Optoma Launches New Ultra-Portable Triple Laser Home Entertainment Projectors

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The explosion over recent years in consumers wanting ever more cinematic experiences at home seems to now be feeding a real frenzy of innovation and variety in the typically rather staid home projection world. Recent weeks have seen a deluge of bold new projector designs and projection technologies coming to market, and today we have two more really interesting additions to the projection landscape in the shape of Optoma’s ML1080 and ML1080STs.

What makes these new DLP-based models (originally unveiled at the InfoComm show in June) so intriguing is their unusual combination of features, portable design and price. On the one hand they use triple laser lighting systems, enabling them to deliver ‘pure’ RGB pictures capable of covering a much wider portion of the AV world’s most extreme BT2020 colour gamut than the vast majority of rival projectors. While on the other hand they’re small enough to be truly portable (almost getting into pocket projector territory) and, as their names suggest, they ‘only’ offer a full HD resolution rather than the 4K resolution that you might expect to find accompanying a premium laser light engine these days.

With 4K such a big part of many AV fans’ lives now, the idea of buying an HD projector – even a portable one – might initially sound a bit strange. Until you find out that the ML1080 and ML1080ST are available in the US for $999 and $1,149 respectively, and for £1,099 and £1,199 in the UK.

These are very aggressive prices for laser projectors claiming to offer truly wide color performance, making them potentially very interesting to any potential projector buyer on a budget who prefers the idea of rich, bright colours and potentially more contrast (Optoma claims a dynamic contrast ratio for its new duo of 3,000,000:1!) over the extra detail of a 4K image. A preference bolstered by the fact that most affordable 4K projectors are actually only ‘pseudo’ 4K anyway, using various techniques to generate a 4K effect rather than carrying actual native 4K pixel counts.

The way DLP technology works, too, by using millions of tiny mirrors to reflect pictures onto your screen, tends to deliver a smooth, relatively ‘unpixelated’ finish to images, meaning you’re less likely to feel the impact of the lower resolution even at big screen sizes than you might with other projector types.

Suddenly, then, far from looking like some kind of mistake, the ML1080 and ML1080ST’s decision to only offer full HD playback to help keep prices and bodywork sizes down starts to look pretty clever.

Delving deeper into the ML1080 and ML1080ST’s capabilities, the first thing to stress is that the two projectors are identical except for the ST version carrying a much shorter-throw lens than the standard version. So while the ML1080 provides a throw ratio of 1.2:1, the ML1080ST’s throw ratio is 0.78:1. That’s short enough to, for instance, deliver a 100-inch image with as little as five feet between the projector and your screen or wall.

Brightness for both projectors is rated at 1,200 lumens. This doesn’t at first glance seem very high for an HDR-capable projector at a time when many other affordable projectors are targeting 2,000, even 3,000 lumens and more. It is, though, actually very high by the standards of the truly portable projector market. Also, time and again I’m finding projectors boasting really high brightness outputs sacrificing contrast and black level performance in favour of a more casual video experience targeted at viewing in ambient light. So the idea of a wide colour gamut projector that potentially takes black levels seriously, even if your room needs to be pretty dark to get the best from it, sounds like at least a good option to have available among all the more blaringly bright models out there.

Not that the Optoma ML1080 and ML1080STs aren’t also convenient. As well as being small enough to slip easily into a shoulder bag, they weigh just 1kg. They’re also equipped with a so-called Time-of-Flight system to deliver automatic geometry and focus correction, along with a four-corner correction system. In other words, you can literally just set them down where you want them to sit and that’s it; the automatic image adjustments will take care of the rest.

A built in sound system means you don’t have to try and sort out an external audio setup to go with the ML1080 and ML1080ST’s pictures, while the presence of a USB-C power port among the ML1080 and ML1080ST’s connections even opens the possibility of using them ‘on the go’ if you add an optional extra PD 3.0 portable charging battery to your set up.

What’s more, while the projector is designed for the home, it comes equipped with Creative Cast functionality for simultaneous image, document and screen sharing from up to four devices on your network, while a ‘signage’ mode enables instant slideshow support for both photos and videos.

It’s a pity, perhaps, that the ML1080 and ML1080ST only have a single HDMI input alongside their USB and RS-232C system control ports. But then projectors like these are designed to be moved in and out of cupboards as and when they’re needed, so it’s unlikely most users will want to leave one permanently set up with multiple sources connected.

Although they’ve only just gone on sale, the ML1080 and ML1080ST have already picked up a number of awards, including a IF Design award, a Red Dot design award, and an InfoComm Best Of Show award from ProjectorCentral.

Related reading

Dolby Vision Projection Gains Ground With New UST Laser Models From AWOL Vision

Epson Unveils New Ultra Short Throw 4K Laser Home Cinema Projector

XGIMI Unveils World’s First 4K Long Throw Projector With Dolby Vision

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