Optoma has given its media-savvy living room projector a brightness boost. John Archer leaves the lights on for some 4K HDR viewing. Read our OPTOMA UHD52ALV Review.
Helping the PJ perform in ambient light is a claimed 3,500 Lumens output
PRODUCT: High-brightness, 4K and HDR DLP projector
POSITION: Around the middle of Optoma’s home theatre range
MUCH AS WE love projectors, trying to use them in a dark room can be a pain. Particularly if their remote controls don’t have any backlighting.
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Optoma’s UHD52ALV delivers a solution to this eternal PJ problem: voice recognition. Plug in a supplied USB Wi-Fi dongle, and provided you have an Amazon Alexa or Google Home listening device, and the patience to set everything up, you can issue the projector with basic verbal instructions. ‘Switch projector to HDMI 2′, ‘turn up the projector volume’ and so on.
Helpful the UHD52ALV’s voice recognition might be, it will need to be backed up by some decent picture quality before it floats my boat. The spec sheet at least suggests Optoma has given it the tools to succeed.
The projector’s single-chip DLP optics claim a high 3,500 Lumens of maximum brightness, and an eyecatching 500,000:1 contrast ratio. This latter figure is the same as last year’s Optoma UHD51ALVe, but the increased brightness (by 300 Lumens) ought to benefit HDR10 and HLG high dynamic range playback, and double down on the PJ’s ‘living room’ credentials, where having enough brightness to combat at least some ambient light is key.
The UHD52ALV supports 4K playback via DLP’s digital mirror device (DMD) ‘flashing’ technology (not a ‘native 4K’ solution), and offers welcome setup flexibility for both HDR and SDR replay. With HDR, for instance, you can choose Bright, Standard, Film or Detail presets, with each stepping down in brightness to eke out more picture info.
For SDR there’s a long list of presets, including an effective Cinema mode, plus, unusually, an HDR Sim option that converts SDR to HDR.
Voice interaction isn’t the only smart feature the UHD52ALV provides. It’s aimed at multimedia maestros and not just film fanatics, so supports multimedia playback from USB/Wi-Fi (with an in-built media player handling plenty of music, movie and photo formats), and screen mirroring of your smart devices via TapCast or iMirror apps.
Of more note to cinephiles, perhaps, is the projector’s ISF certification; the unit offers full colour and white balance management. There’s also processing for reducing judder (dubbed PureMotion), a feature not often found around this price.
Optoma’s lens carries vertical image shifting as well as focus and 1.3x zoom rings, and connectivity is extensive. There are two HDMI 2.0 inputs able to handle 4K and HDR feeds up to 60Hz, and no fewer than four USB ports. One is for the aforementioned Wi-Fi dongle to kickstart voice assistant functionality. Or the same dongle can be used in another USB port for wireless media playback. Another socket is a media reader that doubles as a power provider for an HDMI streaming stick; a fourth is for service only.
Other connections include a 12V trigger, 3.5mm audio in/ out, VGA input, and a digital optical audio output.
Born to be bright?
The Optoma UHD52ALV improves on the pictures of its predecessor. The extra luminance available makes the
‘With the 3D BD of Pacific Rim, the UHD52ALV throws out sharp, detailed pictures largely free of crosstalk’
picture look sparky and more vibrant with HDR, and helps it hold its own better against bright-room conditions.
In fact, with HDR, it outperforms the vast majority of other living room (rather than dedicated cinema room) projectors. For an ‘affordable’ model, it’s convincingly bright and contrasty. It adds real punch to the gleaming reflections on the metal frame of the ‘skinless’ Terminator in Terminator: Dark Fate (4K Blu-ray), despite it also achieving a strikingly high level of baseline brightness.
The UHD52ALV holds on to the bold hues of Jojo’s house in Jojo Rabbit (4K Blu-ray) better than I expected. Skin tones fare well throughout Jojo Rabbit’s varied lighting conditions, and there are no serious yellow or green undertones to have to calibrate away.
Yet bright, heavily saturated colours in aggressive HDR content can clip (lose subtle toning) – so much so that they end up standing out very starkly against the more refined images around them. I found white clouds, red explosions and artificial lights particularly prone to this, especially if the PJ is being run in either the HDR Film or Detail modes.
The UHD52ALV brings out the crispness and detail of Dark Fate‘s clean, sharp visuals. Not as definitively as (more expensive) true 4K projectors, but certainly enough to deliver a cut above HD.
Motion in 2D is handled effectively with both 24p and 50/60Hz content, even without the PureMotion processing. This processor is actually cleverer than most, but the only time I wanted to use it was with 3D playback. During which, ironically, it’s not available.
Happily, 3D still looks good overall. Using some old BenQ-branded 3D DLP Link glasses I had lying around (Optoma no longer makes its own) and the 3D Blu-ray of Pacific Rim, the UHD52ALV throws out sharp, detailed pictures largely free of crosstalk ghosting noise and flicker. These immersive visuals appear sufficiently bright, getting good value out of the 3,500 Lumens on tap.
During 3D (and HDR viewing), the UHD52ALV runs impressively quietly.
It’s creditable with HD standard dynamic range content, too, and using the HDR Sim mode gives such images a boost for bright-room viewing without leaving colours or contrast feeling off-kilter.
The Cinema preset creates a fairly natural, balanced but still dynamic image in a dark room. Black levels are only fair to middling. This isn’t a disaster for such a bright projector, and the UHD52ALV’s improved brightness actually creates the illusion that black levels are good during shots showing a mix of dark and light content. With dark sequences viewed in a dark room, though, there’s no ignoring the grey pall that hangs over the action.
Other niggles are some fleeting instances of rainbow effect over small, standout bright areas, and noise in HDR sources tending to look exaggerated. The Optoma’s built-in 2 x 5W audio system is also rather weedy, and doesn’t project its output far enough from the cabinet to stop it feeling dislocated from the events onscreen.
This projector isn’t the perfect all-rounder. As we’ve come to expect from models around this price point, the aim of high-brightness delivery has a knock-on effect to other image areas. But for the most part the UHD52ALV picks its compromises sensibly, and its feature specification and setup flexibility are above-par
The UHD52ALV is bright, colourful, sharp, quiet - and even lets you talk to it. Devoted home cinephiles may want more black level and HDR colour control.
Best OPTOMA UHD52ALV prices in the US ?
Best OPTOMA UHD52ALV prices in the UK ?
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2. Optoma has swapped the black chassis of the UHD51ALVe for a more ‘living room’ white finish
3D! Yes. DLP Link active shutter 4K! Yes. 3,840 x 2,160 HDR! Yes. HDR10; HLG CONNECTIONS! 4 x USBs (one USB Wi-Fi dongle included); 2 x HDMI 2.0 inputs; 12V trigger; RS232-C; optical digital audio output; 3.5mm audio output; 3.5mm audio input; VGA input BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): 3,500 Lumens CONTRAST (CLAIMED): 500,000:1 ZOOM! 1.3x DIMENSIONS! 392(w) x 118(h) x 281(d)mm WEIGHT! 5.22kg
FEATURES: Single-chip DLP projector; built-in 2 x 5W audio; Amazon Alexa/Google Assistant voice control support via external listening devices; 4,000 (Bright), 15,000 (Dynamic), 10,000 (Eco) hours claimed lamp life; 25dB claimed fan noise; HDR Bright, Standard, Film and Detail picture presets; 1.21:1-1.59:1 throw ratio; PureMotion processing; ISF modes and calibration support
SONY UBP-X500: Sony’s entry-level 4K Blu-ray player performs double duty as a budget SACD spinner, and naturally supports 3D BD too. No VOD apps, but use the front-mounted USB port for media file playback.