REVIEW: OPTOMA UHD51ALVE 4K SMART PROJECTOR - BRIGHT YOUNG THING?
Optoma’s UHD51ALVe 4K smart projector is lightweight and relatively inexpensive. Intrigued by its mix of UHD home cinema projection and voice-control, we had to investigate further.
4K Smart Projector
Where 4K TV prices appear to be consistently coming down in price projectors, on the other hand, are a little slower at becoming bargains. However, there is something special about watching a Hollywood blockbuster on a projected image of up to 7.6m, as this one does, when compared to a 60-inch telly.
The Optoma UHD51ALVe has a super-bright lamp rated at 3200 lumens that squirts out 4K resolution (3840x2160) through its HDR-capable DLP projection engine that supports the HDR10 standard. Furthermore, this Optoma packs wireless network connectivity and Alexa interface support, meaning that you can stream files to it from networked devices and control it with your voice via Amazon Alexa kit.
Naturally, at this price, we aren't looking at native 4K here. Instead, the UHD51ALVe uses tiny mirrors on its DLP chip and refreshes the image four times per frame, each image slightly offset from the other to give the impression of 4K. This method isn't a bad thing; many other projectors use this system to great effect. More importantly, it is the difference between £1,600 and £5,000 projectors.
This Optoma projector, in my opinion, sits somewhere twixt 'lifestyle' and 'prosumer' in that it is a little larger than most lifestyle projectors but still has enough style about it so as not to need to be hidden or bolted to the ceiling out of the way. The silver strip that runs along its ribbed sides is enough to break up all the black. Also, the top of the unit has two different finishes, again breaking up the sea of shiny, albeit high-quality, plastic. While we are looking at the top panel, you will also notice a neat square bank of control buttons. Another nice touch is that the bundled, little, otherwise unremarkable remote control is backlit.
Optoma UHD51ALVe Smarts
When being offered a couple of projectors from Optoma's 4K stable this one edged it because my gadgety brain took over. Howso? Well, thanks to a little USB dongle that's shipped with the projector as standard the UHD51ALVe can connect with your Wi-Fi network or Alexa devices. So, you can play networked files wirelessly as well as control the projector with your voice, via any Amazon Echo devices - such as the Dot I have in the living room.
Now, don't get too carried away, the Alexa control covers fairly basic commands such as: “Alexa, change input to HDMI 1 on projector”, “Alexa, power up projector”, “Alexa, set volume to 8 on projector” and the like. Additionally, if you’re playing content via the projector’s built-in media player via a USB drive, for instance, you can also control playback by saying “Alexa, Stop on projector”, “rewind on projector”, and so on. As I said, pretty basic stuff but, as someone who controls the lighting throughout their home by Alexa (there is another Dot upstairs too), I am good with this.
I suppose there could be an argument for utilising the projector's networking chops to include streaming services onboard such as Netflix, Prime Video, et al. but, as the UHD51ALVe sports a pair of HDMI ports, I merely shoved my 4K Fire Stick into one of them and my UDP-205 in the other - sorted. Both of those HDMI ports support HDCP 2.2, for 4K HDR playback.
Staying on the subject of connectivity, the UHD51ALVe has a total of four USB ports, one marked to be used with the wireless dongle in Alexa mode, and one for the dongle in network mode, leaving the third for USB drives. The fourth port is for service updates.
The other ports comprise of a 15-pin D-SUB PC port, an RS-232 control port, a 12V trigger port, an Ethernet port, 3.5mm audio in/outs, and optical audio input.
Finally, there is even a built-in sound system. Well, there's 2 x 5W of audio output. It's not great, but not bad either. The audio is clear enough to know what's going on, but I'd not watch an entire film solely using the integral speakers.
Optoma UHD51ALVe Setup
Setting the UHD51ALVe up is made simple thanks to a good range of optical zoom as well as vertical image shift. The adjustments are all dialled in manually, and you get 1.3x optical zoom as well as up and down lens shift of 10%. The latter means that you hopefully don't need to tilt the projector and end up keystoning the image. However, the front foot is adjustable should it be required but be warned, I couldn't find any keystone correction on the projector.
The projector has a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 500,000:1 and a stonking 15,000 hours of lamp life when used in Dynamic mode. Moreover, you don't need a completely blacked out room as the 3200 lumens slings an incredibly bright picture. Furthermore, the UHD51ALVe’s menus list everything you need for a full calibrated installation, including full-colour management, ISF Day and Night presets, and various contrast and brightness controls. Straight out of the box, the Cinema preset seemed fine and dandy to use for the most part.
Optoma UHD51ALVe Picture Quality
Overall performance is pretty good with content projected at 4K looking sharper than 1080p content. Naturally, the DLP's spinning colour-wheel will always create some rainbowing if you look for it. It wasn't really pronounced on the UDH541ALVe but should you cast your eyes away from the screen and back it's there. But, really, how often will you be doing that?
Contrast and black levels are decent once you've fiddled with the settings although that phenomenally bright lamp does seem to wash some of the really black blacks out. The effect was more noticeable in a blacked-out room with what should have been inky shadows being greyed. The Dynamic Black feature seemed to improve the picture a little on some titles, and the bonus is that this mode also boosts lamp life.
However, there is a pay-off with bright HDR scenes really popping with impressively vibrant colours and uniform brightness. If you're a fan of the likes of Sir David Attenborough's 'Planet' titles and the likes or looking to project sports, you'll really appreciate the UDH541ALVe's bright palette.
You do get 3D with this projector but it's of the active shutter variety, so this wasn't tested as I don't own any such glasses.
Optoma UHD51ALVe Review Conclusion
The Optoma UHD51ALVe is a capable 4K projector at a very tempting price. Colours and brightness are its strengths making it a great contender for big match fans as you don't even need an entirely dark room to get a great picture. However, movie fans looking to get their big screen action on in a darkened room may find the greyed blacks a tad irksome.
Optoma has a really decent 4K projector here for not much money, especially when you throw in the 3D and Alexa skills; however, there is plenty of choice in this price range - especially if you are not that bothered about voice control or 3D.
We reckon that the Optoma UHD51ALVe is certainly worth adding to your list as you are getting a lot at a very attractive price.
The Optoma UHD51ALVe is available now for £1600.
For more information, go to Optoma.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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