Advertisement
Advertisement

Optoma UHD51ALVe review: A 4K projector with Alexa ‘support’ but the price is high

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,600
inc VAT

The first projector to support Alexa but the Optoma UHD51ALVe is a touch pricey

Pros 
Very bright
HDR and 3D support
Vertical lens shift
Cons 
Flimsy build quality
Somewhat grey black response
Alexa support is basic
Advertisement

Projectors might lag behind 4K TVs in terms of affordability but, if you have the space, your movies, games and TV shows will benefit an awful lot more from being projected onto a big screen than simply being viewed on a 50in to 60in TV.

That’s why spending £1,000-plus on a 4K projector like the Optoma UHD51ALVe is worth considering, especially as the price of 4K projectors has been coming down in the last year or so. A projector like this can create images up to a massive 7.6m in diagonal for a true cinema at home experience and it won’t cost you the earth.

READ NEXT: Our guide to the best projectors to buy today

Optoma UHD51ALVe review: What you need to know

The Optoma UHD51ALVe (not to be confused with the UHD51A or UHD51, which are both much dimmer) is a super-bright home-cinema projector that’s rated at 3200 lumens. It has a resolution of 4K (3,840 x 2,160), supports the HDR10 standard and it’s the first projector we’ve seen with Alexa voice control.

As with all “cheap” 4K projectors the imaging engine isn’t native 4K. You only get that with much pricier projectors such as the Sony VP-VW270ES; instead, the tiny mirrors on its DLP projection chip refresh the image four times per frame, each one slightly offset from the other to give the impression of true 4K. The system does work well, however, as we’ve seen from previous projectors like the BenQ TK800.

Optoma UHD51ALVe review: Price and competition

Being able to buy a 4K projector for less than £3,000 is a fairly recent development, but there’s already healthy competition on the market.

Our current favourite 4K-ish projector is the BenQ TK800, which combines top image quality with a fairly straightforward feature set for an almost unbelievably good price of £960. We also like the Epson EH-TW7300, which uses LCD panels to produce “4K enhanced” resolution and currently costs £1,300. The Optoma UHD51ALVe is more expensive than either of these projectors at £1,600.

Buy the Optoma UHD51ALVe from PRC Direct

Optoma UHD51ALVe review: Features and setup

Design-wise, the Optoma UHD51ALVe is pretty unremarkable and does little to assuage the feeling that it’s overpriced. Essentially, it’s a black box with a lens on the front, some buttons on the top and a bunch of connections around the back. It’s disappointingly inoffensive and it looks and feels very plasticky, particularly the optical housing and focus ring at the front.

Note, too, that the Alexa support is not what you might expect. Unlike an Echo speaker, which has microphones built in, the Optoma has none, so you’ll need either an Echo speaker, an Echo Input or the Alexa app on your phone in order to issue any voice instructions to it. The controls are basic and limited to source switching and volume adjustment. You can pause, play and forward wind and rewind with Alexa but only if you’re using the projector’s built-in media player. If this sounds pointless to you (I don't blame you if you do) you can instead use the bundled USB Wi-Fi dongle to stream video files from network sources.

On the positive side, the UHD51ALVe’s slightly shonky optical controls do at least give you plenty of adjustability, albeit manual rather than motorised. There’s an optical zoom factor of 1.3x, giving you leeway in forwards and backwards positioning and even vertical lens shift adjustment. The latter allows you to reposition the image up and down by 10% without having to tilt the projector and thus generating an ugly keystoning in the image.

There’s also a good array of connections at the rear with a pair of HDMI 2.0 inputs alongside three USB Type-A ports – one for media playback, one for Wi-Fi streaming and the last for Alexa control. Optical S/PDIF digital, 3.5mm analogue audio inputs and outputs, VGA, 3.5mm 12V trigger and an RS232 control ports round things off.

It’s also worth noting that the projector has a surprisingly long lamp life (in dynamic mode) of 15,000 hours and that it supports 3D, although in order to enjoy the 3D features you’ll have to spend around £60 for a pair active shutter glasses.

Buy the Optoma UHD51ALVe from PRC Direct

Optoma UHD51ALVe review: Image quality

Because it’s a DLP projector, the UHD51ALVe suffers from rainbow effect to a certain degree. Occasionally, when you move your eyes away from the screen and back again you’ll notice rainbow striping – a side effect of the rotating colour wheel that DLP projectors such as this use to add colours to images.

Otherwise, performance is pretty good. Content projected at 4K genuinely looks sharper than 1080p content and optical performance is good, too. It does take a bit of fiddling to get everything sharp, though, because the optical housing moves slightly every time you adjust the focus.

Once you’ve carried out basic brightness and contrast adjustments, brightness in both Cinema and Native modes exceeds that of the BenQ TK800, as does contrast. Not by much, but enough to make a visible difference. The overall result is a surprisingly bright, colourful and clear image.

The flipside to this is that the black level isn’t particularly good. In fact, it’s a touch worse than the BenQ TK800, thanks to the higher overall brightness level (the BenQ is rated at 3,000 lumens). This means dark scenes look ever so slightly greyer on the Optoma and lack the depth and detail you’ll see with more expensive projectors such as the Sony VP-VW270ES.

The TK800 also seems capable of reproducing a slightly wider range of colours than the Optoma but the performance differential here is very much narrower. Both projectors look great with HDR and non-HDR sources alike. In Native mode, I measured the projector as reproducing around 97% of the volume of the sRGB colour space (similar to Rec.709). The BenQ TK800, in comparison, reproduced a colour space around 112.9% of the volume of sRGB in its User 1 mode.

Optoma UHD51ALVe review: Verdict

Overall, the Optoma UHD51ALVe is a cracking projector but one that’s perhaps a little too expensive given the current market trends. With excellent projectors such as the TK800 available for around £1,000, the £1,600 Optoma is asking for its new “4K-ish” projector seems like a lot to ask.

Having said that, image quality is excellent, it supports 3D where the TK800 does not and image quality is excellent both optically and in terms of colour reproduction. Plus, the versatility of having vertical lens shift, albeit manual, makes it easier to set up and more tolerant of poor projector/screen positioning than the BenQ TK 800.

Overall, the UHD51ALVe is a great 4K projector – not the best value perhaps, but highly capable overall.

Read more

Reviews