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Optoma UHD55 review: Big-screen gaming with a wider range of colours

Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,499
inc VAT

With strong gaming features, decent HDR performance and brilliant colours, the Optoma UHD55 is a great all-rounder

Pros 
Detailed 4K images
Impressive colour reproduction
Strong set of gaming features
Cons 
WCG modes reduce brightness levels
Blacks are on the grey side
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Some things are always going to be paramount when we talk about projectors. Resolution, contrast and colour will be on anybody’s list. Support for HDR standards, calibrated quality modes and connectivity should be right up there. But when I think about what’s good about the Optoma UHD55, I’m most impressed by its flexibility and ease of use and by the fact that it covers all the ways you’d want to use it well.

There are better projectors out there for home cinema or for streaming binges and cheaper options if you’re just focused on big-screen gaming. Yet the UHD55 is a great projector for doing all of the above and more.


Optoma UHD55 review: What you need to know

The UHD55 represents a step-up from the Expert Reviews Recommended Optoma UHD38 and its near-identical replacement, the Optoma UHD38x. Like them, it’s a DLP projector with a pixel-shifted 4K resolution, meaning that it doesn’t have a native 4K resolution but instead flashes a 1080p image at 240Hz, shifting the output with each high-speed refresh to build up a 4K picture. In practice, this looks close enough to native 4K that most of us would struggle to see any difference at normal viewing distances and that’s good enough for the Consumer Technology Association’s approval as true 4K.

The UHD55 has an output of 3,600 lumens and a claimed Contrast ratio of 1.2million:1. That’s actually not as bright as the UHD38 and it’s 4,000 lumens, although that model has a lower contrast ratio of just 1million:1. It supports both the HDR10 and HLG standards, while promising to cover 97.3% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, so you should get rich and vibrant hues, rather than the artificial or posterised tones you find on some cheap 4K projectors. Meanwhile, its PureMotion interpolation tech is designed to ditch judder and blurring in fast motion sequences, without introducing any weird-looking smoothing effects. It uses a traditional 240W lamp rather than an LED or laser source, giving you between 4,000 and 15,000 hours of use depending on the setting. I found the Eco setting on the gloomy side but the 15,000-hour Dynamic setting was actually pretty good for everyday use, even in a dimly-lit room or daytime with the blinds closed.

Optoma UHD55 review: Price and competition

Right now, the UHD55 sells for around £1,500, putting it in the mid-range of what you might call affordable 4K projectors. If you’re not too worried about the wider colour gamut – particularly if your focus is on gaming – you could save a little cash by opting for the excellent UHD38x, which you can find for under £1,100.

The similar BenQ TK700 sells for £1,200, while the more movie-focused BenQ W1800i is also around £1,100 to £1,200. At the £1,400 to £1,500 price point, you might also look at the Epson EH-TW7100 and the BenQ W2700. The Epson is one of the cheapest 4K LCD projectors, while the W2700 is, like the UHD55, a step-up model with a wider DCI-P3 colour gamut.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best projectors to buy

Optoma UHD55 review: Design

It’s easy to see the family resemblance between the Optoma UHD38 and UHD55. The two look near-identical and share the same dimensions, with an understated off-white plastic casing and decorative vents on both sides, with those on the right-hand side extending onto the front.

The biggest physical differences are that the UHD55 has a wider zoom range – 1.3x rather than 1.1x – and an extra dial on the top to cover the +10% vertical lens shift. It also has a shorter throw ratio of 1.21:1 to 1.59:1 against the UHD38’s 1.51:1 to 1.66:1. All this gives you a little more flexibility about where you place your projector and your screen. You can have a 100in image from just 2.68m away at full zoom and sit it on a low table, a projector stand or the ceiling.

All the connectivity is located at the rear, where you’ll find two HDMI 2.0 ports, a single VGA port, three USB ports, RS-232 and 12V control connections plus an Ethernet port. For audio, you’ll also spot a 3.5mm line-in and line-out, along with an S/PDIF optical output. There’s no built-in Wi-Fi, but Optoma supplies a tiny 802.11n adapter, which plugs into one of the USB ports.

This works in conjunction with Optoma’s custom version of Android but, alas, it isn’t one of the UHD55’s key selling points. Not only do you have a slightly dated custom UI but a custom app store offering only a restricted selection of Android streaming apps, including outdated versions of Netflix and Amazon Prime. Streaming quality doesn’t look great and you’ll get a far superior experience just by plugging in a Google Chromecast with Google TV or an Amazon Fire Stick TV 4K or Roku 4K streaming stick. On the plus side, the on-screen menus are fairly straightforward, while Optoma supplies a good slimline remote control, complete with backlit keys.

There is one thing you should note about the projector’s HDMI inputs. Both support 4K HDR video at 60Hz and 1080p HDR video at up to 240Hz but only one port (HDMI2) supports the full DCI-P3 wide colour gamut and only then in the specific WCG_HDR and WCG_HLG modes. These bring Optoma’s DCI-P3 Active Shutter tech into play but also reduce the brightness levels, so there is a trade-off there.

Optoma has put some impressive effort into making the UHD55 work outside the ideal home cinema space. Don’t have a screen? The UHD55 has settings to colour correct for a coloured wall. It has a mesh-based geometry correction system to help you straighten out bumps, alongside the usual (and effective) adjustments for keystone and corner projection. It isn’t the kind of projector where you can just plonk it down in front of the screen and leave it to automatically set up a decent image but it is the kind of projector that gives you all the tools to get a great one. Even the colour controls go into serious amounts of detail, so you can tweak the balance to your heart’s content.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best projectors to buy

Optoma UHD55 review: Picture quality

The good news is that you don’t actually need to do much tweaking to get a great image from the Optoma UHD55. With the projector set to Cinema mode and HDR on auto, I had fantastic picture quality, packed with detail and punchy colours from both a 4K Blu-ray player and the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.

The early action scenes from Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness on Disney+ are a riot of chaos and carnage but the UHD55 dished out vibrant comic book tones and textures without any problems, with smooth motion and crisp definition. Dune on 4K Blu-ray is just as impressive, giving you plenty of opportunity to admire the more realistic effects and the sheer amount of work in the production design. I’ve seen a sharper image from some other 4K projectors – particularly the XGIMI Aura – but not one with such pleasing colours.

Andor on Disney+ was another treat, with the UHD55 handling the grittier, noir-ish sci-fi style with an impeccable performance. As with most projectors, the UHD55 doesn’t actually hit HDR levels of brightness – I measured maximum levels at 30cm from the screen at 289cd/m2 – but you’d be hard pressed to know it from the gleaming highlights, even if the blacks are predictably less than deep and inky.

Through HDMI2 with WCG_HDR enabled, the colours only get richer and the image grows in depth. The downside is that it’s not quite as bright and punchy, while the HDR effects look just a little more restrained. Still, much as I’d like both brightness and the widest DCI-P3 palette at the exact same time, having a choice of great image quality settings isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world.

What’s more, my tests with a colorimeter show Optoma isn’t making unsubstantiated claims about WCG. I measured gamut coverage at 97.4% sRGB and 92.7% DCI P3, with volumes of 135.2% and 95.7%. That’s a big improvement on the 90.9% and 73.3% I saw in Cinema mode. Just be aware, though, that a wider colour gamut doesn’t necessarily mean more accurate colours. In fact, the most accurate colour reproduction I found delivered an average Delta E of 6.71, in the projector’s non-WCG Reference mode.

As for gaming, the UHD55 gives you all the great stuff from the UHD38 with knobs on. Playing Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal in 4K on PS5, it’s hard not to be struck by the vibrant hues, superb detail and effective motion handling, and even harder to notice any hint of lag. The HDR effects in Returnal’s dark horror sci-fi world are nothing short of dazzling. Switching to 1080p/120Hz for the 2019 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and the action gets even smoother and incredibly responsive. If you’re after a big, immersive gaming experience, they don’t get much bigger or more immersive than this.

The UHD55 also has a built-in speaker but it’s not suitable for anything bar the most casual use. The output can be muddy at low volumes and harsh when you wind up the volume and there’s no real sense of space or directionality. Still, if you’re spending this much on a projector then you probably have the budget for a soundbar or speaker system, or at least a decent set of wireless headphones.

Optoma UHD55 review: Verdict

The UHD55 is a step up from the most affordable 4K gaming and home cinema projectors, giving you richer colours and a more vibrant picture while still minimising lag and offering higher frame rates at 1080p. It’s well-designed, flexible and a great entertainment all-rounder.

Not everyone will need to pay the higher price, though. Its sibling, the UHD38x, offers great gaming features and very likable pictures for £400 less, while the BenQ W1800 is a strong budget alternative for movie nuts, with a more cinematic colour balance and filmmaker mode support. If you’re looking for a more versatile projector with wide colour gamut options, however, the Optoma UHD55 is worth the extra.

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