Projector Reviews

Optoma UHD65 – A 4K UHD, DLP, Home Theater Projector Review – Summary

OPTOMA UHD65 HOME THEATER PROJECTOR REVIEW – SUMMARY:  General thoughts, Performance – Everything but 4K, Performance – 4K, HDR vs Non-HDR 

Hot Product Award graphic
This is our top regular award for projectors. In addition we offer additional awards in our special reports.

Several thoughts, some a bit conflicting, come to mind immediately, as I summarize this review.  I spent a lot of time  “discussing” (to the best of my non-engineering skill set) what I see as the important aspects relating to handing of 4K, HDR and the expanded color space, and also how it performs on more traditional content.  I do hope that this will make sense to most of you.  So here goes – some key thoughts first – more general than the Pros and Cons at the bottom.

Consider:

  • A very sharp image – sharper than anything else I’ve seen yet, at its price (when viewing 4K content).
  • The UHD65 is a bit “rough around the edges” when it comes to all the new 4K related capabilities.
  • It provides pretty good, but not exceptional, placement flexibility.
  • Although it didn’t calibrate well on paper, overall I was pleased with the color, and skin tones, other than in 4K, perhaps not “dead on the money” but it does look good.
  • In 4K, the color and skin tones were similarly good looking, but the overall balance of the image, especially relating to HDR and BT.2020 leaves room for real improvement.  It’s a bit too bright in the near bright areas, to accomplish the goals of HDR.
  • It’s reasonably bright for a dedicated home theater projector, but like all projectors, needs more brightness for 4K.
  • I’m bummed that they omitted 3D capabilities.  Shame on them!
  • Like the other brand new DLP UHD projectors with 2716×1528 DLP chips and 4K support, this is first generation!  Gen 2 should show some real improvements where I mention weaknesses
  • Despite some downsides, I feel the UHD65 has a very good value proposition.  And thanks to its sharper than the competing 1080p pixel shifters, it earns one of our Hot Product Awards for providing that value, regardless of having less features than those slightly lower resolution competitors.
  • If you aren’t dedicated theater/cave oriented, consider the similar but $500 less priced, UHD60. It’s got more white lumens, and is targeting brighter room environments.

Like all the 4K capable projectors out there, I find it necessary to look at 4K content handling separately from traditional 1080p and lower content that we’re used to. HDR poses a challenge for all projectors and most LCD TVs because HDR is dependent on having a whole lot of brightness available. As a result, whether you are buying a projector with 1000 – 3000 usable lumens, or the typical lower cost LCD TVs (that handle 4K), the brightness HDR calls for just isn’t available.  Translated, that means some compromise in achieving what HDR promises.

Performance - Everything but 4K

Forgetting 4K for the moment, I’m most pleased with the picture.  I have logged over 100 hours (about half 4K content).  There’s usually a moment or two as I view content I’m well familiar with where something jumps out at me – saying “hmm”.  I can tell you that skin tones could be a little more dead on the money, post calibration, but I didn’t run into elements where I would “notice” this could be more accurate.  I can say that the usual Sonys and Epsons are more precise when it comes to looking “on the money” (especially the Sonys), but we don’t need to be perfectionists to enjoy a good picture.
The Optoma UHD65 is particularly good at sports viewing, thanks to it’s sharpness.  In fairness, two mentions though:  First, there’s a minor amount of defocusing as the projector warms up, but it’s slight, and not enough to be a problem (just focus it after it’s been on 20 minutes…)  The Pure Motion (CFI) is a little “strong” but that’s fine for sports. I would never recommend it for movie viewing.
And for a $2500 market price projector it does some pretty good black levels when viewing movies.  Good enough to be better than most of the DLP projectors out there whether 4K capable or not.  That’s a real plus, except that one of its major competitors, the Epson 5040UB (offficially $200 more) is the one projector that’s significantly better at handling those very dark scenes.  For movie viewing that Epson, and a few other projectors will overall best the UHD65 when considering blacks, dark shadow detail, color accuracy, but the sharpness advantage stays with the Optoma.  I expect some of the other DLP 4K UHD projectors currently in the queue (a $2500 Vivitek – direct competition, and the far more expensive BenQ) will be every bit as sharp (perhaps the BenQ even sharper).  One thing, the UHD65 tends to roll off brightness more in the corners.  It’s placed directly below my ceiling mounted Epson 5040UB, producing the same sized image on my screen, but I can tell that the Optoma is slightly darker in the corners.  It also shows up in most of my photos.
To quote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Don’t Panic!  It’s not all the Optoma.  The photos also inherently will be darker in the corners, by virtue of two additional aspects – a 1.3 gain screen it’s only slight gain, but even a little gain means the corners will be a little less bright.  And don’t forget the lens on my Canon dSLR. The lens and light path of a camera aren’t that different than a projector – just one is projecting light, the other recording it.  So the camera also adds to the roll off.  All that said, the Optoma could be a bit better in this aspect of the optics.  On the other hand, I found it maintained sharpness from center to the corner better than a lot of projectors in the general price range.

Performance - 4K Content

Here’s where the improvement is needed, not that there’s anything particularly bad about the picture. HDR seems to miss some of it’s strength (beyond the lumens issue), because the mid bright areas are definitely coming across too bright, and the lower mids are also a bit too bright.  Basically the goal of HDR is to put more “distance” between the brightness of the brightest elements and the average ones.
Then there’s the color space – Optoma’s attempt is pretty good, but in comparing the UHD65 on various scenes (eyeballing the projection, not staring at my photos), but the 5040UB (uncalibrated for 4K at this time – but not much longer – got the new firmware), stretches further providing richer colors.  Of course neither is as good as Epson’s laser, which still comes up short of Sony’s VZ1000ES laser projector, in color intensity. But at 3x and 10x the price, that’s fair.

HDR (4K) vs Non-HDR 1080p - Same Image Comparison

In each image pair above in this player, the first image is from 1080p content, the second, from 4K HDR and expanded color space.  In all cases but the last, you can really see the effects of HDR, starting with the first pair; the Bigalow inflatable space station.  Notice how much more pop there is to the second image.  The 4K HDR image seems to have brighter bright areas, while at the same time having darker dark areas.  Bingo!

Mind you, with these normal camera exposures, we’re losing a good deal of the detail in the back right of the station, because it’s very dark.  In real life (not camera captured) those areas are dark, just not so dark as to lose detail.

The only pair that shows “less” is the Ghostbusters street scene with the green energy.  In this case, the extra brightness of the upper mid areas (60 – 80 IRE?) from the Optoma with HDR, tends to take out the pop, and make lights in windows less intense, and lightens noticeably our blue ghost on the right.  As I have said, room for improvement. Understand, though, that compromises are being made due to the brightness limitations of projectors (and most LCD TVs when tackling HDR.