Optoma HD20 - Physical Tour
8/30/09 - Art Feierman
Optoma HD20 Physical Appearance
The Optoma HD20 projector is one of the smallest home theater projectors out there. It's finished in a shiny white with some silver trim. While mostly rectangular looking, it does have some style - with sloping grill, soft corners, and a bit of flair. As always, it's what comes out of the lens that really counts, but, hey, this Optoma HD20 is cute when the lights are on and the is projector off. (That may help with the "wife factor", if you are putting it in a family room.)
The 1.2:1 manual zoom lens is offset to the right side (looking from the front).
HD20 Projector - Control Panel
The control panel is on top towards the back. Inputs are all on the back, and venting comes in on the sides and exits, off angle (away from the lens, out the front).
From the left: Source and Menu buttons, then the navigation area with four arrow keys in a circle, and the Enter button in the center. On the right is the power switch (one for on, two for off).
Optoma HD20 Inputs and Outputs
Actually, the HD20 is pretty well equipped. While it doesn't have an S-video input, which may make some gamers unhappy, it will work with all game machines since they all have standard composite video. Higher end game machines have HDMI outputs as well, which the HD20 has.
There are two HDMI inputs, which is pretty standard these days. I often comment that providing three would be better, but few, even far more expensive, home theater projectors have that extra one.
There's a standard analog computer input (HD15 connector - same as on a standard computer monitor), which can handle a computer or be used as a second component video input. There is also one dedicated component video input, with the usual three color coded (R,G,B) RCA jacks. There is a small connector serving as a service port. Finally, there's a 12 volt screen trigger, which could be used for a motorized screen or other purposes.
To put things in perspective, the recently reviewed, new Samsung SP-A600, by comparison, has the same inputs plus the S-video, and it has a full serial RS-232 port, but it lacks the 12 volt screen trigger.
Optoma HD20 Menus
Not much new to report as, as the menu structure is essentially the same as other Optoma's reviewed in the last couple of years. Shown to the right is the image menu.
There are five modes including Cinema, Bright, Photo, Reference and User.
You can scroll through them but there's a couple seconds lag each time, and no way to directly go from one to another, if not adjacent. I would have liked to be able to switch back and forth between Cinema and our User settings.
The Advanced menu off of the main Image menu has gamma, basic color temp controls (warm, cool...), and a sub-menu for doing the separate RGB adjustments.
Interestingly, the individual Gamma controls provide some user control, which many projectors lack. Thing is, the film gamma looked and measured very well, so I never played with the controls.
The other major menu worth a quick look is the Display menu. Notice that it has both Overscan and Edge Mask. For those of you not familiar with the difference, I'll take a moment to discuss. It is not unusual (unfortunately) to get noise or a color bar off of some satellite/cable stations. The traditional way to solve that is overscan, which will not show you the entire screen - eliminating the outermost data. It then expands (interpolates) the remainder - say 97% of the image, to fill the entire screen. Problem solved.
There is a drawback though, if you are watching 1080 source material in 1080 resolution, you have to give up 1:1 pixel masking. The interpolation will add a slight amount of softness.
Edge masking addresses the same issue a different way. It essentially just "turns off" that outer 3% - black. That maintains the 1:1 pixel ratio, but the image is a little bit smaller, so won't quite fill your screen.
I prefer the 1:1 and use edge masking when needed. The Optoma offers control of the amount of overscan or edge masking - another nice touch.
Of note, the System menu has the lamp controls, Image AI (which I don't care for - more elsewhere), the 12 volt trigger control, projector positioning (Projection) for front/rear/ceiling/floor.
Optoma HD20 Remote Control
The HD20's remote control has a nice curved shape that should fit well in your hand. The layout is pretty good, and the range, while not exceptional, is very good and adequate to get a bounce off of my screen to the projector - a total trip of about 24 feet, in my larger theater.
I have one real complaint about the HD20 remote control, but I should note, first, that it is more likely to be an annoyance to a reviewer like myself, who is constantly playing with settings, than a typical user, who, once set up, only occasionally makes changes (such as from Bright mode, to Cinema, or a minor adjustment here and there.)
My complaint is the backlight. Yes, the HD20 has one, and it's bright LED blue. People, it's too bright. The backlight comes on, and holding it in front of me, it's too bright if I'm trying to easily watch changes on the screen if I'm adjusting color saturation, contrast, or other settings. I've been learning to hold the remote away from me, and turned away from me when doing fine adjustments, but it's a nuisance. Hey, if this was the only weakness of the low cost HD20, wouldn't that be nice!
From the top: First, any key will light up the backlight (so no option to leave it off). Top left is the Power On button, on the right is the Off button (press twice to turn off). Right below in the center is the lamp mode button. Surrounding it, and on the next row, are four buttons for different aspect ratios: 16:9, 4:3, Letterbox, and Native.
Further down are direct access buttons. In the center is the mode control (Bright, Cinema...), and to its left and right are Brightness and Contrast.
On the following row, you'll find Edge Mask on the left, Overscan on the right (you can choose one or the other, but both can't be used at the same time. Overscan gives you a slightly smaller image, chopping off the outermost pixels to remove unwanted image noise that is not unusual from cable and satellite source material (and some standard DVDs). Edge mask, instead, simply gets rid of the same "junk", making the overall image a slight bit smaller. I personally favor edge masking (though many projectors lack it). It allows you to maintain 1:1 pixel masking for the sharpest possible image, while overscan expands the image that's left, which is going to be less accurate, and a bit softer.
There's a source lock button between those two. Your choices are having the HD20, when powered up, going directly to the last source used (say HDMI 1), or searching for the first source it finds. Some like it one way, some, the other.
Next comes the navigation area, with arrow keys in a round formation, and the Enter button in the center. The menu button is just below to the left, in a comfortable place.
And that covers it, except for the five lower buttons, which are direct access buttons for the different sources (HDMI 1, HDMI 2, Component video...)
HD20 Lens Throw
The manual lens has a 1.2:1 zoom ratio - typical for most DLP home theater projectors. For a 100 inch diagonal, 16:9 screen, the projector (measured from the front of the lens), can be placed as close as 10 feet 10.5 inches to 13 feet 1 inch. This type of throw distance is also very typical for a DLP projector. This gives you just over 2 feet of placement flexibility for a screen of that size. Looking at a larger or smaller screen, you can calculate the distances easily from the numbers above. (A 10% larger screen - 110" diagonal would have distances 10% greater for both closest and furthest away...)
HD20 Lens Shift
The HD20 lacks any adjustable lens shift. This Optoma has less lens offset than many past Optoma projectors (and a number of other DLP models with no lens shift). That's a good thing. For that same 100" diagonal screen, the Optoma HD20, when ceiling mounted, needs to be placed (measured from the center of the lens) almost exactly 8 inches above the top of the screen surface - or if on a table, 8 inches below the bottom of the screen surface.
Most previous Optoma projectors had a lot more offset - typically more like 18 inches worth. This configuration on the HD20 will allow more folks to own and properly place the HD20 in their rooms. Unlike those projectors with that extra offset, the HD20 should work in most rooms with 8 and 9 foot ceilings, unless you go with a very large screen (over 110" diagonal).
HD20 Anamorphic Lens
Update: Originally, I noted that the HD20 would not support an anamorphic lens. That was incorrect. The LBX aspect ratio on the Optoma HD20 is there to support an anamorphic lens.
On the other hand, it is extremely unlikely that almost anyone would pair an anamorphic lens with a $999 home theater projector, or even a $1500 one, considering that an anamorphic lens typically is upward of $2000, and, with a motorized sled, more like $3000 - $4000.
Those dropping the big bucks on the lens/sled, are far more likely to spend at least $2500 for a higher performance projector. This is one reason why few entry level projectors (let's say, under $2000), even offer the support. Of course, since, to support the lens, a projector only needs one more aspect ratio, it is easy enough for manufacturers to do.