Home Theater Projector Review: Optoma HD65 DLP, 720p Projector: Summary, Pros, Cons
I'm pretty torn between the HD71 and the HD65, but I expect I'll be recommending the HD65, significantly more often. It's not that it is the better projector - technically, the HD71 is, as it is both brighter and has the faster color wheel. It's just that the HD65 works so well, right out of the box, and so few people really want to have to calibrate, tweak, or whatever you call it, their projectors. The HD65, is a great choice, and you can use it as is, or, better, I recommend you try dropping in the settings, that we came up with, and list in the General Performance page under Measurements and Calibration.
That should set you back all of 4-5 minutes, and will be well worth your time.
I should say, that the other reason I'll be recommending the Optoma HD65 more, is that, for those seeking the absolute maximum in brightness, will be choosing among four projectors, the HD71, Panasonic PT-AX200U, Mitsubishi HC1500, and Epson Home Cinema 720.
Now, keep in mind, the HD65 definitely competes, and is actually as bright or brighter than the two 3LCD projectors above (Epson and Panasonic) when all are in best modes. However, all four of these others are significantly brighter when you need all the lumens you can find, for that sporting event, or handling more than a reasonable amount of ambient light.
Optoma HD65 as a Business Projector
The HD65 has a couple of things going for it as a crossover projector. First, it's about as small as home theater projectors come, and weighs in at 4 pounds (1.8 Kg.), making it a reasonably small portable projector. With brightness up to almost 1200 lumens (measured), it's not much dimmer than most of today's entry level projectors which claim 1800 - 2000 lumens, and like the Optoma, will also typically produce 10-25% less lumens than claimed. It certainly has enough horsepower for the typical conference room with moderate lighting on screens up to 6 feet diagonal, and 10 foot diagonal will work fine if lighting is low.
It lacks a speaker, but that shouldn't be an issue for most, as the sound from most 4 pound and under business projectors is barely better than what is found on most laptops, and a far more powerful small portable speaker could be bought if needed.
Of course, the HD65 is a widescreen projector, but it's 1280x720, whereas most widescreen sources are now either 1366x768 (true WXGA), or 1280x800 (16:10, which has become pretty much standard resolution on widescreen laptops). That means to do full screen with either of those resolutions, a little compression technology is needed. With any compression technology (or even using keystone correction), you will get visible degration of small objects and type (12 point and under on type), but not enough to be an issue unless you are working at, very small sizes like 8 points (which is a couple sizes smaller than what is typical in Word documents, spreadsheets, or emails). Bottom line - it makes a pretty nice little business projector, but a far better home theater projector!
Optoma HD65 Projector vs. the Competition:
Optoma HD65 vs. the Panasonic PT-AX200U Projector
Interesting match up. The Panasonic, a 3LCD projector is the best seller of the 720p projectors, and one reason is plenty of placement flexibility, unlike the HD65. The HD65, though is very portable for those who want to take it to the cabin, or move from room to room, not that the Panasonic is huge, at all.
The Panasonic is definitely the brightest of the 720p projectors (3 chip DLP's notwithstanding - way more money than even most 1080p projectors). The PT-AX200U has twice the lumens in brightest mode (with the Panasonic that assumes the zoom lens in mid position, in full telephoto it's only about 50% brighter).
When you are looking for best mode performance for movie watching, though the big difference in lumens disappears. In fact the Optoma beat the Panasonic by about two dozen lumens, with both in there best modes after adjustment!
The Panasonic will have better black levels, though not drastically so, but, on the other hand, the Optoma projector projects a slightly sharper looking image.
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Optoma HD65 Projector vs. the Optoma HD71 Projector
Here are the basics, more detail will be found in the comparison review, between these two Optoma projectors.
Basically, the HD65 definitely has better color out of the box, and is "good to go", while the HD71 definitely needs some "work" to get good skin tones, etc. The HD71, though is a much brighter projector for the extra roughly $300 dollars, and also contains a single small speaker (not exactly what you want for watching movies).
Technically, the HD71 has a 6x speed color wheel, compared to the HD65's 4x wheel, and that means more folks will see rainbows with the HD65. The percentages are still very small - less than 5% of the population, but for those sensitive, 6X is a significant improvement.
Black levels and shadow details are in the same general range between these two, so other factors, like brightness or size, become deciding factors.
From a placement standpoint, both of these are about as inflexible as one can find, pretty much meaning ceiling mounting or table top, but with your flexibility limited to about 1 foot or so front to back, (depending on screen size). For either of these, first figure out if they will work in your room, if not - move on to other possibilities.
Optoma HD65 Projector vs. Sanyo PLV-Z5 Projector
The Sanyo PLV-Z5 remains a highly popular projector even though it's well into its second year. It definitely has the black level advantage over the HD65 projector, and shadow detail by perhaps a very slight advantage as well.
But, when it comes to brightness, th HD65 has about twice the lumens in best mode. The Sanyo projector is a great projector for smaller screens, typically 100" diagonal or less, and depending on the screen surface, a little more. By comparison, the HD65 has almost as many lumens when in its best mode, as the Sanyo has in brightest, and can go up an extra 20" diagonal in screen size.
Of course, the 3LCD Sanyo, clobbers the Optoma projector in terms of placement flexibility, with its 2:1 zoom lens, plus very generous lens shift. The Sanyo will therefore work for just about everyone, whether you want to ceiling mount, shelf mount or set it down on a coffee table. The Sanyo PLV-Z5, also has a sharpness advantage, although slight, plus a 3 year warranty, compared to Optoma's one year.
HD65 vs Epson Home Cinema 720
An interesting trade-off here. The Optoma has the brightness advantage in "best" mode, although the Epson has several movie modes. Even the brightest, though, is still about 30% less than the Optoma. I have always recommended the Epson for those heavy into sports, or a fair amount of ambient light, because its bright modes are its strength, with Dynamic cranking out over 1600 lumens, and Living Room, almost 1000 lumens.
The Epson is roughly the equal to the Optoma in terms of black levels. The Epson's dynamic iris may even allow it to best the Optoma in scenes that are mostly dark, without bright areas, although on mixed brightness scenes, the Optoma should have a slight advantage or a tie, depending on the scene makeup.
HD65 vs. Mitsubishi HC1500
Whereas I favored the HC1500 over the HD65's predecessor, the Optoma HD70, that's not the case here. Overall, I am leaning to the HD65, despite it being the noisier of the two, and leaking more light. Both use 10 bit processing (the HD70 only 8 bit).
The Optoma definitely has the better "out of the box" color. Black level and shadow detail performance will be comparable, but the HD65 will win the black level battle, if not by a really great amount. One strength of the HC1500 has always been brightness though, and it that regard, it falls between the HD65, and the more muscle bound HD71. The HC1500 puts out about 1200 lumens in best mode, and 1800 in brightest, compared with about 600 and 1200 respectively. One difference, though is that Mitsubishi really gets all the lumens it can out of its Sports mode, while we measure 1140 lumens from the HD65, but know we can get perhaps another 20% out, and still have color at least as good as the HC1500.
I say I favor the HD65, but if brightness is the decider, you probably are comparing the HD71, not the HD65, to the Mitsubishi projector, so what I'm saying is, - "if both of these are bright enough, I favor the HD65, for other reasons".
Optoma HD65 projector, Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
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Optoma HD65 Projector: Pros
- One of the very best 720p projectors when it comes to color accuracy, "out of the box"
- A truly well balanced, film-like image.
- Very small, makes it viable as a portable - take it on vacation, or to a friends - just add a source, and a boom box, and you are in business
- Viable as a portable widescreen business projector for smaller room presentations
- Supports 24fps, not all 720p projectors do. (Supports means no judder, since no 3:2 pull-down is needed to convert movie speed (24fps to video speed 30 fps)
- Very good remote control
- Filter free design for minimal maintenance
- Good menus
- 12 volt screen trigger
- Being DLP, for a 720p projector, pixel visibility is not an issue for most, at normal seating distances
Optoma HD65 Projector: Cons
- Very limited zoom lens, for limited placement flexibility
- No lens shift - no shelf mounting
- Optoma's typical lack of multiple savable user settings
- ImageAI occasionally visible coming from darker scenes to brighter scenes. If the bright scene isn't changing much, the brightness can be seen jumping up a bit
- A fan noise is louder than most projectors, although not exceptionally so
- Backlit buttons on remote, may actually be too bright!
- Only a 1 year parts and labor warranty (which is becoming pretty typical, but there are competitors with 2, or 3 year warranties out there)
Optoma HD65 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Manual - Printed, not on disc
- Fair selection of inputs (including HDMI 1.3 with Deep Color support)
- Lamp Life
- Black level performance
- Shadow detail
Optoma HD65 Summary: The Bottom Line
I've said it earlier, I'll say it again:
The Optoma HD65, is a well balanced projector, brighter than most, very affordable (one of the least expensive out there), and produces one of the most color accurate images of any projector, right out of the box, without having to mess around. All of this considered, it easily earned our Hot Product Award, and I see it as a contender for one of the two Best in Class categories in the upcoming 720p Projector Comparison, athough there is plenty of competition.
Despite an overall excellent image quality, the HD65 is first and foremost, an excellent choice for people who just want a projector that will do a great job, without the owner having to spend time messing around with it.
Even though there are competitors with lower fan noise, and slightly better black levels, the HD65 will also appeal to many home theater enthusiasts. It suffers no glaring flaws (although the previously mentioned jump in brightness, several seconds after transitioning from a dark scene to a relatively stationary bright scene, will annoy some), in terms of picture quality. These same folks, though may be a bit allergic to the higher than average fan noise, and the more than typical light leakage. The light leakage is generally pretty harmless, especially if your walls are dark.
Optoma's on a roll, they've now impressed me twice, in just over a month, and I think, have two good projectors to do battle against the 3LCD competition, and to give home theater folks some really good choices in the lower price ranges.