Optoma HD70 Home Theater Projector Review - Overview
11/14/2006 -Art Feierman
Finally, our HD70 review. We had hoped to get our hands on one a bit sooner, as it has been shipping for almost two months. The Optoma HD70 is a breakthrough home theater projector - the first true HD (720p) projector to sport a list price of under $1000 ($999 of course)!
That means that it competes directly against several 480p home theater projectors (although most now sell for under $800). Of course $999 is the MSRP (and also MAP - minimum advertised price), so no doubt there is some slight discounting below the $999 price. There is competition though for a couple to a few hundred more, from some other 720p projectors. Notably the recently reviewed Mitsubishi HD1000U - similar in many ways, and also Sanyo's very highly regarded PLV-Z4. Unlike most other companies, who kill off one model when its replacement starts shipping, Sanyo traditionally keeps "last year's" projector in the lineup, at a lower cost. Neither the Mitsubishi which has a $1499 MAP, but comes with a free spare lamp (list price $395), to lower its effective net cost. Of course, those of you who don't have the extra cash around, and need to keep the expenditure under $1000, will still find the Mitsubishi - with spare lamp, and the Sanyo, to be a few hundred dollars more, out of pocket.
Click to enlarge the image above (from The Fifth Element on standard DVD).
Based on extensive viewing of the HD70, it is, overall, a really nice projector. From a technical standpoint, there are 480p projectors (and 720p models) that can outperform it in terms of black levels and shadow details. When it comes to the trade-offs though, we believe the HD70 will be a best choice for a majority of potential buyers on a tight budget. The bottom line, is that 720p for under $1000 is a dramatic price performance breakthrough. That alone is sufficient to impress us, and we are pleased to bestow our Hot Product Award to the Optoma HD70. That said, the Optoma HD70 has a number of other things going for it, in addition to its great price!
Let's get started!
Optoma HD70 Home Theater Projector: Basic Specs
Technology: Darkchip2 DLP projector
Native Resolution: WXGA 1280x720
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Contrast: 4000:1 (AI mode) 3000:1 (AI off)
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.2:1
Lens shift: None
Lamp life: 2000 hours full power, 3000 hours eco-mode
Weight: 5.6 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years parts and labor
Optoma HD70 Projector: Physical Tour
Looking at the projector from the front, the Optoma HD70's 1.2:1 zoom lens is mounted to the far left. Next to it and below is the button for the drop down center front foot. The HD70 uses a three point stance, for stability, with the right rear foot offering screw thread height adjustment. Also on the front, center top, is a large Infra-red sensor for the remote control. The sensor faces both forward and top, allowing for the remote's signal to reach the projector easily on both table and ceiling mount. There is no rear sensor (which most other projectors have), so that's a very good thing. While still facing the projector, you will note a large grill for the fan exhaust which takes up most of the right front. The vents are angled, preventing any stray light from hitting the screen, and also to blow the hot air away from the lens to prevent distortion.
Moving to the top of the HD70 projector, you will find the zoom and focus control rings for the zoom lens. Once again, I have the same criticism as on several other of the lower cost Optoma business and home theater projectors: The two rings do not adjust cleanly, in that if you adjust the zoom, the lens will go out of focus. Of course, this is only a minor annoyance, as once you set your projector up, it takes only seconds to do the zoom and focus, and you are done. If you are ceiling mounting, it's a "once". If you move your projector around, you deal with it each time, but again, it's only a few extra seconds. You might say, if that is a projector's biggest problem, then the projector has no real problems, but for those hung up on "build quality", it might be mildly annoying.
Now the control panel, on the other hand, is very nicely laid out, with the power button elevated slightly on the lens barrel. It uses the usual press once to turn on, press twice to power down. Directly behind the Power button is an LED light to indicate power. It blinks when off, and is steady green when on. Mounted where it is, it poses no ambient light threat to your picture. Directly below that light is the Menu button, and to its right (looking from the back) are two more indicator lights, one for temperature, one for lamp.
More toward the center of the top are the four arrow key buttons, with an center enter button. When the menus are not in use, the left arrow key doubles as the source (input) selector, while the right one is a Re-sync button, for stabilizing the image (typically for computer signals).
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The Power cord plugs into the AC receptacle towards the back right side (looking from the back).
Finally, that takes us to the back of the Optoma HD70 projector where the inputs are.
The Optoma HD70 home theater projector has a basic set of input features. From right to left, are; the single HDMI (digital) input, an HD15 computer connector for analog (normal) computer input, SCART (overseas), or component video. Next are three RCA jacks for Component Video, so, if you don't have a computer hooked up, you can have three high resolution sources - 1 HDMI, and 2 Component Video. Next are the usual composite video and S-video inputs (there is also a service port in between the two. There is also a jack for an optional IR module. I presume that would be for someone who's setup does not allow good access from their seating position to get the front IR sensor to pick up signals from the remote. Unfortunately, the manual only "labels" it, and mentions the optional sensor, but no other description. Lastly, there is a 12 volt trigger for controlling a properly equipped motorized screen. The trigger is a bonus, as many low cost projectors don't offer one.
The Optoma HD70 projector comes with a backlit remote, which will be discussed in detail, in our General Performance section
Time to explore the HD70's overall Image Quality!