Optoma HD7100 Projector - General Performance
User Memory Settings
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Audible Noise Levels
Lamp Life and Replacement
Projector Screen Recommendations
With the HD7100, Optoma has introduced a new menu scheme, and in general I found it to be really easy to learn, and quick to use. The Picture Menu has the usual settings, however, I really like the way they set up the gamma and color temp controls, you can use the left and right arrow keys to raise or lower gamma or color temperature, without having to enter another layer of menu. You will note that the color control and Tint are grayed out, this is because I am using a digital signal (DVI/HDMI). The controls are active with the component inputs.
You'll note, above the Picture Setting option (the first one on the right). In the picture I have it set for Custom2, which I had adjusted to 6500K and Gamma of 2.2. You can toggle this control between Normal, Custom1 and Custom2. In addition, they are device independent, so when I switched from DVD to my Hi-Def D-VHS deck it did not bring along the settings I had put in for DVD, and I was able to put in different settings the projector remembered for the D-VHS deck.
When saving the custom settings (let's say Custom1), which you can do from the Picture Setting button on the remote, it will also store your choice of lamp brightness, White balance, sharpness, etc. Of course if you then go to another source, you can put in different settings, and save those. The projector will recognize the device.
What I didn't test for, was how smart the projector was. I normally run my DVD player through the Digital I/O of my Marantz receiver. I would have been curious if the projector would recognize my DVD player as the same device, if I bypassed the receiver. It certainly can tell the difference between my DVD player and cable box through the receiver, but then, those are inherently different resolutions as well.
What is really interesting - and missing - is that there are two additional settings, that are unavailable on the Picture Settings menu. They only show up (so far) when you select the Picture Setting button on the remote.
When you do, it not only brings up Normal, Custom1 and Custom2, but three additional, and very interesting menu choices:
ISF Day, ISF Night and Save settings
The Save settings button allows you to save settings for at least Custom1 and Custom2. More intriguing, is the ISF Day and Night options. My understanding is that there is a push to have two sets of settings reserved for those calibrating the projectors. ISF is an organization of professional calibrators (and then some). A pro calibrator, like some hard core hobbiests, will normally go into the service menu (which with most manufacturers voids warranty if not done by a professional). There they have maximum control of all the potential settings of the projector, and will use them to calibrate the most perfect image quality. I presume that once set, that ISF Day and Night may appear in the Picture menu.
More perplexing is how the ISF Day and Night are set out of the box. The HD7100 projector I received definitely appeared to be brand new when I received it. New packaging, no fingprints, etc. It does not look like a projector that has been pretested and adjusted before going out to a reviewer. Interestingly ISF Day and Night perform differently from each other, indicating that they have different defaults, etc.
The important part of all this, lies in that the default ISF Night setting seems to be the same as the default Normal - except that color temperature is set to 6500K not 8000K. I didn't measure to see if there were other differences, so for now, for watching your movies on DVD, either use Normal (or save as Custom1 or 2) but change the temperature to 6500K which is extremely accurate) Alternately you can use the ISF night setting. The ISF Day setting, I'm guessing is the same as Normal - with an 8000K temp more suitable for HDTV.
Without getting into a real calibration, for movie watching I recommend using the ISF Night, or, if selecting Normal, or Custom 1, or 2, adjust temperature to 6500K (and gamma should be at 2.2). Save the Custom setting if you want!
I suspect that with a service level calibration as an ISF calibrator would do, they probably have the option to add ISF Day, and ISF Night to the choice of options in the main Picture menu, so they can be selected there as well as off the remote.
Back to the Menus in general!
Off of the Picture menu, you can select white balance, which will bring up the menu on the right, allowing you to adjust RGB gain and Offset.
Gamma offers a wide choice of settings from an unwieldly 1.0, and more useful 1.5, 1.8, 2.0, standard 2.2, and 2.35, 2.5 and 2.8. If you are using a large screen, and are a little "thin" on lumens, you might find that 2.0 overall "brightens" the image a little. In general, thoug 2.2 is the way to go.
The Layout Menu (off the main menu, allows selection of aspect ratio and Keystone correction (best ot avoid keystone controls).
That takes us to the Options menu, which let's you set lamp brightness a white peaking control (which I did not get a chance to work with). In addition, there are a number of ergonomic choices such as setting the projector for normal, ceiling mount or rear screen, deciding whether the On Screen Display (menus) should be clear or solid. (In all pictures shown I have it solid, as it's hard to read the non-selected menu items when set to clear. Once you know your projector and the menu layout, most will set to clear (On), so that the large menus have little impact on the entire picture. Status will give you key settings, including lamp hours.
As I said at the beginning, I really like the layout and functionality of this new menu structure from Optoma.
The HD7100 remote control
There's definitely a good and a bad regarding the remote. On one hand, its nicely laid out, you can get to most menu items that you are likely to fool with, directly from dedicated buttons on the remote for Brightness, Contrast, Picture Setting, White Balance, Gamma, and Color Temperature.
That's great for anyone who likes to make minor adjustments, especially to make of for poorer quality content they are trying to watch.
And the backlight is nice and bright, the keys are well labeled.
The down side is the range. I had the same complaint with the similar remote that the Optoma HD72 uses. In my Viewing room, I sit 11 feet from the screen. I try to bounce the remote's signal off my light gray screen to the projector which is straight back, almost 17 feet. Not a chance. I consulted the manual, and they say the remote is good for up to 23 feet. That's going to have a lot of people who sit between the projector and the screen, to have to point the remote over their shoulder for the projector to recognize it. if their 23 feet is accurate, then depending on how the zoom is set, and the screen surface, people with a screen larger than 100" diagonal may not be able to get a good bounce off the screen. That's the downside, and if that ends up being one of the biggest problems with the HD7100, then Optoma is doing great! (Still, why an underpowered remote?)
And as long as I'm being picky, the HD7100 has lens shift, so why waste four remote buttons on keystone adjustments that everyone recommends against using to begin with?
The image above to the right gives you a very good look at the buttons and layout, so I won't bother to just run through them all for you. Suffice to say, that there are discreet buttons for each aspect ratio, and also for each source. The Menu and Exit buttons could have been larger, and best if further from the Picture setting and White Balance buttons, but that is minor. Only the limited range of the remote is an issue at all.
Lens Throw, and Lens Shift
It's great having adjustable lens shift - a feature not found on less expensive DLP projectors (but on most $2000 LCD models). Lens shift certainly simplfies the height placement of the projector, whether table, shelf or ceiling mounting. (Optoma reports that about 70% of the older H78/H79's were ceiling mounted).
The lens shift let's you position the projector from slightly below the bottom of the screen surface (about 4.5 inches for a 110" screen) to an equal amount above the top. There is plenty of left to right lens shift as well, so that for positioning purposes there is plenty of flexibility, and its also easy to correct for the non center mounted lens. Installers will breath easy!
The zoom ratio is a so-so 1.25:1 providing some, but not great, placement flexibility front to back. And the lens is relatively short throw, so as mentioned elsewhere shelf mounting in the rear of the room may not work for many rooms. (Those LCD projectors mostly have 1.5:1 or 2:1 zooms so can be placed further back.) Still, it depends on your room. To repeat the numbers from the first page of the review, for a 100" diagonal screen, if you want to shelf mount, your rear wall can only be about 12 to 15 feet back from the screen. Obviously, with a larger screen, you can move the projector further back. Probablyy 50%+ of buyers' rooms will work for shelf mounting.
Why shelf mount - well, it tends to lower installation costs, but at the same time, it most often puts the projector closer to the viewer than a higher ceiling mount, which means the projector's fan noise may be more noticeable. Generally you need a projector with lens shift to shelf mount.
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Screen Door Effect is typical for DLP projectors, pixels are a little more visible than on some other DLP projectors - I think in part, it's the Darkchip3, but it could also be the optics. The HD7100 seems sharper than most (except for the BenQ PE8720, which also has more noticeable pixels).
For those (like me, who don't mind seeing pixels in the white letters of titling, and perhaps occasionally notice it in a large light area (if looking for pixels), I would say that 1.1 x screen width is your closest seating. If you really want no sign of pixels at all, you'll need at least 1.6 x width. Dont' confuse being able to spot pixels with SDE, the real SDE problem comes when the data in the content creates an undesirable pattern as it meshes with the pixel structure - like moire' patterns, etc. Rarely would you really notice SDE even at 1.1 x. (Usually on a grass playing field with a low def TV source.)
Below is a closeup of text that shows the pixel structure, and right below it is the full image so you get some idea of how small an area you need to get close to, to see the pixel structure clearly: (ignore the color shift)
Rainbow effect - Optoma again has decided to go with a 4X wheel (6 segments). Most DLP's above entry level are using 5X wheels (as did the older H78 and H79). Why the shift - other than cost? I don't know. I am on occasion susceptable to Rainbows as brief flashes - especially when I'm tired, but it's rare enough for me to be a non-issue when watching. I can't say that I notice rainbows more than with my PE8720 which is a 5X - go figure. It would be nice if we really knew what percentage of people actually notice rainbows in HT DLP projectors, but I've never been able to find a number. My wildest guess would be under 5%, based on my experiences selling projectors and how few returns there were...
Very little light leaks out of the projector. There is some out the front vents, but it is very diffused, and essentially not detectable. No problem here at all.
Audible Noise Levels
Ouch, well, no $3500 projector can be perfect, and this may be the biggest problem the HD7100 has. Rated 32db noise level (full power?), doesn't sound to bad, but it is a bit loud in full power compared to most. It is definitely noisier than the H78. It's much better in Low Power mode, but still above average.
I don't think any but the most critical will be sufficiently unhappy with the levels at low power, to pass on the HD7100, but I imagine a few people will. In high power mode, the fan is going to be noticeable - not terrible, and no problem for TV/sports type viewing, but I find it, for example to be a bit louder than our central air conditioning in my "great room" viewing room, and I notice the air when it comes on with my own projector.
So, the bottom line, is that the audible noise is probably the only aspect of performance that can stand some improvement. If both were 4-6 db quieter, everyone would be more than happy, including the most critical. Alas!
Pleasantly, the HD7100 is pretty bright. No, it's not quite as bright as their less expensive HD72, which I measured at just over 500 lumens in economy mode, but still impressive.
With color temp set (and calibrated to 6500K), I recorded 384 lumens, in low power mode. High power should add about 20% or a bit more to that, (sorry, I didn't measure), so expect about 460 lumens in full power. Not bad at all.
More to the point. I filled my 128" Firehawk with various movies and found low power acceptable (not a lot of room to spare), and high power provided some head room.
Based on that, I don't know that (considering fan noise) that many will want a screen as large as mine, as they will probably need to switch to high power after the lamp is dimming significantly - say 500-1000 hours, or get a screen with more gain.
On my 106" Carada Brilliant White (1.4 gain, similar to the Stewart Studiotek 130), the HD7100 was downright brilliant in low power. I'm sure that the HD7100 projector has plenty of horsepower for any screen even gray surfaces of 110" diagonal or less, and even large screen the size of mine with the right surface should work.
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Lamp Life and Replacment
Pretty typical in terms of lamp life, Optoma rates the HD7100 projector at 2000 hours in Bright mode. They do not publish a low power life, but in talking with engineers at Optoma they put the approximate lamp life for someone only using low power, at about 3000 hours.
To replace the lamp, you unscrew a side panel. It is not required that you unmount the projector to replace the lamp (or clean filters). Of course there is always someone's third party mount that might get in the way, but the HD7100 is obviously designed so that unmounting to change the lamp is not required.
Projector Screen Recommendations
The HD7100 does a great job in terms of black levels. As a result I see no compelling reason to go to a grey surface. My own Firehawk is light gray, and when combined with it's size the black thrown on the screen with no source, is barely noticeable with the lights all out. I found the Firehawk to be a good match for the HD7100
I was stunned, however, with how well the Optoma projector worked with the Carada Brilliant White, so I would say, first choice is a white surface with slight gain, unless you are going under 100" in which case a light gray HC would probably be my first choice, as the projector is likely too bright to give you the feeling of black, on say a 92" diagonal screen. I have little doubt that with the Studiotek 130, the Carada BW, or equivilents from Da-lite and others, there would be plenty of brightness for a 123" screen (a common large size), in low power mode.
Obviously grey high contrast surfaces will help reject side ambient light, but they will also give you a bit of a hot spot effect. These are personal choices based on taste, and your room conditions.
I haven't sized the images I took yet, for adding to this review, but here's what I found, in a nutshell:
A very quick calibration ended up with a Brightness of -1, Contrast of +2
I used ISF Night (which seems to be - out of the box - the same as Normal, except for setting the temperature to 6500K. Gamma was set to 2.2.
My intial measurements based on the above:
- 30 IRE: 6676K
- 50 IRE: 6545K
- 80 IRE: 6510K
- 100 IRE: 6505K
Now, that's about as good as anyone can hope for out of the box! Quite honestly, I felt no compelling need to break out my test gear after first powering up the HD7100 and watching segments from several DVDs. It was obviously producing excellent color, untouched. Of course, there will be variation from projector to projector, mostly due to variations in the lamp. Also, a lamp's color balance will change slightly as you put hundreds of hours on it.
There was a very, very slight greenish cast to the image, I didn't manage to precisely work it all out (it was getting very late), but a quick adjustment of the White Balance table setting RGB adjusting Green Gain to -1, and Green Offset for -3 did most of the trick. Further refinement should have nailed it completely.
When I post the images you will see the R, G, and B components, which initially have R and B both in the mid 90% range and Green over 100% to offset it. With the -1 and -3, I quickly eliminated about 2/3 of the miss.
Even the slight green shift without adjustment really isn't noticeable when normally watching content. You have to be really looking for it, and have just the right content to notice.
It never was an issue. Get close enough to the screen and you can see the traditional noise in large black and near black areas, but from my standpoint, it is not an issue from normal seating distances. There are always some that are very concerned about image noise, but even most of them should be happy with the HD7100.
Look for additions to this page over the next week or so, including the calibration images, and hopefully comments on how the HD7100 works with the new Toshiba HD-DVD deck. I'm still trying to locate one - everyone sold out in the first day or two, so I've got feelers out everywhere. If you know who's got one for sale (the HD-A1, not the XA-1 - I'm not that rich), drop me an email. thanks -art
Time for the Summary and conclusions!