Once a feature exclusive to million dollar homes and properties featured on MTV’s Cribs, a decent home theater is now far more attainable thanks to companies like Optoma churning out well-spec’d 4K projectors like its new UHD35STx, which delivers space-saving short throw performance at a relatively affordable price point.
Unlike most projectors, including ones used in movie theaters, which need to be placed at the back of a room to create a sizeable screen, short throw projectors use a special (and often expensive) lens that can project a large image from a short distance away from a screen. Pricier options can create a 100-inch projection (or larger) from just a few inches away, but the new Optoma UHD35STx dials that back a bit with a 0.5:1 throw ratio so it can create a 100-inch image from a distance of about four feet away. Still, unlike a projector situated at the back of the room, no one’s being blinded or casting shadows on the screen as they move about their room here.
Short-throws usually still come with price tags well north of $2,000 these days, but the Optoma UHD35STx squeaks in at $1,749. No one’s going to pretend like that’s cheap, but you’re not going to find a good 100-inch TV at that price. There are some other compromises in the UHD35STx’s design to help it hit that sub-$2,000 price tag, though. For starters, it skips lasers and LEDs for a more traditional 240-watt incandescent bulb as its light source. With the projector set to full brightness (why wouldn’t you?), that bulb will need to be replaced after about 4,000 hours of use, and it will produce more heat while it’s running, necessitating a larger and louder fan on the projector.
The UHD35STx also isn’t an all-in-one projector, which means that instead of including an OS like Android TV that provides native access to streaming services through apps, you’ll need to connect an external device, like a Google Chromecast dongle, to one its two HDMI 2.0 ports to do anything with it. It’s also lacking in the sound department, with just a single 10-watt speaker on board. If you plan to watch TVs or movies on this, you’ll want to pair it with a surround sound system or other external speaker.
Pairing a projector with a proper highly reflective screen that can reflect ambient light away is always the ideal setup, but for those who just want to point it at a blank wall, the UHD35STx carries over a unique feature first introduced on the Optoma UHZ50 laser projector last year. This feature can compensate and color-correct the projected image to one of six different tint options.
With a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, the UHD35STx is a true 4K projector and doesn’t use any DLP chip-shifting tricks to double pixel count, and like the Optoma UHD55 from earlier this year, it boasts 3,600 lumens of brightness, which should allow the projector to be used in the daytime, although you’ll probably still want to keep the blinds closed to maximize contrast. Projectors are the easiest way to recreate the big screen experience at home, but they still lag behind LCD and OLED TVs in terms of image quality and the flexibility of where and when they can be used.