The Optoma UHD52ALV measures 15.4″ x 11.1″ x 4.6″ (WxDxH) and weighs in at only 11.75 pounds, making it easy to move from the living room to the den to the back yard for movies under the stars. It offers a 1.3x zoom lens, and it provides vertical lens shift, making placement more flexible than it would be without lens shift. It can be placed from 3.9 to 26.6 feet from the screen and create an image from 34″ to 302″ diagonally. I’d call that pretty darn flexible, though the extreme ends of those ranges would not produce good picture quality.
The UHD52ALV a single-chip DLP projector using a 0.47″ 1920×1080 DMD (Digital Micromirror Device), the imaging chip at the heart of DLP technology. Each pixel is quickly shifted between four different positions to achieve an effective resolution of 3840×2160 individually addressable pixels on the screen. The 8-segment color wheel includes two sets of red, green, blue, and white segments, resulting in a color gamut that exceeds 100% of BT.709, the standard for HD video. In fact, Optoma claims it encompasses more than 80% of the DCI/P3 gamut, the standard for commercial digital cinema and consumer wide color gamut.
Optoma UHD52ALV Projector performances
Happily the Optoma UHD52ALV’s smarts extend to its performance. The first thing that hits you – almost literally – is how bright it is. It punches out bright scenes with an intensity that actually makes its claims of 3500 lumens of peak brightness look conservative. There’s easily enough light here to keep the pictures watchable in all but the most sun-drenched living rooms – especially if you partner the projector with a mild positive-gain screen.
The UHD52ALV doesn’t just rely on brightness for its thrills, though. Crucially, despite not carrying a wide color filter like a few (more expensive) projectors do these days, its colors are well saturated and vibrant enough to keep the high brightness company. This means colors avoid the wan, faded look you sometimes get with brightness-dominated pictures. As well as holding up better in ambient light than most projector colors do.
Talking of contrast, first impressions of the Optoma UHD52ALV suggest that it holds on to better black colors than you usually see with ultra bright projectors. Again, ambient light inevitably ‘waters down’ black colors with any projector that’s trying to work in a bright room. But here a combination of decent native black levels and the optical illusion of better blacks created by the projector’s high brightness combine to keep dark areas looking more convincing in ambient light than they usually would.
The UHD52ALV’s impressive brightness and color don’t just help it combat ambient light, though. They also make it more adept with high dynamic range content than most projectors are. Even some HDR-capable models that cost substantially more can’t produce as clear a difference between SDR and HDR playback as this Optoma model.
However, what really sets it apart from most bright-room peers is how well it adapts to dark rooms for more serious movie nights. Shifting from the Bright or HDR Sim presets recommended for HDR and SDR bright room content respectively to the Cinema or Standard presets is all you have to do to introduce the reduced brightness, extra contrast, enhanced black levels and more restrained colours required for an engaging dark room projector picture. During dark room viewing you also notice such unexpected (for an affordable bright room projector) tricks as impressive amounts of shadow detail in dark scenes, a confident combination of bold and subtle color tones, and good levels of sharpness and clarity.
While the Optoma UHD52ALV isn’t a native 4K projector, Texas Instruments’ approach to getting 4K-like performance out of DLP projectors that don’t have 3840×2160 true pixels definitely generates here a picture that looks, at least, much sharper and more detailed than normal HD.
At this point the Optoma UHD52ALV is starting to sound too good to be true. So inevitably, there are a few flaws to report, too. The most frustrating of these is the way the projector struggles to resolve some of the boldest, richest HDR colors. Such parts of the picture can seem to glow with a kind of radioactive intensity, standing out unnaturally from the rest of the picture and losing subtle tonal details. Luckily it’s only with the most extreme HDR colors where this happens. But you certainly can’t ignore it when it does crop up.
While the UHD52ALV’s brightness helps to sell its black level performance with mixed bright and dark shots, during dark room viewing there’s definite low-contrast greyness hanging over more predominantly dark images. I’ve certainly seen much worse black levels from projectors aimed at the living room market, but really serious cinephiles might be better looking at a more dedicated home theater projector, designed expressly for dark room use.
The mostly very good 3D pictures are marred by a slightly blurry look to motion at times (and you can’t use the PureMotion processor with 3D). Finally in the negative column, the Gaming mode strangely only delivered a disappointingly high delay in producing pictures of 84ms.
You can enjoy video and music files without needing to find an external audio solution, thanks to the UHD52ALV’s built-in 2x5W audio system, however the Optoma UHD52ALV’s sound quality fails to do its punchy pictures justice. There’s not enough power to project the sound far enough from the projector’s bodywork to make it sound like it’s married to the pictures. Also, with our sample the speakers distractingly kept briefly turning off during very quiet moments – which was, as you can imagine, a definite red flag.
The Optoma UHD52ALV isn’t perfect. Its black levels can’t get quite deep enough to keep serious home cinema fans happy, it struggles to keep a grip on very bright HDR, its imaging lag is a bit high for gamers, and its built-in speakers should only be seen as a sound option of last resort.
The projector does, though, deliver a strikingly effective bright room performance. It also looks more convincing with HDR than most projectors for most of the time, despite its issues with the very brightest HDR elements.
Its pictures are also sharp, vibrant and clean. And while it may not be on a par in dark rooms with good, dedicated home cinema projectors, it’s still more versatile in adapting to different room conditions than most of its rivals.