Review: Optoma UHD60 Projector

You may think of projectors as old tech, but these light boxes are still very much relevant. Especially if you want the full movie theatre experience at home—a big, bright image that immerses you in the story—you absolutely need a digital projector. Unfortunately, most 4K HDR projectors are still outrageously expensive. Great home theatre tech is never cheap, but even now as 4K television sets have fallen below the $1,000 mark, the field is still awash with 4K projectors from Sony and other major companies that cost around $5,000.

If the idea of spending five or ten grand on a projector gives you hives, then Optoma is here to offer a 4K experience for a lot less dough. The UHD60 is a solid DLP unit that's capable of splaying ultra high-def content all over your wall and rings the till around two big ones—the suggested retail price is $1,999, and the projector normally sells for a couple hundred dollars less.

The way Optoma is making this projector comparably affordable is by using a new Texas Instruments DLP chip. This 2,716 x 1,528-pixel resolution light processor uses around 4.1 million micromirrors—the arrayed light-beam reflectors key to making DLP projection technology work. That sounds like a lot of tiny mirrors, but that's still lower than the number needed for the 3,840 x 2,160-pixel resolution of a true 4K image. In order to produce a 4K image, there's a voice coil motor inside the UHD60 that oscillates the image diagonally ever so slightly, filling the frame with pixels. Is it true 4K? Not quite—it’s more like a couple of 2.7K images being blended together to create a 4K equivalent. But compared to some previous projectors that tried to pass off pixel-shifted 1080p images as 4K, Optoma's tech has a leg-up.

So, native schmative. How's the picture look? Great. When I used it with an Xbox One X, 4K HDR games and content were bright, colorful, and contrasty. Whether I was watching a 4K Blu-ray or kicking back with Star Wars: Battlefront II, the Optoma produced vivid, lovely images. A projector's image quality often dips when the room gets bright, but the UHD60's 3,000-lumen bulb kept the picture visible even when my apartment got blasted by the rays of the setting sun in the west.

The only issue of note is one that's common to DLP home projectors—the dreaded rainbow effect. Since DLP utilizes a spinning wheel to dial in the color of the projected light beams, you might notice the shimmer of a rainbow on bright whites, especially in high-contrast scenes. It's something I saw a lot when zipping through the Xbox's menus and whenever a bold white-on-black title appeared in a film. It was also noticeable to me when I scanned the picture frame with my eyes during moments of fast action. I've seen worse, and as a former film projectionist, I might be more sensitive to the effect than others, but it's still noteworthy.

The array of inputs in the back. Of the two HDMI ports, only one of them supports 4K playback.

Optoma

Even though the price is decent and the picture is pretty, the UHD60 still isn't a slam-dunk. The projector is huge and will seem especially unwieldy if you're upgrading from an older HD unit. Only one of the ports supports the HDMI and HDCP standards required for 4K, so you'll be limited to one 4K source unless you buy a switcher. Also, the case is also a gloss-white plastic, so unless you routinely invite Imperial Stormtroopers to your movie nights, the UHD60 will look a little out of place. The lack of any keystone correction was also a huge deal when I set this projector up—paired with the zoom, and 15-degree image shift, it means the image is hard to correct without physically moving the projector. If you're planning on using this as a mobile unit instead of mounting it to your ceiling, prepare to spend extra time getting the picture just right whenever you set it up.

Then there's the remote control Optoma includes in the box. It's lightweight, and it has buttons for more features than the UHD60 even supports. It's also backlit, which is where I fault this clicker. If you're hoping to keep your movie room dark, the remote, with its shockingly bright buttons, has other ideas. I couldn't find any way to deactivate the backlighting, and it's stuck at a single brightness level. It'll have you averting your eyes every time you need to use it.

Quibbles aside, if you're hankering for an upgraded projector that'll deliver 4K HDR, the Optoma UHD60 is a solid pick for your next home theatre upgrade. Just consider mounting it, or place it on a shelf where you only have to set it up once.

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