Technophile

Optoma P2: A high-end cinema experience in a box

Mala Bhargava | Updated on March 05, 2021

The latest in projection tech, a built in stereo soundbar, and a 4K experience anywhere on a wall near you

A home cinema projector is a great way to enjoy the magic of cinema at home — especially these days when going to a movie theatre doesn’t seem like a good idea at all.

But not all projectors are born equal. Typically, a home cinema projector would use one of two competing display technologies: DLP or LCD, and have a bright, metal halide light source and a system of lenses to help focus the image a certain distance away. As you move up the price ladder, projectors start to add more resolution, better quality lenses and optics, better digital processing, features like lens shift, more inputs or ports, built-in speakers, a smart interface and WiFi to name a few.

Why the price?

By now, you must have noticed the stratospheric price of this Optoma projector. But why, when you can even get a projector from a known brand for as little as ₹50,000? You can even get 4K home cinema projectors for less than a third of what this projector costs. Why is this projector so much more expensive? Well first, we do have excessive customs duties, import costs and margins. The US price of the Optoma P2 is about half of the India asking price with a direct currency conversion. But there’s more.

The P2 is fundamentally different from most projectors in three significant ways. First, it uses a laser-LED light source that has a much higher lamp life compared to conventional projectors (30,000 hours compared to the usual 4,000 or 5,000 hours). Cost of ownership comes down since there is no lamp to replace. Second, it's an ultra short throw (UST) design, which means it can quite literally be kept under the screen it's projecting on to. This is great for tight spaces and when you want a massive screen. To give you an idea: with the back of the projector just a few inches away from the wall, you can get a display that is 100 inches in size. Move it away just another foot or so and that increases to a massive 120 inches diagonally (a display area that is nearly nine feet wide). And third, this is true 4K resolution instead of being upscaled from 1080p.

Rather than have a lens sticking out the front, the P2 uses a system of lenses and mirrors to display a rectangular screen by simulating distance within the projector enclosure itself. Looking around the P2, it doesn't look much like a high-end projector at all. It's available only in white, which is a mistake because the lighter colour speaker grill starts to look grubby fast and the unit stands out in a darker room. The remote is a small, heavy, metal unit with air mouse functionality and built in rechargeable battery. It's backlit too, which is great because there are no buttons on the projector at all (just power on/off).

Power on, wait about 20 seconds till you get to the home screen and your first reaction is bound to be "wow"! Even if you have used a high-end projector before, the brightness, sharpness and colour on offer is on another level. The light source is so bright that you can even use the P2 in the daytime with curtains drawn or at night with some lights on. It is so bright that looking into it when on can damage your eyes. So even if you ignore the large yellow warning and try to look into the lens when it's on, built-in infrared distance sensors will immediately dim the light to protect you.

If you have a dedicated projector screen, you get a step up in terms of quality. And if you can spend the extra on the fancier ambient light rejecting (ALR) screen with a high gain feature, the image from the P2 will essentially look like a giant, bright, HDR-capable TV in your room. It really is that good and refresh rates are good enough for all kinds of multimedia and gaming. Brightness is rated at 3,000 ANSI lumens while contrast is a massive 2,000,000:1.

The speakers can get quite loud (19W x 2 — about twice the power of a conventional 55-inch TV) so it’s quite possible to use these speakers exclusively when watching a movie or playing a game. It’s also really useful if you want the projector to be portable — no need to bother with external speakers. But the kind of display quality you get here just begs for a proper home cinema speaker set-up.

Smart features

The P2 has a smart interface but it’s not Android. While the company may have intended for the projector to be used standalone, we found the interface quite frustrating to use. The Aptoide app store is built in but the selection of available apps is laughable — you won't find anything you normally use. It does have some wireless mirroring options built in but the experience is not great. Thankfully, you can plug in USB drives and hard drives into the USB ports and playback content using the built-in media player.

You’ll have a much better content experience if you plug in a 4K media player, high-end PC or a 4K game console. Happily, you can plug in all three simultaneously since there are three HDMI inputs. Given that the P2 has WiFi and decent sounding speakers, it feels like Optoma really missed a chance here. Android TV would have been great.

UST projectors do have one limitation though — the top left and right edges are never perfectly in focus and you'll see this if you go looking for it. Especially if you’re viewing static photographs that fill the screen. Once you understand the limitations of UST technology, are ok with using external video sources and you can come to terms with the super-high India price, the P2 will blow you away with its projection quality.

These are the essential specs of the projector: 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels), DLP with 1.07 billion colours, 3,000 ANSI Lumens, 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 30,000 hrs lamp life (eco mode), 24db sound, fixed lens, 85 to 120-inch screen sizes, 3 x HDMI 2.0 ports (1 is ARC), 2 x USB ports for media, RJ45, S/PDIF, audio out, 19W speakers x 2, built in Bluetooth and WiFi, 316Watts max power consumption, 0.5 Watts standby power, 10.5 kg

Price: ₹4,99,999

Pros - Spectacular brightness and colour, high contrast ratio, 3D support, auto keystone/warping, UST lens/system, built-in speakers, WiFi and Bluetooth, multiple HDMI and USB ports

Cons - Insanely expensive India price (costs half as much in the US), only available in white, frustrating interface

Published on March 05, 2021

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