Optoma HD71 Home Theater Projector Review

The Optoma HD71 is what I would describe as a good consumer projector. It’s brightness makes it ideal for lower cost setups in family rooms and other less than ideal situations. As I said elsewhere, at one point I was watching something with ambient light coming in from the back of the room from my kitchen with the lights in there on. Now, I always turn off those lights, they drive me crazy. Although they are downward facing recessed lighting and florescents, some of the light makes it 25 – 30 feet and hits directly on my screen.

With the HD71, that amount of light – small but thoroughly annoying when watching my JVC RS1 or the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, almost went completely unnoticed, while watching the Optoma HD71. It’s just a magnitude brighter than most projectors – not night and day, but twice as bright (or more) than most other projectors.

That makes a real difference. The football game watched on another projector, with some light in the room, that produces a picture that is just a little too washed out to enjoy, is a football game projecting brightly enough, that it’s no longer too washed out, but, instead, acceptable.

It’s also a movie, with some ambient light, that can still produce what seems to be good blacks, because the bright areas are still so much stronger, that the affected dark areas, still seem dark.

Alternately, if you are on a real budget, and looking for a projector to fill a really large screen for movie watching, the HD71 is the brightest of all the 720p projectors when they are all in their best “movie” modes.

The HD71 is not without downsides however. From a placement standpoint, its about as inflexible as a projector can get. No adjustable lens shift, and only a 1.1:1 zoom lens. Noise levels are a bit high, and the HD71 just doesn’t feel like a “tightly” manufactured product, a bit sloppy, such as the zoom control affecting focus. Let’s face it, it’s a low cost projector that doesn’t feel as solid as most of the competition.

Optoma HD71 as a Business Projector

I should point out, that with its built in 2 watt speaker, the HD71 can be used as a reasonable alternative for business presentations. It has as much brightness as most “entry level” business projectors up to about $1000, and its a widescreen, which in business projectors, normally commands a premium price.

If you are looking for a dual purpose projector, and your business needs are typical Powerpoint type presentations, the HD71 should be an excellent choice. Because the resolution is only 1280×720, however, the projector doesn’t have the vertical resolution to do XGA without a little compression. That means smaller type will be a bit soft, and uneven.

Optoma HD71 Projector: Pros

  • Excellent Brightness brightest of 720p home theater projectors in best mode, and one of the brightest overall
  • Good overall picture performance after basic adjustments
  • Good selection of inputs (including HDMI 1.3 with Deep Color support, and DVI)
  • Supports 24fps
  • Very good remote control
  • Can easily double as a widescreen business projector

Optoma HD71 Projector: Cons

  • Very limited zoom lens
  • No lens shift
  • Needs basic calibration to get best results
  • Manual comes on disc, no hard copy
  • A fan noise is louder than most projectors, although not exceptionally so

Optoma HD71 Projector: Typical Capabilities

  • Manual
  • Lamp Life
  • Black level performance
  • Shadow detail

Optoma HD71 Summary: The Bottom Line

Not only is the HD71 a bright home theater projector that produces a very watchable image with very good depth, but it can do double duty as a business projector. Tax write-off, anyone?

This is really, a good, moderately inexpensive 720p projector for causal movie viewing and TV/HDTV/Sports. For those looking for the absolute best projector for pure movie watching, they will likely favor another projector. But the HD71 should be great in a family room, for night time movie watching.

I don’t want to undersell the HD71 either, for movie viewing it is rather impressive, just not the best around. Good but not exceptional black levels and shadow detail combine for a very good picture, but not as perhaps refined as, say the BenQ PE8720 (DLP), or the Sanyo PLV-Z5. It more closely competes with both the Panasonic PT-AX200U (which is brighter in brightest mode) and Epson Home Cinema 720, which can’t quite match the Optoma in lumens.

This is definitely a projector I plan to recommend to many. For those that just want to enjoy a movie or a sporting event, and don’t want to fuss about very subtle differences, here’s one of the brightest projectors overall, and it does many other things extremely well – A great overall package!

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