Optoma HD8600 - Review Summary
A summary of the Optoma HD8600 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
12/6/2009 - Art Feierman
Optoma HD8600 Projector - The Bottom Line
Optoma offers up a serious "premium" performance projector in the under $10,000 range, in the form of the HD8600. Like every other projector we've reviewed, it has some strengths, and some shortcomings. This is one of those projectors, though that is mostly strengths.
I have always been enamoured with the "look and feel" of DLP projectors, when done well. I've owned a few, and always been pleased, despite being one of the relatively few who are rainbow sensitive.
The HD8600 projector has that look and feel. Also it's one of only a very few, over $4000 single chip DLP projectors we've seen, with particularly impressive black level performance. We don't get to review that many of the more expensive DLP's, since we rarely get to play with those "exclusive" higher priced brands like Marantz, SIM2, Runco, etc. (I think those guys avoid us, because we actually "dare to compare" projectors.)
In the last year or so, we've worked with previous Optoma's, the BenQ W20000, Planar PD8150, the InFocus IN83 (and soon, the SP8602), etc.
With that in mind, this Optoma is most impressive among the DLP's in this large price range.
Color handling and skin tones are excellent! Post calibration, the HD8600 has some o the best skin tones I've seen.
The image is sharp, very sharp, as we expect from good DLP projectors. No question about it, the HD8600 will but a sharper looking image up on the screen, than, say, any of the LCoS (JVC, Sony, Canon), or LCD projectors (Epson, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Sanyo, etc.).
OK, so far, we have a sharp projector with excellent color. Now add to that especially good brightness, and, thanks to interchangeable lenses, really good placement flexibility, especially for a DLP projector!!!
The HD8600 is well endowed with lumens, as discussed in the Performance section. More to the point, it's brighter in "best" mode than most of the competition. With a meassured brightness of 696 lumens, only one or two other projectors in the price range can beat it, and not by much. When it comes to "brightest" mode, the Optoma, again, is brighter than most. We measured 1166 lumens, which is 150-200 lumens brighter than average. Thanks to all those lumens, the HD8600 is very comfortable on larger screens. It had no trouble lighting up my 128" Firehawk G3 for movie watching and it allowed a moderate amount of ambient light before washing out for sports.
The image above, is a very good image for viewing black level performance. There are sufficient bright areas, that most projectors with dynamic irises won't close them down too far. As a result, it's a good indicator of how the Optoma performs on "mixed scenes - mostly dark but with moderate amounts of brighter areas.
The Optoma HD8600 is well endowed with fancy features. It has, of course, the dynamic iris for better black levels, it's got CFI (Pure Motion) for some types of source material, and other "Pure" (Optoma's marketing term) dynamic functions, including Pure Detail, Pure Color (the #2 setting is impressive). There's also a "Pure" demo mode which allows you to spit the screen, horizontally or vertically, to show the effects of setting changes to the original.
And of course, interchangeable lenses. While the combination of the standard zoom and long zoom barely has the range of many LCD and LCoS projectors, none of those others reviewed can do the ultra short throw of the fixed wide angle lens option. This allows for some very close mounting, or for rear screen projection. Nice touch!
The very bottom line: The Optoma HD8600
It is the combination of the sharp image, the brightness (in "best" and "brightest" modes), and the color accuracy, that lands the Optoma HD8600 our Hot Product award. The HD8600 should also prove to be a serious contender for our Best In Class award or Best In Class, Runner-up award in our upcoming 1080p Projector Comparison report! (still a few more competitors to review).
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent watching the Optoma HD8600 projector, which is something in the 50+ hour range, last I looked.
I have but one serious complaint, and that is the dynamic iris. Optoma - hear me - per our discussions, the HD8600's iris really should be improved. At this price point, no one wants to turn off the dynamic iris and give up a whole lot of black level, but at the same time, the iris is readily visible on a lot of slower, medium to dark scenes. It doesn't scream "FLAW" but it can be noticeable.
I strongly suggested to Optoma that they take another look, and see what they can do to improve the iris action, to make it a bit less disturbing at times.
Other than the iris, this projector puts up an image that most will rave about. Keep in mind, we tend to really get nit-picky with these better projectors. For that reason I warn you now: Even with all the quibbling, this is a particularly fine projector.
With an improved iris, the HD8600 would pretty much impress just about everyone except the most jaded of us. With the current iris action, though, we have a projector with otherwise excellent performance, that's still impressive, but not living up to its own potential.
Firmware, with an improved iris function, should definitely put the HD8600 up there as fair competition with any other 1080p projector I've seen under $10K, and that includes my RS20, and the newer RS25. Even with the iris improved, the JVC will still have visibly better blacks, (and less image compression) but the color and skin tones are, though slightly different, about equal.
On the plus side, the Optoma HD8600 projector has a distinct advantage in brightness, in sharpness, and a slight advantage in dark shadow detail. (And that's not even counting the generally more dynamic looking image (wow and pop) of the Optoma), especially with a little Pure Color added.
Image immediately below taken with Pure Color at +4 and Pure Detail at +1. Definitely a bit over the top, but wow, it looks great on a crazy action movie like Transformers.
That is likely enough to convince a lot of potential JVC RS25 shoppers to seriously consider the Optoma instead. That said, with the current iris action, I personally would still stick with the JVC projectors. Fix the iris, and I'd personally really consider the Optoma as a viable alternative to the JVC, and you should too. And, I'm serious about th HD8600. I'd hate to give up the black level difference, but I'd just love the extra sharpness, and extra brightness. Interesting trade-off, very interesting!
The ball, as they say, is now in Optoma's court. I have expressed my concerns at a recent conference call, and am waiting to hear back. At this point, however, I have no confirmation or reason to believe any change is in the works. For now, therefore, what you see, is what you get. If Optoma decides to improve the iris, I will be the first to let you know.
I've been trying hard to balance my thoughts on the iris, with the overall value of the projector. Some times in this review it sounds like, "minor detail" other times - it's a " real problem". Ultimately, how you feel about such things will determine which it is for you. I want to say, that while I was well aware of the iris action in a number of scenes, it never ruined the viewing experience. It merely detracted a bit.
As a final thought - I loved the old InFocus IN83 for its overall color, dynamics and especially skin tones, and it was pretty bright. The Optoma HD8600 is probably the closest thing I've seen to it. The Optoma can outmuscle it slightly, is just as sharp, and with iris engaged, produces far superior black levels. In my book this is the new, bright, premium DLP projector on the playground. It just has a couple of rough edges.
Nice job Optoma! Now finish it, with an iris improvement, and you will have a truly great projector.
Overall, the Optoma HD8600 is a very sharp, bright projector with a dazzling image!
Optoma HD8600 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Image below: From Aeon Flux
Optoma HD8600 Projector: Pros
- Very sharp image (typical of a good DLP projector with quality optics), with a sharper overall image than any of the LCD or LCoS projectors
- Excellent color, post calibration, especially skin tones which tend to almost always look really believable
- Good, albeit warm color, out of the box. You'll want this projector calibrated (or try our settings), to get the most out of it.
- Definitely above average brightness in "brightest" mode, when you need it. And it does pretty impressive color, in that "brightest" mode.
- Significantly brighter than average in "best" modes with about 700 lumens output - not the very brightest out there, but plenty of lumens for larger screens, and brighter than most. Only a few projectors have beat it in the last year.
- This DLP projector minimizes the rainbow effect (RBE). I'm sensitive, and rarely noticed it at all. As good as any other DLP projector I've encountered, in this regard. With this projector, I wouldn't even consider RBE to be an issue for me, thus not mentioned under "Cons"
- Manual iris allows you to dial down brightness for smaller screen, which in turn increases contrast and black level performance slightly
- Very good shadow detail performance
- Black level performance is extremely good. The dynamic iris and general capabilities combine to qualify this as a "ultra-high contrast" projector
- Three HDMI 1.3b inputs - one more than most, full support for 24 fps, Deep Color, CEC, etc.
- Offers creative frame interpolation with some types of source material
- Good layout on the remote control, and a very good backlight with easily readable buttons
- Very good placement flexibility due to choice of three lenses - standard and long zooms, and an extremely short throw fixed lens. Good, though not exceptional lens shift range
- Two screen triggers, support for anamorphic lens
- Very good menus
- Warranty is definitely better than most
- A serious competitor, to say the least, and, for those particularly fond of DLP's: The best combination of brightness, black levels and color accuracy of any DLP reviewed in the last year and change
Optoma HD8600 Projector: Cons
- Dynamic iris is acceptable, but should be further improved. On certain scenes (medium to dark, slow moving scenes - often with a closeup of a face) - tends to be too visible, a bit of yo-yo effect. If I had to pick out just one weakness, the iris would be it, but, that said, it's not bad, others though are less noticeable!
- CFI - Creative frame interpolation: according to Optoma, does not work with 1080 60fps, which means most broadcast HDTV sports, which is too bad
- CFI - on movies, as with most projectors sporting CFI, creates a live digital video (or "soap opera") look to the image. More of that effect than some of the competition. Most people do not use CFI for movies, even if they have a projector with a particularly good CFI
- Documentation - while generally good, installation section (lens offset/shift section, murky at best), lacks sufficient explanation of a number of modes, including, for example, when CFI works, and what it does
- Supports only one of two anamorphic modes (sled required) While this is how most projectors handle, we are starting to see projectors supporting use of an anamorphic lens, with standard 4:3 and 16:9 content properly displayed while anamorphic lens is in place.
- Exhaust vents out the back. Likely limits how close the projector can be placed to a back wall, when shelf mounting
- Remote could have more range
Optoma HD8600 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Documentation - overall
- Just average lamp life - 2000 hours in High lamp power mode, 3000 in low (eco) power
- Styling: Black, rectangular with rounded edges - not bad, not impressive
- Lamp can be changed without unmounting the projector
- Overall size and weight - a medium small projector
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