Optoma H27 - Overview
It's the middle of summer ('05) and Optoma has just started shipping their new H27 home theater projector, which is intended to replace their highly regarded H31. First and most important possibly, is price. The H27 launched with a $1099 MAP (minimum advertised price), but stree price will be even lower.
It turns out, according to Optoma, that the H31 (already on the market for 9 months as of this writing) has been so successful, that they are continuing to sell it, while bringing in the H27 as well. The H27 offers a number of enhnacements over the H31, and a slightly lower price. Truth is, however, few home theater projectors sell briskly before the word gets out - in the form of reviews, so Optoma's strategy makes sense for the next couple of months. Offering the same brightness as the H31 projector, the H27's performance should ensure its position as not only a truly improved replacement for the H31, but as a strong contender as best home theater projector. Since you are going to ask, overall, I would recommend the H27 over the H31.
The Optoma H27 projector is a widescreen projector, with WVGA resolution. It claims 850 lumens and has two different contrast modes. The standard contrast is 2500:1, however for best performance there is a 4000:1 contrast ratio. This extremely high contrast ratio is the result of Optoma's "AI" circuitry. Like a few other (top rated) projectors (Panasonic PT-AE700u, BenQ PE7700) the H27 projector is using frame by frame image adjustment to enhance picture quality, and Optoma H27 projector owners are benefiting from the results. The H27 uses the 854x480 Darkchip2 DLP processor, which is the heart of this projector's performance.
Note please, I have seen some online databases showing the contrast of the H27 as 2500:1 which means without the "AI" circuitry. This is misleading, as, in the same database, other projectors with AI- including the Panasonic AE700u are always listed with their contrast ratio based on AI turned on. This could be the fault of Optoma's own preliminary data sheets, or confusion. I imagine other projectors that show their contrast ratio with AI on, would have truly dismal contrast specs otherwise.. So the bottom line - the H27 projector behaves most like other projectors claiming 4000:1 contrast ratio.
Overall, the Optoma H27 DLP projector is very impressive, and it shares the same type of image quality - with rich vibrant colors, that has earned the higher resolution Optoma H57 and H78DC3 projectors, their Hot Product Awards.
Before we get into all of that, let's start with the projector's physical layout:
Starting with the basics, the Optoma H27 projector is an all white projector, (which means it will "hide well" ceiling mounted in rooms with whitish ceilings). Overall it has a few sculpted lines, but it is pretty basic looking. The beauty is in the image performance, not the styling.
There is a drop down foot, with the release for it, located bottom center. An Infra-red sensor for the remote is also found on the front. Offset to the left (facing the projector) is the lens, a manual zoom affair, with a zoom ratio of 1.2:1 (20% adjustment range). The lens itself is fairly long throw, so you may find that it will work shelf mounted in the back of the room. If you have a 100" screen, you can place the Optoma H27 projector as close to the screen as 13.6 feet and as far back as 16.4 feet (measured from the front of the lens). To focus the lens, just adjust the lens barrel. To zoom in or zoom out, there is a slide on the top of this projector - just back from the front, above the lens. Should you need to place the projector closer, there is a wide angle lens adapter that shortens the throw distance by 20% (you can place the projector 20% closer).
There is a nicely laid out control panel on the top of the projector, with the arrow keys doing dual role. When you press Menu, the arrow keys control navigation. When menu is not pressed, the up and down arrows control keystone correction (which you want to avoid using if at all possible), the left arrow selects source, and the right one - Auto image mode.
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The power cord plugs into the left side (looking from the front) and all the rest of the action is in the back. On the back panel you will find a second infra-red sensor for the remote, and plenty of inputs. From left (looking from the back) to right - there is an RS-232 serial port for controlling the projector from a PC. Moving to the right - three RCA jacks color coded green, blue and red, for component video input, then, an RCA jack (yellow) for composite input, an S-video input, and a multipurpose HD15 (computer) connector, that can handle a second component input (having two component inputs on an entry level projector is pretty rare), as well as a computer input. Lastly is the DVI-I connector which can handle a digital input - DVI, (or HDMI with an adapter -same standard). Normally a DVI-I (as opposed to DVI-D) connector indicates that you can alternately input an analog computer signal. In this case, however the Optoma H27 projector only handles digital. They say they used the DVI-I connector so it could accept either DVI-I or DVI-D cabling. That makes sense.
All in all, the H27 projector has more flexibility in handling inputs than most other entry level home theater projector I can think of. Technically, it can have a computer, a component video and either a second component video, computer or digital source, in addition to the lower performance composite and S-video inputs. Well done! Few projectors selling for under $4000 offer more flexibility, and most offer much less. For those not having a A/V receiver with component video switching, this is a huge plus! Buying switch boxes adds hundreds to your cost, and is basically - inconvenient. As I said, a real advantage for this Optoma projector.
Underneath, the projector relys on a 3 point foot system for balance. As previously mentioned the front foot is adjustable. Of the two rear feet the left one (looking from the back) is screw thread adjustable. This assures you that you can have it stable even on an uneven surface.
It's time to find out about the H27 projector's picture quality.