Optoma HD81 1080p DLP Front Projector Page 2

The Short Form
Price $7,000 / www.optomausa.com / 408-383-3700
Despite quirks, this 1080p projector puts out a stunning picture at a great price.
•Crisp, detailed pictures with all sources •Bright image with strong contrast and rich colors •Wide range of picture setup options •Affordable (compared to competition)
•Auto Iris feature ineffective and noisy
Key Features
•1,920 x 1,080 resolution single-chip DLP •Outboard video switcher/scaler •Accepts native 1080p-format signals •1.85-2.2 throw ratio •Manual zoom and focus •Inputs (controller): (3) HDMI, (2) component, (2) component or RGB+H/V (BNC), (3) composite/S, VGA, RS-232C •Outputs: HDMI, RS-232 (to projector); HDMI audio loop; (2) 12-volt trigger; IR •16.5 x 4.5 x 12.3 in; 10 lb (projector) •17 x 2.5 x 12 in; 9.3 lb (controller)
Test Bench
The Optoma HD81's Warm color-temperature preset measured close to the 6,500°K grayscale standard, and after adjust-ments, grayscale tracking measured ±200°K from 40 to 90 IRE - a very good showing - with only a small dip toward blue at the high and low ends. A slight amount of color-decoder error showed up on the HDMI and component-video inputs, both of which measured -5% green. Color points were very accurate - a factor that, along with the projector's precise color decoding, contributed to its rich, well-saturated color on all kinds of source material. Overscan measured 0% for both the HDMI and component-video inputs with 1080p test signals and either the 16:9 or Native display modes active. Both 1080p and 720p detail test patterns were fully resolved, and the HD81's brightness on my 93-inch screen, at 15.6 ftL, was nearly that of the much more expensive Sim2 HT-3000 tested in October. Full Lab Results
The HD81 has an appealing curved, cream-white case that will blend with most ceilings. Fan noise was about average, although switching to the Brite mode boosted it considerably. Optoma's remote has a backlit keypad with quick access to advanced video adjustments. There are 14 buttons to directly select video sources and dedicated keys for the aspect ratios: 16:9, 4:3, Letterbox, and Native (which displays incoming signals pixel-for-pixel without scaling).

SETUP You can create and store up to three custom User settings for each input (and for different video scan rates on that input) on the HD81, and you can copy and transfer picture settings from one input to another - a feature that greatly simplifies setup. The menu also offers Day and Night modes for an Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) tech to store settings permanently.

There's no shortage of picture tweaks here. They include variable pedestal (black level); variable Iris with Auto and Off options; standard-def, high-def, and automatic Color Space; Color Vividness and Color Temperature to adjust color balance for each input; and an array of gamma adjustments.

When I began my adjustments, I assumed the DVI-Video black level setting for the HDMI inputs was the correct preset for watching high-def discs and cable TV. But I was surprised to find that images looked too dark, and there wasn't enough range in the brightness adjustment to compensate. Selecting the DVI-PC preset, which sets the projector's black level at 0 IRE, proved a better option. Another surprise was that the performance of the Auto Iris was a far cry from the rapid, transparent operation I've experienced on LCD and LCoS projectors. Each time the brightness of the onscreen picture changed, the iris was painfully slow to register, visibly (and audibly) stepping contrast up or down several seconds into the scene change. Fortunately, the manual Iris function still worked.

PICTURE QUALITY Watching the HD DVD of the Ray Charles biopic Ray, I was immediately impressed by the Optoma's bright, crystal-clear picture. In a scene where Charles (Jamie Foxx) records with an orchestra in a studio, I could easily see patterns in the period clothing worn by the musicians. And wide shots in the same scene also revealed the notation in the sheet music they read from - a fine detail that really stood out.