Optoma H78DC3 Video Projector - Performance - Other attributes
The Optoma H78DC3 projector claims 800 lumens on its data sheet. After speaking with them, they confirmed that this was in Bright mode.
The Optoma H78DC3 DLP home theater projector, is rated 2000 hours on the lamp, in Bright mode. Optoma says there is a 1/3 increase in lamp life, in normal mode - or about 2700 hours. Conversely, in normal mode expect about a 30% drop in brightness (typical for "economy modes").
Based on viewing, on my 123" diagonal StewartFilm Firehawk screen, the Optoma H78DC3 projector, is a little less bright than the slightly lower performance BenQ PE7700 (uses the HD2+ DLP chip, and has lower contrast - claiming 2500:1). Also, the word out there is that it is not as bright as InFocus's significantly more expensive Darkchip3 projector, the InFocus Screenplay 7210. None-the-less, the projector, with the right screen can support screen sizes of 110" diagonal, or even larger.
Optoma says the H78DC3 produces the same 4000:1 contrast ratio in Bright mode as in normal, so there is no picture quality penalty for using the brighter setting, only a shorter life to the lamp. I originally shot in Normal mode, fearing that in bright mode contrast would suffer. Bad guess on my part.
Choosing a screen:
Because the Optoma H78DC3 projector is not quite as bright as some others, if you have a dark room and want a large screen - say bigger than 110" you will probably want a screen with some gain. Stewart's Studiotek with its 1.35 gain should allow good results up to 130" diagonal or so. Similarly the Firehawk, which is a high contrast screen from StewartFilm, has a gain of 1.3, and enhances contrast. Another advantage of the Firehawk is that it will reject off angle ambient light very well. Thus, if you have some ambient light in the room, the Firehawk may be the way to go. Both of these screens are fairly expensive, so if the budget is tight, look to Dalite's CinemaVision surface - with a 1.1 gain (also a high contrast screen).
On my home Firehawk - 128" diagonal (a custom size), the H78DC3 projector comes up just a touch dim, but acceptable. I expect that as soon as my walls are painted dark (next month or so), I will find that the H78DC3 will not suffer at all, even at that size.
Optimally (no pun intended), this Optoma projector, in bright mode should be just superb on screen sizes to 110" inch diagonal. If you go with a standard matte white surface (gain of 1.0), you'll probably want to limit size to 100" diagonal, but you can go up larger with dark walls, and a completely dark room.
The Remote Control
I like the small remote provided with the Optoma H78DC3 projector. It fits well in the hand, all buttons are backlit a bright blue, and hitting any button will turn on the lighting. The remote is well laid out, and even after using it for only one evening, I knew where most of the controls were, without looking - that's good!
The power button is at the top left, and opposite it is the Hide button - which blanks the screen.
Moving down the left hand side, are three buttons that give you direct access to Brightness, Contrast, and Hue. Right below and grouped with them is the format button for switching between Native, 16:9, Letterbox, and 4:3. Just to the right of these, in the center are the dreaded horizontal and vertical keystone, which you should try to avoid using. (after all this projector has optical lens shift).
On the far right of the Optoma's remote - opposite the Brightness, etc., are Freeze, Re-sync, Zoom (which is a digital zoom that allows you to zoom in on a section of the image, and The Menu/Exit button. At first I wondered why it sits there, with the 4 cursor keys and the below to the left. However after using the menus extensively, I found that it was a very good location for easy working with your thumb (if you use your right hand thumb, like I do).
Ok, surrounding the Enter Key are four odd shaped buttons that function to control power zoom and power focus of the Optoma projector, if you hit them without the menus up. If you have already hit the menu button on the H78DC3 projector, then they double as your four arrow keys for navigation
Finally, at the bottom are individual buttons for the five sources: S-video, BNC, DVI, RCA (component), and Composite. Again, a great little remote.
Optoma's H78DC3 on screen menus are organized into four main menus: Picture, Image, System, and Display. Organization (which items are on which menus - is good, could be a bit better, but after you get your projector set up and calibrated, you won't be spending much time in the menus, so - not a problem. On the right is the Picture menu. Note when in any of the four "main menus" all four appear on the left side of the menu. Immediately bleow is the Image menu. On that menu, one of the choices is Advanced Adjustment. Selecting that brings up the menu shown immediately below it.
Menu's are easy to navigate with the remote control, however, remember key functions, like brightness, contrast, selecting sources, and aspect ratios, etc., can be directly accessed from the remote control.
Now this is a feature I like. It allows you to move the image up and down on the screen - digitally. Now if you have a full height image (HDTV) and you use this feature to move the image up, you will simply be throwing out the top of the projected image (don't confuse this with physical lens shift). Where this can come into play, is with DVD. Assuming you have a pull down, or motorized screen, or a screen with vertical masking, when watching DVD, you could use this adjustment to lower the image so the bottom of the DVD's image is even with the bottom of your screen. That way, instead of having letter box (black bars - at top and bottom, you would only have them at the top. And if your screen is motorized, and you use the 2nd 12v screen trigger, and can control your screen not to drop as far down, then you can have part of your screen back up in the case, so that the shape is that of a widescreen DVD. In that case, your screen hasn't come down as far, and you can move the image up, and have no letter boxing anywhere. Cool! (This is something I would do with programming, if I got off the stick and replaced my BenQ 8700+ with the H78DC3 projector, since I have a motorized Firehawk screen, and can control its drop.
Optoma says 2000 hours. That is in Bright mode. They do not publish the economy (normal) mode spec, however in speaking with them, they say the lamp life will increase by about 1/3 - which would translate to about 2700 hours.
4000:1 This projector does have great contrast, excellent "blacks" and great shadow detail, noticeably better than any of the less expensive LCD projectors like the Panasonic PT-AE700u, or DLP projectors using the older (but current and popular) and less expensive HD2+ DLP chip.
Unfortunately in my preliminary report I conjectured that the 4000:1 would be in the projector's best mode - Normal, and that Bright mode would have a lower contrast ratio. Optoma informed me that the contrast ratio remains the same in both modes. This is great news, because for those with larger screens, small amounts of ambient light, etc, the Bright mode is the way to go. Being able to get best picture contrast in Bright mode is just what you want! In other words Bright and Normal modes produce basically identical performance, except that Bright mode is - well - brighter!
While many home theater projectors have user savable settings, Optoma takes a different approach. If you put in custom settings (changes to brightness, contrast, gamma, etc.) for one input (say component), it will hold those, even if you have different settings for another input - say DVI-HDMI.
Better still, if you have two or more different sources on, say, component input, if they are different resolution (say 480i vs. 480p vs 1080i, it will hold different settings for each. This pretty much negates the need for saveable settings. The exception is, if you wanted to have two settings for, say your cable/satellite input - one for watching movies in a really dark room, and another for watching sports - with some lights on. Since the device (cable/satellite box) is at the same resolution for both, and it is coming in through the same port all the time (either DVI/HDMI or component - depending on how you wired your system, then when you change settings to brighten the projector for sports, it would not hold the other settings. On the other hand, you would probably only change one or two items (like brightness and contrast) so you wouldn't have much to change back.
Of course if you have a sophisticated remote room system, like a Crestron, or even some of the best programmable remotes, you could program those different settings in, so a touch of the button would get you back and forth between "Movies" and "Sports", resetting the adjustments for you.
In normal (non-Bright) mode, this is the quietest projector I have ever worked with. Optoma claims the H78DC3 projector, does 25 db (in 2000 hour lamp life Bright mode). That it runs even quieter in Normal mode, is basically not an issue, since it is near silent just a couple feet away, in Bright mode.
This is a big white box. No awards here (although the remote is cute!).
While few will table mount the projector, there are four large screw adjustable feet two front, two back. Every projector should have front and rear! Also since most will use the lens shift, the feet are mostly uneccessary, but you never know.