Optoma 4K projector responds to Alexa voice commands

The UHD51A is the first Alexa-controlled projector, and I take it for a spin with my voice at CES 2018.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
4 min read
Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want to fire up your 120-inch screen with a voice command like "Alexa, turn on the projector," Optoma's newest effort is at your beck and call.

When it goes on sale in April for $1,700 (roughly converting to £1,240 in the UK and AU$2,150 in Australia), the UHD51A will be the first projector to feature direct compatibility with Amazon Alexa, from an Echo or Dot speaker for example.

It uses Alexa's home entertainment API to enable voice control. Install Optoma's Alexa skill, which will be available by the time the projectors launch, and the UHD51A will respond to following direct commands:

  • "Turn on/turn off the projector"
  • "Change input to HDMI 1" [or other HDMI input]
  • "Raise/lower volume to 7" [or another value. "Mute" is also supported]
Watch this: Talk to the projector: Optoma gets Alexa support

I tried it in Optoma's suite at CES 2018 and it worked well, if not flawlessly. I really liked being able to issue the commands without having to include any extra trigger words like "Ask Optoma to..."; the phrases above worked pretty much verbatim. They did fail occasionally, but Optoma's rep said he expects the software bugs to be worked out by launch.

Using it reminded me of my time with the Alexa integration on a Sony TV, and I find it particularly useful for those times when the remote goes missing. 

You can also adjust more esoteric settings including picture modes (from Dynamic to Movie for example) and how much Soap Opera Effect to apply. Currently the phrasing there is a bit clunky, and you'll have to use the trigger word.

Optoma projectors at CES 2018

See all photos

Optoma's demo also included Alexa-controlled lights and even a sweet motorized screen that could raise and descend at a voice command. Even better, the company says you'll be able to link all of them together using Alexa's new routines feature

Utter a phrase like "Alexa, Netflix and chill" and your screen would lower, the lights would dim, the projector would fire up, the popcorn maker would spin into action and your Harmony-controlled Roku would launch Netflix. At least, that's how it happens in my imagination. Fingers crossed.

Beyond the voice stuff the UHD51A has the following projector features.

  • 4K resolution DLP chip
  • 2,400 lumens
  • New RGBRGB color wheel
  • HDR compatibility, wide color gamut
  • 1.3x zoom, vertical lens shift
  • Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity

The UHD50 ($1500) is basically the same as the UHD51 ($1700) but without Alexa compatibility.

Sarah Tew/CNET

More Optoma projectors coming soon

Optoma makes our favorite inexpensive 1080p projector, the $535 HD142x , which it says will be replaced with a new version in the second half of 2018. It didn't have any details on the replacement, but company reps did show me four other new products.

UHD50: This is basically the same 4K projector but without Alexa. Its $1,500 price (roughly £1,090 and AU$1,900) matches that of the recently announced BenQ HT2250, making them the least expensive 4K projectors I've seen. Both use the same new Texas Instruments 4K DLP chip, which supposedly delivers full 4K resolution despite not having every pixel be represented by a discrete micro-mirror. I can't wait to check it out.


A prototype version of Optoma's ultra-short-throw 4K laser projector.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Ultra-short throw 4K laser: It doesn't yet have an official model name, but Optoma says it will release its first laser UST projector in the second quarter with "a target price of $5,000." That's more expensive than the Epson LS1000 at $3,000 (roughly £2,190 and AU$3,795), but that projector is only 1080p resolution. Ultra-short-throw tech enables a projector to throw up a big image from very close -- Optoma claims a 100-inch image from 8 inches away -- and it's great to see less-expensive versions than, say, those sold by Hisense and Sony. The version I saw was a mute mockup, but Optoma says the shipping model will get built-in speakers.


The Optoma LH150 is pretty small...

Sarah Tew/CNET

LH150: This $900 (roughly £655 and AU$1,140) portable 1080p mini-projector has 1,300 lumens, integrated speakers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and comes out in the second quarter of 2018. An optional battery pack, good for at least two hours, will be available, and Optoma says it's working on tweaks to Eco mode to make it last longer.


A mockup version of Optoma's LED pocket projector.

Sarah Tew/CNET

LED pocket projector: For $280 (roughly £200 and AU$350), this pipsqueak makes portable projection even more affordable. It includes a built-in battery good for 2 hours in Eco mode. Like most of its competition in this category, its LED light source is relatively dim (300 lumens) and its resolution low (854x480) but at least it's cheap. I was shown a concept design, and Optoma will ship the real one in Q2.

The coolest gaming gadgets we saw at CES 2018

See all photos

What to expect from the big screens of 2018: From OLED to QLED to Micro LED, CES is the place where screen time is absolutely friggin' huge. Here's a peek.

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.