Optoma UHD38: the best “budget” 4K projector for movies and gaming

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The Optoma UHD38 4K Ultra HD projector is designed for both home theaters and gaming. It uses a Texas Instruments DLP chip and can project a very large image of up to 7 meters. HDR10 and HLG compatible, it covers a wide color space and offers a very high brightness (4000 lumens) to project in full daylight. Its very low input lag and 4K 60Hz and 1080p 120Hz/240Hz compatibility guarantee responsiveness and smoothness with video games. Sold for €1,099, the Optoma UHD38 projector seems perfect for 4K HDR Blu-rays, series and gaming…

4K 60Hz and HDR compatible to project movies in ultra high definition with a wide dynamic range and vivid colors, the Optoma UHD38 projector also features a very low input lag to optimize video game sessions.

Optoma UHD38: packaging & accessories

The Optoma UHD38 projector comes with a backlit remote control and batteries, a power cable (1.8m) and a quick start guide.

The Optoma UHD38 projector comes with a power cable (1.8m), a backlit remote control, batteries and a quick start guide.

Optoma UHD38: design

The Optoma UHD38 projector has a rather compact format, measuring only 31.5cm wide, 27cm deep and 11.8cm high, and weighs only 3.9kg. These dimensions make it easy to mount on a Vogel’s PPC-1500 ceiling bracket, for example, or place on a coffee table for occasional use. The three height-adjustable feet can be used for this purpose.

Its plastic casing has a textured matte white finish except for the top of the device, which has a glossy finish on its rear half (the part that houses the control panel) and a matte finish with shiny stripes on its front half (which features the manual zoom control). Large air vents run along the left side and the front right corner, designed to let a maximum of air in and out to cool the lamp. This results in some light leaks that can be bothersome depending on how the projector is placed in relation to the viewers, and can generate light pollution that is difficult, if not impossible, to control.

Optoma UHD38: very large image

When placed between 1.20m and 9.9m from the screen, the Optoma UHD38 Ultra HD 4K projector can project an image between 84cm and 7m across! For this review, we placed it 3.5m away from the screen to achieve an image that was 2.54m across (100”), with the zoom set to maximum (1.1x).

The Optoma UHD38 projector’s lens can project an image ranging from less than 1 meter to more than 7 meters diagonally from a distance of 1.20 to 9.9 meters!

It is important to note that the very short zoom range doesn’t provide much leeway in terms of placement, so it is important to carefully evaluate the necessary distance according to the desired image size before mounting the projector on a bracket.

It is important to choose the location of the projector carefully as the short zoom range (1.1x) quickly shows its limits when enlarging or reducing the size of the image.

Optoma UHD38: UHD 4K DLP

The Optoma UHD38 projector uses Texas Intrument’s DLP technology. It features a 0.47” DMD matrix with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, but thanks to XPR technology, it can display a true UHD 4K image without omitting any pixels.

This isn’t magic, simply XPR technology’s ability to multiply by four the 1920 x 1080 pixels of the matrix by switching each of its micro-mirrors quickly enough. In doing so, the DMD chip successively displays 4 contiguous pixels of the 4K UHD image received via the projector’s HDMI connector. 

As each micro-mirror is switched several thousand times per second, the brain sees the image as if the 8 million pixels are displayed simultaneously. With four times more detail than 1080p HD definition, viewers can enjoy richer images with sharper contours and more realistic textures.

Optoma UHD38: high brightness

The Optoma UHD38’s powerful 240-watt UHP lamp ensures high brightness that can reach 4000 lumens. It is therefore suitable for projection in a room in full daylight or in semi-darkness.

The Optoma UHD38’s lamp can achieve a brightness peak of 4000 lumens, which is ideal for displaying very bright HDR images.

However, the heat produced by the lamp needs to be evacuated by a ventilation system that is relatively noisy in bright mode (41dB at 50cm, 36dB at 1m). In Eco mode, the brightness is reduced, but so is the sound level with only 33dB measured at 1 meter from the projector. Perfect for evening movie sessions!

The lifespan of the lamp is 4000 hours in bright mode and can reach 15,000 hours in dynamic mode. The latter adjusts the brightness of the lamp in real time depending on the brightness of the displayed image. As well as optimizing the contrast, this mode prolongs the lifespan of the lamp.

Optoma UHD38: HDR10 & HLG

The Optoma UHD38 projector is HDR10 and HLG compatible and can therefore provide excellent legibility in the brightest and darkest areas of the image thanks to the extension of the dynamic range. Moreover, it covers the entire Rec.709 color space in order to reproduce millions of color shades. Thanks to this range of colors and brightness, images projected in HDR (Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video videos, 4K UHD Blu-ray) are realistic and close to what the human eye actually perceives.

Optoma UHD38: video game compatibility

This is one of the arguments emphasized by the manufacturer: the Optoma UHD38 projector is particularly suitable for video games because it has an input lag between 16ms in 4K/60Hz and only 4.2ms in 1080p/240Hz! As a reminder, the input lag is the latency between the time the console or PC graphics processor sends the image and the moment it is displayed on the screen. If the input lag is too high, the player sees the image with a delay and therefore reacts with a delay in relation to the game action. With the Optoma UHD38 projector, players have every chance to react quickly to attacks.

Thanks to the low input lag of the Optoma UHD38 projector, responsiveness is optimal with both racing and fighting video games.

Optoma UHD38: HDMI 2.0, 1080p 3D compatible

The Optoma UHD38’s connectors include two UHD 4K (up to 60Hz) and HDR compatible HDMI 2.0 inputs. In addition, this projector is compatible with 1080p 3D video content that requires investing in as many pairs of DLP Link compatible 3D glasses as there are viewers. The connectors also include an RGB/YPbPr compatible VGA input and a mini-jack audio input, as well as a powered USB port that can be used to power a Chromecast Video or a wireless HDMI receiver such as the Optoma WHD200.

The Optoma UHD38’s connectors allow you to connect two 1080p HDMI HD or 4K (up to 60Hz) sources such as a Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray player and a game console.

Lastly, the Optoma UHD38 projector is also equipped with a mini-jack audio output and a optical digital output that allow you to connect a soundbar to supplement its audio section, for example. The latter only features a single driver powered by an amplification of 10 watts and struggles to reproduce the sound effects of blockbusters. However, if you don’t have any other audio system it does allow you to enjoy soundtracks with clear and intelligible dialogues.

Optoma UHD38: key specifications

  • Brightness (bright mode): 4000 lumens
  • Contrast: 1,000,000:1 (FOFO)
  • Throw ratio: 1.5:1 ~ 1.66:1
  • Projection distance: 1.21m – 9.9m
  • Keystone correction: +/-40° vertical and horizontal
  • HDR10 & HLG compatible
  • 2 x 2.0 HDMI ports
  • Input lag: 4.2ms in 1080p/240Hz, 16ms in 4K/60Hz

Optoma UHD38: configuration

During our review, we connected the Optoma UHD38 projector to a UHD 4K Blu-ray player using a NorStone Jura HDMI Optic cable to enjoy several 4K UHD Blu-ray movies. We also connected an Android TV network media player (Shield TV) to enjoy our Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video accounts. To get a 2.54m (100″) image on our Lumene electric projection screen, we had to place the projector 3.50m away from the screen with the zoom set at maximum (1.1x). Like all projectors on the market, the Optoma UHD38 provides a test pattern that allows you to adjust the image within the limits of the screen.

The Optoma UHD38 projector’s test pattern makes it easy to adjust the image on the screen.
The convenient vertical and horizontal keystone correction allows you to correct any distortion if the projector is placed too high or too low and tilted towards the screen. It is supplemented by settings allowing you to precisely adjust the four corners of the image.

Optoma UHD38: our impressions

What first struck us when we first turned on this projector and once it was connected to the Android TV box was the vividness of the colors and the dynamism of the images projected in Cinema mode with HDR content. With Avengers: Infinity War, we were dazzled by the rich colors and excellent HDR management, notably in the highlights. And thanks to the high brightness of this projector, we didn’t need the room to be completely dark, although projecting movies at night did enhance the viewing experience. Nuances were also well managed in the darker areas of the image, which were full of details. However, it is a shame that the blacks weren’t as deep as we would have liked and that there was some judder during tracking shots and fast scenes.

When watching 4K UHD Blu-rays, this Optoma projector confirmed our positive first impressions. With the 4K HDR remastered versions of Alien and The Shining, we were effortlessly immersed thanks to a detailed and accurate image, typical of DLP/DMD matrix projectors. Despite the film grain found on the digital scan, close-ups were full of micro details, textures were palpable and colors were nicely saturated. HDR was well rendered, especially in the highlights, and the contrast was very satisfactory. The dining scene aboard the Nostromo before the dramatic appearance of the alien illustrated the Optoma UHD38’s ability to project a rich, high-contrast image and did justice to the 4K version of Ridley Scott’s film.

With The Shining, we were easily plunged into the unusual atmosphere of the large hotel in which Jack Torrance/Nicholson gradually descends into madness. The 70s decor and colors were beautifully rendered, accentuating the dramatic intensity of the scenes during which Jack meets the various inhabitants of the hotel.

With the first installment of The Hobbit trilogy on 1080p HD Blu-ray, naturally some definition was lost, but the image maintained a very flattering colorimetric richness that honored the photography of the movie. In the absence of HDR, we also lost detail in the high and low lights, with whites that were sometimes overexposed in the backgrounds and blacks that lacked nuance in the night scenes and in the caves. Overall, however, it was still entertaining and we enjoyed watching the adventures of Bilbo and his fellow travelers.

For video games, the Optoma UHD38 features a specific mode called Enhanced Gaming designed to drastically reduce latency between the moment when the image is sent by the source and the moment it appears on the screen.

During our review, with both a PC via its 4K 60Hz HDMI output and a video game console, we did not have any problems with reactivity. When landing blows and dodging enemy attacks, the action was immediately relayed on the screen with no downtime.

The very responsive Optoma UHD38 allows you to play video games without any latency and responds instantly when the buttons on the controller are pressed.

Optoma UHD38: compared to…

BenQ W1800i

The BenQ W1800i features the Filmmaker mode and incorporates an Android TV module, placing it ahead of the Optoma on paper. But the latter’s management of HDR content is very impressive and the lack of Android TV is compensated for by the price difference in favor of the Optoma, which allows you to purchase an Android TV box like the Xiaomi Mi Box TV 4K, for example. The black level of the BenQ is better than that of the Optoma, but that’s the price to pay for having enough brightness to project comfortably during the day without having to make the room completely dark.

BenQ X1300i

Although the BenQ X1300i suffers in terms of image definition (HD 1080p only and not 4K compatible), it makes up for it with a well-calibrated colorimetry. HDR compatibility provides images with a nice dynamic range, but the higher brightness of the Optoma allows the latter to do better in the highlights. The Optoma also performs better in the darker areas of the image, which are less detailed and sometimes underexposed with the BenQ.

Optoma UHD38: who is it for?

The Optoma UHD38 is perfect for those who can’t choose between 4K HDR home theater or video games. Efficient in both domains, it is equally convincing for enjoying the best movies on 4K HDR Blu-ray and streaming platforms as it is for challenging your friends to a race or in a fighting game.

Optoma UHD38: conclusion

We truly enjoyed testing the Optoma UHD38. Despite its low price, it is impressive with movies and series, offering vivid colors and efficient HDR management, but also video games thanks to its low input lag and high brightness that allows you to play during the day. 

That said, it isn’t perfect: it doesn’t offer any connected features, the depth in the blacks could be improved, and the bright mode is relatively noisy. But one can forgive these few shortcomings considering the image quality offered and the price of the projector.

We liked

  • The rich colors
  • The ability to project images in daylight
  • The Enhanced Gaming mode

We would have liked

  • Deeper blacks
  • For it to have been quieter in bright mode

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