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Lifewire / Gannon Burgett
Great connection options
Too loud even at lowest volume
The Optoma UHD50 Projector is a fantastic 4K projector that manages to offer stunning image quality at a respectable price point.
Whether it’s for weekend movie nights with your family or an all-nighter gaming with your friends, it’s hard to beat the incredible, immersive visuals a projector can offer compared to a television. For roughly the same price as a mid-range television, you can pick up a projector that can likely display an image twice the size.
While there are plenty of options to choose from, I’ve taken a look at the Optoma UHD50, a mid-range 4K projector, to see just how well it performs. Over the course of four weeks, I put the Optoma UHD50 to the test, watching movies, playing games, bingeing my favorite television shows, and more for a total of more than 80 hours to see just how well the image quality, sound quality, and overall experience was for the $1,299 projector compared to those on our best projector list.
Unlike televisions, where the overall design has a direct impact on the visual experience, the design of a projector is a little less critical, but nonetheless worth mentioning. The UHD50, like most Optoma projectors, features a boxy, rectangular design with an offset lens on the front, an array of vents on both sides for keeping the internals cool, a collection of buttons on the top of the projector for basic menu navigation, and a host of ports on the back of the projector for inputting and outputting various media options.
Aesthetically, I don’t find the projector all that appealing, but I found the design to be functional in terms of having easy access to the most-used ports and controls; and in the case of projectors, function will almost always beat out form.
In terms of getting the projector unboxed, plugged in, connected to the sources, and turned on, it’s fairly straightforward. However, that’s only a small portion of the struggle that is getting the image aligned as perfectly as possible with the projector screen (or wall). Thankfully, Optoma has provided a number of physical and digital adjustments to make the process as painless as possible.
The physical adjustments include a 1.3x optical zoom dial, the projector also features a vertical lens shift, which makes it easy to adjust the image up and down by up to 15-degrees without causing noticeable distortion. On my 100-inch screen, the UHD50 has a throw distance between 8-feet 9-inches and 11-feet and 6-inches, thanks to the 1.3x optical zoom. Having this range to work with makes it much easier to sit or mount the projector on surfaces and adjust the zoom accordingly to get the perfect image size. The vertical lens shift also made it easy to align the picture with the screen.
The digital keystone function of the UHD offers up to 40-degrees of correction in either direction and is easy enough to adjust with the dedicated button on the remote. I would’ve liked to see slightly more fine-level adjustments, but the vertical lens shift tends to mean you don’t need to be quite so precise with the keystone adjustments.
My favorite part of the whole setup process was the built-in guide Optoma offers within the picture settings menu. This guide overlays a grid, which makes it easy to see where the image is distorted on the screen you’re using it with.
The Optoma UHD50 is powered by a 0.47-inch DLP chip from Texas Instruments (yes, the same one that makes the ubiquitous graphic calculators). While it’s not necessarily a highly-regarded chip in audio/video forums, I found its performance to be rather impressive when taking into account the price point of the UHD50. It offers a contrast ratio up to 500,000:1, can display upwards of 1.07 billion colors and outputs up to 2,400 ANSI lumens. It features a maximum resolution of 4K (4096x2160) at 30Hz.
As with any projector, the darker the room you use it in, the better the results are. However, even in a room lit with non-directional sunlight coming through a single window, the picture proved to be better than I had anticipated going into testing. I played both native 4K HDR footage and 1080p video (which is upscaled) and both looked fantastic. The 4K HDR will clearly offer a sharper image with better contrast, but even 1080p content looked great when viewed in a darker room.
It did take some time tweaking the picture settings to get the image looking what I personally consider to be an accurate representation of the source footage, but once set the picture adjustments should be good for the life of the lamp. Optoma also has built-in picture profiles, which help to get you started towards the look you want to achieve with the content you’re viewing.
Optoma says the projector is capable of displaying an image up to 302-inches (diagonally) and says 140-inches is the optimal image size, but I personally found the sweet spot to be 120-inches. Anything over that and it felt as though you lost some contrast and overall quality.
Overall, the picture quality proved to be beyond what I was expecting from a projector in this price range. It’s not going to compare to dedicated home cinema projectors from the like of Epson or Sony, but for half the price of their offerings, it has a lot to offer.
Optoma has been in the projector market for a long time and it shows with the UHD50. It packs all of the most vital features into a package that’s easy to set up, quiet when in use, and offers excellent image quality.
Optoma doesn’t detail what type of speakers are housed within the UHD50, and after giving it a listen it’s clear why. While the built-in speakers will get the job done, they’re far from impressive even when right next to the projector and the quality gets even worse as you move further away.
In addition to poor audio quality with almost no nuance in the highs or lows, there was also the issue of the speakers being too loud, even on the lowest setting. No matter how much I attempted to turn down the sound on the source, the UHD50 continued to output audio that was much louder than I would’ve liked to see the lowest setting.
Again, you should almost always use an external speaker with projectors, so this shouldn’t exactly be a make-or-break detail. If you need to route sound from the projector to speakers, Optoma has included a standard 3.5mm output connection, as well as S/PDIF out (optical).
The Optoma UHD50 Projector retails for $1,299. This puts it on the lower end of the spectrum for 4K projectors, but even for being on the more affordable side of things, this projector isn’t cheap. As I noted above, the image quality from this projector is nothing short of incredible, holding its own against projectors twice its price. You’ll want to account for buying a speaker bar or surround sound setup, as I pointed out, but even with a mid-range speaker setup, you’ll still be getting an incredible value.
The Optoma UHD50 doesn’t have a ton of competition in the traditional mid-range projector category, but if you’re willing to look at the VAVA VA-LT002, a crowdfunded short throw projector, then things get more interesting. The projector comes in an ultra short throw form-factor that’s easy to set up, it has FHD and 4K image quality, and perhaps most impressively, a Harmon Kardon sound system for thunderous audio. These are all features the Optoma UHD50 can’t quite match, however, at $2,800, the VA-LT002 is quite a bit more expensive. If your budget isn’t restricted, get the VAVA, but at $1,299 the Optoma may offer better value.
A 4K projector that offers a lot of bang for your buck.
Simply put, the Optoma UHD50 Projector is one of the best 4K projectors on the market under $3,000, let alone under $1,500. It provides an incredible cinematic experience with the right screen and once setup with a sound system, you’ll be able to have movie and game nights at home like never before. If you’re in the market for a projector, you won’t find a better projector out there for the money.
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