Optoma HD803 Home Theater Projector Review - General Performance
Topics in this section:
Optoma HD803 with optional Anamorphic Lens
User Memory Settings
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Audible Noise Levels
Lamp Life and Replacement
Projector Screen Recommendations
Optoma HD803 with Optional Anamorphic Lens
Optoma sells an optional anamorphic Lens, with motorized sled option for $3999 extra (more than the projector itself), for those planning on a 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) shaped screen. It works with the HD803, as well as their HD80, HD8000, HD81, and HD81-LV projectors.
When using Optoma's anamorphic lens in conjunction with a Cinemascope shaped screen, the placement difference and screen size, of course, are different than using a much more common 16:9 screen without the optional lens.
If you choose to go anamorphic, you'll set the Letter-Box aspect ratio option from the remote control, or menus.
What does this all mean? You get a wider image, relative to a standard setup, and the projector stretches the vertical, so every pixel is used, and there is no letter box at the top and bottom. Because all of the projector's pixels are being used, the overall image is also brighter, since approximately 20% more pixels are being used to create the image.
I did not test the Optoma HD803 with the anamorphic lens, but it is the identical lens system that I wrote about in the Optoma HD81-LV review. To read more: Optoma HD81-LV.
The real question is: Does one buy a $2500ish projector and a $4000 lens system, or does it make more sense, since you are spending the bigger bucks for the lens system, to buy the step up products - either the HD81, or HD81-LV?
Myself, I would think it makes more sense to buy the higher end projector as well, but I can also understand the idea, that if you want the cinemascope setup, you aren't hyper-critical of the last few percent of performance, and the budget is tight, I can see pairing the HD803 with an anamorphic lens and Cinemascope ratio, as a viable option for some.
Optoma HD803 Projector: Menus
Overall the HD803 menus, like those of its siblings, are reasonably laid out. However, there are a lot of levels for some of the advanced features. For example: From the main menu system, switching lamp brightness or controlling Iris settings, are two levels down, three if you count the top Main menu.
Let's take a look. Note: The menus of the HD803 are very similar to the HD8000, HD80, HD81 and HD81-LV projectors we've reviewed already. Optoma confirms that the menus of the HD80 and HD803 menus are identical. The images and much of the content in this menu section is from the HD80 review.
Selecting the Menu button on the remote or the Optoma HD803's control panel, you bring up the menu seen on the right; the Image Menu. On the left side, you can see the three other primary menus. Display, System, and Setup.
Mode offers the choice of 3 User presets. Each is different. I used User 1 as the basis for most of my work.
After that, there are the usual basic image controls, like brightness and contrast. Unfortunately if you scroll down, to, say, Brightness, you then have to Enter or right arrow key which will then bring up your ability to adjust Brightness. It would be nicer if once on Brightness, the left and right arrow keys simply let you change the value, instead of essentially opening another window, and adding several extra keystrokes.
The last item on the Image menu opens the Advanced menu, shown here, which lets you adjust Noise Reduction, Gamma, Degamma (shown below), and Color Temperature. Also below is the Color Temp Menu. In addition to the three presets (Warm, Mid, and Cold), you can access the User menu, also shown below. From this menu, you can individually control the R, G, and B Contrast and Brightness settings. This is where most of the calibration work gets done - to come up with a well tuned grayscale balance for movie watching. For movie watching, the ideal color temperature is 6500K. The Color Temp controls let you adjust to achieve that.
Gamma allows 10 steps of control of the image, leaving the blacks black and the full intensity colors and white as is, but adjusting the lower, mid, and upper ranges. For example, movies are looking for a higher gamma to provide a richer (and some would say darker overall) image.
Color Vividness seems similar to TI's Brilliant Color circuitry. It seems to affect a number of aspects of the image, but basically allows you to increase intensity, theoretically, without oversaturating.
The next major menu is the Display menu shown here.
Format allows you to select the aspect ratio for your content. From reading the manual, the most interesting feature might be the Edge masking. The manual does not clearly explain what this is for. Image Shift, I am familiar with. It allows you to move the image up or down the screen. If you have a full screen image, using Image Shift will cause you to lose part of the image. If though, you are working with a letter boxed 16:9 movie, you could move the image up the screen so the top of the actual content, is even with the top of your screen. If you have the ability to control how far down your screen goes (motorized or manual), for example, you could only extend it as far as the 2.35:1 Cinemascope shape. Then by moving the image up, you would fill the visible screen and not have a letterbox. I always thought that was a usable feature for some.
On the System Menu, we find a couple of key capabilities, beyond selecting menu language or the background color. Equally important, is the Projector sub menu, which allows you to control the Iris (auto, off, or manual - with 16 settings), and the all important lamp mode. From there you can select low power or full power settings.
The last major menu is the Setup menu.
It provides choice of power up to last source, or source search. There is also a high altitude fan mode, and a reset control.
In other words, the HD803 (or HD80) offer fairly extensive controls of not just image quality, but almost all aspects of use.
Optoma HD803 Memory Settings
The HD803 projector has User settings in several, but does not offer formal saving of the settings. Image modes: Between the three User areas, plus ISF Day, and ISF Night (those two are for calibrators), there are plenty of savable areas. There is also user color temperature, and you can have different settings for each of the 5 modes.
Without formal Save settings capability though, you should definitely store what your settings are. For example, you might be using User 1 mode for movies, but find a particular movie needs some adjustment because the production qualities left something to be desired. So, let's say you increase color saturation, and reduce contrast. That is now part of your setting, and will remain until you change it. No big deal, when you want to return to YOUR "default" setting for user 1, and you know what it is, but if you don't record it, I hope your memory is very good.
Optoma HD803 Remote Control
One notable difference between the HD803 and their more expensive brethren, the HD81 and HD81-LV, is the remote control. I really like the blue LED lit remote for the more expensive Optomas. I'm less enthused with the remote provided with the HD803.
On the plus side, this Optoma remote has a fairly bright backlight. On the downside, the range of the Optoma remote control is, as reported before on the HD80/HD8000, rather limited. I can never manage to get a good bounce off my screen with this Optoma remote series. So, when watching in my theater room, with the projector about 16 feet from the screen, and about 4 feet behind me, I have to point the remote over my shoulder. With most projector remotes I don't have trouble with this type of distance.
Of course a slightly smaller screen and room, cut down your firing distance, but I stlll count it as a minor pain.
OK, let's quickly run through the features.
Top left, all alone is the Off/On switch (press once for on, and two for off). Next come six buttons that provide direct control for Brightness, Contrast, Image-AI off on, Iris control Gamma, and Brite mode.
Right below them, are the Image Shift up and down buttons. For those not familiar, this allows you to move the image up or down the screen digitally. Consider: You are watching a typical movie with a lettter box at top and bottom on your 16:9 screen. With Image Shift, you could move the movie down so that the bottom of the actual movie is flush with the bottom of the screen, instead of being 6 - 10 inches above. This would give you double the letterbox at the top, but some will like this trick.
Then comes the classic arrow key configuration with a center Enter button. Just below on the right, is the Menu Button, and the Preset mode button is opposite on the right.
Overscan and Edge masking are just below.
After some space, you get four buttons for different aspect ratios. And lastly, six buttons for the six HD803 inputs!
The layout overall is good, but I find the menu button, even though easy to find by feel, to be very small and wedged between the arrow keys and the Overscan button. My guess is that Optoma doesn't expect consumers to spend much time in the menus, with so many direct access buttons above. For me, though, I'm constantly in the menus, while reviewing, and it was a little frustrating.
Optoma HD803 Projector: Lens Throw and Lens Shift
As mentioned on the first page, HD803 has no adjustable lens shift, which makes it pretty much either ceiling mounted or table top. The shelf option is basically non-existent. The projector will end up being placed (due to the significant fixed lens shift), either well below the bottom of the screen, or ceiling mounted well above the top of the screen. If you are using a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, that offset is going to be just over 16 inches (above the top or below the bottom of the screen surface).
In terms of placement distances; for a 100" diagonal screen, the front of the lens can be as close as 13 feet 6 inches, to approximately 16 feet 2 inches from the screen. That's only a 20% range, far less than the range offered by LCD and LCOS home theater projectors.
A good place to start in determining if the HD803 is for you, is to see if you can place it in your room. If your ceiling isn't too low, however, you should be fine, when ceiling mounted, as that's where you have maximum flexibility. If ceiling mounting, try to get some space between the projector and the ceiling (not flush mounting) as the hottest part of your room is the six inches closest to the ceiling. Being down 8 to 12 inches means better ventilation, a cooler running projector, and ultimately probably a slightly longer lamp life.
Optoma HD803 Screen Door and Rainbow Effects
I love 1080p resolution projectors - pixel structure visibility is no longer a real issue.
I viewed the HD803 in my theater room at various sizes, partially filling anywhere from about 100" to about 120" diagonal of my 128" diagonal Stewart Firehawk G3 screen. To make out any pixel structure at all in credits or stationary type and graphics on the screen, I had to lean foward and strain, and then only at 120 inches diagonal, and I have really good vision. I never could spot pixel structure in any normal viewing. Sitting 12 feet back from a 120 inch diagonal screen, is fairly close!
No rainbow effect: The HD803 is a classic DLP projector, however it has a 6X speed color wheel, instead of the usual 5x. That means even fewer than the normally very small portion of viewers may see rainbows (which are most visible when fine edge white areas are moving across a dark background). That also means even those rainbow sensitive that see them occasionally on a dark movie scene, are not likely to ever see one while watching a football game, or a typical well lit sitcom. Fortunately for 95+% of the population (my best guess), rainbows will not be an issue. I happen to be slightly sensitive to the rainbow effect, mostly on fast moving bright objects on a dark background, and especially when I'm tired, or am moving my head. Truth is, it hadn't occured to me that I rarely noticed any rainbows during the 30 or so hours of viewing, until I noted the 6x spec. At that point, I said to myself, "you know, I was wondering why I had only spotted the rainbows a few times, despite lots of content viewing that would tend to make rainbows more visible."
I had owned two 5X color wheel DLP projectors prior to my JVC, and learned to live with the occasional rainbow (maybe a few times a movie), but, on principle, I always wished I they were less noticeable. I appreciated the Optoma after just coming from reviewing the InFocus IN82 with its 5X color wheel.
Bottom line, the 6x wheel may not be the perfect cure, but it may mean that the limited group of people that won't buy DLP projectors because they can spot the rainbow effect, is now an even smaller group.
Optoma HD803 Home Theater Projector: Light Leakage
The Optoma leaks a fair amount of light out the lens, forming almost a ring outside the viewing area, with the most a curve of light beyond the upper right corner of the image. You can detect it if your walls aren't dark, and the scene on the screen is extremely dark (black, or maybe a starfield). Although easy to spot when feeding the projector the right dark image to project, it isn't something that I noticed during normal viewing. I've reviewed a lot of new 1080p home theater projectors since the HD80, HD8000 reviews. At this point, I would say the light leakage of the HD803, is worse than most other new models.
Optoma HD803 Audible Noise Levels
Audible noise levels is going to be a problem for some. In all fairness, it shares this flaw with most (but not all) DLP home theater projectors. It is the usual formula: if you are really adverse to any fan noise, you are probably, just probably, going to be OK, with the HD803 in eco-mode (low lamp brightness). With the lamp in full power, these projectors will drive those really noise adverse, crazy!
The HD803 is simply the noisiest projector I've reviewed, since the previous Optoma projectors, when in full power mode. I recently commented that the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB (with lamp on high), was a bit noisey, and similar to DLP projectors in that regard. I had the chance to run the two side by side, and I think I owe Epson an apology. In reality, the Epson may be about average in noise, however the Optoma is a step up in noise. With my ears about 2 feet from the Epson, and 5 feet from the Optoma, the Optoma was still the noisier.
Overall, not a problem for most of us, but your sensitivity, size of your room, and acoustics could make it an issue. If you think your are particularly noise adverse, this projector isn't for you.
Optoma HD803 Brightness - Measured Lumens
The Optoma HD803 brightness performance is good, overall - brighter than average. Using default settings (degamma = film, gamma set to 1, Color Temp = Warm) the projector measured almost 750 lumens in "best mode".
Please note, I set gamma to one, because I found the image to have what is probably a too high gamma, making scenes often seem a little dark. Changing the gamma, however, should have no impact on measured brightness.
Unfortunately, the default Cinema (best) mode, isn't that good out of the box! After calibrating the grayscale the end result was a significantly improved image. The adjustments, however, took a significant toll in terms of brightness, measuring 506 lumens. These measurements were taken with the iris open.
Still, you can't complain. The average 1080p projector in best mode (full lamp), tends to offer between 400 and 450 lumens, so this Optoma is still brighter than most, although not by that much.
Low lamp mode has me baffled. I think I may have erred in my measurement, or in the recording of it. I found the low lamp mode to be about 30% dimmer, however that is not consistent with the HD80 and HD8000 which dropped off less than 20%. I don't know what to tell you. I intend to check with Optoma to see what amount of drop they say it should be. If they concur with the HD80/HD8000 measurements, then figure I botched it, and use those numbers.
In Bright Mode, the HD803 measured an impressive 1193 lumens, whether you set the color temp to Mid, or Warm. I favored Mid, for sports viewing while Warm worked better for movies when you have ambient light to deal with.
TV mode clocked in at 927 lumens, again with a cool default setting great for sports and non-movie content, and it dropped to 694 lumens after adjusting to close to 6500K.
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The two images below are of the same frame from Casino Royale. The exposures are also the same, to show the relative difference in brightness between the modes. First is Cinema mode, followed by Bright mode:
Optoma HD803 Lamp Life and Replacement
The HD803 is pretty much industry standard: 2000 hours in full power mode, and 3000 hours rated for low power.
When it comes to replacing the lamp, the lamp door is on the bottom of the projector. That means you are going to have to unmount a celing mounted projector to change the lamp. That's a pain, but typical of most projectors. Problem is, its competition includes the BenQ W5000 and the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, neither of which requires unmounting to change their lamps.
Optoma HD803 Projector Screen Recommendations
The HD803 has a healthy amount of lumens, yet I liked it best on mid-sized screens. At 110" diagonal size on my Firehawk, the Optoma looked really good. The gray surface helps out a bit with the black levels, and of course with dealing with some ambient light. However the overall image looked a bit dark. I found that I had to have the gamma set to 1, or 2 to best enjoy movies.
That said, when I used the HD803 in the testing room, filling the 106" Carada Brilliant White screen, it became a great little family room projector. It had a very dynamic feel. Not for the most critical viewer, but a very practical projector, with pretty good brightness.
Since this is a fairly well balanced projector - but, by no means, is it the best in class for movie watching, I would tend to think that many buyers of the HD803, would opt for a matte white surface or one with gain, resulting in a brighter than average projected image, suitable for general viewing.
As a compromise, one that provides for a slight improvement in black levels, a light gray surface with some positive gain, consider screens like the Da-lite Cinemavision or HC Cinemavision screens or Elite's high contrast gray (which is light gray and not particularly high contrast). They should both be a good compromise screen to match with a projector that is, itself, a good projector but one that has compromised black level performance a bit.
Tough call. Definitely consider your room conditions as a key factor in your screen choice for the HD803 projector.
Optoma HD803 Calibration
Let's start with initial, out of the box, measurements for Cinema mode. Setting up with color temp on warm, looking for 6500K color temp, was a disappointment. With the projector lamp on bright, starting with 100 IRE (white):
Not only is there a fairly large shift in temperature going from a high color temperature (on the cool side) measured with white, to a too warm temperatures at the lower gray level. In addition green was way off, and too strong.
To get a significantly improved color balance, here are the settings I came up with: Set Color Temperature to User
Set the Color Temp to User:
The numbers in ( ) are the default numbers
Gain: Red (100) 100, Green (100) 84, Blue (100) 79
Offset: Red (128) 128, Green (128) 128, Blue (128) 127
This yielded a much improved grayscale color balance:
The green was still a touch high on white but dead on by 30IRE.
The result is very good skin tones and overall color balance.
Default or Bright (Brite) mode, with Color Temp on Mid (default), the projector is definitely shifted a bit towards blue:
Green overall, in this mode is a little low, except down at 30 IRE where it was dead on. Overall, the picture balance lacked brilliant reds, but looked good on sports type events, and the Optoma, at the same time, is cranking out its maximum lumens.
Doing a little adjustment, I lowered the color temp setting to Warm, which made the HD803 in Brite mode better suited for movie watching although there was still a shift to blue in the whites:
Green was almost perfect with that setup, just a tad high on white, but dead on, on the other
The last mode I looked at was TV.
Defaut TV mode also had color temp set to Mid, which yielded:
Again, that shift to blue in the whites, and in this case green is a little weak through all brightness ranges.
For TV mode setup to watch movies, just use the same color temp settings as I set up for Cinema, and get:
This provided the tightest measurements, although green was a touch high throughout the range.
Optoma HD803 Image Noise
I believe that the HD803, (like the HD80 and HD8000) is using image processing from Pixelworks, whereas the higher end HD81 and HD81-LV use Gennum processing. Overall image noise performance is perfectly acceptable, using the HQV test disk. The Optoma passed the standard jaggie and standard motion artifacts tests. There is some slight background image noise, but at levels typical of DLP projectors. I do not run the many different cadence tests. Overall good, not great performance. Nothing to bother the vast majority of us, however.
Time for a quick look at the Warranty, then the Summary section!