Posted on March 18, 2021 By Philip Boyle
Optoma UHD50X Cinema Gaming Projector Review – Performance: Color Reproduction, Brightness, Contrast And Black Level, Audible Noise, Video Quality, HDR, Sound Quality, Audible Noise.
Cinema: Based on my previous reviews, I’ve come to expect manufacturers to use Cinema mode to make overall color performance the most realistic. . That’s just not the case with the UHD50X. This projector’s Cinema mode is highly over-saturated and like most DLP projectors, leans heavily toward the color red.
You can see in the picture above that the reds in the girls dress are incredibly oversaturated. Fleshtones lean heavily toward red and orange.
HDR Sim: Colors are vibrant in this mode. However, not quite as much as Cinema mode. Fleshtones appear more natural overall. Images are a little brighter. The tendency of a DLP projector to lean toward reds is still noticeable here, but much less so than in Cinema mode.
Game: This mode is almost identical to HDR Sim, except that details are softer. Reference: This mode maintains the same soft image as the previous mode Game mode but with colors that are slightly less oversaturated than Cinema mode. It looks to me like Optoma was trying to find a happy medium between the two modes. I still think colors in this mode are unnaturally orangy red.
Bright: This is what you would expect to find in a mode designed for situations where uncontrolled ambient light sources normally reduce image quality.
Cinema: Based on my previous reviews, I’ve come to expect manufacturers to use Cinema mode to make overall color performance the most realistic. That’s not the case with the UHD50X. This projector’s Cinema mode is highly oversaturated and, like most DLP projectors, leans heavily toward the color red.
You can see in the picture above that the reds in the girl’s dress are highly oversaturated. Fleshtones lean heavily toward red and orange.
Game: This mode is almost identical to HDR Sim, except that details are softer in Game mode.
Reference: This mode maintains the same soft image as Game mode but with slightly less oversaturated colors than Cinema mode. It looks to me like Optoma was trying to find a happy medium between the two. However, I still think colors in this mode are unnaturally orangy red.
Bright: This is what you would expect to find in a mode designed for situations where uncontrolled ambient light sources usually reduce image quality.
That description fits this mode well. So it’s a pleasant surprise that the Optoma UHD50X manages to maintain the color quality in this mode.
User: Designed to be whatever you want it to be, User mode provides the opportunity to adjust the colors and picture settings without changing the out-of-the-box presets of the other modes. That being said, User mode looks very similar to HDR Sim mode. From a strictly color standpoint, I liked it quite a bit. User mode takes on the softer image detail that we see in Game mode.
I think Optoma has done a good job with these out-of-the-box picture modes. However, they’re not perfect by any means. Often presenting over-exaggerated colors and unusually soft images, the OTB (out-of-the-box) modes on the UHD50X aren’t bad; they’re just not where I would have liked them to be.
In the slideshow below, I took several stills featuring a variety of content using various preset modes to show the difference between the modes. The first series of stills are from the 2020 Disney live-action release of Mulan. Cinema mode colors are blown out and unrealistic. Skin tones lean heavily toward red and orange, and the colors are oversaturated. This trend continues through Bright mode, where colors take on a bluish-green hue. I wouldn’t use this mode in an environment like my lab, where I have far better control of ambient light
User mode is by far the best-looking color mode out of the box. But don’t get me wrong, it still displays colors leaning more toward the reds and oranges.
My recommendation for this projector, which can produce more accurate color than its out-of-the-box settings, is to turn down the color saturation and move tones slightly away from the reds and the oranges. Even adjusting the Gamma improves the picture. I suggest you reduce the color to -7 in the User mode and move the Gamma settings to the Film option, off the standard 2.2 option. These changes will result in more realistic flesh tones without sacrificing the dynamic colors that this projector is designed to display.
The Optoma UHD50X is a bright projector, but it achieves a good balance between brightness and contrast performance. (I’ll talk about contrast in the next section.) The UHD50X uses a lamp, so I expected decent brightness. Aside from my observations, let’s get into the numbers.
First, the standard projector review’s disclaimer… I took 3-4 readings about 15-20% out from the center of the lens, which usually gives a fairly accurate approximation of ANSI lumens. Then, at full wide-angle, I measured the UHD50X in its brightest picture mode, Bright, with the lamp power also set to Bright.
UHD50X Brightness: 3,423 lumens at Full Wide.
At wide-zoom, Bright mode, the UHD50X measured 3,423 lumens. The UHD50X was slightly above its rated brightness of 3,400 lumens, so it should be more than bright enough for most intended applications. I measured all available OTB preset modes at wide-zoom. My measurements are below.
Brightness, when set to tele-zoom, measured 2,886 lumens. This measurement is a 15.7% drop in brightness when going from wide to tele-zoom.
My measurements found a roughly 35% drop when changing the lamp from Bright down to Eco mode. Many projectors drop 25% to 35% when switching into their Eco mode.
The UHD50X has two lamp modes: ECO and Bright; therefore, it will measure nearer Bright mode when it’s fed white for measurement. The UHD50X uses TI’s Dynamic Black, which is a plus. However, lamp dimming is always very minor because lamps dim and brighten too slowly to get much “dynamic” range out of them without visible pumping. Visible pumping is a phenomenon in which the image lightens and darkens a bit when it shouldn’t.
Optoma does a really good job with blacks on the UHD50X. It got as close as I’ve seen in a while with a lamp base DLP, under $2,000. The blacks are recognizable as black, as you can see in the images in the slideshow below, and you’ll see that blacks are clean and colors are a pleasant combination of black and white, making for an overall good picture. In addition, you can see a decent amount of contrast in the images, allowing details in the darker areas to show up better.
Below are images of a variety of videos and photos in 4K and HD resolution. As always, like all our photos, they remain unadjusted for color, so they don’t look as good as the projector produced.
I was able to find a wide variety of streaming content available in 4K HDR because Disney+ and HBO Max have both begun streaming a variety of movies in 4K HDR. The majority of available scripted content is still produced in high definition. Since that’s likely to continue for years to come, good 4K upscaling will continue to be essential. This projector’s upscaling is excellent. Whether I was watching 720P sports content or 1080p Blu-ray content, it all looked very good.
While most Blu-ray UHD content is available in HDR10, much of the 4K streaming material is still only 4K SDR. Although, that is changing. The UHD50X does an exceptional job of displaying sharp, detailed 4K.
Out-of-the-box, the 4K picture was good, and after calibration, the picture would be even better.
Streaming and HDTV. I watched a wide range of content, both Standard and High Definition. The UHD50X does an acceptable job of upscaling HD content to 4K. In many cases, it was hard to tell if I was looking at a 4K movie playing on HBO Max or an HD movie playing on Disney+ upscaled to 4K. Images from Blu-ray were slightly more crisp with fewer compression artifacts but still providing much detail that you don’t see on smaller displays. YouTube content played well, although you could see the compression a lot more on this type of video content. However, I don’t blame Optoma because this is more of a function of the compression algorithm for videos posted to YouTube. The UHD50X does an excellent job with a variety of streaming content from Standard definition up to 4K Ultra HD, making it a good choice for a home theater projector that will function as the core home entertainment device.
The Optoma UHD50X has a 10-watt internal speaker to provide what Optoma describes as “Built-in or External Speaker Fantastic Sound for Gaming.” The Optoma’s built-in sound looks like it’s on par with other similarly priced Gaming projectors on paper. However, the difference in the real world is dramatic.
To start with, the built-in speaker is a mono speaker where competitors like BenQ offer built-in stereo sound. Unfortunately, a mono speaker can’t give you the immersive sound that a stereo-based system can. I think this is a real miss for Optoma. When it comes to the overall sound quality, the Optoma’s speaker provides a limited dynamic range, with the majority being mid and treble. In addition, the volume doesn’t increase uniformly. Instead, it goes from off to loud within one point on the scale and then gets louder from there. Also, as you get into the upper volume ranges, the audio begins to clip and distort, unlike BenQ’s gaming projector.
Optoma and other projector manufacturers need to realize that a lovely picture, which this projector does have, is only half the equation. In addition, Optoma could have done a better job with the sound, considering that a gaming projector is often taken from location to location and has to depend on the built-in audio performance to provide a better audio experience.
Optoma lists the UHD50X fan noise as 26dB in ECO mode, which is pretty quiet, but here’s the rub. Put the projector in Bright mode, and the noise level goes well above 30dB, which becomes very noticeable, especially during quiet scenes. In addition, when I turned on the Dynamic Black mode, I found the increase in fan noise to be distracting at times. So the bottom line is, despite Optoma’s 26dB claim in ECO, there are more than a few times you’re going to want to use this projector’s Enhanced Picture mode. And when you do, the audible noise is distracting, even when stepping in multiple directions away from the projector.
I noticed that the projector’s speaker picked up some distortion being reproduced in silent or low audio moments. This distortion manifested as a series of distracting clicks, pops, and squelch noises. The only other time I have encountered this type of noise was with an inexpensive pair of Bluetooth speakers. I’m not an engineer, but I suspect that something is not appropriately shielded in the projector’s audio system. Of course, it could also be that this was just a problem with my evaluation unit, and it won’t occur in production units.
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