Optoma HD20 Projector - Performance
8/30/09 - Art Feierman
Optoma HD20 Projector Brightness
The HD20 is a bit dissapointing in brightness, but not in a serious way. It's not based on our measurements, as the HD20 is brighter than most in best mode (Cinema), including most more expensive projectors, and about average in its brightest (Bright) mode.
The dissapointment comes from the Optoma claim of 1700 lumens. Now, most companies tend to overstate their brightness, and often significantly. That said, let's say that Optoma may have gotten a bit carried away, since it measured almost 40% less than their claim. (15% - 25% isn't that unusual, and it's rather uncommon to find a projector that beats its marketing claim).
Ultimately, though, we measured an impressive 701 lumens in our calibrated Cinema mode (User mode). Bright mode, measured 996 lumens (with just minor adjustments). Both numbers are post calibration measurements. Actually, using out of the box settings, Cinema mode was dimmer, though insignificantly, at 695 lumens
In truth, one can make the projector brighter. I ended up increasing contrast from a recommended setting of 44 to 54, which definitely put an extra 100+ lumens on the screen, but was definitely starting to crush some near-white highlights. Still, this worked well when fighting a bit too much ambient light.
These were the measurements for all modes, Pre-calibration. Shown along with the lumens are the color temperature measurements for white (100 IRE):
Cinema = 695 lumens @ 6327K
Bright = 996 lumens @ 7339K
Photo = 683 lumens @ 8148K
Reference = 747 lumens @ 6212K
User = 747 lumens @ 6248K
Going from mid-point on the zoom to full telephoto (it's really not far to go) drops the brightness by about 7.5%. Going from mid-point to full wide angle increases brightness by 6.5% In other words, place the projector where it fits best, and don't worry about losing a few lumens (or gaining them).
Image above from The Dark Knight, User mode (a calibrated Cinema mode).
Optoma HD20 Sharpness
Today's single-chip DLP projectors are typically a little bit sharper than most 3LCD or LCoS projectors, due to the other technologies being 3 chip devices. And with that, there's always at least a tiny bit of misconvergence to unsharpen the image. The Optoma HD20 projector, as expected, does provide a very sharp image.
Some DLP projectors are a touch sharper, and one recently reviewed, the Sharp XV-Z15000, seems similar, but the Z15000 has more trouble with edge to edge sharpness than most others. That is to say, both the Sharp and Optoma projectors will look very sharp at the point where you have focused it, but look towards the corners, and the HD20 would hold its sharpness better than the Sharp.
Top left: Optoma HD20, Top Center, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Top right: Panasonic PT-AE3000
2nd row left: Samsung SP-A600, middle: BenQ W5000, right: InFocus X10
Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left to right HD20, Epson Home Cinema 6100, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and Samsung SP-A600.
Optoma HD20: Bottom Line Sharpness
Overall, the HD20 is sharper than average. It can't quite match the "razor sharp" look of the best in the price range, such as the BenQ W5000, but does a very good job overall, and, upon close inspection, comes across a little sharper than several of the best selling 3LCD competition, including the Epson and Panasonic.
The Optoma really lights up. There's a fair amount of light exiting the front vents, with a pinkish white color. It mostly throws that light outward toward the right, but forward. You will be able to spot the light leakage in a darkened room if your walls are light colored. Not impressive in this regard, the HD20 leaks more light than any other recently reviewed projector. Light leakage out the lens is there but minor.
DLP projectors seem to have more basic image noise than other technologies, and the HD20 is no exception. Still, it's pretty clean. I never felt the need to engage the noise reduction circuits on the Image/Advanced, menu. No particular issues with any motion artifacts to report. Definitely not the most refined image processing here, but it does the job, and I don't consider image noise to be an issue, especially in light of the low cost of this projector.
Ouch! OK, if there's one real, achilles heel of the HD20's home theater performance, it's the fan noise. It is definitely one of the noisiest home theater projectors out there. I haven't yet seen a noise spec, but most likely, at full power, the projector is probably somewhere between 32 and 35 db. That's probably a non-issue in typical family room (mulit-purpose) usage, but would be considered very distracting for those in a more dedicated environment, or when watching quiet scenes in a movie. If you think you want a quiet projector - then the Optoma HD20 is not going to be for you, as almost all alternatives are anywhere from a little to a whole lot quieter, with some projectors under $2000 a full 10 db quieter (and that's a dramatic amount - considering most projectors drop 3 to 5 db, going from full power lamp mode to low power).