Optoma P1 4K UHD HDR Laser Cinema Projector Review

Posted on 11th February, 2020

Optoma P1 4K UHD HDR Laser Cinema Projector Review

Tony O’Brien reckons that right now, this is the best value ultra short throw projector under $10,000…

Optoma

P1 4K Ultra Short Throw Laser Cinema Projector

AUD $7,999 RRP

All of a sudden, the home theatre community has gone nuts for Ultra Short Throw (UST) projectors. Capable of throwing 100” or bigger images just inches from a wall, they're a serious challenge to conventional large screen TVs – and there's suddenly more and more of them around…

It was clear Optoma's intentions are seriously ambitious. Priced at $7,999, this new P1 4K UST projector has been created for casual users and those who in the company's words are, “looking for an exceptional home theatre experience.” 

Rather like widescreen TVs, this offers a host of features – including the ability to connect with Amazon Alexa, Google Assist and Optoma's Smart+ platform. The latter allows the P1 to access a number of apps including Netflix, turning the P1 into a smart TV… ahem, projector! This is all rounded out rather nicely with a built-in Dolby Digital 2.0 Bluetooth speaker. Granted, the inbuilt speaker isn't going to replace a dedicated home theatre system any time soon, but it does open up some exciting placement options.

Capable of throwing a 120” image from a mere 14.5” distance, the manufacturer quotes its light output at 3,000 ANSI lumens. This healthy figure means it should fare better with ambient light, but it's still a projector and as such Optoma recommends pairing it with an Ambient Light Rejecting (ALR) screen.

Given its price-point, it's a surprise to find it has a laser light source – which in addition to making images brighter, gives the P1 a quoted 20,000-hour lifespan. Do the maths if you want, but in all likelihood, you'll upgrade the projector before you need to replace the laser – and that's good to know. The P1 has a quoted contrast ratio of 1,500,000:1, which I would respectfully recommend you take with a proverbial grain of salt.

Rapidly becoming commonplace amongst 4K DLP projectors, the P1 derives its 4K resolution with a Texas Instruments (TI) 0.47” DMD chip. While the chip is capable of producing 8.3 million pixels, it has a true native resolution of 1920x1080 with the DMD quadrupling its pixel count. Call it what you will, but many of today's 4K projectors use some form of digital or mechanical manipulation to achieve their stated resolution. If you want the bragging rights of owning a true 4K UST projector, be prepared to pay a lot more…

Resolution, of course, is only part of the 4K UHD specification, with HDR and wide colour gamut (WCG) equally – if not more – important. In this regard, the P1 is an HDR projector, capable of producing 87% of the DCI (4K/HDR) colour space and 121% of the BT. 709 (HD/SD SDR) colour space. Undoubtedly some will take issue with the P1 not being able to produce a full DCI gamut, but it's achieved with the use of a colour filter. In my experience, colour filters – which reduce image brightness – can make HDR images overly dim. I know that given a choice, I'll take the extra brightness, so no complaints here! Asked about the P1's HDR capabilities, particularly regarding tone mapping, Optoma told me that the P1 has been optimised not only for home theatre environments but also rooms with ambient light.

GETTING GOING

The unit itself comes finished in high-gloss black, with a forward-facing charcoal speaker cover and brass fixtures – which is an eclectic blend of finishes. Yet still, somehow it works, lending the unit a somewhat retro appearance. The Optoma's 576x115x383mm dimensions give it a low, sleek appearance which shouldn't create too many objections regarding its aesthetics and overall footprint. 

Save for the power button; there are no other controls or buttons on the unit itself. Cooling fans are located on the side and towards the back of the projector. It's here – save for one HDMI input on the side – that you'll find the projector's inputs. These consist of two HDMI 2.2 HDCP 2.2 ins – three including the side input – the first of which supports ARC. The P1 also has two USB inputs, with one reserved for service plus a single TOSLINK and a 3.5mm audio out. The box also contains a power cable, quick start guide, templates for placing the projector, and the remote. This compact design is made of metal for a quality feel and is easy to use with large, tactile buttons.

Although you can get it going by placing the projector close to a screen or a wall, you will be rewarded by setting it up more carefully than that. Lacking any lens shift controls, you not only need to be mindful of the distance the P1 is from the wall or screen, but also the height at which it's placed. Your existing entertainment unit or sideboard may be too high or too low for optimum viewing height, but the downloadable user manual contains diagrams and measurements on how to best position the projector.

In addition to the focus control, which is located in the onscreen menu, the P1 offers warp control, which is used to adjust overall geometry in user-selectable increments. I'd strongly suggest you avoid such controls for critical viewing, as they tend to soften images, but for casual viewing, it has a place. In such cases, Optoma's SmartFit, in conjunction with a smartphone camera, will automatically straighten the image.

For casual viewing, the P1 was used in a lounge-room, projecting a 90” image directly onto a Gyprock wall. The sound was from the P1's Bluetooth speaker and source devices consisted of Google Chromecast and an Apple TV.

For more critical viewing the projector was connected to an Anthem MRX-720 AV Receiver, which in turn was hooked up to both an Apple TV and Panasonic UB-9000 4K Blu-ray player. The image was projected on to a Severtson Cinegray 100” 16.9 screen. The receiver was connected to VAF Signature i91 front and centre loudspeakers, and i90 rear and overhead Atmos speakers, with the low-end handled by twin custom 10” VAF Veratis subs. The speakers and AV receiver were wired with Analysis Plus cables.

MEASUREMENTS & CALIBRATION

When it comes to judging the picture quality of a television or projector, the impact of incorrect picture settings cannot be underestimated. Before making any critical observations about picture quality, every display we review is professionally calibrated.

Measurement tools consisted of an X-Rite i1Pro2 spectroradiometer and C6 colourimeter (profiled against the i1Pro2). Each was tripod-mounted, and measurements were taken directly from a 100” Severtson CineGray screen with Calman Professional calibration software. Patterns consisted of a mix of 10% and 18% windows, generated via a Murideo SIX-G Pattern Generator and the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark disc.

The P1 has six user-selectable picture modes consisting of Cinema, Game, Reference, Bright, User and HDR – the last of which is triggered by an HDR source. Light output varied by picture mode, maxing out at 150 nits in Bright for SDR and 115 nits in HDR mode. The P1's calibration controls consist of two-point greyscale adjustment, gamma presets and a Colour Management System (CMS).

The Reference picture mode offered the most accurate mode and was therefore chosen as the preset for calibration. In this mode, the P1 produced 63 nits, more than adequate for SDR viewing. Except for cyan – which produced a Delta E (2000) of 10.4 – colour accuracy was reasonable with a mean Delta E of 5.9. Calibration reduced this number to 2.7 with red providing the highest post-calibration error at 4.3.

The pre-calibration cyan error was exacerbated by excessive blue in the greyscale, which resulted in the greyscale having a mean Delta E of 8.9, maxing out at 12.9 at 70%. Calibrated reduced mean Delta E to 2.3, with a max Delta E of 3.2 at 20%.

Pre-calibration gamma tracking exhibited an S-shaped curve, rising as high as 2.5 at 20% and dropping to below 1.5 at 70%, with average gamma tracking of 1.95. After calibration and disabling Dynamic Black – which wreaked havoc on the P1's gamma tracking – gamma tracked closer to BT. 1886 with an average of 2.2.

The P1 produced some light spill, not uncommon amongst projectors using the Texas Instruments 0.47” DMD, resulting in a border around the image. The border, which measured between 10 and 20mm, was dealt with by the flocking on my screen.

In HDR mode, the P1 produced 86.7% of UHDA-P3 (1976) and 84.9% of UHDA-P3 (1931), matching Optoma's quoted 87% DCI coverage. EOTF echoed Optoma's sentiments regarding HDR playback in brighter rooms, with the projector tracking slightly below ST2084. This means the P1 will fare better when dealing with some ambient light, but HDR images will lose some of their punch in darker viewing environments.

PICTURE QUALITY

The P1 exhibited excellent black levels for its asking price, which when combined with its high brightness, creates a fantastic 4K HDR viewing experience. While SDR images were punchy, the P1 holds back – albeit only slightly – in HDR due to its EOTF. Overall image sharpness is excellent, the projector producing crisp images laden with detail.

While the P1 couldn't match the level of colour accuracy, detail or finesse from similarly priced long-throw projectors from Sony – or for that matter, slightly more expensive offerings from JVC – it nonetheless produced superb 4K images.

For casual viewing in a lounge-room environment or perhaps a bedroom, the P1 excels. In such a scenario, the projector offered all of the BIG screen experience, coupled with room-filling sound yet without the footprint typically associated with such endeavours.

In a darker home theatre environment and fed with reference HDR material such as 2019's How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the P1 is in its element. Its high-brightness gave spectral highlights their due and surpassed my own Sony VPL-VW270ES projector in this regard. Images were sharp and filled with detail, but couldn't quite match the capabilities of the Sony. Never was there any doubt in my mind that I was watching a 4K projector.

The opening scenes of 2018's Sicario: Day of the Soldado presented the P1 with an opportunity to show off its dynamic range, and how it handles near-black detail. Here the Optoma's excellent contrast abilities provided deep dark blacks laced with bright spectral highlights. In fact, with dynamic black 1 engaged, the Optoma's black levels are amongst the best for the money. Near black detail was also excellent, with the P1 able to render all of the detail I'm accustomed to from this excellent transfer.

Switching to 2006's SDR Blu-ray transfer of Casino Royale, and the P1's excellent black levels gave the SDR image a superb sense of depth and dimensionality. Colour reproduction after calibration was good, with the Optoma delivering accurate skin tones and providing primary colours with a nice pop without appearing overdone. The P1 couldn't quite match the post-calibration colour accuracy of my own Sony or JVC's recent offerings but is going to be sufficient for many users.

Of course, long-throw projectors can't compete with the P1 when it comes to flexibility. In a lounge, family room or bedroom, the P1 offers a compelling argument, particularly with its built-in speakers which had no problems filling my room with sound. 

Although we used Optoma's Smart+ platform to download Netflix, it was quite laggy in operation, so we resorted to using Apple TV.

While its high brightness put the P1 in good stead when dealing with ambient light, projectors can't compete with (and nor would you want them to) the light output from an OLED or LCD/LED television. First and foremost, the P1 is a projector, so to get the best image in such an environment, it's best matched to an ALR screen. In this regard, Optoma recommends their $2,200 ALR 101 projector screen.

THE VERDICT

Optoma's P1 wears many hats. From casual big-screen viewing in a room or serious home theatre projector, or a portable big-screen entertainment option, it performs various roles skillfully. While it can't quite match similarly priced long-throw projectors in some regards, it ticks many boxes that they cannot. That's not to say the P1 isn't up the to the task in more critical viewing environments. On the contrary, it produced beautiful images, punctuated by deep blacks and bright highlights, which some of its competitors can't match.

Ultimately, of course, the P1 is a short-throw projector and so should be judged as such. In this regard, Optoma has pushed the envelope of what's possible at this price-point. It isn't perfect, but is still one heck of a projector, producing some of the finest images we've laid our eyes on in the sub $10,000 DLP projector sector.

For more information, visit Optoma.

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Tony O'Brien's avatar

Tony O'Brien

As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.

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Posted in: Home Theatre Visual Projectors
Tags: optoma  amber technology 

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