Optoma HD72 Projector Review - General Performance
When you hit the menu button on the projector or the remote control, this first image is what you will see on the screen. There are four main menus across the top. Let's start with the Image Menu.
There are five modes, Cinema, for best viewing, Bright, when you have ambient light to fight off, TV, which enlarges the image slightly, and apparently affects the overscan, for regular non-HD TV viewing (and VCR's if you still have one). There is also sRGB for color matching (that few ever use), and lastly a User setting for saving your favorite combination of adjustments.
I better note it now, before I forget. There is also a Tint control that only appears on the Image menu when you feed it a video or S-video source, not the higher quality Component, DVI or HDMI inputs.
As you can see that is followed by Contrast, Brightness, and Sharpness, and lastly the Advanced Menu.
On the Advanced Menu you will normally want "Degamma" set to Film.
Brilliant Color adds zip to the image. I found 3 and 4 to work best, and preferred 4 for most of what I watched. By the time you get up to 8,9 and 10, the image does get really "Brilliant" but unnatural.
I didn't really work with True Vivid. When I tried cranking it up briefly, I didn't like the results, again not very natural I left it at 0 for all my viewing although 1 was ok too.
Color Temp should be a 1 for DVDs and movies. 2 works great on HDTV sports.
Image AI is discussed in the Image Quality section. I almost always ran this on. Since I didn't notice the AI's function of brightening and dimming the lamp to optimize each frame, to be visible or annoying under normal watching, and since this produces the best results in terms of apparent contrast, I could find no reason to turn it off. I
If, however you have a smaller screen, you could shut it down and put the projector into Low power mode, to make this projector less bright. Next, is the key menu for calibrating the projector. It is the RGB/Gain/Bias menu shown here.
There is also a menu for selecting your source (yes using the remote is easier)!
That takes us to the Display menu (shown here), but everything on it is rarely used, and can be controlled directly from buttons on the remote.
The Setup menu (no image) handles projection (ceiling, floor, rear screen..) menu language, and display type (16:9 or 16:10).
Lastly the Options menu, with lots of goodies, including where you want the menu to be on the screen, whether you want the projector to seek sources automatically or let you do it manually, a High Altitude option for running the fan at full speed at higher altitudes to keep the projector running cool, and Lamp settings.
The Lamp Settings sub-menu which tells you how many hours, and lets you toggle between Bright lamp mode or Low (if AI is turned off), plus a lamp reset.
The last item on the Options menus is the Reset. That's about it.
Overall the layout is pretty good, and easy to navigate. Text is large enough to easily read even if you are sitting pretty far back.
Optoma projectors all seem to inherently save settings based on the source. This saves Optoma from having to have 3 or 5 or more User settings. It was interesting. In my testing room I had one Oppo DVD player fed into the HD72 through the HDMI input. In my theater, I fed the HD72 directly from my other identical Oppo, but through the DVI input. It did not pick up the calibration settings I had used in the testing room. Guess I'll have to put the settings into the User area. (which I would recommend anyway) Per the manual there is no Save feature. It says User "Memorizes User settings" (that's all it says!) I will investigate and try to fill in the blanks here.
it's a nice little remote, very well laid out, but has one real flaw, and one item that might bother you.
The flaw is the remote's range. Sitting in my prime theater seat, with 11 feet to the screen, and trying to bounce the remote's signal off the screen (or wall) to the projector that is about 17 feet back, I just couldn't get the projector to notice the remote. I had to point the remote behind me at the projector. Of course, if you are going to buy a 3rd party remote to control all your devices, as many do, this becomes a moot point.
Even if I stand a foot from my screen, I can't get a bounce off of it to the projector. Pointing straight at the projector though, I was able to use the remote out as far as 18 feet (as far away as I could get in my room).
The other point, is that there is no LIGHT button. All the buttons on the remote are backlit, and glow brightly and are well labeled. Pressing any button will turn on the back light, but, hitting some of them will change things. The Enter key is safe however and easy to feel.So the lack of a separate back light button is a non-issue.
Let's look at the buttons:
As you can see, the power is on the top right. Once to power up, twice to power down.
On the next row, brightness and contrast. Once you select one of these, the left and right arrow keys allow you to adjust.
Next is the Digital Image Shift (up and down) buttons. This feature is described below. Right below them are the Horizontal and Vertical Keystone correction buttons (best to avoid, as they degrade the image slightly).
Then comes a nice large set of four arrow keys with the Enter key in the middle.
Immediately below - on the left, a very small menu button, and opposite it, the mode button (Cinema, TV, Bright). Small, but both are easy to feel in the dark, being near those huge arrow key buttons.
There is an overscan control (not covered) to remove edge noise often found on standard TV signals, and a digital zoom button, below the other keys. Then, four aspect ratio buttons, and finally separate buttons for each source (DVI, HDMI, Component, S-video, and Video.) Note there are two buttons for DVI, one for a digital signal, the other for an analog signal (such as your computer.
That about wraps it up. Nice, If only it had more range!
Where to start here. The HD72 is one of the first of a new breed of DLP projectors that use DLP chips that have 16:10 ratios, not the 16:9 which is the HDTV standard That gives you 1280x768 instead of the usual 1280x720 resolution. This has a number of implications:
It does mean that you can hook up a computer to your projector and output true XGA resolution, without any image degrading compression technology. (WXGA - "wide XGA" most often means1280x720, and therefore really can't do true XGA (1024x768) without compression. There are a small handful of WXGA projectors that use 1366x768 which can do XGA without compression. The later has only been available on LCD powered projectors. Texas Instruments (TI) has apparently decided that a good compromise is to stick to the 1280 width (same as the HDTV format) but add about 6% more height to the projected area giving them the 1280x768 WXGA). Yes that means there are now three different resolutions that are all called WXGA! (So much for standards).
So, do you buy a 16:10 screen (you can get those made custom), or go with the traditional 16:9 screen. I expect the vast majority will go with 16:9. That means that when you set up your projector to fill the 16:9 area, you will have some overshoot above and below the screen. If you have 100" diagonal screen, the usable surface is just shy of 50" tall. The overshoot at the top and bottom works out to a little more than 1.6 inches at the top and at the bottom. This normally means that the unused area (when watching DVD or movies will throw some dark gray light that will hit the mask around your projection screen. This should be barely detectable assuming your screen has a nice (typical) matte black border around the viewing surface. Note if you are buying a pull down screen (they normally have smaller borders, you might want to make sure it has at least 1.75" of black material at the bottom.
Of course, if you do go this route (a 16:9 screen), and you do project an XGA computer signal, you will have the first 24 pixels hitting the border at the top, and the bottom 24 pixels hitting the bottom border. If your projector is mounted (or placed) where you can access it, you could, of course zoom out just a touch to allow the whole XGA image to fill the screen.
I watched the HD72 on both my Firehawk (128") and the Carada Brilliant White (106"), and never noticed the light on the border, unless I was specifically looking for it.
Like most DLP home theater projectors, there are also some unused pixels on the left and right, so if you are trying to mount your projector exactly at the inner limit defined by the zoom lens, you may have a little space on each side of the screen. Optoma's lens throw info is further down this page.
Of course another big- for some, advantage of the Optoma using the 16:10 aspect ratio, is that this projector will double beautifully as a business projector. I guess that means a lot of people will be writing them off as a business expense.
Projector Lamp life
Optoma claims 3000 hours for their lamp (in Low Power mode), 2000 in Bright mode. Optoma tells me that with AI turned on, actual lamp life will fall between those two numbers). Most users will run the projector with AI on, which means the lamp will brighten and dim as needed. Let's guess at 2200 to 2500 hours?
Seating distance and Screen Door Effect
The Optoma HD72 projector is DLP, and as such has a pixel structure that is far less visible than found on most LCD projectors. As a result, for practical purposes, the Screen Door Effect (SDE) is not an issue. If you sit close enough to a large screen to actually pick up the SDE, you are probably sitting so close that the image is too soft to enjoy. The Optoma is comfortable at about 1 to 1.1 times screen width. with a 100" screen, you should have no issue with SDE if you are sitting just over 7 feet back. Most LCD projectors (which have much more visible projectors would require about 1.4x to 1.5x screen width). The one exception is Panasonic's PT-AE900u, which uses "Smooth Screen" technology, and has less visible pixels, but is also a touch softer than other projectors. (Personally I like the immersion of sitting close. I sit just about 11 feet from my 128" diagonal screen (10 feet 7 inches wide). That puts me between 1x and 1.1x. I can see the pixels in white areas like text credits of movies, but otherwise its not an issue.
In other words, if you like the big image feel, DLP projectors are for you!
Rainbow Effect and Color Wheels
DLP projectors rely on a single DLP "chip" and bounce white light against it. Color images are created by timing the light against a spinning color filter wheel that typically have red green and blue segments (and sometimes white). Without getting into the intricacies, some people, due to the color wheel, see flashes of red, green and blue, referred to as the Rainbow Effect. Early DLP projectors (about 10 years ago had 1x (one times) wheels. Today's projectors use faster wheels to reduce/eliminate the effect. Most business projectors use 2x wheels while almost all home theater projectors today use 4x or 5x wheels. (A few older entry level HT projectors still use 2x.) Having faster speed wheels on home theater projectors is due to the rainbow effect being more visible on motion video than still (business type) images.
The Optoma HD72 projector uses a 4X wheel, a little slower than some, like the BenQ PE7700 with its 5X wheel. As a result more people will notice (and possibly be bothered by) the rainbow effect.
Problem is, no one seems to know what percentage of the population has an issue with the effect on a 4x projector or a 5x projector. If I had to guess (a wild one), I would say 5x DLP projectors are only an issue for 1-4% of the population, and I don't know if that number increases by 25% or 100% for a 4x color wheel. Pure guesswork.
Let's say that dealers report very, very few returns of DLP home theater projectors due to the effect, but if it bothers you, bingo: Get an LCD projector.
This is the usual tradeoff. Some people see the rainbow effect, and therefore buy LCD, while many people who like to sit closer to their screens for more immersion (the really BIG screen feel), prefer DLP because pixels are less visible (screen door effect). The good news - most buyers are happy with either technology.
In summary, there's a small possibility that you might notice the rainbow effect with an HD72, but not on one of the other DLP's with a 5x wheel. I would think its more likely that if you see it on one, you'll probably also see it on the higher speed, but notice it a little less. Again - my opinion based on no good numbers.
I certainly wouldn't avoid the HD72 because of the rainbow effect unless you already know you are susceptible to it based on viewing other projectors, because very few will notice it. If the HD72 is your first DLP projector though, power it up, feed it a movie and check it out right away (projecting on your wall will be fine), and be aware of your dealers return policy.
The projector as noted elsewhere, claims 27db noise levels. Since most will run the projector with AI on, that should be your noise level. Other projectors are quieter, in their best modes (low power), and some are down as low as 22db. Still 27db is a very respectable spec. It was only 2 years ago that most home theater projectors were in the low 30 db range. Unless you are sitting right next to the projector, and what you are watching, is virtually silent, you aren't likely to notice any noise, let alone be bothered by it. (Yes, if you are listening for it, intentionally, you will hear it if the room is quiet, of course you'll likely hear 22db also)
Lens Throw and Lens Offset
To fill a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, the front of the lens of the HD72 can be placed as close as 11.48 feet, or as far back as 13.81feet. (Based on Optoma provided specs.)
You can find a chart on the HD72 brochure on the Optoma website for seeing what size screen will work from any given distance. There is also a lens throw calculator that I haven't played with.
The HD72 has a lot of lens offset, which is the projector's fixed lens shift. The projector, if ceiling mounted, will have its center of lens, above the top of your screen surface. Conversely, if you place it on a table, the center of lens needs to be below the bottom of the screen surface. The amount of this offset is more than found on most projectors so you may have a problem if you are converting, say, a basement where you only have 7.5 feet tot he ceiling, and a fairly large lens, because the projector will be well above the top of the screen. If you use a flush type mount + the distance to the center of the lens, you will probably still be at least 7-8 inches from the ceiling.
I should note that most projectors with lens shift, will let you place the projector almost anywhere vertically between the top and bottom of the screen, some will even allow offsets that will allow the projector to go significantly above (or below) the screen surface). Competing LCD projectors usually have lens shift with lots of range. This is one of the weaknesses of DLP projectors in this price range.
DLP projectors like the Optoma HD72 and the BenQ PE7700, as well as the forthcoming InFocus IN76, lack lens shift. The offset can vary a lot. Whereas the Optoma mounts well above top of screen, the BenQ, by comparison, has a 0 degree offset, which puts its center of lens even with top of the screen. It's all just a matter of what will work for you, in your room.
According to the manual the lens offset is 6.52 degrees to the top of the image, and that assumes you are using the full 768 vertical pixels, whereas, I believe most people will use a 16:9 screen and only 720 pixels of height. Depending on the zoom setting, for a 100" screen, I measured projecting the 100" diagonal from 13.8 ft - (the greatest distance for that sized screen) the offset was approximately 15.3 inches from center of lens to bottom of the screen. BUT that would be for the 16:10 image. So add an additional 1.6 inches to the bottom of a 720 line image. End result, you are looking at having the center of lens 16.9 inches below (bottom of screen) or 16.9 inches above (top of screen) for a 100" screen at max distance of 13.8 feet. (Please note, these were quick measurements - do not rely on the them for precision.)
And the projector manual is NOT helpful. It provides calculations only for 16:10 screens, and for you to actually do those calculations, you need to know your tangents. I have already sent an email to their product manager for the HD72 recommending that they simplify and post on their site.
The HD72 home theater projector seems to be very well designed to prevent light leakage. There is no issue from the vents on the bottom or sides. There is some reflection coming out of the lens that points toward the bottom of the projector, however it is by no means bright. If you are ceiling mounting very close to the ceiling, and your ceiling is white or near white you will be able to look up and see it. It certainly won't be bright enough or evident enough to draw your attention from the screen!
If you are using a 3rd party universal ceiling mount (as most do), this may be helpful: The Optoma uses M3 type metric screws. The maximum length for the screws is 10mm, the minimum is 7.5mm.
Digital Image shift
This is a nice touch that has been on many Optoma home theater projectors and some others (the old NEC HT1000 and 1100 come to mind). It allows you, if you are projecting less than the full 1280x768 image, to move the live portion of your image up and down.
The best example would be this. You are watching a DVD. You have the usual letter box at the top, and the bottom. With digital lens shift you could move the whole movie image down to the bottom, eliminating the letter box at the bottom (and doubling it at the top). This does not affect the quality of the image!
You can also use this in part, to deal with the 16:10 aspect of the projector, and the large lens offset. You could raise or lower your DVD or HD image (100" diagonal screen) by that 1.6 inches, thus removing 1.6 inches of offset, getting your projector a bit closer to the top or bottom of the screen. That's not much, but might help.
Regarding Projector Brightness
I will try to add to this section later, however, I initially measured the projector's brightness in Cinema mode, with AI turned on. That means I'm measuring a 100% white area (100 IRE), and the lamp should be at full power. (I will re measure with AI off, and Bright mode, and also Low lamp mode and also post those numbers.) Most users watching movies will use Cinema and AI, so this is a good indication. I got a whopping 518 lumens by far the brightest I have measured on any under $4000 (selling price) home theater projector in its best mode.
The first image here is a side by side with the Panasonic PT-AE900u. The Optoma HD72 is on the right. The Panasonic is in its best (and least bright) mode - Cinema2 in low power, with AI turned on. The HD72 is also in its best mode - Cinema, with AI on. The brightness difference is huge.
This second image is of the BenQ PE7700 (left) against the HD72. Again, both in their best and least bright modes. The BenQ is much closer to the Optoma, but still not quite as bright.
In this last image below, I used Photoshop to reduce the brightness of the Optoma (right side) so that brightness would be similar to the BenQ PE7700 on the left. This effort isn't perfect, but does show some differences in the star field and also that the two projectors are a bit different in color balance.
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Projection Screen Recommendations
Tougher than usual. First this projector can handle a large screen without great difficulty, because it is especially bright. The HD72 has no problem at all with my 128" diagonal Stewart Firehawk screen (a light gray high contrast surface).
Screens are subjective it would seem. People who agree on most aspects of a projector's performance may like complete different types of screens under different environments, or even the same environment. Myself, I tend to prefer High Contrast screens. Gray screens also lower your black levels, which are a real plus if you have a very bright projector.
As a result, I would tend to recommend a high contrast gray surface for the HD72 if your screen isn't really large. Definitely for 100" diagonal or less. Myself, I'd probably stay with that recommendation to 110" or maybe even a little larger. Consider such screens as Stewart's Firehawk or their darker Grayhawk (which will really lower black levels), Da-lite's Cinema Vision or HC Cinema Vision, Carada's High Contrast Grey...
Shown here are the color measurements after calibrating quickly with my Avia Pro software and Optic One light meter. The first graphic shows 30 IRE (dark gray), the second one is at 80 IRE. As mentioned, as you can see, after calibration (and a hard core calibrator can spend hours - I took about 20 minutes to get these color results).
The projector was set for AI on, Brilliant Color was 4, Color Temp = 1, Sharpness = 4, Contrast=-10, and brightness -1
Brightness and Contrast were set using the regular Avia disk (not the Pro), projecting on the Carada Brilliant White screen. You'll get different settings with different screen types.
The RGB settings I ended up with: (source Oppo DVD player over HDMI):
Red=11, Green=5, Blue=7
Red=-16, Green=-17, Blue=-15
That's a good place for anyone to start, if you don't get a calibration disk of your own. Remember that over time, lamps will dim, and the colors will shift a little. Buy a disk!
As mentioned elsewhere, in the very brightest ranges there is s slight shift toward cool (blueish whites - very slight), and in the black range a slight shift to a bit of brown.
Last topic. If you look closely into the dark areas of an image, you will find some noise. This is typical of DLP projectors as compared to LCD models. The noise levels on the HD72 are very typical of DLP projectors, and I have not found the noise to be an issue. Some people do notice the noise, but for the vast majority, I think, its way below radar, compared with screen door effect on LCD projectors or rainbow effect (if you are one of the few that can detect it.) Oh, if you stand 3 feet from your 100" screen it will be obvious. But who watches a projected image from that close (the pixels start looking like little golf balls). 3 feet is for people who like to study their projector's flaws, not for people who like to watch movies on the big screen. Again, a non-issue for almost all.
That raps up this section. As you have read, there are some issues, mostly ergonomic ones, with the HD72. If none of them is a problem for your particular installation, the HD72 should be at or near the top of your short list.