Optoma H30 DLP Projector

Quite simply, our winner.

This unassuming little projector surprised me. It's not as attractive as the Epson, it's not as compact as the BenQ, and its price is between them both. Without a doubt, though, this was our winner. Why? Well, in a word: black level. OK, so that's two words.

Master and Commander's opening scene is a torture test for digital displays; in this Face Off, the H30 was the only one to display this scene without much difficulty. In fact, Scott gave it his highest praise for this selection: "not bad." The other reviewers agreed that the shadow detail and overall black level were the best in the test.

As good as the black level is, that doesn't tell the projector's whole story. During the "Montage of Images" selection, Glenn commented that the projector seemed brighter than the others, no doubt due to its best-in-test contrast ratio.

Most of the reviewers commented at some point on the color. Scott thought that the fleshtones in the Video Essentials segment looked good, while Amy felt the same thing about the Fifth Element selections. Adrienne commented that the colors were very natural overall. When asked about the color, Glenn simply put: "looks good." How succinct.

The HD selection garnered the most surprising responses. The H30 has the lowest resolution in the test but was consistently considered to be sharper than the higher-resolution Epson. Most likely this was due to its superior scaling and processing, a fact that was also apparent in the Gladiator clip. This scene is very difficult to deinterlace, and the H30 was the only contender that did a good job here. In fact, it did almost as good a job as the Onkyo DVD player, which has an excellent deinterlacer. The H30 also garnered praise for having the least amount of errant video noise compared with the other projectors.

And then there are the little things. There are user adjustments for almost every aspect of the projector's performance. Most high-end projectors don't have this many adjustments. It's also the only projector that offers full gray-scale adjustments; while the resulting chart had a few bumps (see the measurements box), the H30 allows for a lot more fine-tuning than the others.

The much-loved remote is of an average size, and its bright backlighting (hurray!) fades to black (hey, it's the little things, right?). Included in the box is an adapter that you can attach to the D-sub 15 connector to hook up regular component video cables.

Because the H30's black level is so good, the minimal light spill inherent in 4:3 DLP designs wasn't nearly as annoying as that of the BenQ. That didn't matter, though, because the H30 comes with a lens cap with a 16:9 cutout in it. Place this over the lens, and all you get on the screen is the 16:9 portion of the chip. Now that's thinking.

Is the H30 perfect? Scott noticed more-severe rainbow artifacts with this projector compared with the BenQ. Only two of the three feet are adjustable, one to the rear and one to the front. This makes tabletop setup somewhat more difficult. People have told me I'm crazy for having a problem with this, but hey, that's just been my experience. The case feels a little flimsier than those of the other projectors. While I felt that the Epson was the most attractive, Amy and Adrienne thought this case was the best looking.

The H30's black level, processing, ergonomics, and aesthetics were all a step above the others in this Face Off. Never in my time here have Face Off participants ranked the products in exactly the same order. When it came time to discuss the winner, the group enthusiastically picked the Optoma, and each said it would be their pick for their own theater. What else is there to say?

• Best-in-test black level
• Backlit remote
• Best-in-test processing

Dealer Locator Code OPT
(408) 383-3700