Projector Reviews

Optoma UHD65 4K Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features

OPTOMA UHD65 4K CAPABLE HOME THEATER PROJECTOR – SPECIAL FEATURES: We describe this projector’s use of Texas Instruments’s 4K UHD DLP chip with 2716×1528 resolution, and how the projector deals with HDR, BT2020 Color Space Support Related, Color Wheel, CFI (Pure Motion) and Other Image Enhancement features, 3D.

 

TI's 4K UHD DLP chip with 2716x1528

It’s time for my usual FauxK vs 4K rant.  I’ll try to be brief.  Originally the FauxK term was applied to pixel shifting 1080p resolution projectors – JVC first, then Epson as they rolled out a whole line of them. Those projectors going back to 2011, could accept 4K content, processed it, and fed it to chips that could fire twice, shifting a half pixel diagonally.  This allows for more detail, but the pixel size (relative to true 4K) is huge – twice the diameter, four times the area.  Think of 4K as a baseball, and 1080p pixel shifters as a softball, in terms of pixel size.

Now enter the new TI consumer chip which also pixel shifts.  It splits the difference in resolution at 2716×1528, just about half way between 1920×1080 and 3840×2160.  But, like the lower res pixel shifters, it still uses large pixels compared to true 4K.  (Perhaps now visualize true 4K as golf ball sized pixels, 1528p projectors as having racquetball sized pixels and 1080p projectors having baseball sized ones…ok, that’s very rough).

The two images below are close ups of a much larger frame, so as to better compare sharpness.  The top one is, of course, the UHD65.  The one below it is the Epson HC5040UB – which I repeat, is a 1080p pixel shifter. In this case, while the differences are subtle, the Optoma is sharper.

UHD65_4K_Ghostbusters_lab_close-up

HC5040_4K_Ghostbusters_lab_close-up

Their chip is called a 4K UHD chip because it meets the 4K UHD standard – which isn’t as good as true 4K.  4K UHD only says you need to have 8.3 million pixels.  But it doesn’t specify how large they can be, so it doesn’t tell you how good they are at resolving detail.  Technically you could pixel shift using 853×480 (DVD resolution – pre-Blu-ray).   Just shift them 9 times (instead of just once), and you get to the same 8.3 million pixels. However, this time, the pixels would each be the size of maybe basket balls.

The point is, 4K UHD is good.  It’s better than 1080p pixel shifting (which doesn’t have a fancy “4K” in its name, even though those projectors also handle 4K content). But all else being equal, it’s at least as much of a step down from true 4K as it is a step up from 1080p pixel shifting projectors!

A true 4K projector can resolve 3840 adjacent vertical lines each a different color.  Both 1080p and 1528p pixel shifting resolutions will make total mush out of a test like that.  How important?  That’s up to you. Certainly FauxK projectors offer a very affordable alternative to true 4K projectors which still start at $8000, and don’t have really great black levels until $15,000.  No doubt about it, the higher resolution 4K UHD chip that Optoma puts into this UHD65 as well as the UHD60 projectors, will produce a slightly sharper image than the 1080p pixel shifters.  The trade-off for most folks not spending the big bucks, may come down to whether extra sharpness of the low cost 4K UHD projectors, like the UHD65, is enough to offset feature advantages, of the relatively feature laden 1080p pixel shifters, such as the directly competing Epson 5040UB – by far the most popular home theater projector in the $2000 – $3000 price range.

I am planning to do a 5-6 projector comparison by end of August.  In it we will look at the practical differences between, 4K UHD, and 1080p models with one true 4K thrown in as a reference.  That comparison will start with $2000 projectors and likely go up to include at least one, maybe two, with a solid state light engine.  (Epson LS10500 and BenQ HT9050 are the most likely).

Optoma UHD65 Handling of HDR

There are three major components touted when it comes to 4K. Obviously, first, is the resolution itself.  But at least as important are the implementation of two things – High Dynamic Range, and expanded Color space.  I’ll address HDR here, and color space below.

HDR – makes a difference.  I like to think of it this way when using it.  It essentially has  a different gamma – the picture is displayed with a greater difference in relative brightness between the brightest content, and average brightness content.  This gives the image more pop, less “compression” of the image’s dynamic range (in theory), and overall a more desirable feature.  But it does need lots of brightness, so there’s plenty of compromise – both with all home theater projectors, and for that matter with all but the most expensive of the “4K” LCD TVs and OLED TVs.

Here are two images – the first is 1080p content – so no HDR or expanded color, the second is 4K with HDR and expanded color.  This folks, is the difference you are paying for:  The 4K HDR version is on the right (or below – on smaller displays).

Optoma_UHD65_ghostbusters-1080p_mercado

UHD65_4K_ghostbusters_mercado

The images above are very similar, but look how the sky pops behind the deco window frames in the center and the windows on the side.  Even Mercado which does not stand out well, does better on the 4K version. Obviously these frames where a couple apart, but also look to the richness of the yellow taxi.

The issue with most projectors is that the maximum brightness is a function that is relatively fixed – screen size, and projector brightness. Since that bright white explosion can’t get any brighter, to have the enhanced dynamic range, the mid-brightness areas have to be made darker.  The end result is with HDR running most projectors tend to look at least a little dim in the mid and lower brightness ranges, compared to no HDR. But the increase in the pop – the “wow” factor, is such that most people find that a reasonable trade off.  I have been most concerned about this since the first HDR content and capable projectors started shipping with Blu-ray UHD less than a year ago.  To complicate matters, for many months the only Blu-ray UHD player available was the Samsung UDP-K8500.  I bought one of those of course.  Since then, I have added the Philips and the Sony UBP-X1000ES to my Blu-ray UHD player collection. (I’m probably going to buy an Oppo as well.)

I was never happy with HDR on the Samsung.  However, my opinion about HDR changed dramatically since I abandoned the K8500 in favor of other players that seem to do a significantly different – and better job – in that those mid and low brightness areas don’t come across anywhere near as dim as when using the Samsung.  That was a huge relief to me, a better looking picture.  Still brightness is a concern.

The Optoma has one picture mode specifically for HDR, but HDR settings including Auto (detect), are available in all of the picture modes.

BT2020 Color Space related

Like the other DLP makers I’ve talked with regarding BT2020 color space, they all say that they aren’t there yet but some are a lot closer. BT2020 I don’t think has been achieved by any lamp based projector but some of the lasers get close.  P3 (similar) is reached by the best of the 4K capable projectors out there.  Eric calibrated for widest color space, and still came up a good bit short.

The wider that color gamut, the more intense colors can be.  It’s not just about saturation.  the best color red you see on tv, say a red balloon, is no match in terms of color compared to that same balloon in real life.   BT2020 (P3 too) gets us a good step closer to real, and puts us on par with cinema  projectors.  The ability to project a much larger color space than REC709 falls short on the Optoma.

Remember this is first generation for DLPs tackling 4K content.

Color Wheel - and Rainbow Effect

For those not familiar – briefly – a single chip DLP projector achieves color by passing white light through fast rotating filters.  The color wheel of the UHD65 has six segments:  RGBRGB.  What’s important here, is that there’s no clear slice on their color wheel.  Adding a clear slice ups the white lumen brightness, but at the expense of lower color lumen output.

This is note-worthy here, because, the primary differences between this UHD65 and Optoma’s $1999 UHD60 is the color wheel.  That one has a clear slice, and claims 3000 lumens instead of 2200.  However, in reality, although that means whiter whites, the UHD60 won’t be able to cut through ambient light with color imagery nearly as well as with white, and the UHD60 probably can’t do as well with those rich colors as the UHD65 with ambient light present.)The rainbow effect – RBE – only affects a small percent of people (probably around 5%?) – I’ve never seen any hard numbers.  If you are affected by RBE you’ll mostly notice it when white objects move fast in front of a very dark background, you get to see small fragments of red and green trailing that white moving area,  as the different color slices come up on the wheel as the white object moves.

I am seeing minor rainbow effect, but more than with the BenQ HT8050 that I have here right now (a more expensive 4K UHD DLP projector.  I more or less avoid owning DLP projectors anymore because of RBE. However, when such a projector is as limited on RBE (for me) as the BenQ HT8050, I could own that.  The UHD65, by comparison, has a bit more, and it’s just a bit too noticeable to me, for me to consider this projector.  But again, only a small minority of us suffer rainbow effect sensitivity.

CFI and Other Image Enhancement

Creative Frame Interpolation – CFI – sometimes called smooth motion, is offered under Optoma’s trademark name of Pure Motion.  It works.

Now I like CFI for sports viewing (and turn it on when I remember) but I’ve always reported that I never use it for movies and rarely for normal HDTV viewing other than sports.  Optoma offers multiple settings, which is good.  where they come up a bit short – even their lowest does more to the image than most other projector’s CFI, in that it is more noticeable. We often refer to that CFI look as soap opera effect, or “live digital video” (with faster frame rates than the slower movie frame rate of 24fps.) Theirs is not too much for sports viewing, but it is very far from acceptable from movies as far as I’m concerned.

I consider CFI to be a nice extra feature overall, rather than a critical one that a projector needs (some sports fans might disagree).

The Optoma UHD65 has a number of other forms of image enhancement:

Ultra Detail – image processing to improve perceived sharpness and detail

Black levels –  Dynamic Black, which is a lamp dimming technique to lower black levels on dark scenes (same idea as a dynamic iris, but inferior, for several reasons).   The problem with lamp based projectors is the lamps just can’t dim and brighten enough, fast enough to not have some visible pumping or flickering on some scenes.

There’s also Pure Color, and Pure Contrast.  (I’ll let you guess what those are supposed to do.)  For calibration and review purposes, we did not use these two.  Oh, and as this is a DLP, of course there’s Brilliant Color. (Optoma’s version offers multiple settings of Brilliant Color).

UHD65 Lacks 3D

Bummer!   This seems to be the trend with some new DLP projectors, but the big three of non-DLP projectors – JVC, Epson, and Sony, continue to offer 3D on their home theater models. The excuse I hear from those companies not offering 3D is, by my taste, pretty lame:

“There is no standard for 4K 3D!”

So what!  Give us 1080 3D, these projectors can play 1080 2D content, to say no 3D, because there’s no standard, would be like also designing a projector to only play 4K content, and not be able to play all our 1080 HDTV, Blu-ray discs, etc.

Many if not most new 4K LCD TVs are also not supporting 3D, but they at least have a good excuse.  The best ways to really immerse yourself in what you are watching are to have,

a) A large viewing area (relative to your overall vision) – aka, movie theaters and projector based home theaters
b) A darkened room (eliminating many distractions)
c) 3D  – 3D takes you still another level in getting immersed in the content, but it works best, only if you have that large viewing area.  Sadly unless you want to sit 5 feet from that 60″ LCD TV, you aren’t getting all that immersed.  (I sit less than 10 feet from my 124″ screen – now that allows for some real immersion).

Disney and others (Marvel included) are still putting out lots of 3D to the theaters, and to disc.  As long as they do, I want to watch some stuff in 3D.  I’d hate to find myself upgrading my projector to one that lacks 3D when

a) I really like 3D, and

b) I have invested in almost 50 3D titles (including everything Avengers/Marvel)…  If you have young children they will love all that great Disney (and Universal’s Minions, etc.) in 3D.  But not on this projector!

The lack of 3D is a strike against the UHD65, but only if you are one, like me, who wants to watch 3D, or has a family that does.