The brightest new toy in the AV field is the short-throw laser projector you may have seen recently.
. They are cool because they can provide you with huge, bright images at a fraction of the price of comparable 4K TVs. At the same time, they are relatively easy to install compared to ceiling-mounted projectors because you can place them on a table a few inches in front of the screen.
I would like to know how they compare with 4K TVs and ordinary projectors, so I have mastered
With its $1,300 100-inch ALR101 screen with ambient light reflection. For this reason, I can project a huge 100-inch image at a fraction of the price of a 100-inch TV. At the same time, it also promises to provide greater brightness and clarity than telephoto projectors, as well as built-in media functions.
In addition to reviewing this projector, I will also review the entire idea of a short-range laser projector from installation to daily use. I found a lot of important information and warnings, so I hope you can learn from my mistakes and understand the performance of these products in the real world.
Short-throw laser projectors promise less compromise than long-throw models, and Optoma’s CinemaX P1, which sells for $3,700, can achieve this goal. It has high brightness, good contrast and excellent color accuracy, especially in HDR content. The most important thing is that the maximum size of the image you can get is 120 inches, but the price is only a small part of the similar TV. Using the ambient light shielding screen, you can use it with indoor light during the day and still get usable images. It also has a built-in sound bar to provide a rich audio experience without a separate home theater system. The biggest flaw is the built-in streaming application, which does not work in 4K. However, this problem can be easily solved by purchasing a 4K streaming media stick or 4K Blu-ray player.
CinemaX P1's square sharp-edged design and black, gold accent colors look very modern. It is definitely larger than most projectors (25 pounds), but still takes up much less space than TVs and sound bars.
All you really need is a TV stand and considerable wall space for the projector screen. No complicated ceiling installation or electric drop-down screen is required. As for the ALR101, although it is not foldable like an ordinary projector screen, it is flush with the wall and does not require power. Most importantly, it has a soft gray, looks very beautiful, and can display artwork or photos when not in use.
The projector module uses Texas Instruments 4K DLP technology with laser phosphors instead of bulbs or LEDs as the light source. As mentioned earlier, it provides high brightness with a maximum contrast ratio of 1:1,500,000. This also means that you don't need to replace the bulb, because the laser device has a lifespan of up to 30,000 hours, or 8 hours a day for nearly 10 years. It is more than seven times that of ordinary bulbs, and can be matched with LED and LED/laser hybrid projectors. Lasers can also provide more consistent brightness from corner to corner, and have less so-called rainbow effects-more soon.
Like other 4K DLP projectors in the budget category (yes, this is technically qualified), it is equipped with Texas Instruments' (TI) XPR DLP chip, which has a native 1080p resolution. However, it uses "pixel shift" to move the pixel four times while moving it to the correct position in the 4K image. All these operations are completed in less than 1/60 second, which means it can place as many pixels as possible on the screen in the same time as a 4K native projector. This makes it possible to meet 4K for all intents and purposes, and visually, its performance is similar. (For more information on pixel shifting, please check our
CinemaX P1 is only 10 inches in front of the 100-inch screen, less than a foot from the bottom. If a conventional projector is placed close to a wall and shines light upward, it will obviously distort the image. Therefore, short-range projectors must pre-distorte the image so that it looks rectangular on the wall, making the lens a vital component. Optoma said that CinemaX P1 is equipped with a "high-performance glass lens" suitable for 4K UHD viewing.
On the back is an Ethernet port (although you can also connect via WiFi), as well as S/PDIF and aux ports for audio, a USB port and two HDMI 2.0 ports. For convenience, there is another HDMI 2.0 and USB connection on the side, but unfortunately, for example, the USB port cannot provide enough power to run the Amazon Fire Stick.
Another key component is the built-in NuForce Dolby Digital 2.0 soundbar (Optoma acquired HiFi company NuForce in 2014). It is located at the forefront of the projector and is equipped with two aluminum drivers, two woofers and a 40-watt amplifier to ensure "clear details and excellent dialogue clarity." It supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT, USB media playback and smart TV applications through the Android operating system.
Setting up CinemaX P1 is a very simple matter, but there are some very important things to know. First, it is designed to project onto a very flat wall or custom screen. I originally planned to test it with an electric screen in my apartment, but soon discovered that it was impossible.
The reason is simple: the projector is right next to the wall and it shines straight, widening the screen defect. The electric filter will be tightly wound, so it will produce fine, regular creases. These are horizontal lines for me, so I think something is wrong with the projector.
Once I determined that it was a screen, Optoma agreed to send me its ALR101 screen, which can be stretched to be placed very flat in its frame. It can also block ambient light from above and from the side, making the projector more suitable for daytime use. The disadvantage is that the total brightness is significantly reduced (about 40%). However, if you are buying a short-throw projector and plan to use it in a room with ambient light, I suggest you try to provide the largest possible ALR screen. However, if your room is usually dark, you can also project onto a flat white wall.
After that, setting up the projector was very simple, although still more complicated than sticking a 4K TV on a shelf. First, I needed to assemble the screen, which took two hours, and it was not clearly explained (Optoma needs to make a YouTube video for this). Also, when I put down the test unit and scratched it lightly, I suggest two people wall it on the screen (sorry, Optoma).
Then, I need to figure out the height of the projector and install the screen at a suitable height to match. Don't install the ambient light shielding screen upside down like I did, otherwise you will get a very dim image. Yes, I made all the mistakes during the installation process.
As for the color settings, I found that CinemaX P1 is not available out of the box. I follow the settings from here
, Please use my X-Rite calibrator to check them again and find that they are within acceptable accuracy.
Once you get a rough image, you can use Optoma’s Canny
feature. In this mode, it will project four blue dots on the screen and then link to your smartphone. After taking a picture of the screen, it electronically places the image in the frame.
The beautiful but small remote control works well, allowing you to easily adjust settings, control media and change volume. My only complaint is that it looks exactly like the remote control of my Fire Stick 4K, so I keep conflating them.
4K HDR video from YouTube
After updating the CinemaX P1 firmware and installing Netflix, Prime Video and some other applications, I can start. I also connected the 4K cable box to the HDMI 2.0 connection on the back and connected the Amazon Fire Stick 4K on the side port.
The laser projector covers 87% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, while BenQ’s HT3550 has the same DLP chip, which covers 95% of the color gamut. This means that the color will be less accurate and only suitable for the most demanding HDR content.
I used the "movie" picture mode for regular SD content and saw bright, color-accurate pictures. My viewing distance is limited to around 15 feet, which is a bit too close for a 100-inch screen. However, even at such a close distance, the resolution and 4K content appear very clear. With the dynamic aperture, the contrast is as abrupt as in the advertisement.
However, this projector is indeed designed for HDR10 content. (It does not apply to Dolby Vision or Samsung's HDR10+, because many types of home projectors still do not support this technology). After enabling HDR and streaming HDR10 content via Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, the image quality has been significantly improved. The image is significantly brighter and more powerful, with more saturated colors, and I can see more details in the shadows and highlights.
For other projectors that I have tested, such as the aforementioned HT3550, the quality of HDR is not significantly better than SDR. However, CinemaX P1 has 1000 nits more light and is placed next to the screen to maximize brightness. As I mentioned, the contrast of the ALR101 screen has been enhanced, albeit at the expense of some brightness.
With all the brightness and ALR screen, I can use the projector with the light and shutter open. In this case, compared to a 4K TV, the content in this case is clearly easier to watch than on a regular projector, although the image still looks more faded and desaturated. Nonetheless, this is as good as using a projector to get ambient light.
Many long-distance projectors have the problem of "rainbow effect". People will see prism-like colors when they leave the screen. However, the eight-segment color wheel (compared to the six-segment on most projectors) does reduce this effect. In fact, I have never noticed the rainbow effect once, and I am very sensitive to it.
The sound of NuForce far exceeds your expectations for a projector with built-in speakers. The dialogue is very clear, and the high-end sound is clear and sharp. The bass is good, but not as rich and immersive as one would expect from a large soundbar or home theater system.
Although it can be used with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, it does not support 5.1 or Dolby Atmos. Overall, the built-in sound is very good, especially if space is limited.
Projector noise can be a problem-as I found in BenQ's HT2550. However, according to my measurements, the noise level in this model is not annoying and is well below 30 decibels. This is lower than the noise floor of a typical room, especially in a noisy city like mine.
Alexa/Google Assistant support is very convenient, especially for music or general information. However, the built-in stream is indeed the weakness of this projector. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video apps strangely do not support 4K HDR, so your resolution is limited to 1080p, and P1 cannot even upgrade it. However, if you spend this kind of money, there is a simple solution: just get a 4K streaming box, dongle, console or Blu-ray player, and then ignore these applications.
In terms of pure image quality, projectors cannot be compared with mid-range or high-end TVs. However, with Optoma CinemaX P1, you don't have to pay too many compromises, especially in terms of brightness. At only a fraction of the price of a 100-inch TV, even cheaper than most 75-inch TVs, you will get all the advantages of a projector with fewer disadvantages.
Optoma is known for making affordable projectors, so the $3,700 CinemaX P1 does not seem to be cheap. However, its cost is nearly half that of LG
The brightness of the projector is higher, and it can emit 3,000 ANSI lumens when turned on, while its competitors only have 2700 lumens. Cheaper is
It is priced at US$1,470 and emits almost half the light (1,600 ANSI lumens).
Therefore, the price is reasonable next to competing products, especially considering the feature set. Although this projector cannot provide the picture quality of JVC and Sony's 4K telephoto projectors, it is brighter than many of them.
Yes, streaming apps are terrible, but the $70 Chromecast or the $40 Amazon Fire Stick solves this problem. If you, like me, believe that size is more important than all other factors, then Optoma CinemaX P1 can provide one of the best and brightest images at this price and provide excellent sound.