Nowhere is the mantra “big is better” more applicable than in the realm of home theatre video. Sure TVs are getting larger every year with a corresponding dip in prices, but if you really want the wall-to-wall immersion of a cinema hall, projectors are the only way to go without breaking the Micro-LED bank. Optoma’s tryst with UST projectors isn’t new and the L1 is in fact well into their journey of evolution and it is instantly evident the moment you unbox it.
Optoma L1 projector review
Good enough to boot the tele
The compact chassis is barely larger than a shoebox and compared to other “laser TVs” or UST projectors that came before it, looks shockingly dainty. That’s part of the allure of the Optoma L1 in fact, besides the fact that it looks at the manufacturing process through the lens of Mother Earth. The chassis itself is moulded from 50% post-consumer recycled plastic and the packaging is made of over 99% recycled materials too. Add an eco-friendly 4-LED light engine and you have an operating life of over 20 years under regular daily use. That should put a smile on many faces, environmentalists and cinephiles included.
Besides the ultra-compact form factor, the L1 doesn’t break the mould in terms of design. It’s still a relatively unassuming piece of consumer electronics, with a lens firing upwards at an angle, connectivity at the rear and a speaker grille facing the viewer. It does actually contain full-range drivers that just about get the job done for watching YouTube or the news. Content is delivered via an external Hako Mini Android TV dongle that is bundled in the box and uses the USB-A port at the rear for power and connects to one of the L1’s HDMI ports. It’s a full-fledged smart add-on that comes with all the apps Google Play Store has in store for you, including Netflix. So finally you can have native Netflix support on a projector without the need for an Apple TV 4K or FireTV stick.
The L1 does have HDR support and native 1080p resolution, but with clever DLP trickery, it manages to flash twice the number of pixels on the screen, thereby qualifying as a 4K projector. Like with all UST projectors, placement and distance to the screen are going to be critical in determining how large you like your Jawan to be. Although the L1 comes with tools such as keystone, 4-corner adjustment and de-warping to achieve acceptable picture geometry, the best option is to do it physically. Ensure the projector is levelled and angled accurately and this requires moving it around a fair bit, using height adjustment and tilt if needed. This is also why planning for a UST projector is important in the initial stages of building a room or retrofitting. An ALR (ambient light rejection) screen is a critical part of the system to bring out the best in terms of colour and contrast under various lighting conditions, bringing it closer to a TV in terms of utility.
We missed the inclusion of an HDMI eARC port but everything else worked like a charm and more importantly…looked charming. There was impressive sharpness from edge to edge, the colours were punchy without being overcooked and the motion was smooth enough to not make us sick in the stomach. Keeping it in the HDR and HDR Sim mode worked well for all types of content we played through it, with Reference mode just adding a greenish-warm hue to the picture, even though it claims to be closest to the “director’s intent” and syncs everything to the Rec.709 colour gamut. Guns & Gulaabs on Netflix was portrayed with the natural colour palette it deserves with the correct earth and skin tones, proving that though the L1 is diminutive in size, it punches far above its class. Its 2500 lumens never made it feel like it lacked vibrancy in colour fidelity even with some amount of ambient light and the final contrast levels will certainly depend on the surface you project it on. Comparing it to a 100in LED or an 85in OLED TV will definitely bring up the topic of weak blacks, but you can’t win every battle and chances are, you won’t miss the absolute blackness once any bright content is being played back. The value for money is represented by its picture size mitigates some of the weaknesses in relation to a typical high-end television. It may look like a lifestyle product, but it does have the chops to do justice in a movie lovers den too.
Gaming is supported by the inclusion of Game mode and Smooth motion, both aiming to improve input lag time and FPS. As with most of these UST projectors with an external dongle, you may need to shuffle between two different remote controls if you like tweaking your picture settings often. The button feel isn’t the most reassuring on the main unit’s remote and although backlit, it does look very 90’s. Similarly, the front-firing speaker set-up doesn’t really complement the larger-than-life picture but is merely a “fill” speaker for late-night sports or news watching.
There’s no denying Optoma’s stronghold over the projector market in various segments and the L1 shows that it has been tuned by engineers who know what they’re doing. It doesn’t give any major reasons to complain, barring its relatively anaemic sound quality and the lack of an HDMI eARC port. Sure it doesn’t have the same flexibility as a long-throw projector when it comes to getting the perfect picture geometry but take care in placement and you still avoid using digital aids and maximising its performance.
Skimps on chassis size but delivers on image size, the Optoma L1 delivers all the thrills and chills all but the most discerning cinephile would desire.
|Image size:||up to 120in|
|Connectivity:||HDMI 2.0 x 2, USB-power, SPDIF|
|Dimensions (WDH):||400 x 316 x 112.8|