I’ve been working with Optoma for a while, so when they offered me a projector that could connect to my Echo, I was intrigued, so I got Optoma to send the UHL55 my way, and on top of just being a smashing projector, turns out having it linked to a smart assistant is both a blessing and a curse.
- Image Quality is stunning
- Audio performance is outstanding
- Decent I/O
- Alexa and Google Assistant Integration
- Alexa Integration buggy
- Alexa in UK and Germany only, Google Assistant UK only at the moment
- Remote is finicky
- Android Interface is slow and bad
Disclosure: Optoma sent us this projector for review, they have not been compensated in any way and neither has MobileTechTalk. I have used the projector for 2 weeks in slightly less than optimal conditions on WiFi. This Machine will be returned to Optoma by the time this review goes live.
- DLP Projection
- 3840×2160 resolution (with Pixel Shifting)
- Android 6.0 based UI (Not AndroidTV)
- 500,000:1 Contrast Ratio
- 30”-200” compatible Screen
- 2x HDMI 2.0 (W/ HDCP 2.2)
- 1x USB 3.0
- 1x USB 2.0
- 1x RJ45 Ethernet port
- 1x SPDIF jack
- 1x 3.5mm audio jack
- 1x 12v barrel jack
- LED Lamp
- Life of 30,000 Hours
- Throw Ratio of 1.2:1
- No Zoom
- 2x 8W Speakers tuned by NuForce
The UHL55 is weird, it’s technically a small projector, especially for a 4K one, but the proportions of it just make it look much bigger than it actually is, I believe the kids would call it a “THICC boi” due to being roughly as tall as it is wide, and this rather narrow base frame makes the 3.8kg mass feel a lot heftier than it actually is. Nevertheless, the UHL55 is not unattractive, It is got a modern aesthetic that I can see on a shelf at the rear of a room or having from the ceiling, though I would recommend against the ceiling mount due to the increased height, smaller ceilings might cause issues.
Going around the chassis we see a pretty typical get up for a projector, lens on the front, I/O on the rear, ventilation on either side and controls on the top. But that doesn’t really tell the whole story. The body is split, the top quarter is a darker gunmetal grey, whereas the lower three quarters is a much lighter grey that almost has a gold-y tint to it. Once again taking a tour, up front we have the large lens that gives us this magnificent image, below that, on roughly a quarter on the bottom is ventilation, this DLP chip and LED setup obviously gets rather toasty for this much ventilation. Next to the Lens is a little window for what I believe to be the IR emitter/receiver for the remote control.
On the rear, we have the I/O as I said, comprised of 2 HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.2, 2 USB ports, one of which is USB3.0, an RJ45 Ethernet jack, a SPDIF optical audio jack and a 3.5mm audio jack, lastly we have the barrel jack for power, and you guessed it, more ventilation, oh, and there is a Kensington lock in case you wanted to strap this down in an education environment.
There really isn’t anything to say about the left and right sides, it’s just ventilation, so instead, we’ll move to the top. Up here we have the control keys for activating the autofocus system, a volume up and down buttons, and lastly, a Bluetooth pairing button, because this has Bluetooth. The other thing up here? That’s a lens cover, slide it open to wake up and power on the projector, slide it to cover the lens and power down the projector, nice, though I would like it to be motorised so when I turn off the projector with the remote it still closes the lens cover.
So, this doesn’t really need to be said, but Optoma makes quality stuff, and if their entry-level gear is great, their £1500 projector is undoubtedly going to be great, and you know what, it bloody well is.
One of the big things we talk about in the projector realm is “native resolution” or “sensor resolution” this is because, for the longest time, companies would pass off lower resolution and quality sensors as being able to display 1080p, when in fact it was a 480×320 native sensor upscaling, so finding out the native resolution was very important. When 4K UHD projectors came about, native resolution became less important, but we started seeing projectors with native 1080p professing to display 4K images “natively” using Pixel shifting techniques, now I don’t have the time nor the expertise to explain Pixel shifting, so I will instead link to a Projector Central article where they talk about it. But the TLDR is at this level, more factors come into play than pure resolution.
The UHL55 is a standard DLP projector, not Laser or LCD or anything like that, but I will say there has been little to no rainbowing that I was able to discern in my use of it, which is impressive, as for whatever reason I seem to pick up on it quite a lot with older DLP projectors. The contrast on the UHL55 was great which once again works in its favour to look even better than competing projectors, and the LED lamp inside not only has a 30,000-hour lifespan on it, but it gets bright enough to still see the projector with curtains open without massively washing out the image, another benefit of LEDs over traditional projector lamps.
If I had any complaints about the image from the UHL55 is that there isn’t really much adjustment you can do, or at least the stuff you can do in the settings is a bit small. For example, if you can’t get the projector parallel to the projection surface you can do a keystone adjustment, but the adjustment is relatively small. If you can’t get it close enough to fit your screen you can do a digital zoom but the zoom scale wasn’t great, the software seems to be holding back this, but if you are able to put the projector anywhere and not worry about compensating for a shifted image, there isn’t really anything for me to complain about.
Something I’ve noticed lately is that more and more companies are putting the effort in to make the integrated speakers better on their projectors, sure they know that die-hard people will plug into a sound system, which is why they have the SPDIF port and the 3.5mm auxiliary jack there, and heck Optoma even put Bluetooth in so if you have a Bluetooth soundbar you can connect that up, but a lot of people can’t do that so they just use the internal speakers, and wow, the dual 8w speakers in the UHL55 blew me away, besting the speakers of my closest competitor the Anker Nebula Pizm II.
Optoma say that the speakers here are tuned by their Audio division, NuForce, and I’d be inclined to believe them as these are significantly better than any other speakers I’ve used on an Optoma projector, by far and away superior and I was shocked at how much depth was in the audio as well as just sheer volume.
If you don’t want to use the built-in speakers though, which is fine, there are three other ways to do audio on the UHL55, the first is simple, plug into the 3.5mm audio jack, whether it be a set of speakers or headphones, just plug-in and go, the second is the Optical audio SPDIF port, this is usually used for higher-end sound systems or soundbars, and lastly there is Bluetooth, yup, standard Bluetooth, so if you have a Bluetooth soundbar, like the impressive Soundcore Infini Mini from Anker’s sister brand, you can set that up, or on the other hand if you want to watch TV whilst your partner is asleep you can use Bluetooth headphones to send the audio straight to your buds so your partner can get those Z’s.
This is actually a really nice remote, a surprisingly nice remote if I’m completely honest. It isn’t perfect, and it has one of the weaker IR signals I’ve seen in a while needing more obvious “Line of Sight” to the projector to work consistently, which was a real bummer.
Shape and weight, the remote felt a bit toy-like in that it was so light and the shape so small, it is better than 90% of the remotes I usually get, but after the awesome remote I got with the LH160, I’m a bit upset by how basic and cheap feeling the remote is for the price.
There is really only one thing to talk about here, and that is the Alexa integration, and when it works, this is the best thing in the world for a lazy person like me who forgets to turn their TV off, wakes up in the middle of the night to a glaring image and trying to fumble around for the remote, just being able to say “Alexa, turn the projector off” and having it happen was so, so nice.
The problem is, it didn’t work all the time, I can say that it worked about 80% of the time, and I’m sure it’ll get better with more software updates, but the number of times that the projector went offline or the Echo couldn’t find it, and the Optoma connect app just wouldn’t connect either, it felt like an early beta feature that accidentally shipped to everyone.
Setting up the UHL55 with your Amazon Echo is also losing hair levels of frustrating as you have to get a new app from Optoma, make a new account there, update the projector, find out a serial number on there, add it into the app, go into the account settings to then find a different code to add that into your Amazon Alexa app. It was a right faff and I don’t blame most people for not setting it up, even if you do get a super useful feature out of it. Being able to turn it on and off, change inputs, change volume etc is nice and simple and just works… when it works.
I also want to talk about the interface. It’s bad. I Implore companies making projectors, do not take AOSP, put some lazy lean back launcher on it then some back-alley app store. Do not do it. It is not a good experience and your customers will not enjoy it. Go to Google or Go to Amazon, suck it up, pay them the license fee and use Android TV or FireTV, interfaces built to be used from 10+ft away, have optimised applications for those use cases and more. People don’t gain anything by you saying a few extra quid and doing this option, please, please stop it.
So, should you buy it? Well duh. If you’re in the market for a premium projector, you could buy a lot worse for a lot more money. The UHL55 gives you a great image, stunning built-in audio and a nice helping of I/O, it also comes with the possibility of adding the device to you Amazon Echo setup making it voice-controlled for those times you’ve dropped the remote and can’t quite find it.
The UHL55 isn’t cheap, and they aren’t positioning it as such, they’re positioning it as an all in one media centre and it works well. Unlike older projectors you don’t need to worry about focusing the image as it has autofocus, you don’t need to run long wires to speakers as it has decent built-in ones and Bluetooth, with HDR support, Dolby 5.1 and more this is a projector for the long haul, and this will survive it.