Projector Reviews

Vivitek HK2288 4K UHD Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality

Vivitek HK2288 4K UHD Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality: Out of the Box Picture, Skin Tones, Black Levels

Out of the Box Picture Quality

All of the Vivitek’s five modes, except Presentation, tend to be on the cool side – whites are more on the blue side than the red/yellow side. The goal for movies is 6500K, although I, like many, prefer content like sports or even animation and cartoons in a cooler tone, around 7000K to 7500K. So, basically, the Vivitek without adjustment is cooler than really what you want.

The good news, of course, is that it’s easily fixable. That, folks, is why we calibrate projectors and post the results for you. The bulk of the calibration is free, and on the Calibration page of this review, with the extra fine tuning of the individual primary and secondary colors on the Advanced Calibration page for our subscribers – we charge just a few bucks a year for a subscription.

By the way, all the modes but the “brightest” are virtually identical to start as far as color goes. Even with the coolness, the projector looked pretty good. No matter what the color temp, you need red, green, and blue balanced so that green doesn’t dominate or be extremely weak.

out of the box photo
Out of the box: Color temp is on the cool (blue) side.

I said, “all but one of the modes.” The brightest mode – called Presentation – like many projectors (most), comes out very green. That’s the rule, not the exception. It mostly comes down to when you want maximum power, you will have a green/yellow problem. We often refer to this result on a projector as a “break glass in case of emergency” mode, only to be used if all the other modes are overwhelmed by the amount of ambient light in the room.

Considering all of that, the Vivitek isn’t one of the better projectors if you are looking for great performance without any adjustments. But since you can go from out of the box to significant improvement in a few minutes, that shouldn’t be a concern.

Skin Tones

Very nice! I’m rather impressed with what the HK2288 puts on the screen, color wise.  Now, of course, we’re talking about what the HK2288 is capable of. Starting here, we’re assuming you are using our calibrator’s settings, or have had the projector calibrated.

As you can see from the images in this media player, skin tones look really good, especially in Night mode, which Eric set up as our “best” mode for watching non-4K content. Day mode does fine as well.

Not the absolutely most natural skin tones – those tend to be rare, and often sacrificed by manufacturers in exchange for more “pop.” Using Brilliant Color on many DLPs comes to mind, while non-DLP manufacturers have their own enhancements.

But, I’m pleased. Remember, this $1,999 projector uses an RGBRGB color filter, while some of the competition, notably the Optoma UHD60, does not (the more expensive UHD65 at $2499 does). Optoma, let’s say, traded out the color filter on the UHD60 for more lumens, and a bit less naturalness.

Calibrated, the HK2288 does very well in this regard, so I’ll put it up there with one or two DLPs, as well as the Epson HC4000 and HC5040UB (only slightly, and $700 more respectively).

Now, let’s consider some other aspects.

Black Level Performance

Alas, the HK2288, like all the other 4K UHD projectors anywhere near the price so far, does not have impressive black level performance. It’s better than the most entry level DLP projectors, but at the same time, it’s dramatically short of the leaders – Epson’s UBs, and for close to double the HK2288’s price, the entry level JVC. True, neither of these are 4K UHD – they are 1080p pixel shifters, and not quite as sharp, but…

As I’ve said often, there’s typically not much difference in viewing a $1,000, $2,000 or $5,000 projector on a nice daytime scene, or typical indoor scene with decent lighting. The biggest difference between the best in those price ranges is the handling of black levels because it makes an “almost” day and night difference on the darkest scenes (OK, between dusk and night is more accurate).

With this Vivitek, those very dark scenes, such as the outside of the Avalon spaceship in Passengers when Chris and Jennifer do their space walk, are dramatically different when viewed on projectors where one is much better than the other at handling black levels. In this regard, there seems to be some minor variation between the many 4K UHD DLP’s we’ve reviewed from the most expensive (LED light engine) BenQ HT9050, and the typical under $2,500 models from Acer, BenQ, Optoma, Vivitek (and shortly Viewsonic).

Not one of them, however, is what I like to describe as real “ultra high contrast” – a subjective term (since contrast specs are basically meaningless because manufacturers come up with all kinds of crazy numbers). Long ago, I indicated that projectors like the JVCs and the early Epson UB series, and some higher end projectors, went well beyond what everyone else was doing.

The result on those UHC projectors is dark scenes that really pop. Dark scenes, that when you look, have very, very dark greys when black is called for, rather than the medium dark greys this Vivitek and others offer. Typically, I like to think of projectors with this level of black level performance as more home entertainment than home theater projectors. That is, more suitable for rooms where you aren’t watching with all the lights off – no real ambient light.

You know what I’m talking about – too often, I go into a movie theater and once the lights are down (not off), there really isn’t any sense of true black, just washed out blacks due to too much ambient light. Growing up, before the movie came on, and after the lights went down, I remember that you couldn’t “see your hand moving in front of your face.” Due to fire marshals and protective laws, we won’t see that again. Still, someone recently demanded I check out the Dolby theater closest to me, that it is much darker than the nearby cineplexes, even the IMAX theaters (I’m looking forward to doing so.)

The image player above, has a variety of very dark and mixed darkness scenes, but, of course, it features our Bond night train scene from Casino Royale. To simplify comparison with other projectors on this scene, we convert to greyscale, and significantly overexpose the image. You’ll find a number of competitors’ photos of the same image.

Exposures vary, which makes the photos more challenging to use, but generally, the projector with the best black level performance are those with only barely visible letter boxing (very, very, dark grey) while the brightest areas are near white, and there’s lots of pop – dynamics to the image. If the image is mostly middle brightness grays and little pop, that’s not what you are looking for when handling very dark scenes.

I count the Vivitek HK2288, as fairly typical of the 4K UHDs, as there hasn’t been a lot of variation that I’ve seen. It does, however seem to be a little better than the Acer. I found the Optoma UHD65 to be slightly better still but it is more expensive, of course, a quick look at the new BenQ HT2550, (a 1920x1080x4 pixel shifter), would seem to also be comparable to the HK2288. I didn’t review the Acer, but I believe the Acer isn’t quite as good as this Vivitek.The Epson 5040UB and the Sony VW285ES are far better at handling these dark scenes than any of the 4K UHD DLPs.

Note the three images from Passengers, outside the ship. The first is the HK2288, the second is split screen between the Optoma UHD60 on the top and HK2288 on the bottom (the HK2288 I would call slightly better). Finally, the last one has the Epson 5040UB on top, and Acer V7850 on the bottom. Now the Acer seems to have the least best blacks, but the difference here, is huge. In conjunction with looking at the train scene, you should agree that the Epson is a real cut above all of the DLPs.  That Sony – a true 4K projector, at $4999 list, is similar to the Epson.

Bottom line on Black Levels: If 4K UHD projectors are all you are looking at, this Vivitek is fine for black levels, but if you have that dedicated theater with great lighting control, personally, I strongly favor “ultra high contrast” projectors be that the someone pricier ($700 more list price) Epson 5040UB, or the 2.5X the price Sony, because the difference is truly dramatic on these types of scenes, there’s also a JVC (another 1080p pixel shifter like the Epson), but for $3,999. Here’s one of those key trade-offs for you to consider – the slight extra sharpness of the HK2288’s image, and a $700 savings vs the Epson 5040UB’s superior handling of dark scenes, and its additional features.