Optoma HD81 Home Theater Projector - Overview
Check out how the Optoma HD81 fared in our comparison report.
I've been looking forward to reviewing the HD81 since I had last seen it at CEDIA, doing Phantom of the Opera, in Optoma's fully darkened theater room in their booth. They had the HD81 paired with an anamorphic lens (not yet available), to do Cinemascope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, without lettterboxing (black bars at the top and bottom).
The projected image was truly impressive at the show, leading me to expect an excellent projector to review. I was also curious to see what additional capabilities the HD81 home theater projector offered, by virtue of its using a Gennum outboard processor. I wasn't dissapointed, plenty of gadgetry there, and overall a very nice solution.
There is no question that the HD81 is an excellent 1080p single chip DLP home theater projector. Despite being the highest price of the "big name/high volume" projectors, it's very hard to argue with the value Optoma provides.
Quicktip: Most of the image photos in this review have larger versions you can view in a separate page, by clicking on the image.
In that light, I'm pleased to announce that the Optoma HD81 projector picks up our Hot Product Award. More on why the HD81 won our award, in the Summary section, although I'll start here by saying that the HD81 not only offers more than just an extremely sharp image. It produces extremely good color accuracy, and enough control of the image processing to please even the most enthusiastic tweakers out there, let alone, satisfy the average consumer.
There are some individual issues with the Optoma HD81, that we will point out in the review, however, all considered, Optoma has produced what, in many ways, may be the best under $10,000 selling priced 1080p projector yet, despite heavy competition from BenQ's W10000 (probably the closest contest), and Mitsubishi's HC5000, both which sell for less.
Optoma HD81 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector - Basic Specs:
For more complete specs click: HD81
MSRP: $9995, MAP $9995
Technology: Single Chip DLP (Darkchip3)
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1400 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.2:1
Lens shift: None
Lamp life: 2000 hours full power, 3000 lumens eco-mode
Weight: 10.0 lbs.
Warranty: 3 years Parts and Labor
Let's get started!
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Optoma HD81 DLP projector: Physical Tour
As noted above, the HD81 comes in two pieces, the projector itself, and its outboard Gennum processor.
First, the Projector:
Facing the front of the projector, there is a large lens, mounted toward the left side. If you are ceiling mounting, you'll need to do your measurements to compensate for the lens being off center, as you would with any other home theater projector without a center mounted lens.
The outer ring of the lens handles the manual focus. Behind that, is a recessed area (at the top), on the lens barrel, for adjusting the manual 1.2:1 zoom lens. Also foundin the front, low and almost centered (next to the DLP insignia), is the front Infra-Red sensor for the remote control.
There are two adjustable front feet, mounted on the left and right sides. There is a press to release button for each one, to allow users to adjust the leg height.
Venting is out the sides. This technically makes rear shelf mounting the projector possible, although other aspects of the projector make it unlikely that anyone will actually shelf mount it.
Moving to the top of the projector, not much to see, only three indicator lights on a bar across the back top. One indicator for Power, one each for Temperature, and Lamp.
That takes us to an almost empty input panel, found on the back of the HD81 projector. It's pretty sparce since everything basically plugs into the outboard processor. The processor then connects to the HD81 itself by way of two cables. The first is an HDMI cable input, and the second, and RS-232 for control. There is also a service port, for upgrades (I assume), etc. There is also the usual power recepticle. That's it! Everything else is on the Gennum VXP scaler/processor.
I must also note that the HD81 DLP projector has two rear feet, which are screw thread adjustable.
That brings us to taking a close look at the Gennum XVP processor itself.
The box itself is wide, suitable for rack mounting with an adapter. It is about 2 inches tall, and is finished in black.
From the front: Only the large power button toward the far right (and the IR sensor) is visible, with the front hinged door closed. Open it up, and you will find a basic control panel, near the center. It offers (from the right) the usual, Source button, which doubles as the Enter button when menus are in use. Next to the left is the Menu button. Further left are four silver buttons in the usual diamond layout, for left/right/up/down functionality when navigating the menus.
Far left on the HD81's processor (not shown), are three inputs, allowing for easy, fast hookup of temporary devices such as a camcorder or computer. The inputs are: Composite video (RCA jack), S-Video (DIN plug), and Analog Computer (VGA) - (HD15 connector).
That takes us to the rear of the Gennum processor, which is jam packed with inputs. This allows the HD81 to hook up to far more sources than any other 1080p projector in its price range. The only less expensive projector I can think of, with outboard processing like the HD81, is one of the two versions of Epson's new Pro Cinema 810. The Epson too is loaded with inputs, but it is a lower resolution, 720p projector, so not a close competitor.
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The HD81's processor supports the following:
HDMI inputs - 3 standard HDMI inputs (all HDCP compliant), plus an HDMI input if you bring in a signal from an AV receiver equipped to output HDMI.
Component Video inputs: Two sets, each with separate R,G,B (RCA jack) connectors.
S-Video inputs: 2 (standard DIN connectors)
Composite inputs: 2 (standard RCA jack)
BNC inputs: 2 sets of 5 BNC connectors each, which can be used for analog computer inputs, or for additional Component video sources. Add all of that up, and you have a whopping 8 high resolution (computer, component and digital - HDMI) inputs, plus the four lower resolution ones (the composite and S-video).
Other input/outputs: There are two RS-232 connectors - One is mandatory, and connects to the projector (Optoma provides a short cable, and an extension, but in most mounting situations, you will need longer cables). The second one can be connected to external control devices, such as a room controller (ie. Crestron, AMX...), computer, etc, for remotely controlling the projector functions.
There is also an HDMI output to an AV receiver. This I found interesting. If you have an AV receiver with a sufficient number of HDMI inputs, normally you would let the Receiver handle the source switching between the various HDMI inputs, and then feed that to the projector's processor. If, however, your receiver has only one HDMI input, or simply not enough of them to let it do your switching, you can run the HDMI sources to the Gennum processor, and have a single HDMI output to the AV receiver, which will pass along the audio information. (A big difference between HDMI and DVI, is that HDMI cables carry the audio as well as the picture. By connecting the output to the AV receiver, you are passing the sound portion of the data from your DVD player, Cable/Satellite box, etc., to the receiver, while the image portion is processed and sent to the projector. That pretty much covers the outboard processor for the HD81.
Lastly, the processor box has 12 volt triggers for motorized screen control. A look at the manual indicates that the trigger can be programmed. This is ideal for those with masking screens (that basically bring down cloth or other method to change the visible surface area. You might use a masking screen in conjunction with (or without) an anamorphic lens. Once set up, the processor box would control the screen to use the right masking for the aspect ratio of the content you are watching. Cool!
One note, the HD81 itself has no power switch. The Gennum processor turns on the projector when you hit the power switch on the processor, or use the remote control to power up.
This review will take a good look at the th HD81 projector's remote control, and menus, in the General Performance section, but now it's time to check out the HD81's overall image quality.