You know the drill guys, I like projectors, I think they’re superior to TVs in a lot of ways, and they’re getting better pretty quickly for the things I don’t like. So when I was taking some time off for my Jaw surgery and Optoma reached out asking if they could send a projector to help me recuperate (because Netflix is practically part of my recovery regimen at this point). What they sent was the LH160, which Optoma themselves call a business projector, and I’d almost call this the best “one for all” projector because it’s pretty great.
- Gorgeous Image quality
- Lovely remote control
- Bluetooth support
- Good UI
- Loud fans
- Runs hot
- No file browser.
Disclaimer: Optoma provided the LH160 to me whilst I was recovering from Surgery, they never specified that I had to review it, but I had such a great time using this that I had to let you all know. Optoma won’t see this review before it goes live, and the Projector has already been returned to them at the time of writing this review. No money has changed hands between either company either.
- 1920×1080 Native Resolution
- 160,000:1 contrast ratio
- +/- 20o Horizontal Keystone correction
- +/- 300 Vertical Keystone correction
- Usable screen size between 19” and 110”
- 30,000 Hour LED life
- 1.2:1 Throw ratio lens
- No optical zoom
- 2x HDMI 1.4
- 1x USB-A (For Optoma wireless module)
- 1x USB-A for power output (can output 1.5a)
- 2x 3.5mm audio jack for connecting to speakers
- Bluetooth support for soundbars/headphones
- Internal battery for up to 2.5 hours of wireless projection
I feel like companies are finally starting to listen with industrial design. We’re seeing less glossy plastic and more matte soft-touch plastic instead, which, on a device that is marketed as portable, is great. Constantly getting things into and out of carrying cases and sliding them on tables etc, you’re asking for it to get scratched, and let’s be real here, glossy plastic scratches if you just look at it the wrong way. So I’m glad optoma went with a dark grey soft-touch plastic instead.
Up on top of the Projector, we have the control buttons for the LH160 which include the IR Bubble for the remote, the 4-way D-Pad for navigation, an “OK” Button, a back button, a menu button, a Home Button and lastly a video mode button, so changing between “Vibrant” “Cinema” etc.
The Rear of the project has all of the I/O and one of the exhaust vents (back to that later). Starting from left to right we have the 3.5mm audio jack, then we have the 2 full-sized HDMI ports (which are interesting upside down) then we have the two USB-A ports, the DC-in Jack and the Power button. The USB-C ports here are a tad strange as neither of them support file transfer. The one on the left is for the Optoma Mini WiFi dongle and the one on the right is reserved for the HDCast Pro HDMI dongle which can output 1.5a to power the dongle.
I’m actually pretty happy with the I/O here, 2 HDMIs might seem a bit slim, and 3 or 4 would be nicer, I can live with 2, one for a Chromecast and the Other for my Raspberry Pi based media PC, but you could put a set-top box like a Sky Q box, or maybe a games console like an Xbox One X, the weird thing for me is the complete lack of any built-in file manager on the LH160 for viewing photos or videos, which is made even weirder by the fact this is marketed as a business projector, so I think that would be a pretty good upgrade.
The Left-hand side of the LH160 is an entire vent wall, I believe this is exhaust too, which is important for this projector in particular. Flipping to the right-hand side we see another vent, although I believe this one is an intake vent instead of an exhaust, and of course, we have the focus ring for the image. Lastly, we have the front of the projector which has this lovely slider to cover the lens in transit with a little handle to help you open it, this slider also has the added benefit of turn the projector on when you uncover the lens and turning the projector off when you cover the lens, no worrying about whether or not you left it on (though, you’d hear it, trust me)
I know I say this quite often when it comes to Optoma projectors, but something about the LH160 is different, the Image quality is beautifully sharp as is common with projectors of this price (and, honestly, just projectors from Optoma) but what really got me is the apparent brightness and clarity, despite suboptimal projection surfaces.
What do I mean by suboptimal projection surfaces? Well, since this is a portable business projector, and you won’t always be projecting onto the perfect surface. I projected straight onto my wall… which is stippled… with holes in it… and an Amazon Echo Dot on the wall. Yes, I know that is far more suboptimal than the worst scenario you’re likely to encounter, but I figured if it could work there, it could practically work on any white-ish surface, and good news, it worked almost perfectly. Honestly I invited people over just to watch this and then afterwards turned the projector off to show the holes in the wall and a few of them hadn’t noticed before I showed them, the image quality is so good your eyes focus on the content, not the 4 holes in the middle of the image nor the Echo Dot on the right-hand side, that is very impressive.
LED and Laser Projectors have the benefit over Lamp based projectors that the perceived luminance (brightness) is much higher than their lamp-based brethren, there are a few reasons for this but the main one is the Helmholtz-Kohlrausch effect, wherein the eye perceives more saturated colours as brighter, and because LEDs can be a lot more accurately produced than bulbs, you can tune them out of the box brilliantly. The other benefit of LED projectors (laser ones too) is that there is no “warm-up” time, once the projector is on, it is on at the full luminance with the colours it is meant to display, and as someone who has come from lamp-based projectors, this is one of the least discussed, but nicest features these new projectors have brought.
If I had to complain about anything to do with the projection image, the image does tend to veer to the blue end of the spectrum, and I couldn’t really fix that, but it is subtle enough of an “issue” than nobody I spoke to about it even had anything bad to say despite watching TV and movies on this for hours on end.
(Side note, I’m not sure what sorcery it is, whether it is the projector, the FireTV Stick or Funimation, but My Hero Academia on the LH160 was incredible, the image looked better than the 1440p reference monitor I usually watch it on).
I don’t really know how to organise my thoughts on the sound quality here. Objectively, the 2x 4w speakers are pretty crap, but when you put the projector in it is natural habitat, a board room or something else (this is a business projector by name) it doesn’t really matter.
I made a point of using the LH160’s built-in speakers when using it for multi-media, and they’re fine. The fact there is two of them does actually make a difference over a single larger speaker like we usually see, but it’s not a great speaker setup.
But that doesn’t really matter as well because there are multiple ways you can combat this, there si a 3.5mm audio jack on the back that you can jack into to get sound to headphones or speakers, and if your projector isn’t in an optimal audio place, it even has Bluetooth so I got my Anker Soundcore Life 2’s connected and listened in bed when watching loud films/TV shows, but you can also pair a Bluetooth soundbar to the LH160 to boost that sound profile, even more, versatility!
I feel like they were personally listening to me because holy crap the remote on the LH160 is lovely. A beautifully contoured remote with a plethora of buttons. Sure they could do with a little more stabilisation, but I will take the slightly wobbly buttons over practically every other remote control Optoma has ever shipped on a product, seriously, it’s that good.
I know a lot of people moan about my moaning about the remote controls on projectors, they think it doesn’t really make a difference when you’re using it as infrequently as you will, but I disagree, a comfortable, well laid out remote is a big deal, and something the TV industry figured out years ago, and it seems like projectors or at least Optoma’s ones are getting the message that they need to change.
Now we get to talk about the little niggly things that don’t really deserve their own section but need mentioning, there are two things here, the fact that the projector’s OS doesn’t have a built-in file viewer, and that the projector gets hot and the fans, therefore, are loud. Starting with the First, it’s a small thing, and it is very annoying. I plugged my external hard drive full of my DVD collection into the USB port on the LH160 expecting the projector to open up a file browser and let me navigate to the films to watch for testing, except that didn’t happen, in fact there is no native file viewer, which is a shame as the user interface on the LH160 is really nice, it’s not AndroidTV or FireTV that’s for sure, but given what we’re usually used to on projector firmware, this is a masterpiece of user interface and design.
This next one is a bit more important, the LH160 puts out a lot of heat, a lot of heat, so much to actively heat up the room after extended periods of time. With added heat, the fans spin up a lot more, remember those vents from earlier? Yeah, they’re needed. The fans on the LH160 aren’t as bad as the Aaxa P6 pico projector, but man, if you’re within about 1m of the projector, you can actively hear them and it can be distracting. I’m not sure if this is the compromise they made for the LH160 being as slim as it is, but I’m not the biggest fan of the fan profile, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to alter this, at least none that I have found.
So, should you buy it? At £800 it isn’t an inexpensive projector, that’s for sure, but in the scope of 1080p LED projectors with over 1000nits of brightness, it’s actually pretty cheap. It’s pretty obvious where the development money of the LH160 went, it went to make sure you get the best image despite lacklustre environments it could be in, and that’s not bad because it is then a lot more forgiving if you don’t have the perfect projection surface at home.
But if you just want a home projector? I’m not so sure, it isn’t meant to be static, it is small, it is’ thin, it’s light, it’s even got a battery, it’s not meant to be screwed into a mount on your wall/ceiling and forgotten about, you’re paying extra for those features you might never need. I’ll miss the LH160, it was so good I reviewed when I had no obligation to.