Projector Reviews

Best in Class – $1000-$2500 Most Innovative: Smart Projector: Optoma UHD51A

Optoma UHD51A
Front view of the1.3:1 manual zoom lens. Focus ring on lens, zoom on top

Optoma’s UHD51A is the smartest of the 4K UHD projectors, in this $1000 – $2500 projector class, but it’s not the smartest projector. That would probably go to the LG PF1000U, but that is a very different beast, no 4K, and an ultra short throw design. I only mention that because the $1,699 UHD51A starts out as a 4K UHD DLP projector using the lower resolution (1920×1080 x4) pixel shifting design. What it adds is support from Alexa and also Google Assistant.

Now, if you are thinking that those items will provide similar smarts to, say, a very nicely smart LED TV or LCD TV, you would be saddened by reality. So far, the Optoma can be turned on and off, sources changed and several other things, but unlike smart TVs, there are no built-in apps for doing things like streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. The good news is that we should see some of those more typical smart capabilities as the Optoma App evolves.

For the moment, though, the projector is still smarter than any others in this class but the already mentioned LG.

Optoma UHD51A Overview

The UHD51A is more than just fairly smart – it’s a good projector. It utilizes the better RGBRGB color wheel, which sets it apart from the BenQ direct competition (the HT2550 and TK800 (both $1,499, so slightly less expensive).

The Optoma also has the advantage over both of those, and the similar ViewSonic, in that it offers a very modest amount of vertical lens shift, which none of the other lower res 4K UHDs offers.

The UHD51A also is quieter than the competition. The humming type sound from the light engine/DLP design, found on the smaller ViewSonic and BenQs, is missing from the Optoma, making it slightly quieter (kick any of those others into their 1080p “silence” modes, and they too quiet down, but are noiser when running 4K content).

$1000-$2500 Best in Class Most Innovative Smart Projector

The Optoma color wheel is a bit on the slow side, but not as slow as the Acer VL7860 (a laser 4K UHD). Still, I find that the BenQs have less rainbow effect than the Optoma (I’m sensitive to RBE). If you aren’t rainbow sensitive, though, then nothing to worry about.

Brightness – the Optoma does pretty well for a RGBRGB color wheel. Surprising is their 2,500 lumen claim. Most 4K UHD DLPs using an RGBRGB color wheel stick to a claim of 2,200 lumens, so it wasn’t surprising that the Optoma UHD51A didn’t hit its claim. The brightest measurement our calibrator Eric came up with was 1988 lumens (wide angle closest – on the zoom lens, full power), and 1892 at mid-zoom.

Optoma UHD51A Passengers 4K
The Optoma UHD51A is capable of some pretty good color.

Again, that’s typical for these projectors (the BenQ HT2550 claiming 300 lumens less, measured 99 lumens less in its equivalent mode), so let’s not worry about the bit over the top claim. What we care about is how it performs.

Now many of you won’t care about the Alexa type smarts. In that case, consider the otherwise identical UHD50 which is $1399, so $300 less. For many folks that will be a more attractive deal, although that could change as Optoma ups the abilities of the projector and its app. Before you look away – the Optoma UHD50 is coming up soon in this report.

The Bottom Line on the Optoma UHD51A

Bottom line: Post-calibration, the UHD51A does some pretty fine color, but still comes up short in terms of having fairly entry level black level performance. While competition around the price mostly has RGBW color wheels so not quite as good color overall, when this Optoma is producing its best color, it won’t be significantly less bright than those with the clear slices on their color wheel, even if they claim hundreds of lumens more. Those others may be able to cut through a bit more ambient light, however.

The closest competition for the UHD51A is BenQ’s HT2550 (and the similar ViewSonic PX747-4K – which we did not yet review). They also have RGBRGB color wheels. I’ll give the BenQ the color advantage post-calibration, but only slightly. I tend to think of the HT2550 as a touch more “home theater,” but they are close (perhaps that’s because BenQ also has a RGBW version the TK800, while Optoma does not).

If you want a smarter projector – best game in town for the price. If you aren’t willing to spring about $300 extra though, you have a number of competitors to consider – including the Optoma UHD60 which has the higher 2716×1528 x2 pixel shifting DLP chip, for only $100 more, but without the “smarts.” Choose wisely!

Optoma UHD51A Review