HD7100 Front Projector: Summary, Pros, Cons
The Optoma HD7100 is a great projector for the money.
It's not perfect, but most of its minor flaws relate to some of the limits of DLP projector ergonomics. Other issues are less performance related that concious decisions in what needs to go into this projector without running up the cost.
Above, an image shot from the 1080i D-VHS "Over America", using default settings, no calibration at all.
The HD7100's strenghs are many, but overall, it brings excellent, Darkchip3 powered home theater performance into your home for under $3500. That's a thousand or more dollars less, than any other Darkchip3 (except for the closeout of its predecessor, the H78DC3). The HD7100 sits at a price point well above the mainstay 720p projectors, but certainly offers the extra peformance to justify the price.
What do you get? Color handling is very good. Out of the box, using the ISF Night setting, or just setting Normal to 6500Kit provides as accurate a color as any projector I have reviewed. Black levels and shadow detail are Darkchip3 caliber, no dynamic iris or lens dimming needed to improve darks on dark scenes, the HD7100 does a great job. And the balance between darks and lights - gamma is fully controllable by you, accessable from the Picture menu, or a button on the remote.
The HD7100 has a richness about its colors, especially in dark areas, that seems to be an Optoma tradition. I always noticed that with their earlier home theater projectors. It isn't really adding depth, so the best word I have is richness, and its natural looking. In this regard it has an edge over my BenQ PE8720.
Brightness is also very respectable. with the projector able to do a very nice job on my overly large, 128" diagonal Firehawk screen (light gray, high contrast).
It's not perfect though. I'd still like to see a zoom with more range, and definitely more range in the vertical lens shift, but those issues only relate to placement, not performance. Also the save settings options could be expanded upon, but since they are device dependent, they still provide plenty of flexibility. The manual is respectable, but not great.
Without doubt, my most severe criticism is that the HD7100 should be a little quieter. I don't believe its going to be a problem for many, but those who really want an essentially silent projector won't be happy.
Then, of course, there is that truly excellent image it projects!
Before we look at the Pros and Cons summary, I want to mention one more thing. I have not yet been able to buy an HD-DVD player. It has been reported that many projectors are having trouble interfacing with the Toshiba HD-AI player, the only such player shipping right now. The problem seems to more prevelant with projectors with DVI inputs rather than HDMI (yes, they are all HDCP compatible). As a result, I have not been able to test the HD7100 with the Toshiba, but hope to find a Toshiba in the next few days. I will update this review once I have tried the combination.
On that note, in speaking with Optoma about that very issue - compatibility, they, like all projector manufacturers, are looking for any possible compatibility problems. (Even if the fault is Toshiba's). I was reassured by two people at Optoma, that, if there is a need for new firmware, etc., that Optoma will take care of all existing owners of the HD7100, (most likely by swapping out the projectors, or maybe by providing a downloadable upgrade?) Considering few of us need rush into an HD-DVD player - as there are about 10 movie titles shipping at this time, I'll trust to Optoma to quickly take care of its customers if there are issues over the short term.
Let's take a look at all the Pros and Cons:
- Overall excellent color
- Especially good color "out of the box" without any fuss
- Excellent black levels and very good shadow detail
- Rich colors, notably in dark areas and very impressive
- Menus - this new menu look for Optoma is one I really enjoyed navigating
- Two component video inputs
- Pretty bright - not the brightest, but did well on my large screen including sports, Discovery HD with more ambient room lighting
- A 3 year warranty - great!
- Construction looks and feels solid
- Variable lens shift (vertical and horizontal)
- By far, the least expensive Darkchip3 DLP projector available
- RS-232 should work for updating firmware, a real plus with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players hitting the market, who knows what minor incompatibilities will spring up?
- Remote has limited range
- Could use more range on lens shift (but glad to have lens shift at all!)
- Zoom range and a slightly longer throw zoom would allow more people to shelf mount
- Noisy, in Low power mode the fan is a little noisier than average or than we'd like, but acceptable to most. In Bight mode it's pretty noisy (like many)
- Would have liked to see a 2nd DVI or HDMI digital input - this is more of a wish list thing than a shortcoming.
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- Noise levels in Eco Mode (a little quieter would have been better, but it should be acceptable
- Lamp Life - Optoma does not offer different numbers for Full and Eco mode. 2000 hours (claimed) is average for full power, estimated by Optoma to be 3000 hours in low power That's about as typical as home theater projectors get!
- Manual - just not enough explanation and and a couple of minor typos. Strong on hooking things up, weaker on explaining the many nice controls. No mention at all of the whole ISF Day and Night settings for calibrators (unless I totally missed it). Strange!
- Only one digital input - very typical
The competition for the HD7100?
Not a whole lot in its price range. There is the Samsung 710 projector, which we haven't reviewed yet, which is supposed to be one fo the best Darkchip2 projectors, and in the same general price range. The InFocus IN76 is less money, but again Darkchip2. The HD7100 is a big winner over the IN76 in my book, for the extra $500+. BenQ offers the PE8720 which is a $5000+ range Darkchip 3 DLP projector (which I own). I believe my BenQ still offers a slightly sharper image, likely by virtue of its lens - and it also has more zoom range, etc. In most other areas they appear pretty even, each with minor strengths and weaknesses compared to the other.
Sony's HS-51A is now a lot less expensive, and is LCD powered for those bothered by rainbows, but the Sony is relatively dim, and although a very good LCD projector, also has some minor issues. There are also a number of Darkchip2 powered DLP's spanning the range from under $2000 like the BenQ PE7700 or Optoma's own HD72, up to $5000+ featuring projectors from Marantz, DWIN and other premium brands. Yamaha also has its more expensive LCD projector which we would like to review, but it too, is far more expensive. The Optoma HD7100, again, sells for under $3500, making it the bargain of darkchip3 DLP's out there.
Congrats to Optoma, for another in a consistant string of excellent home theater projectors. I can't wait to get my hands on the far more expensive 1080p resolution HD81 scheduled for this summer! If it even performs only as well as the HD7100 plus offers the higher resolution, it will be truly impressive.
To summarize - if I had a $3500 or less budget for a home theater projector, and if the Optoma HD7100 is compatible with my theater room (placement wise), it would absolutely be my first choice of all the projectors I have reviewed!