Optoma HD73 Projector Review: Summary, Pros, Cons
What we have here, in the new Optoma HD73, is an excellent under $2000 home theater projector that will primarily appeal to those seeking a projector that is very best for watching movies. Accurate color, and black levels and shadow detail performance that is about as good as you can get for under $2000, will impress those who really seek image quality on movies as their primary goal.
The HD73 projector is going to work best on smaller screens - 100" diagonal or less - in rooms set up for proper movie viewing. That translates into a room that can either be fully darkened, or come very close. Having dark walls ceiling and floors will further enhance performance, and may allow you a slightly larger screen than those with less desireable rooms.
On the downside, the HD73 now ranks as one of the least bright projectors overall, sharing that honor with the Sanyo PLV-Z5, and the Sony HS-51A (HS60 outside the US). Although not the least bright in "best" modes, it is the least bright of the under $2000 projectors we have reviewed, in brightest mode, it is especially not bright, at barely half of it's claimed 1100 lumens. A light canon, it certainly is not. I suspect more people will opt for the HD72 due to it being dramatically brighter.
Then, of course, the HD73 projector is a typical low cost DLP projector when it comes to positioning it in your room. This is where LCD projectors have the huge advantage. The HD73 is limited to ceiling or table top - not being practical for rear wall mounting. It's significant lens offset, will typically require it's lens to be roughly a foot and a half above (or below) the top (or bottom) of your screen surface. That will make the projector essentially impossible to use with ceilings under 8 feet high, and even 8 feet is going to be tough, as even with a relatively flush ceiling mount the center of the lens will be almost 1 foot down, putting the top of your screen around 2.5 feet down from the ceiling - around 5.5 feet from the ground with an 8 foot ceiling. Since a 100" diagonal screen is 49 inches high, the bottom of your screen would be about 16" off the floor - very, very low.
As I said, this is the challenge for all under $2000 DLP projectors, since they lack lens shift. Some, however can do better with these lower ceiling heights - the Planar 7060 has only about half the offset, and the InFocus IN76 and IN78EX even less. BenQ's aging but rather good quality PE7700 has a "0" offset - center of the lens positions even with the top of the screen (thus in the example above, the screen could be 18" higher!
Overall, probably the two closest under $2000 projectors to the Optoma HD73, are the Mitsubishi HC3000, the Darkchip2 DLP with particularly excellent black levels for a DC2, and the InFocus IN76. The HC3000 has an almost identical lens offset as the HD73.
The Panasonic PT-AX100U, almost certainly the best selling under $2000 projector, simply blows away the HD73 in terms of brightness, and on the very darkest scenes can rival the blacks of the HD73. The trade-off: The PT-AX100U, an LCD projector with Smooth Screen Technology, produces a softer image, so the HD73 definitely wins in terms of sharpness. The PT-AX100U, though is more versatile in almost every possible way, from positioning to features. Despite the overall peformance of the HD73, I doubt it will put a significant dent into PT-AX100U sales. It's the bright HD72 that competes more directly with the Panasonic projector.
Sanyo's PLV-Z5 is an LCD alternative (also not bright) for those needing the placement flexibility that the Optoma can't provide. The PLV-Z5, as mentioned, is especially sharp, but its pixels are more visible. These are all trade-offs you need to consider in making your final choice.
Time to sort out all the strengths and weaknesses.
Optoma HD73 Pros
- Excellent overall image quality for its price
- Very good black levels and shadow detail
- Very good color "out of the box" requiring only minor adjustment to be excellent color overall
- All-in-all, an excellent projector for movie purists with moderate budgets
- Two year warranty
- Good menu layout
- Good remote layout
- Two digital inputs (one DVI, one HDMI)
- Cinema mode provides very "film-like" image quality
- Large amount of lens offset means that it won't have to hang down too far on a pole for those with tall ceilings
- Watchability (new word) The HD73 is easy to watch - very transparent - you are focused on the movie, not the projector - as it should be.
- Excellent Price/Performance for those seeking image quality over all
Optoma HD73 Cons
- Definitely not bright - a projector for movie purists
- In brightest mode, perhaps the least bright projector around, not very suitable for use in rooms with modest ambient light
- Limited to about 100" or 106" maximum size screen with normal screens with gains of 1.3 or under. (Really high gain screens (1.8 to 2.5+ have very narrow viewing angles and corners roll off in terms of brightness
- Remote control has very limited range
- Very limited zoom lens (only 1.2:1)
- No lens shift
- Large amount of lens shift makes projector impractical for ceiling mounting in rooms with 8 foot ceilings or less.
- Minor build quality issues - adjusting zoom on lens puts projector out of focus. (minor detail)
Optoma HD73 Typical Capabilities
- User manual
- Zoom lens range (for low cost DLP projectors only)
- Size and weight for a low cost DLP projector
- Styling (not much to write home about - but then, what counts is picture quality)
- Lamp life
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HD73 Home Theater Projector - Summary
Ok, you get the idea, by now it should be pounded into your collective brains. The HD73 home theater projector wins our Hot Product Award, because there is a small but significant slice of projector buyers hell bent on finding an affordable projector with the best overall picture for movie watching, even if it means smaller screens, and less flexible projector placement.
The HD73 is a projector I can recommend to friends. Those that appreciate a rich image, with accurate colors, deep blacks and good shadow details will truly appreciate the HD73.
Others, looking for a brighter more balanced projector, able to handle more ambient light, or larger screens should look elsewhere.
The bottom line, once I realized the screen size limitations I found the Optoma HD73 a pleasure to watch. It definitely had those "film-like" qualities that makes you forget you are watching a projector, and instead lets you to enjoy the movie. I think Optoma will be extremely wise if they not only market the HD73, but keep the HD72 in the lineup. Between the two projectors they will find plenty of satified owners.
OK, what's next?