Optoma HD20 Projector - Image Quality
The Optoma HD20 images below are all from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). Note: By the time these Optoma HD20 projector images get to your eyeball, through digital camera, software, browsers, and monitor, there is definitely color shifting, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind the limitations when trying to compare images from the HD20 with other home theater projectors. None are entirely faithful reproductions of the colors that you see, when projecting on a screen.
Remember also, that the projectors themselves look far better than what you see in these photos. Intentionally overexposed images to show shadow detail and black level performance, on the other hand, are very good at showing differences between the Optoma HD20 and other home theater projectors.
8/30/09 - Art Feierman
HD20 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Like Optoma's lower cost (but in many ways similar) HD65, a 720p projector we reviewed a while ago, the HD20's out of the box picture quality is rather good. From a color temperature standpoint, the HD20's "best" mode is almost dead on the ideal 6500K, but that number doesn't account for green being a bit down from red and blue. Still, very watchable. With small adjustments, the color temperature ends up even a tad better, but the green ends up in proper balance with the other primary colors.
All considered, the HD20's "out of the box" color accuracy is better than most under $2000 projectors.
The image below (diigital image from the DVE-HD test disk) with the Optoma HD20 projector was taken post calibration:
Optoma HD20 Projector - Flesh Tones
The HD20, post calibration, does extremely well in terms of skin tones.
In that regard I would put it on par with the recently reviewed and more expensive new Samsung SP-A600. Check out the images below. Pretty impressive for the least expensive 1080p out there.
Above, Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings, Below Arwen, same movie.
Next are our usual three images of Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale, under different lighting conditions. As I always point out, Skin tones should look different under different lighting conditions. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, flourescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three images - the first, in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with flourescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day with Bond sitting in the shade - indirect lighting.
Two from Aeon Flux:
Men In Black:
From the DVE-HD calibration disc (digital source material, not film):
and finally one from Quantum of Solace (Bond)
OK, sufficiently impressed? I spent a lot of time watching movies and sports on the Optoma HD20, and found the picture pleasing, overall, with my only serious complaint being the black level performance, which we'll tackle next.
HD20 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Black Level Performance:
I recently reviewed the Samsung SP-A600, a more expensive 1080p DLP projector, but one that should sell not far upward of $1500 in the US. One of my criticisms was the Samsung's rather "entry level" black level performance.
As it turns out, the Optoma HD20's black levels still come up a bit shy of the Samsung. Mind you, they are pretty close, but, if the Samsung is "rather entry level," then the HD20 defines "entry level" blacks.
For the enthusiast, the black level performance is the Achilles heel of the HD20 - the one area of image performance where it's going to come up short against the competition.
For those of you looking for your first projector, however, don't let me scare you off that easily. Consider this: The ability of the Optoma HD20 to produce deep blacks is easily better than most $4000 and $5000, 720p resolution home projectors of just 4 or 5 years ago, and a lot of folks plunked down the big bucks back then for projectors that couldn't do any better. Even the entry level DLP projectors back then, like the old BenQ PE8700 and 8700+ (I owned them), couldn't do any better.
And yet we loved our pricey 720p home projectors. And that's the point. While better black levels would be great, and, if you get "hooked" and plan to upgrade in the next couple of years, you will no doubt want better blacks, but, meantime, the HD20 gets you in the game, for the same or less than many 720p projectors.
Let's look at a couple of comparative images: The first pair, with the Samsung on the left, and HD20 on the right, shows a not particularly large difference in black level performance: Note that the Optoma is a touch brighter, but still, the blacks are definitely more gray, more than the slight difference in overall brightness.
In the next comparsion with the Samsung, you can see that the limited blacks are still darker, but the real difference between the two really relates to the too high gamma of the Samsung, which tends to dim the brighter parts of the image (which is inherently not bright to begin with).
Immediately below: From The Dark Knight:
The pair of photos below have the Optoma HD20 projector first, and the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB (best blacks under $3500 street price) below it. This is about as big a difference as you will find, yet, you can see that the HD20 does a decent job.
Here's another pair: HD20 first, Epson second - this is an intentionally well overexposed image, from Space Cowboys. Here you can see the significant difference (but do you have an extra $1500?).
One more time: I may refer to the black level performance of the HD20 as entry level by today's 1080p standards, but it is comparable to most far more expensive projectors of just a few years ago.
Even with that in mind, for those of us who really appreciate the deep blacks of the more expensive "ultra-high contrast" 1080p projectors, it's a significant and important difference. The real question is whether or not the black level performance of a projector like the Epson worth an extra $1500 plus to you. The Epson, by comparison, has no advantage in terms of handling of skin tones, and can't match the shadow detail of the Optoma HD20!
You'll find this next image in a number of reviews. It is a logo at the beginning of Batman Begins. With projectors with blacker blacks, I have to overexpose the image so much (to bring up, the blacks to a just visible gray), that the logo turns almost white instead of blue. Here, however you can still see most of the blue, as I barely had to overexpose the shot to get those grays.
OK back to our collection of comparative images:
The next image is "our" Starship image from The Fifth Element.
Same image, overexposed, and with letterbox to better see black level performance, which even without overexposing significantly, you can now see the "gray" of the letterbox area:
BenQ W5000: (this photo, and the same one from the Mitusbishi HC5500 below it, were taken over a year ago, note that their images are darker than the rest)
The Panasonic PT-AE3000:
Next is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB:
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
Shadow Detail Performance
In the two pairs of images below, the first is the Samsung SP-A600 (left) and the Optoma HD20 (right) - you can see the distinct black level advantage of the Samsung.
In the second comparison, the Samsung is again on the left, and the even more expensive and top rated Epson Home Cinema 6500UB is on the right. Note that the lower pair is brighter overall, and even with the Samsung in the lower image noticeably brighter than the first one, the Epson still has better black levels when compared to the Optoma HD20 above it. Now imagine what the HD20 blacks would look like if the first image pair was an extra f-stop or two brighter to match the lower pair (Samsung against Samsung).
From LOTR: Lleft: HD20, Middle: Samsung SP-A600, Right: BenQ W5000:
Below is the same (overexposed) night train scene from Casino Royale. You can definitely see that that the Optoma (right) is revealing more shadow detail (than the Samsung SP-A600) in the trees and bushes above the railroad tracks on the right side. That's a good thing! Overall, though, despite the Optomas additional detail, the Samsung looked better on the screen, more dynamic, while the HD20 looked flat. While one hates to lose any dark detail, generally the darkest detail is not what your eyes are focused on in a scene. I'd much rather have better black levels and slightly less dark shadow detail, than the other way around!
Below our usual sequence of images of Clint Eastwood in a very dark room/scene. Look to the blinds and, in general, the upper right, for shadow detail differences between these many projectors. The first image, of course, is the Optoma HD20 projector. It is followed, in order by: Epson Home Cinema 6100, Samsung SP-A600, Sanyo PLV-Z700, Sharp XV-Z15000, Optoma HD8200, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Sony VPL-HW10, BenQ W5000, and Panasonic PT-AE3000.
Again, from Space Cowboys, this is a cropped image. The right side is very bright (so dynamic irises will not be effective). The HD20 (top left) has good shadow detail in the dark areas of the satellite, note though, that those areas look darker than on some others. Next to it on the first row, is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, Those images are followed by the Sharp XV-Z15000 and the PT-AE3000U (second row). The third row is the Mitsubishi HC6500 (left), and the Sanyo PLV-Z700 on the right.
The following images are both the same frame, from Space Cowboys. The first one is slightly overexposed, and the second one, dramatically so. Look in the brown area of the satellite on the left (and elsewhere). The HD20 does a very good job. The HD20 definitely does a solid job when it comes to shadow detail
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The HD20 performs extremely well!
Click on left thumbnail image for the Optoma HD20, Sanyo PLV-Z700 in the center, and the right for the PT-AE3000U.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene (again) from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Optoma HD20, the second is the Sanyo PLV-Z700, the third is the Optoma HD8200, the fourth one is from the Epson Home Cinema 6100, and finally, to represent a great ultra-high contrast projector, the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB. You might want to check out the $999 HD20 against the $2500 Epson 6500UB to get a good idea of what a huge difference there is on a dark scene like this, between the two projectors!
Another very good image for observing shadow detail is this very dark scene from the first National Treasure film. The HD20 does do a really good job of revealing details, especially if you look to the top right, or the left center.
A few more images for looking at black levels and shadow details:
HD20 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Bottom Line for Overall Picture Quality and Color Handling:
Very good color, extremely good shadow detail, and mediocre black levels. All considered, however, being only $999, the HD20 does provide very good value, in terms of the picture itself. Spend more for better, but, hey, if you plan to watch movies in a room that can't be fully darkened (and especially if the walls/ceiling are light colored), much of the superior black level advantage of more expensive projectors will simply be lost. This is one reason why I refer to the Optoma HD20 as a projector that should be a very good fit in a family room type of environment, as opposed to a more dedicated room with full lighting control and dark surfaces.
We'll finish our look at comparative images of entry level 1080p projectors with the crew image from Space Cowboys. First is the Optoma HD20, followed by the Samsung, then the Epson Home Cinema 6100, followed by the Sharp XV-Z15000:
A mix of additional images to show off the HD20:
From the DTS Blu-ray test disk, consider these:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
See, you are impressed!
Optoma HD20 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
Not a thing wrong with the HD20 when it comes to watching my favorite college and NFL teams. Sure, you can have a brighter projector, but even the brightest under $3000 projectors are only about 20-40% brighter in brightest mode, while many others have only 2/3 or 3/4 the brightness of the Optoma.
The overall image is nice and sharp (sharper than a number of 3LCD projectors), which is always a plus. I got to watch at least 10 hours of football, and the HD20 did just fine. Friends passing through were impressed. They thought it reasonably bright - and they come over for the football, not to look at projectors. So far, everyone has liked it. While black levels may be an HD20 weakness, no one worries about black levels for sports, and for that matter most of regular TV and HDTV programming, because really dark scenes tend to be hard to find (except on movies).
A few images for your consideration, off of HDTV:
The images above are from a Moody Blues Concert that has been broadcast in HD, and is also available on Blu-ray disc. These two photos were taken with minimal ambient light present.
The images below were taken with three different lighting scenarios. One has the shades on my french doors open about a foot and a half each (sunlight pouring in, hitting the carpeting), the next has only one of the two open (and even less open), and finally, the last one shows the room with the blinds fully closed. In all cases, I had some recessed lighting on (not too close to the screen), but dimmed so that the room was still moderately lit. (It's the sunlight that does the real damage in my room.)
The first image below, was taken with the first lighting scenario above. As you can tell, the image (about 115 inches diagonal), is definitely washing out a bit - watchable, but not quite satisfactory.
Below it, the next image was taken with the same lighting, and the one below it, with the second lighting setup (one window partially open). The improvement is obvious. The remaining football images were taken with the second or third lighting (one partially open, or none):
Below: one blind partially open
Blinds fully closed:
The Optoma HD20 works very nicely as a low cost, hi-res projector for your sports and general TV, HDTV viewing. End of conversation!
BTW, one more, from the same Penn State vs. USC Rose Bowl game last year. I was at the game, and saw the Stealth bomber flyby, (very, very, cool) but lifted this image from my recording of the game: