Posted on December 11, 2017 By Nikki Kahl
Optoma UHD60 Review and Comparison to UHD65 – Summary: Picture and Performance, Feature Set, The Competition, Pros, Cons
This is an excellent home entertainment projector capable of handling pretty much all 4K content, as well as doing a fine job with traditional 1080 resolution content.
Color is overall very good, except for the brightest mode (of course), which is pretty ugly, as is the case with most projectors. I will say that Optoma’s brightest mode on the UHD60 is a bit more hideous than most, but most of them (the brightest mode that is) are what I call “break glass in case of emergency” modes, only to be used when there’s an overwhelming amount of ambient light. In this case (as is typical), green overwhelms all the other colors.
The point is, you won’t likely be using that mode, but manufacturers insist on including that type of mode (sometimes called native lamp mode), because it yields the highest possible measured lumens. If you think you would really need it, then don’t buy this projector, or match your room to the right screen so you don’t need that mode.
Remember, it’s very important to match the screen to your projector, but more importantly to the room conditions and type of viewing you do. There’s a big difference between sports with modest to moderate ambient light, and a movie with little to no ambient light.
This Optoma is better at sports/TV with ambient light than it is with movies in the dark. That’s because of the very healthy amount of brightness available (for sports, etc.) and the less-than-great black levels. The black levels mean really dark scenes (of which there are plenty in most movies) will suffer significantly, compared to projectors that do black levels much better. In fairness, great black level performance projectors just aren’t around, in the under $2K price range. By my take, $2699 is the least expensive projector with far better black level performance.
Let’s not forget the Optoma’s sharpness, which is impressive for under $2K! It’s very good in this regard with 1080 content, but really comes into its own with 4K content – as the viewing difference with 4K content is very noticeable, and, for the enthusiast, perhaps a “stunning difference.”
The images below include a range of photos, from sports to movie, but of note are additional split screen images. When viewing those, the lower image is the UHD60 while the upper one is the UHD65, the more expensive version. The credits/lab scene from Ghostbusters 2016 is a good one to admire the UHD60’s sharpness with 4K content.
With 4K content, the UHD60 tackles both HDR and also the expanded color space. It does pretty well with HDR (described elsewhere), but like most lamp based projectors, you aren’t going to get or see a significant advantage due to the wider color gamut provided with most 4K content. Generally, it is assumed that most lamp based projectors can only get to maybe 80% of BT.2020/P3. That essentially means that these projectors are still closer to the standard REC 709 spec used for HDTV and Blu-ray disc than they are to achieving movie theater expanded color (which is what is on that 4K Blu-ray disc). The much more expensive laser projector, do a much better job on the expanded color, much as OLED TVs of any given size, do a much better job on color than regular LCD TVs that cost far less.
I’ve taken some photos of the same frame using 4K content and 1080p content, and the word that comes to mind as related to color handling is “slight.” Because of the limitations with lamp based projectors, comparing the 4K color to 1080 is more “different” than “better.”
Bottom Line: The UHD60’s picture has plenty of lumens behind it, even in best modes, and that means a lot of wow and pop factor on 1080 content, and enough lumens to do a respectable (for projectors) job of tackling the demands of HDR when you feed it 4K.
As of the projectors we’ve had in so far, it also seems to have the advantage of the under $2K, 4K capable DLP projectors, including more controls, support for both HDR and BT.2020/P3. The most serious competition therefore comes from the not as sharp 1080p pixel shifting 3LCD projectors, which are just loaded in features compared to the DLPs.
All considered, I have placed the UHD60 into our list of the top 15 projectors for home (spanning a huge price range). Put this one near the top of your wish list.
The UHD60’s feature set is identical to the UHD65 but for the color wheel, which is to say, it’s fairly basic. The zoom lens has a respectable amount of range, but some have a lot more. It has a moderate amount of vertical keystone correction – typical among the 4K UHD DLP projectors in the $2K – $3K range, but is no match for some competitors, which have not only far more vertical lens shift, but lots of horizontal as well.
And it lacks lens memory – a feature popular with serious movie enthusiasts, because it basically allows you to go with a wide screen – the same shape as those Cinemascope shaped movies (that’s most movies), which is to say, 2.4:1 (width to height), compared to standard “HDTV” shaped screens which are 1.78:1 (aka 16:9). Without motorized lens features, you really wouldn’t want to pair with a wide screen.
It does, however have respectable CFI – smooth motion. Great for sports, but a bit coarse for movies (I’ve never seen anyone’s CFI, even in its lowest setting, that I would use for movie viewing, with the singular exception of Sony projectors, which do an exceptional job of not turning a movie into a soap opera look – aka live digital video). The problem is, CFI on movies normally changes the feel of the picture.
The Optoma is a bit noisy at full power, but still fine for sports. Like most projectors at full power, you are likely to occasionally notice fan noise on quiet scenes in movies. In ECO mode, the Optoma is sufficiently quiet that few will have any concerns.
Built-in audio has respectable sound for movie viewing, but, don’t expect serious sound quality from any projector’s built in speakers. At the least, get yourself an HTIB – home theater in a box – setup with receiver and speakers. Even $400 will impress and at a grand, the sound is next level. You really don’t need to go higher unless you are a serious enthusiast or a hardcore music lover like me (my audio system is many times the cost of my projector and screen combination). Anyway, use the internal speaker system only if you must. It will serve you well enough for an outdoor family movie night.
I’ve already spent too much time talking about the color wheel, in Special Features and the Picture Quality pages, so I won’t repeat here.
Here come my biases. Hey, a bias is a preference, and when there are trade-offs, there have to be preferences. Do I want, for a particular price, a projector that’s a lot brighter, or one not as bright with better color, or perhaps one middling in brightness, but with much better black level performance, yielding a superior viewing experience when viewing dark scenes?
Well, I love great black level performance, which for more than a decade, I have referred to as “the holy grail” of projector performance. You won’t get that with the UHD60, or on the similar (re black levels) UHD65.
But first, I prefer the UHD65 for its faster color wheel since I’m one of the minority that is rainbow sensitive (I was spotting some rainbows on a couple of scenes while watching Game of Thrones last night). I would see them less frequently on the UHD65, and not at all on 3LCD projectors like the similarly priced HC4000 or the HC5040UB, which is slightly more than the UHD65. I also like the UHD65’s color richness a tad more.
The UHD60 image is below the UHD65 - Differences in colors and intensity are visible on the richest of colors.
A well balanced scene - light and dark - the UHD60 does fine.
An extremely dark scene. Although hard to tell differences with all the compression, the UHD60 is brighter than those with better blacks, in terms of the sky.
Differences between this UHD65 image and the UHD60: The exposure has this brighter, and the colors vary because the UHD60 wasn't calibrated. Space should be darker.
Not much real world difference here with the Epson HC4000, other than exposure and color differences. Black levels at same exposure are similar.
Same Passengers image, taken using $25K Sony VW885. Much better black levels and more pop on the screen. Of course compressed image, your display compromise that.
At this time the same Ghostbusters scene from the UHD60 is missing, this is the UHD65.
Epson Home Cinema 5040UB - in real life, darker overall on this scene, but with slightly more intense colors than the UHD60 or UHD65.
At 2.5 times the price of the UHD60, the Sony VW285ES is the least expensive true 4K projector. It has superior black levels and a bit more pop on this scene.
This photo is of the Epson HC4000 in action. A bit richer colors but overall darker, with a bit more contrast. As always, these descriptions are based on viewing not the photos.
Close-up from Journey To Space rendering. Compare with next slide by 1080p pixel shifting Epson 5040UB, for perceived sharpness and detail.
Epson 5040UB on same rendering. Image processing on Epson is fairly heavy, reducing some of the UHD60 advantage of finer panels. Stare closely at small objects to compare.
Vivitek has the HK2288, which is price competitive with the UHD60 and uses the same DLP chip, etc. They are similar, but I like the Optoma’s great control of the picture, while the Vivitek may have a slight advantage though in color with its different color wheel. I have both at my place now, and plan to shoot some stacked comparison images which I’ll put in the Vivitek review which is next, so before mid-December, you’ll get my take on how these two compare.
The Acer V7850 I haven’t seen yet – Ron’s reviewed that one (another $2K, 4K UHD DLP – overall similar), but the projector is on its way here for some comparisons and a short video shoot also in the next few weeks. So, I’ll have my two cents to add on how the Acer V7850 compares.
The other competition really consists of three products: Sony’s VPL-HW45 another sub $2K projector, a rather elegant projector with more zoom range, but no lens shift either, and some truly great out of the box color, and a more comprehensive feature set.
The Sony also wins at black levels, and produces some exceptionally natural looking skin tones (you are probably anticipating the “but” – so here it is):
But, the Sony is strictly 1080p and lower – no ability to accept 4K content, and, of course, being a three panel (chip) LCoS projector (Sony calls that SXRD), it can’t deliver perfectly aligned panels. Add to that, that the Optoma UHD60 is inherently higher resolution, gives the Optoma a real win over this Sony on sharpness. Or, rather, a noticeable difference, as, if the Sony could handle 4K content as a 1080p projector, the Optoma would look even better in comparison, than comparing them both using 1080p content.
I’m a big fan of the Sony, but a bigger fan of projectors that can support 4K content – there you go, another bias.
That really leaves the two Epsons – the HC4000 and the HC5040UB. If your budget is limited to $2K or less, that would be the HC4000, which is dripping in features, like motorized lens (with more zoom range) with lens memory, a huge number of image enhancement tools (you don’t want to go crazy – moderation is in order).
I favor the Epson HC4000 for all the hardware and firmware goodies, the rather very good right out of the box color, and much greater placement flexibility. The Optoma, however, wins on sharpness and slightly on black level performance. Again, these are trade-offs, so your room conditions and the type of content you watch should help you decide.
Lastly is the HC5040UB, which I figure is the highest performance projector anywhere near the price. It has all the features and capabilities of the HC4000, but with black levels that are by far the best under $3500, a magnitude (or two) better than the HC4000 or either Optoma. But, officially, you are at $2500 for that Epson, so in fairness, it’s competing against the UHD65, not the UHD60. This Epson, by the way, isn’t as bright tackling HDR (a weakness), and again, it’s a 1080p pixel shifter, so it’s pixels are 50% larger in diameter than the Optomas, making it not as naturally sharp.
The rest of the field are under $2000 projectors, including others from Optoma, Epson BenQ, Viewsonic, etc. but lacking 4K content handling, I don’t consider them competition. I only count the Sony because of its especially great picture quality (it too can’t touch the black levels of the Epson 5040UB, but should be slightly better at blacks than the UHD60). This year, I gave awards in our annual report, for under $2K, to the UHD60 and the HC4000. Last year, one of those awards went to the HW45, so my bias for 4K content handling is showing.
Oops, one more thing, BenQ just announced an interesting new projector set to ship January 2018 that uses an even newer DLP chip. This one is another pixel shifter, one that can handle 4K content, but this new chip, instead of being 2716x1528x2 (or 1920x1080x2 for the 1080p pixel shifters), this one is 1920x1080x4 – so it fires each pixel 4 times. Could be very interesting! BenQ came by a few days ago and teased me with it. Small, impressive, but I won’t get to sink my teeth into it until the end of December or early January. We will almost certainly post the review before it starts shipping as they promised a late engineering sample.
The Very Bottom Line: You have choices, that Vivitek, the BenQ just mentioned, or the Acer are direct competitors. Come January, the new BenQ with it’s 1080p pixel shifting (1920x1080x4) will also compete. Which I favor will be clearer in the next few weeks, but count the UHD60 as a projector better outside of a dedicated home theater or cave, than in one. So, call it home entertainment, or home theater, and drop it in a media room, living room, family room or spare bedroom. Match it with the right screen (we have videos to help you), and fire up some sports, or HDTV in general. The UHD60 will do a respectable job on movies, but, again, if you are an enthusiast after great performance on movies, you’ll do yourself a favor if you can find the extra $500 to move up the food chain one notch, to the UHD65, or even better (due to black levels), the Epson.
If you are the person that never paid much attention to your LCDTV, ran everything in the same mode, etc., the UHD60 is probably a great fit, because you are more into the large immersive image than quibbling over slight performance differences in picture quality. I can appreciate that.
UHD60 vs UHD65
Is the nearly identical UHD65 worth the extra $500, for a faster, better color wheel? That depends on how enthusiastic you are in having a great picture, not just a big one. The differences will not be substantial, so most folks buying a first projector, who don’t have a cave like room, will probably be perfectly happy with the UHD60 and some more change in their pocket. If you are an enthusiast, you can justify the difference, but I suspect the UHD60 will, as more of a home entertainment projector (slightly) will significantly outsell the UHD65, simply because a lot will end up in less than great rooms. Either one, though, should dazzle first time projector owners.
In other words, the UHD60 gets you 4K handling (a very good thing) at an affordable price, and that should appeal to the masses, while its big brother will be favored by more of the enthusiast types.
With the brighter UHD60 one can use darker screens to boost the blacks.
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