Hot on the heels of the P1, this second-gen product gets noticeable improvements without diluting its wow factor - a built-in soundbar! Optoma is sitting on a brilliant idea and isn’t just resting on it.
As far as all-in-one devices go, a projector with built-in speakers isn’t really a novel idea. Virtually every business projector comes with a squeaker that helps bring the magical sounds of MS Powerpoint to life, but none can handle the brutality of a Hans Zimmer score. Optoma challenged the status quo at the start of 2020 with the P1, a projector promising serious audio chops, thanks to the acquisition of audiophile brand NuForce. Using its own expertise at making solution-providing projectors along with a purposefully designed speaker system and blending them in the same chassis did create quite the stir in a segment not known for its rapid innovation.
While the P1 was identifiable with its all-black body and speaker grille, the successor switches gears to an all-white look and it does look a lot more room-friendly and discreet. With similar dimensions, the improvements are on the inside with tweaked DLP colour wheel for better fidelity and a dedicated game mode with lower input lag compared to the P1. On the other hand, the contrast has been reduced slightly, perhaps keeping in line with a reworked colour wheel. It may be easy to dismiss the P2 as a “lifestyle” product then but Optoma is no stranger to making award-winning projectors and it shows off its lineage in the picture quality here too. But first, a word on its simplicity - with just a power on/off button on the unit, the rechargeable remote does all the heavy lifting and even then, this is as plug-and-play as any home-theatre projector could get. Since there is no zoom or keystone control, the only available tools to adjust the size (and shape) of the image you project are the distance from screen and height off the floor. Since the lens aims upwards, you’ll need to account for the vertical offset and hence, your screen should ideally be at least a few inches above the P2. Pulling the P2 closer or farther away from the screen will, of course, shrink or enlarge the image and the keystone can easily be corrected by gently angling the P2 towards the left or right. The well-finished feet help in getting the picture geometry right too and it’s all very easy when you get around to setting it up. If you still need assistance, the SmartFit app can guide you via your smartphone! Keep it simple though and keep it a couple of feet away from the screen and you should easily achieve the claimed 120in image. We did!
Optoma recommends the use of an ALR (ambient light rejection) screen to partner with the P2 and although it’s not mandatory, you certainly will get closest to having an alternative to a large screen TV if you do use an ALR screen. It will heighten the contrast and allow you to watch content without having a completely dark room. The laser light source aids in brightness and with 3000 ANSI lumens on tap, it’s bright enough even on our acoustically transparent screen, so anything else will only be better. Even the contrast ratio sees a bump to 2,000,000:1 and it supports HDR10 along with a native 4K resolution using a single-chip DLP engine. All of these specs may be par for the course but when you factor in its form and multi-utilitarian nature, they appear more impressive than usual. The entire front of the chassis is a custom-made speaker system that has four drivers, completely isolated from the light engine in their own separate chambers. The two outer-most drivers are full range to handle the mids and highs while the two inner drivers are ported and designed to offer a lower bass extension, all powered by a 40W amplifier. You could even use the P2 as a Bluetooth speaker by switching the video circuitry off, if you don’t want to clutter your room with more accessories. Connectivity is strong with multiple HDMI inputs, optical in, RJ45, and USB for direct media playback. Thankfully, there’s an audio out too so you can beef up the soundbar with an external powered subwoofer if you really want to up the sonic fury.
What lets down an otherwise stellar design and interface is the Aptoide OS, which just doesn’t enable a great experience no matter what product we experience it on. A vast majority of the popular apps are missing from its marketplace and the ones that are there, work poorly. It’s best to plug in a smart stick or use Apple TV for a better experience overall. Its HDR10 implementation is rather impressive as is the colour fidelity overall, with a richness to the tonal range that belies its simplistic nature. Sure it can’t compete with high-end home-cinema projectors for outright black level detail, but it puts on a great show without resorting to increased gamma and crushing low-level detail. It maintains a balanced picture, with great flesh tones, well-saturated colours and enough black detail to keep you engrossed in the on-screen proceedings. There is none of the greenish tinge to the image or reduction in brightness with HDR switched on, which still plagues most projectors and even the motion interpolation is beautifully judged. Even SDR content can be given the HDR simulation effect and as displayed by live sports, it delivers enough saturation and pop without looking OTT. Motion processing is smooth without looking artificial or sped up. The settings don’t overwhelm you with choices and mostly, the preset video and audio modes work well out of the box without the need to tweak much. For the odd times when you feel the need for speed, Game mode will switch off some of the processing and drop input lag to 50ms and will deliver 3D video too, provided you bring your own glasses.
Sonically, it’s audibly superior to any other projector in the market with a built-in speaker and has sufficient width and scale to the soundstage. Dialogue intelligibility is adequate, it plays reasonably loud and you honestly can watch a movie through it without feeling ear fatigue. Most importantly, the chassis is rigid and well-built enough to not rattle even when you push the volume up. The only area where it falls short is the bottom octave or two and this is where adding an active subwoofer would help immensely, rounding off the whole package as a simple, two-box home-theatre solution.
Both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are supported for voice commands, while IFTTT support ensures it plays well with a variety of smart home hubs as well. It’s still not cheap at Rs. 5 lacs but the Optoma P2 is definitely a step forward compared to its predecessor and works as advertised, keeping your life simple and bringing big-screen fun to tough rooms. Clearly, it will attract architects and interior designers more than end consumers, but if you do crave a large screen without shelling out an obscene amount of money for a 100in telly, the P2 can even be considered a bargain. Adding an ALR screen is highly recommended since it will only enhance the already good picture we saw on our acoustically transparent screen, which is optimised for traditional long-throw home cinema projectors. Get the prerequisites right and the Optoma P2 throws up an enjoyable image that doesn’t feel compromised at all.