Optoma HD8200 - Review Summary
A summary of the Optoma HD8200 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
3/29/2009 - Art Feierman
Optoma HD8200 Projector - The Bottom Line
I like where Optoma is going with the HD8200. All considered, the HD8200 projector is perhaps the second really impressive 1080p projector to come out of Optoma. The first being the HD81-LV - the brightest of the under $10,000 1080p projectors, and a veritable light cannon, compared to just about everything else.
With the HD8200, Optoma has built a quality, general consumer projector. Finally, in the form of the HD8200, they have a projector in their lineup with pretty good placement flexibility, rather than their usual, extremely limited placement flexiibility projectors.
What this translates to, is that the HD8200 is now viable (from a placement standpoint) for a much larger group of potential owners. Optoma's 1.5:1 zoom, plus some flexible lens shift, now make the HD8200 practical for ceiling mount installation in many rooms with average or low ceilings - where other Optoma's simply couldn't be used with 100 inch or larger screens because it had to be mounted well above the top of the screen. As noted in the Physical Tour section of this review, the strange implementation of lens shift may solve the lower ceiling issues for ceiling mounting that past Optoma's could not deal with. Optoma's lens shift, however, does not solve the issue of rear shelf mounting. The projector must be placed not much higher than the bottom of the screen surface, so you can't put the HD8200 on a high shelf. Too bad, and a "mistake" on their part I just can't explain away.
Then there's the 6x color wheel, combining with some enhanced processing, dramatically reduces the visibility of the Rainbow Effect, for those of us sensitive. I was able to watch virtually all of Quantum of Solace, before I noticed that I hadn't seen a rainbow. I'm moderately rainbow sensitive, so I consider this a real plus. With the HD8200, if I was selecting a projector, I would simply not consider Rainbow Effect as an issue, which is more than I can say for any other DLP projector I've worked with. There are some other Optomas with 6x color wheels, but there was still infrequent rainbow visibility, even if much better than those projectors with 4x and 5x wheels. In this case - though, rainbows, for me, at least, are a non-issue. I hopefully look forward to seeing this "breakthrough" in future DLP projectors from all manufacturers.
That takes us to the picture quality. True, this projector needs to be calibrated (or at least try our settings), more than most, but all projectors benefit to some degree or another. Of greater import, is the picture quality after the projector is properly set up.
I can't help but like the image that the HD8200 projects. Skin tones look very good. Colors appear rich and well saturated, especially darker colors, and the picture is very well balanced. While the best projectors at dark shadow detail are a bit better, the HD8200 is more than acceptable. If there is a weakness, it is black level performance, yet it does a very good job. It just isn't quite as good as competitors such as the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, Mitsubishi HC7000 and Panasonic PT-AE3000. It is probably most similar, in terms of black level performance to the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 (the ultra-high-contrast 3LCD projector with the least best black levels, and the BenQ W5000, which it may best slightly (hard to say, with over a year between doing this review, and the last time I worked with the W5000. For those with less than ideal rooms - minor ambient light, or white walls, the difference between the HD8200 and the best at black levels is likely to be almost completely negated. That said, in a really dark room, with dark walls, etc., you can appreciate those projectors that are better at black level performance.
At no point were the black levels, by any means weak. The HD8200 easily outperforms more standard 3LCD projectors like Epson's Home Cinema 6100, Sanyo PLV-Z700, although in fairness, those sell for roughly half to 60% of the price of the HD8200.
The HD8200 should have particularly strong appeal to those who really are almost completely focused on movie watching. For those folks the HD8200 in its best mode, is one of the brightest out there. Those people likely won't be concerned that the projector isn't significantly brighter in "brightest" mode. For movie watching, the HD8200 handles my 128 inch diagonal Firehawk G3 screen without any real difficulty.
For movie watching, the HD8200 does a great job on screens from 100 inch to about 120 inch diagonal, without breaking a sweat. On 100 inch and smaller screens, the HD8200 is downright spectacular looking - bright, rich and dynamic.
The two issues of greatest concern with the HD8200 relate to the aforementioned lack of lumens in brightest mode, and some issues with the HD8200's dynamic iris. The Cinema 1 iris setting is the one I prefer, but you can detect the iris doing minor changes within scenes as light levels in a scene change slightly. It also snaps quickly from a dark scene to bright (or the other way around), probably around 1/2 second after the scene changes. Cinema 2 doesn't have constant changing issue, but the iris tends to snap into a new position 5 - 8 seconds after a scene change from dark to light (and the reverse). This noticeable adjustment several seconds after the scene change, (when you aren't expecting it), I find very annoying and could not enjoy watching the projector while in the Cinema 2 iris ("Dynamic Black") mode. Optoma needs to further refine their dynamic iris operation, if they want the HD8200 to be a significantly better projector. Most projectors today, with dynamic irises, do the job better than the HD8200.
Still, there's a bright side. Thanks to the HD8200's Darkchip3 processor, even with the dynamic iris turned off, the HD8200's black level performance is still better than those standard, lower cost, home theater projectors. It's just that with its iris off, the difference between its black levels and the better ultra-high-contrast projectors is greater still. For those of us who still consider great black levels to be the "holy grail" of home theater, the HD8200 won't score well without the dynamic iris in operation, and when it is in operation, (Cinema 1 iris), its action is definitely more visible than with most dynamic iris equipped projectors. Bottom line - Cinema 1 iris should be "ok", for most people, but there will be a significant number of folks who won't be happy with its operation.
The HD8200 is a local dealer only projector, and as such is expected to be more expensive than those sold online. In this regard, it most closely competes with other local dealer only projectors, such as the Mitsubishi HC7000, Epson Pro Cinema 7500UB, BenQ W20000 (a bunch more money), InFocus IN82 and IN83 (again, the IN83 is also a lot more money.
Those going the local dealer route, are most likely to be paying that dealer to do the work - installation, calibration, room, and more. Most non-hobbiests understand that if they want the services of a local dealer, they will pay more for the projector. Buy a projector online, and ask a local dealer to install it, and I've always expected, you will pay more for the installation, than if you get the projector from the local dealer. Afterall, local dealers have higher overhead, and need to make a reasonable profit.
All considered, the HD8200 earns one of our Hot Product awards. While I initially didn't think it would qualify, the more I watched the HD8200, the more impressed I became with the overall picture quality (even considering the iris issues). I see the HD8200 as a much lower cost alternative - a "poor man's" InFocus IN83, and most of you know that I highly regard that projector. It may not be as bright as the IN83, but easily matches and slightly beats the IN83 in black levels, and, while the IN83 has the best color of any projector I've reviewed in the last year, the HD8200 isn't far behind. Good job Optoma!
In next year's model, though, let's see a better dynamic iris. With that improvement the next generation may well be one of the very best performers out there. And, a few more lumens in brightest mode, wouldn't hurt either!
Optoma HD8200 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Optoma HD8200 Projector: Pros
- Good color accuracy post calibration in best mode
- Bright "best mode" performance - slightly brighter than other "bright" projectors
- Two HDMI 1.3 inputs, full support for 24 fps, Deep Color, etc., plus a third digital input - a DVI with HDCP compatibility. Overall, slightly better selection of inputs (and outputs) than the average projector
- Support for an anamorphic lens
- Very sharp image
- Good remote control
- Average placement flexibility with 1.5:1 zoom and lens shift
- Good menus
- Rainbow effect minimized, and not an issue for most who are moderately sensitive
- 2 - 12 volt screen triggers
- 3 year warranty with replacement program
- Nicely styled projector
- Overall, a very good projector for those favoring the DLP look and feel
Optoma HD8200 Projector: Cons
- Shadow detail performance is very good, but definitely not best in class
- One of the least bright projectors in "brightest" mode
- Despite lens shift, not viable for rear shelf mounting (except down low, where no one wants to put the projector)
- Noticeable out of the box color inaccuracy, with a shift to cool (blue)
- Some real issues with the dynamic iris (different issues for the two options)
- Black level performance, though very good, not up to the better "ultra-high-contrast" projectors found at its price or less, including some selling for more than $1000 less
Optoma HD8200 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Audible noise is reasonably quiet, and less than most DLP projectors, about average overall
- Lamp life
- Shadow detail performance
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