If you factor in the price of the tickets for all the movies you see in theaters (plus the over-priced popcorn and snacks), then the cost of upgrading your home theater with a projector doesn’t feel as budget-breaking as it otherwise might. Particularly when companies like Optoma are releasing full 4K options for less than two grand.
Last November, we drooled over the Optoma UHZ50 4K projector that offered features like color compensation when using a painted wall as a screen and a laser light source that pumps out 3,000 lumens of illumination. Less appealing was the projector’s $2,799 price tag, which was $1,000 more expensive than other 4K options already on the market.
The new Optoma UHD55 manages to hit a more reasonable $1,799 price point while actually outperforming the laser-based Optoma UHZ50 in certain specs, but it does so with a few compromises in other areas. For instance, it offers 3,600 lumens of brightness, which means that it should provide a very viewable image even in the middle of the day, assuming the screen or wall it’s projecting on isn’t bathed in direct sunlight or artificial lighting. But instead of lasers or LEDs, it uses a more traditional incandescent bulb as its light source, which means that it will need to be replaced after 15,000 hours of use (or as soon as 4,000 hours if always used at full brightness). While running, it will also generate more heat, requiring a more intense and louder fan to keep the unit cool.
Optoma promises a contrast ratio of 1,200,000:1, but achieving that will greatly depend on the environment the projector is being used in: a darkened theater with a high quality reflective screen would be ideal. If you’ve still got some 3D Blu-Ray discs kicking around, the UHD55 will still let you enjoy them, and gamers can activate a special 4K mode that promises to reduce input lag to less than 16 milliseconds. As Engadget points out, despite including two HDMI ports, neither one supports HDMI 2.1, so 4K content won’t run at 60Hz. But when connected to a PC, the projector can be dropped to 1080P resolutions to hit a 240Hz refresh rate, so your PowerPoint slide transitions will play as smooth as butter.
The UHD55 includes a built-in 10W speaker, but given Optoma doesn’t go into much detail about it on its website, don’t expect it to replace a soundbar or a dedicated surround sound system. The same goes for the built in media player, which can play content from an attached USB storage device. Unlike many of the more affordable all-in-one projectors we’re seeing today, the UHD55 doesn’t run Google TV. To access all your favorite streaming services, you’ll need to pair it with a dedicated streaming dongle or box.
The manual focus wheel is also a bit of a bummer here, as being able to make minor focus adjustments from a wireless remote is always preferred. But overall, for $1,799, Optoma has put together a solid option here for those finally ready to transition to a truly big screen home theater experience.