Good level of detail; strong contrast; laser benefits
In the tech world, lasers are used to read Blu-ray and CD discs and transfer data through optical cables. And they’re starting to make an impact in projectors.
While traditional lamps typically last around 5000 hours, laser models can offer five or six times that life. They also don’t have a bulb that needs to warm up or cool down, and so they’re able to power on and off instantly.
And, perhaps most importantly, they’re comparatively efficient performers. While lamp projectors produce light, most of which is filtered out to leave the red, green and blue portions needed to produce the full range of colours, laser projectors create colours with red, blue and green lasers. That means not only less power consumption, but also that they are capable of higher brightness levels that won’t deteriorate over time.
As the tech becomes more widespread, there’s greater choice at lower prices. One of these is Optoma’s UHZ65 – the laser version of the company’s UHD65 (£3000) and a current What Hi-fi? Award-winner in its price category.
First we calibrate the picture to the screen, which, thanks to a vertical lens shift and 1.6x zoom under the hood, takes hardly any time.
We fire up the UHZ65 and, playing Baby Driver Ultra HD Blu-ray through a Cambridge CXUHD 4K Blu-ray player and Denon AVRX6400H AV receiver, are met with an immediately likeable 4K HDR picture that is a stickler for detail and a dazzler with colours.
The Optoma does justice to Edgar Wright’s exhilarating homage to ’90s heist movies, also tackling the difficult task of being grounded when it comes to skin tones and mundane cityscapes. It nails the balance between punch and precision to such a degree we’re inclined to play every Wes Anderson movie on it. 54 Not much to look at; Sony rival offers greater insight
The Sony VPLVW260ES projector gives the Optoma a slightly higher benchmark to strive for when it comes to absolute insight, and for a similar price. It opens the window into Wright’s fan-fictional world a little wider, offering subtler, more refined colour reproduction and more astute lines.
The Optoma’s pleasing contrast is on a par with its Sony nemesis, though. While you shouldn’t expect a projector to deliver the same plunging depth of blacks as an OLED TV, the Optoma is far from a washout. Flames blaze with intensity as they rise into the black bars, and there’s minimal blooming in scenes with headlights beaming in dingy underground garages, highlighting the Optoma’s impressive contrast.
Depth perception is distinguished as the camera pans the Atlanta skyline, and Optoma’s Puremotion setting proves invaluable not only during the car getaways but also in camera tracking and subtler on-screen movement. On level 1 or 2 (our preference), it gets rid of blur and irons out judder in a way that appears natural and unobtrusive.
Those qualities combined make for an absorbing watch that’s easy on the eye. The performance remains high when fed Full HD material. We play Neon Demon on Blu-ray, and while the picture naturally loses the sharpness gifted by 4K, and the extra pop and colour subtlety by HDR, good detail and tonally even colour reproduction are exposed.
Further credit to the Optoma’s upscaler: even DVD playback, while relatively soft and noisy, is watchable.
Of all home entertainment kit, projectors may have the least amount of pressure to look good, and that’s just as well for the Optoma. It lacks distinguishing features to the point where its rear connections panel is the only worthy talking point.
There are two HDMI inputs, one of which is 2.0- and HDCP 2.2-certified to accept 4K from an AV receiver or 4K source. There’s ethernet, VGA and 3.5mm analogue inputs, a 3.5mm output and two USB sockets: one for service and one to power a media streamer, such as Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV.
It isn’t beautiful, but the performance it’s capable of is. Once again, Optoma confidently offers big-screen thrills.
“It nails the balance between punch and precision to such a degree that we’re inclined to play every Wes Anderson movie on it”
It’s definitely not much to look at, but the Optoma’s picture is pleasing