Projector Reviews - General Performance
User Memory Settings
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Audible Noise Levels
Lamp Life and Replacement
Projector Screen Recommendations
Optoma HD70 Projector Menus
Optoma continues to use, basically the same look and layout in their menus, as on several other Optoma's we have reviewed in the last few months. This is a good thing. The menus are large enough to easily read the choices, and you can select where you want them to appear on the screen. I quickly moved the menus to the lower left (I hate having them dead center).
The most used menu will be the first one, the Image menu shown here. Basically there are two pages, this one, and the Advanced menu, which can be selected from this one. All the usual goodies are found on these two, starting with a choice of Preset modes, of which Optoma offers five: Cinema, Bright, TV, Photo and User. When you select the Mode, it opens up the thin menu you see immediately below and you can scroll through the five choices with the remote's arrow keys, or the ones on the HD70's control panel. I should note that selecting TV kicks in overscan, however that can be adjusted to 0, to prevent loss of some image around the edges.
Selecting the Advanced Menu brings up a host of choices. First is Degamma, with choices of
The HD70 uses one of Texas Instruments newest DLP chips, and supports TI's Brilliant color. You will note, as you change modes and Degamma, that BrilliantColor will change automatically, as will TrueVivid.
Color Temp defaults to 1 in most cases, although we found setting it to 2 (choices are 0-3) provided a better overall color temperature for movie viewing. More on this down below in the calibration section.
ImageAI is a feature on all of Optoma's home theater projectors. It is a typical system for adjusting the image frame by frame, with the primary function to enhance black levels (make blacks "blacker" grays than otherwise). If you do run AI, two points of note. First, the lamp will effectively be in full power mode, so lamp life will not be as good as low power settings. Time for quick lesson. Since I have addressed this in other recent reviews, please skip if you are "up to speed".
With ImageAI black levels become variable. On certain scenes with no bright areas, ImageAI on can significantly reduce black levels, on other scenes where there is bright content, the ImageAI becomes less effective or has no visible effect at all. Sound funky? It's not. If you have scenes with a lot of bright areas, noticing the black levels is inherently difficult - your eyes are, first of all, drawn to the bright areas, and second, your eye's iris will "stop down" to adjust for the brightness, effectively lowering your perception of black levels.
Dynamic iris'es and/or lamps are common on LCD projectors (which have more limited contrast without them, than DLP projectors. You will find them on popular models like the Sanyo PLV-Z5 and Panasonic PT-AX100U, among others. Far fewer DLP projectors use AI to enhance contrast, still, it's nice to have, and if you can detect AI at work, and it bothers you (you might notice immediately following a scene change or if within a scene a bright object enters the image, that the overall brightness may brighten or darken appropriately. Now that I've said that, don't panic. I found the Image AI, only to be easily detectable on extreme changes, and only when looking for it.
The two images below are designed to demonstrate the ImageAI at work, and its affect on on black levels. The first image is on a very dark star scene (from The Fifth Element). I set the exposure so that the image is sufficiently overexposed that you can see the "blacks" as medium dark grays. In the second image, I opened up one of the menus. Since the menus are very bright, and I used the exact same exposure, not only are the menus overexposed, but you can easily see that the blacks are now lighter grays than before. This, because, with the bright information the AI cannot "do its thing".
Remember, both were taken with the same camera exposure! The space background is darker above, (as is the letterbox area), and faint stars show up much better above. On the image below, because of the large bright area, you wouldn't see a difference with Image AI, on or off.
The bottom line, is that the HD70 does some respectable black levels with ImageAI on, and the right type of scenes (the ones where better black levels are most appreciated). Compared to the competition, the HD70 cannot match the black levels of the lower resolution InFocus IN72, nor the Mitsubishi HC3000 which is exceptional. Comparing it to the most direct competition, Mitsubishi's HD1000U, I would give the edge to the Mitsubishi overall, although it lacks AI. On the darkest scenes however the blacks will be a touch darker on the HD70. With ImageAI turned off, the Mitsubishi does a slightly blacker black, but both are "in the same league. I should note, that one reason why neither the Optoma HD70 nor the Mitsubishi HD1000U are overly impressive, is that they use a seven segment color wheel, to get out some more brightness, but that 7th segment is clear, and there is some minor light that will come through.
Ok, that was long! Time to get back on track with the rest of the menu section. There is a submenu off of the Advanced menu, RGB Gain/Bias. This is the area for fine tuning colors with a basic calibration disk, you can separately control reds greens and blues.
In the calibration section, I provide the settings that I felt worked best for movie viewing
Next comes the Display menu, which of particular note has a feature I've always liked on Optoma projectors. If you are working with a letterboxed movie (black bars at top and bottom), you can digitally move the content up or down, using the HD70's Vertical Image Shift. . Imagine: If you have a motorized screen that you can set a stop on (so it doesn't drop all the way down), you could set the screen to only come down far enough so that the surface you see is 2.35:1 - Cinemascope shape.
Now use the vertical digital control to move the image up, and, bingo, you see the the movie fill all of the visible screen surface - no letter box. Whether or not many will ever take advantage of this, it certainly is a nice capability!
Next is the Setup Menu (not shown. It lets you choose menu language, the projector orientation (front, rear, ceiling, table), and it also displays the firmware version of your projector.
Lastly is the Options Menu. Here you can select where you want the menus positioned. You can also set the HD70 to scan inputs for a source, or turn that off, so that it comes back to the last source used. For those in the higher elevations, there is the high speed fan mode. You'll also find an Auto Power Off feature, which allows you to set a time for the HD70 to power down, if there is no input signal.
Perhaps most important, is the Lamp Settings option, which lets you choose between low and high power. Lastly, a Reset allows you to reset the settings used for the particular source you are working with, or return all settings to original factory default.
That covers the menus except for User memory - next.
HD70 User Memory Settings
Unlike many projectors which allow you to store a number of different user settings, the Optoma HD70 (like other Optomas) has a single user savable setting. It is, however source sensitive. So, it will remember the settings you want from your DVD player, and when you switch to your cable box, it will call up the settings you want for those. Although it doesn't offer as much flexibility as some (Epson projectors have 10 separate user memory settings, and other projectors typically have 3 to 6.).
HD70 Backlit Remote Control
As usual, Optoma has a really well laid out remote control, and as usual, it could use a little more range. If you are sitting in front of the projector, you normally would bounce the signal off your screen. I find that it works pretty well with total distances of up to about 25 feet or so, and then runs out of steam. Is this a real problem. No, afterall, how often do you need the remote. When I'm viewing in my theater, the projector is behind me, and due to a large screen (128" diagonal) the round trip is pretty long. So, I often simply pointed the remote over my shoulder. If, on the other hand, if you are sitting behind the remote, it's lack of a standard IR sensor in the rear requires a little more attention on your part. Remember, the HD70's front IR actually is front-top. As long as I remembered to point it right towards the projector it worked fine without a rear sensor.
Let's look at the remote itself. First, it's backlighting is very bright, although not all the buttons are evenly lit. Bright, though is what's important. Optoma puts text descriptions above each button, and graphical icons on the backlit buttons themselves.
Top left: Power (one on, two off)
Top right: preset Mode selection (Cinema, Video, etc.)
Next come four aspect ratio buttons, true 16:9, 4:3, Letterbox and Real (no resizing at all, so with a DVD (480 res) you would get a small image in the center of the screen. The next group of keys, give you direct access to Brightness, contrast, vertical, and horizontal keystone correction (a waste of buttons since no one wants to use keystone correction - it degrades the image quality slightly). There is also Overscan, for slightly enlarging the image to avoid potentially annoying noise and lines at the edges. And also the all important MENU button.
Then comes the 4 arrow keys and center Enter key. The left and right arrow keys double for Source selection and Re-sync, like their counterparts on the HD70's control panel.
That leaves the six buttons toward the bottom which let you choose your source from the projector's six inputs.
Overall a great remote that could use a touch more range! The layout works well, it's logical and easy to remember, and most people can hold it in one hand and use it without the other hand, or having to slide your hand around to get to some buttons.
Hitting any button brings up the backlighting, which slowly fades out.
HD70 Lens Throw and Lens Shift
The HD70 projector's 1.2:1 zoom lens allows a small amount of placement flexibility. To fill a 100 inch diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio screen, you can place the HD70 (measured from the front of the lens) as close as 11 feet 6 inches and as far back as 13 feet 9 inches (approximately). The Optoma has no adjustable lens shift (as is typical for DLP projectors that sell for under $2500).
The amount of lens offset is significant, so proper placement of the projector is well below the bottom of the screen surface (or an equal amount above - if ceiling mounting). For that same 100" diagonal screen, the HD70's lens should sit about 16" below the screen bottom. (This is an estimate, so don't build your room around it.) the manual is very confusing on this point. I will correct later with more accurate data. All considered this is typical for a low cost DLP projector, in fact very similar to its closest competition the Mitsubishi HD1000U, which also has a 1.2:1 zoom, and a similar offset.
SDE and Rainbow Effect
The HD70 sports a 4X color wheel, so the vast majority of people will not see the occasional rainbows (if you are sensiive - as I slightly am - they normally appear when a bright moving object - like a white light, moves against a very dark background. Even if sensitive you are not likely to see it on a football game as it's all pretty evenly illuminated. The more expensive projectors often sport 5X wheels (even better), but 4X should not be a problem for most.
Screen Door Effect (SDE) is the result of pixel visibility. In this regard, again, the HD70 is a typical DLP projector, with far less pixel visibility than any LCD home theater projectors (with the singular exception of Panasonic LCD models with "SmoothScreen".
As such, most people will be comfortable with pixels only visible in things like white credits on a dark background, or large stationary bright areas. For our theoretical 100" diagonal screen I would recommend about 1.2 times screen width as a minimum distance (where pixels will be barely visible as described above. For those completely pixel phobic - who never want to be able to detect pixels, even in fixed white areas, 1.5x screen width should easily do the trick. In other words, if you like to sit fairly close to the screen, the HD70 projector works well.
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HD70 Light Leakage
No significant leakage. If you look at the projector itself you can see light in most of the vents, but not enough escapes to affect viewing.
HD70 Audible Noise Levels
In quiet mode, the HD70 is pretty quiet, claiming 28db. That's a lot noisier than the LCD competition, but then LCD projectors normally have a significant edge in quietness. With ImageAI engaged the projector gets quite a bit noisier. Optoma doesn't publish a spec but I would guess, that, if 28db is accurate for low power, then it's probably about 33db. Those who really want a quiet projector will not be happy with the HD70 in full power or ImageAI mode, so that should be a consideration. My overall impression (not having both projectors here at the same time, is that the similar Mitsubishi HD1000U is 2 to 3 db quieter in full power. When I view in my theater, the projector sits about 3 feet behind me, and I'm sure I noticed the HD70 more than I did the Mitsubishi. For normal movie viewing in my theater, I tend to run all but the brightest projectors in full power mode (or AI on where appropriate).
HD70 Projector Brightness
Very interesting! I suspected that the HD70 would perform (in brightness) similarly to the Mitsubishi HD1000U. I was wrong, at least in "best" mode.
The out of the box performance, in Cinema Mode, with lamp at low power, and with BrilliantColor at its default of 3, etc. yielded a decent, but not particularly bright 417 lumens. After calibration that dropped a bit, to 363 lumens.
Note, for the measurements the zoom lens was in the middle, neither wide angle nor telephoto. Since the HD70 has only a 1.2:1 lens, there is little brightness difference between wide angle (always brighter) and telephoto. With some of the LCD projectors with their zoom ranges of up to 2:1, however, full wide-angle can be over twice as bright as full telephoto.
Switching the lamp to High Power, lumens increased to 454 lumens, an increase of 25%. (Inversely, dropping from full power to low power is a drop of approximately 20%.)
By comparison, the HD1000U was exceptionally bright in it's best (and dimmest mode) cranking out 768 lumens by comparison.
But back to the Optoma HD70 projector. Again, the brightness in best mode was about average, but there is a significant jump in lumens (as is normal) in brightest mode. Here the results were very impressive.
With the projector set to Bright mode and lamp at full power, and the much higher default settings for BrilliantColor and TrueVivid, the HD70 cranked out an especially impressive 991 lumens. This is still below the 1115 lumens, the HD1000U reported, but the color accuracy of the HD70 was better than the Mitsubishi. With the color looking pretty good, I wanted to see how many lumens I could get out of the Optoma HD70, and still have respectable color, to fight serious ambient light. I was extremely surprised by the much higher than rated 1424 lumens! Not great color, but if the lights are on for football, you'll be happy to have all those lumens.
You can clickfor a larger image. For this photo, ambient light was "modest" enough to enjoy the game with friends around, and not feel "in the dark". You can see the light on the walls, but remember the exposure is set to make the game look good, and since it is brighter than the room lighting, it makes the walls look much darker than they actually were!
Note, when I measured the Mitsubishi HD1000U, I didn't spend as much time pushing the lumens (I'm sorry now), but as I wrote in the review, I was able to get over 1300, but estimated that I could still maintain 1200 lumens and have very respectable color.. I had been disappointed that it's 1115 lumens were well below the 1500 claimed. I now realize that I probably could have pushed out the full 1500 lumens with more adjusting. Whether the colors would be acceptable to most, even with problem lighting conditions, I can't tell you. Therefore, I can't actually tell you which projector can do the most lumens with the best color, but my best guess is that they are pretty close, probably within 100 - 150 lumens and that would be a barely noticeable difference
In summary, the HD70 is very good in terms of brightness and color handling in its brightest mode. For best movie watching, however, it is pretty average. (When I say average, remember that there are a number of projectors that in their best modes produce only between 200 and 300 lumens, so the HD70 is no slouch!
Optoma HD70 Lamp Life and Replacement
Lamp life is rated 2000 hours at full power, and 3000 hours in Eco-mode (low power). With ImageAI engaged, the lamp life should be similar to full power. The lamp door is on the bottom of the projector and if you have ceiling mounted your HD70, you'll have to unmount the projector to change the lamp.
HD70 Projector Screen Recommendations
Since the HD70's black levels are good, but not exceptional, a light gray high contrast surface is a good choice - the usual suspects would work: Elite's HC Gray surface, Da-lite's Da-Mat, and of course the Stewart Firehawk (which I use), as well as comparable surfaces from other manufacturers.
If, however you need maximum brightness, and don't mind the missing the slight improvement in black levels that those screen surfaces provide, consider the affordable Carada Brilliant White, Da-lite Cinema Vision, and the Stewart Studiotek. If your room is long and narrow, you could even go with a higher gain screen such as the Optoma Grayfox (I haven't worked with that screen) with its 1.8 gain. It is sure to hot spot a bit due to the high gain, but if you are sitting near or dead center, it will give you more brightness.
Screen size, is more of an issue. To watch in best - Cinema - mode, with the lamp at full power, I wouldn't recommend anything more than 106" maybe 110" diagonal, unless you go with one of the high gain screens. The last movie I watched was Flux Aeon, which has excellent production qualities, and I found that, on my Firehawk (in a room with light walls, but almost no ambient light) that I wasn't happy until I had the image size down to right around 106" diagonal. It certainly was way too dark if I tried to fill all 128".
Consider then, if you want to save money by running in low power, or just don't like the higher fan noise of the ImageAI or full power modes, then I suggest no more than 100" diagonal. (The measured difference, if you recall, is low power is 20% dimmer than full power. And, in terms of screens, that's roughly the difference between a 110" and a 100" screen.
For non-movie viewing with more ambient light, remember the HD70 has a very respectable amount of lumens, so with a 92" to 106" - even 110", your projector will be able to handle modest ambient light without difficulty.
Optoma HD70 Projector Calibration
First of all, out of the box color was very good to start. The color temperature in Cinema mode was a little warm (reddish), with full white measuring 6408K, very close to the ideal 6500K. As I measured grays, the color temperature dropped with the lower brightness gray, with
The default color temperature setting is 1. I had better luck, (slightly cooler temperatures) with the setting at 2. The numbers are impressive:
After calibration, the numbers got about as good as anyone could hope for:
To get those numbers the projector was still in Cinema mode, low power, defaults for BrilliantColor and TrueVivid. The individual RGB settings were:
Red 6, Green 5, Blue 6
Red -14, Green -12, Blue -13
(Those are the settings that yielded the 363 lumens.)
The primary change I made in the Bright mode adjustment that yielded the 1424 lumens mentioned above, was increasing the Blue Gain to 13. This because in Bright mode the color temperature was still down in the 6500K and below range, whereas for HDTV and bright viewing color temperatures up to about 8000K provide good results. (Note, the Mitsubishi too, was down in the 6800K range, also rather warm for HDTV and sports viewing.)
The Optoma HD70 did very well here. I ran the HQV disk on it, and it looked very good on the noise tests. The same was true for movie watching. Sure, if you get close enough to the screen you can see noise easily (as with almost any projector), but at normal seating distances when some is visible (on the right type of content, it is very minor and not distracting. No problem here!