Optoma HD7100 Projector Review - Overview
5/3/2006 - Art Feierman
I have been really looking forward to reviewing Optoma's new, low cost Darkchip3 DLP home theater projector, the HD7100. Those of you who have previously read my review of Optoma's H78DC3, realize that it was one of my favorite all time home theater projectors and the first low cost, Darkchip3 DLP. The HD7100 starts its life selling for less than $3500, putting it a good $1000 below the next least expensive Darkchip3 projector and thousands below most of them.
In the first few hours of working with the HD7100 front projector, I primarily watched DVD content without first calibrating or measuring the projector's performance. I have always considered "out of the box" performance to be extremely important, as I realize how few buyers of under $5000 home theater projectors will actually calibrate their projector themselves or hire someone to do so.
So, I should start by saying that for an Optoma home theater projector, the HD7100 is somewhat unusual, in that it has very impressive "out of the box" color acuracy and performance. Just about every previous Optoma I tested (and especially the H78DC3), I found the colors to be significantly off, out of the box, but mostly correctable with a basic calibration disk. In almost all cases the Optoma projector's would lean toward a visible green cast, which in turn, resulted in some less than appealing flesh tones.
Not so the HD7100, by far the best yet from Optoma - out of the box. I'm not saying that you don't have to go through the menus and change a few things (which I will talk about later), as that takes only a minute. But messing with the separate R,G,B gains and offsets, isn't necessary for a truly impressive image.
We're going to start with a "physical tour" of the Optoma HD7100, but first, here are the critical "specs". For more spec details, click here.
Technology: Darkchip3 DLP front projector
Native Resolution: WXGA 1280x720
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.25:1
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: 3000 hours
Weight: 14 lbs.
Warranty: 3 years
HD7100 Physical Tour
Starting from the front, the HD7100 projector has a large zoom lens with a 1.25:1 zoom ratio, mounted off center. There is also an Infra-red sensor, and a large vent (on the left) if you are facing the HD7100 projector. The vent blows warm air out on an angle to the side, away from the lens where the hot air could cause some visual distortion. The zoom is fairly short throw, so this is a projector many will ceiling mount or place on a table top. You'll need a room that's not very deep, and a fairly large screen, if you are thinking about rear shelf mounting this projector. To fill a 100" screen, the furthest back the front of the projector can be, is 12.5 feet. Which means that your rear wall would probably be no more than 14.5 - 15 feet back from the screen (if you are using a 100" diagonal screen). I suspect that shelf mounting in the rear, will work for perhaps 50% - 60% of owners.
Two drop down front feet are located at the far left and right front of the projector. Each has a single button (mounted to the side) to drop/lock the feet).
Moving to the top of the Optoma HD7100, up behind the lens are two recessed slides one for adjusting the zoom and the other for the focus.
Looking at the HD7100 from the back, to the left of the recessed area for focus and zoom, is a wheel that adjusts vertical lens shift. The HD7100 allows you to place the projector - the center of its lens actually) slightly below the bottom of the screen surface to any position up to slightly above the top of the screen surface. Here's a basic spec for the "outer range", you can use it and figure out your own placement.
If you have a 100" diagonal screen, the center of lens can be as low as 4.1" below the bottom, or above the top of the screen surface. (If you screen is 10% larger - say 110" diagonal, then you would have 4.1" * 110% = about 4.5" instead.
But, back to the controls. There is also horizontal lens shift which simplifies left/right mounting (especially in light of an off center mounted lens).
Behind all the lens related controls, is the main control panel shown here. It is well laid out, with the standard four arrow keys and a center Enter function, closest to the lens controls.
Straight back is the power off/on, first is a small indicator light that alerts you to a high temperature issue. Then comes a large button that lights up bright blue when the projector is off, and blinks when powering up/down. Optoma apparently learned well from the H78DC3 and H79, both of which also had bright blue power indicator lights that stayed on, when the projector was on. (In all fairness the light was on the side, but many people covered itwith tape, because it was bright). So this time, once the projector is projecting an image, the light stays off until you power down. A good move on Optoma's part!
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Again, looking from the rear, the other 4 buttons, from the right:
- Menu button: opens up the main menu, (and the last selected submenu)
- Input: Let's you manually change your source
On the other side of the power button:
- ECO: Which toggles you between Bright Mode and Low Power Mode
- Exit: Backs you up in the menu structure and ultimately turns off the menus
Finally, we get to the rear of the HD7100, where all the inputs are:
From the rear, from left to right:
- Composite video and S-video (your two lowest performance video inputs)
- Component 1 (3 RCA jacks) for highest quality analog video
- Component 2 (same, and it's nice to have 2)
- Standard HD15 for a normal analog computer signal
- DVI-D connector for digital signals from A/V receivers, DVD players satellite and cable receivers that are so equipped. Digital is the preferred choice, for best image quality.
I would have been happier if the HD7100 had two digital inputs and one less component input, as today's AV receivers tend to have only 2 digital inputs and one output, if any at all. It really is time to standardize on digital instead of component for best quality, and I would urge everyone to run digital cabling especially if you are going through walls. You won't want to open those walls to do it again in a couple of years.
That concludes our look at the layout of the HD7100. We will cover the remote control later, in the General Performance section (and also the menu layout).
Time to discuss the HD7100 projector's image quality. Click to proceed.