A branch of tech that has been quietly working away in the background is the home theatre projector scene. Only a few years ago projectors with the resolution and the lumens required for in home viewing were reserved for those with enough space in the house for a dedicated home theatre and a bank balance to match. Fast forward to 2019 and that is far from the truth. Today you can pick up a 4K UHD projector with in excess of 2000 lumens for a fraction of the cost and the dream of having a cinema in your own home is now more a reality than it ever has been. Today we will be looking at one of these projectors from the world’s biggest projector brand Optoma, the UHD51A.
Features and Design:
In the world of projectors, it has always been more about function rather than looks, but in saying that the UHD51A is one of the more aesthetically pleasing projectors on the market. Constructed of black plastic with a silver trim with an abundance of ventilation around the outside to manage heat output and a slightly offset lens the UHD51A is no ugly duckling. There is a selection of buttons on the top (or bottom if you are ceiling mounting it) as well as the knob for the vertical lens shift. This allows for a +/- 10-degree vertical shift for table top or ceiling mount without throwing out the alignment that would normally be controlled by a keystone adjustment which is unfortunately not available on this model. You also have the addition of a 1.3x zoom to help resize the image which also allows you to throw a 100 inch image from less than 3m.
In terms of IO you are spoiled for choice with a combination of 2 HDMI 2.0 ports with support for HDCP v2.2 as well as VGA, 3.5mm audio out digital audio out, 12 volt trigger port and a USB 3.0 slot with support for 4K playback through the built in Android based media player.
The other thing the UHD51A has that is becoming more and more important in this age of the connected home is integrated support for Alexa and Google Home meaning you can turn on/off the projector with your assistant as well as changing the volume or the source. This is actually the first projector to market with this built in and I personally think it is a great starting point with a lot of potential to grow. I had no issues connecting the projector to my Alexa dot or Google Home, just make sure you put the WIFI dongle into the correct port on the back and you can’t go wrong.
The UHD51A boasts a resolution of 3840×2160 (4K UHD) through the use of pixel shifting technology using the 0.47-inch Texas Instruments DLP chip, this gives you 8.3 million pixels on the screen and trust me it looks amazing. It also has more than enough brightness for most situations you can through at it with 2400 ANSI lumens and I found that even in suboptimal lighting situations it still produced an image that was crisp and vibrant. This is definitely helped with the support for HDR10, 3D and amazing colour accuracy thanks to the use of a RGBRGB colour wheel. Thanks to all this the UHD51A is able to deliver 100% Rec. 709, 80% DCI-P3 color gamut coverage.
One of the main things that has stopped people from going down the home cinema line is costs. Not only the cost for the projector itself but also because the bulbs that most use as the light source only have a short life span (traditionally only a few 1,000 hours) nowadays a lot of those concerns have been resolved with the cost of high quality projectors a fraction of the cost they used to be and the light sources getting more and more efficient. The UHD51A uses a traditional lamp as the light source however using dynamic light mode it can run for up to 15,000 hours before it needs to be replaced. You would have to run the projector 24 hours a day for almost 2 years before that needed to happen, add to this the cost of the actual bulbs is now only a couple of hundred dollars and it is a much more enticing proposition.
For this review I had the projector ceiling mounted in a room with controlled lighting, where I could have full sun, part sun, or complete darkness thanks to the use of black out curtains and blinds. I had the projector pointed at a Screen Technics 100-inch screen with a mix of Matrix white and high contrast grey material. I put it through its paces with everything from 4K and standard Blu Rays, DVD’s, media through the on board media play as well as gaming through a PS4 Pro. From the outset you can tell that the UHD51A has been tuned to work the best with 4K quality content but don’t get me wrong the up-scaling algorithm can make even SD content look amazing.
4K UHD Blu Rays look out of this world the blacks are surprisingly dark thanks to a claimed contrast ratio of 500,000:1 and the addition of HDR10 support just makes everything pop a little bit more. Even using standard Blu Ray the quality of the image especially when watching in a fully light controlled environment is like watching a giant HDTV, I was really blown away. Blowing the dust off some SD DVD’s even then I wasn’t disappointed, of course once you start to get down to those lower resolutions even the best up-scaling algorithm will find it hard to fill in the gaps but in no way was anything I threw at the UHD51A unwatchable.
One thing I thought was a great inclusion was the on board Android based media player, thanks to the inclusion of a USB 3.0 port I was able to plug in a portable hard drive and watch with no issues at all 4K content this is something that has been missing from this end of the market and I am glad to see that it is finding its way in. I would love to see something like full Chromecast support, so I could cast directly to the projector from my phone or laptop, and there is screen mirroring available through WIFI built in, but screen mirroring is by no means in the league of a full blown Chromecast Ultra.
Plugging in a PS4 Pro again I was not disappointed, the UHD51A is not designed as a gaming projector and has an input lag of around 64ms which is a little on the slow side in comparison to some of the competition but for casual gaming it still is more than capable anything from racing games to FPS and again nothing compares to doing it all on a massive screen, it really puts you in the game, the immersion is next level.
So, do you take the plunge? I think now is as good a time as any, projectors are coming way down in price they are smaller, lighter and more powerful than they have ever been before and thanks to the jumps in resolution and brightness they can compete with HDTV’s in almost every situation whether it is sitting down and catching a movie with the family or having the guys over for the playoffs nothing compares to a great projector setup. The UHD51A fits right in that spot, it is a great projector with top of the line specs and features and you will not be disappointed.
I can’t recommend this projector enough, I have used a number of different ones in my setup and this is by far the best all-rounder that I have used.