. If I want to watch high quality critical content, in the daytime, I do also have my dedicated theater.
More Big Picture Stuff
Warranty. Optoma’s 2 years parts and labor, covers the projector. The laser light engine is covered for a total of 5 years or 12,000 hours, whichever comes first. Overall that’s a very good warranty for laser projectors in this price range.
Bluetooth. As a retired audiophile, I have always owned higher-end type audio systems that easily blow away the P1’s internal soundbar and almost certainly any other soundbar out there. So, normally I would route the audio to my AV receiver. With the P1, you can use Bluetooth to go the other way. Like some other home entertainment projectors with internal speakers, you can send your audio from your iPhones, tablets, laptops, etc. to the CinemaX P1, in audio-only mode. For those without separate audio systems, using the P1 as a quality Bluetooth boombox is a great feature. It sure beats listening to the same music on your phone tablet etc.
There are plenty of other features – and benefits I could mention again, here in the summary. We realize that most readers don’t read an entire review at one time. Those coming from specific searches often only visit a couple of pages in a review they land on. We repeat a lot because a lot of visitors only visit a few pages in a review. The point: At the end of this page are our Pros and Cons. The Pros are a good way to find a few additional features we simply didn’t have the time, or the priority to report on.
Competition for the Optoma P1 comes from two different classes of projectors: Other 4K Capable “Laser TVs” including the VAVA, the two HiSense models, the LG HU85LA, the soon to be released Epson LS500. Additionally, there are a couple of “business” laser projectors like the Dell S718QL.
The other “class” of projectors are traditional longer throw designs, perhaps ceiling mounted in the middle of your room, or a back shelf, or on a table. You will find some higher performance projectors in this group picture-wise, as most are designed for very dark rooms, but there are no laser projectors anywhere near the Optoma’s price. I’ll simply point out our favorite lamp-based models.
Let’s start with the 4K Capable Laser TVs. Since there are so few, this is pretty easy:
VAVA Laser TV – The only one priced below the CinemaX P1, is the VAVA. On a list price basis, there’s about $1000 difference, but mostly the VAVA is purchased on Amazon at its $2799 list price. (Around the holidays the prices were lower). The P1 lists for $3799, but street prices are down almost to $3K. If these prices hold, that’s a slim difference.
All of the 4K capable laser TVs are dual laser except for the P1 and VAVA (both single laser), which is how those two are significantly less expensive than the others.
The P1 is simply better. It is significantly better, right out of the box, the picture is much better. But as we publish our calibration settings, the VAVA gets drastically better. The P1 further improves but slightly. Still, the P1 without calibration still does better color than the VAVA after our calibration. The P1 also is a bit brighter. It has more useful features too, including CFI – aka smooth motion – for sports, etc.. Also, the ability to easily add a subwoofer, and more. Other than the sound itself, where I favored the HK speakers in the VAVA I thought their sound cleaner, although the P1 has more kick, even without adding a sub.
I think the VAVA has to be priced a good $500 or more below the P1 to offer comparable value. Of course the more you are a “videophile” the more you would favor the P1.
HiSense offers “complete” Laser TVs, in that they come with a fixed screen designed for UST projectors, and that has ALR properties. They also start at about $8000 with a 100” diagonal screen. Now you can buy a 100” fixed UST/ALR screen starting from under $1000 And a bit more for 120” (naturally). So basically you can have a P1 with a suitable fixed screen for several thousand less dollars. Further, the original HiSense that I reviewed, did not come with great color. In fairness, it was the first in its class, but now it’s 2+ years old.
The newer one, the Dual Laser, has what should prove to be a higher performance light engine than the Optoma, but again, you are talking about a complete system with a screen, that will hit $10,000 with a 120” screen. For that price, you can easily go with a motorized screen (a major plus in a living room), and still, come in well under the HiSense cost. My understanding is that the Dual Laser is significantly better than the old one I reviewed.
So, while I’m expecting Phil to report the new HiSense as a superior Laser TV overall, the price tag really puts it into a different range. Sort of Toyota vs Lexus budgets.
LG HU85LA – With a $5999 list price it is the most expensive “mainstream” 4K capable laser TVs without a screen. Oh, sure, there’s the SIM2 and the $25K Sony, but let’s not worry about projectors priced 3x – 6x more. To date, LG is my favorite. Overall it is brighter and has more pop to the picture. I think LG did the best job overall on HDR content, and hey, if you are buying a 4K UHD laser TV, it’s an means to an end – enjoying the best quality picture you choose to afford.
LG has its own Smart operating system, while most folks are using the Android operating system. Well, LG’s smart TV’s are legendary, and I do now own their 77” OLED, as you know, usable when I lower the VividStorm UST/ALR riser screen that I’m also reviewing. The point is, I really like the LG’s smart interface – better than the Android interface on the multiple smart projectors I’ve reviewed.
I’m not sure that the LG offers more overall value, however, unless you really need the extra brightness. After all, you will likely be paying around $2000 more for the LG. But the picture definitely has an extra wow factor, especially on HDR. Is it due to using a multi-laser light engine? Perhaps. But the picture is definitely the better of the two, even if the P1 looks very good in its own right. The LG might/should even have a slight edge on black levels, but I never got to see them in the same environment.
Traditional Projector Alternatives
Now let’s say you want a similarly bright traditional projector for the same room. In the price, as mentioned that will be lamp-based models. There is a number you could consider, but there are four worth commenting on as traditional alternatives.
BTW, the Sony, JVC, Epson, and BenQ are really stupid projectors – no smarts. Nor do they have speakers inside. Like I said, a different class. The BenQ has good placement flexibility for a traditional home theater projector, while the other three have excellent placement flexibility.
BenQ HT5550 – On the lower end of the $ scale, is a great little DLP projector (and another 4K UHD DLP), with a street price a good bit under $2500. Best black levels of any of the low-cost DLPs (thanks to a dynamic iris). Calibrates really well, and starts out with probably the best color around on the low-cost DLPs as well.
Epson’s Home Cinema 5050UB, for a few hundred more than the BenQ, yet still almost a grand less than the CinemaX P1 has the best black levels under the price of a JVC (next). The Epson can be brighter, offering more choices (both HDR and SDR) in terms of modes with differing levels of very good to excellent color and good-to-great brightness. Although not a laser projector, it will even do better at achieving HDR’s P3 color than the Optoma P1 can. (lasers really help, but…). Of course, you’ll spend a few hundred on lamps over the years, so the Epson’s cost of ownership should be similar or a bit lower.
An Epson HC5050UB in a dark dedicated theater with a serious sound system is a whole different experience than a laser TV in a living room. That said, the Epson is just as at home in a living room as the P1, performance-wise. In reality even better, because in a room like mine, a standard ALR screen is dramatically more effective than the ALR screens designed for UST/laser TVs. And the Epson is inherently brighter in most situations.
JVC DLA-RS540 – The Ancient One! This projector has been on the market years after its siblings were retired. It is a pixel shifter like the Epson, not full “4K UHD” which, of course, isn’t full “Native 4K.” $3999 list, it once cost $6999, or was that $7999? It does have the best black levels you can buy, anywhere near the price, slightly besting the Epson. No laser TV is remotely in the class of this – or any JVC LCoS projector. It is built for a dedicated theater, but like the Epson is pretty bright, though more in line with the P1 than the Epson in usable lumens, at different quality levels. Like the Epson, extremely popular with hardcore enthusiasts.
Sony VPL-VW295ES – Sony’s “entry-level” 4K projector is native 4K. It does naturally what all the others strive to do. It simply has the most natural-looking picture of any of the 4K capable projectors I’ve reviewed (other than more expensive Sonys.) Don’t get me wrong, there’s no huge difference between the Sony and the Epson or JVC. Sony’s black levels, however, fall between the Optoma P1’s and it’s comparably bright. We consider the VW295ES to be an excellent media room projector, which is a room with respectable lighting control, so not very different from a living or family room with good lighting control. The natural image is a key strength.
Bottom Line on the Competition – The P1 is definitely a good value play in the range of Laser TVs. It is definitely a user-friendly product that has never been a key strength of home theater projectors. It is a solid “consumer” product rather than an enthusiast’s one.
I’ve had it here now for over 250 hours of use. Most has been casual viewing. It’s always on when I’m writing… Point is, I really do like it. I wish it had a bit more performance, especially more horsepower. I don’t use it on sunny days.
In a better room, or at night, the P1 really comes into its own:
My room demands more, so an LG or an Epson is probably more suitable for my situation. But on overcast days, as you have seen in many photos, it does a very respectable job for my sports and another viewing.
Once I get in some dark sun shades for all those sliding glass doors, I’ll be all set for daytime football.
An Optoma P1 paired with a proper, fixed screen or, possibly a motorized screen like the VividStorm 120″ that I”m reviewing now and used in all these photos. , should set you back less than $5000. That’s real money, but then think of all the enjoyment you will get out of it for the next 10 years. It’s hard to find any particular fault with the P1. Black levels, of course, could be better, but that’s not a “focus” of Laser TVs since they aren’t destined for dedicated caves and theaters. Thing is, with better black levels, enthusiasts would put one of these in their theaters.
Overall, as I said, I really liked it, and enjoyed watching it. But, as someone who is an enthusiast, and who’s most recent other review was the $10K Sony VW695ES, the CinemaX P1 just didn’t blow me away. On the other hand, it almost certainly will blow you away! You can probably count on that. -art
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