Punchy colours; insightful detail; smooth motion; build
If you’re looking for a top-class projector, the two technologies you’re going to want are Ultra HD resolution and High Dynamic Range. Just a few years ago, projectors like that would set you back many thousands of pounds. But now, there are devices such as Optoma’s UHD40 that can bring you those technologies for less.
The UHD40 certainly looks the part. And weighing in at 5kg, it is small enough to fit on any small table.
On the top are controls for zoom and focus, while at the back you’ll find all the expected connections. These include two HDMI ports (one handily marked ‘4K’) and a USB Type A connection so you can power streaming sticks.
On the audio side, while this speaker has a couple of 5W speakers, there’s also a 3.5mm audio input and output. Built-in speakers should really be used only if absolutely necessary, otherwise the sound quality won’t match that of your picture.
Switching between inputs is simple with Optoma’s remote control. The button layout is straightforward and a helpful backlight that turns on with each press. If we’re being picky, we’d like it to detect movement or have a specific backlight button so we can see what we’re pressing before we press it, but that’s a minor issue.
Giving this projector its 4K capabilities is a 12mm chip that, while not natively 4K, works in conjunction with two million microscopic mirrors to put the full 8.3 million pixels on screen.
But the UHD40’S HDR feature is a little more complex. Most HDR content is in the form of HDR10, requiring a BT.2020 colour space; however, the UHD40 isn’t capable of recreating the entire colour space, so is unable fully to show o the full range of HDR colours available (the same is also true for rivals, however). Switching between SDR and HDR modes is done automatically. Should the
be better Black detail could projector detect that the content is HDR it will immediately change.
All this gets translated onto your screen using the UHD40’S 2400-lumens lamp, which Optoma says has a lifespan of 4000 hours on its maximum settings. The company also claims that the UHD40 has contrast ratio of 500,000:1 – a figure that, on paper, looks pretty good.
We adjust the brightness and contrast for the UHD40, optimising it for our testing rooms, and bump up the sharpness by a couple of increments. Using a Denon AVRX6400H AV receiver and Cambridge CXUHD for our source, we begin by playing Blue Planet II on Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Deep, rich image
From the moment the Blue Planet II logo appears on screen, we’re met with a positively punchy image. The deep, rich blues of the ocean stand out well against the dark black background, and the way the sun curves around the planet offers a range of yellow light flares.
As the camera pans above the Great Barrier Reef, the sprinkling of greenery – trees and shrubs and earth – on the side of the mountains are diverse and delicate. As we dive under the water to examine life on the reef, watching a cuttlefish change the pigments on its skin, the streaks of blue-white light along its body walk that fine line of being both natural yet impressive. Rather than allowing the bright colours wipe out the lesser hues, the UHD40 still shows the little scratches and ridges on the cuttlefish’s face. The UHD40 doesn’t skimp on the detail either. As a crab scuttles across the sandy ocean floor, this projector insightfully renders tiny grains and rocks to give you a truly detailed image.
Our one criticism here is that some other projectors handle black details a little better – but it’s a minor point and the UHD40 still manages well, especially considering its low price.
Moving to a Blu-ray of Pacific Rim, the UHD40 performs well. Colours are natural and movement is smooth. The upscaler isn’t quite as sophisticated as others we’ve come across, but you have to look closely to spot that.
The Optoma UHD40 is a projector that brings top-tier technology to a lower price bracket – and implements it very well indeed. It’s no understatement to say that rival manufacturers are going to have a hard time trumping this performance. Outstanding.
“As we dive under the water to examine life on the reef, the streaks of blue-white light along a cuttlefish’s body are both natural and impressive”
It’s an object lesson in balancing advanced tech and performance with affordability