Optoma HZ40 projector review

Optoma's HZ40 home entertainment projector offers laser lighting – unusual for a model at its £1,300 price. But John Archer finds this a mixed blessing

It's easy to see why some people think lasers are the future of projection. They can go exceptionally bright and can support an extended colour gamut. You don't have to replace them as you do normal projection lamps, and they're energy efficient. And they lose relatively little performance over their colossal lifetime.

There has so far been one rather big problem with home laser projection, though: cost. Stick a laser in a home entertainment PJ and the price rockets. Or at least that was the case until Optoma decided to sell its new HZ40 projector for the princely sum of £1,300.

Nothing about the HZ40's design screams 'laser'. Its footprint easily fits on a typical side table, and its part- gloss, part-matte white finish is smart but nothing out of the ordinary.

Nor is there anything revelatory about its connections. You get two HDMI inputs (one v2.0 and able to accept a 4K HDR input, the other v1.4); a powered USB port (so you can attach such devices as an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast); a VGA socket; and RS-232C and Ethernet ports to aid home control system integration.

3.5mm audio in and outs alert you to the presence of a built-in 10W speaker system. Though I might as well say right away that this speaker's thin, bass-lite sound and lack of 'throw' make it inadequate for even casual film or sports viewing sessions.

The HZ40 is a doddle to setup. A handy 1.3x zoom (and associated throw ratio of 1.21-1.51:1) helps you get the size of image you need, and the focus ring around the lens is finely calibrated. The only pity is that there's no vertical image shifting, meaning you may have to rely on keystone correction (which essentially distorts the image's native geometry) to get the sides of your picture straight if the projector is going to be positioned much above or below your screen.

The HZ40's laser drives a single-chip DLP optical system, and is claimed to be capable of a massive 4,000 Lumens light output. Enough, potentially, to deliver enjoyable pictures even with the lights on.

The laser also has a promised lifespan of 30,000 hours and above – essentially the projector's realistic lifespan. And it runs whisper-quiet too, even with HDR content. In fact, this is arguably the HZ40's single biggest advantage over other super-bright budget projectors.

The HZ40 is a native Full HD projector, so will play 4K sources at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. But it will work with HDR10 metadata (and HLG) to create a high dynamic range experience. It's a potentially nifty gaming projector too, thanks to its support of 1080p at 120Hz with just 8.4ms of lag. Lag increases to 32ms at lower frame rates, but that's still a decent effort.

Ready For Battle?
The HZ40's laser makes its presence felt right away with the excellent brightness of its HDR pictures. In fact, it gets more value from HDR's expanded light range than any other projector I've seen selling for under £2,000. Even the aggressively mastered extremes in Alita: Battle Angel's dark street fights and 'motorball' sequences (4K Blu-ray) display none of the crushed blacks, compressed colours or 'clipped' peak bright highlights you'd expect to see to some extent with HDR on such an affordable model.

Its pictures are also impeccably sharp and detailed, noticeably so when fed native 4K sources, despite the projector's 1080p output resolution. And as usual with DLP projectors, this sharpness feels wonderfully natural thanks to the image's smooth, structureless finish.