Optoma H78DC3 Projector – Overview

Simply put, this is the most affordable home theater projector yet, to ship with the new DarkChip3 DLP processor. This processor offers 720p resolution, and the best contrast of any DLP chip yet. This translates into blacker blacks, more shadow detail and overall, better image quality than you would expect fromt he older, less expensive and widely popular HD2+ chip.

Optoma H78DC3 projector wins a hot product award for excellent picture and great price performanceWith a list price of $6999, but a street price that should hold (for a while around the $4000 mark), it clocks in at least $1000 below any other DarkChip3 powered projector and thousands below most. That will have many people considering buying projector’s like the BenQ PE7700, who would prefer a H78DC3 projector but couldn’t afford it, an alternative that may fit their budget.

Picture quality overall was excellent. Motion artifacts were virtually non-existant, very similar to the BenQ PE7700 again, in this area. The difference is really in the DLP processor. Night scenes lose less detail, and are overall visibly better than the HD2+ projectors I have worked with. Flesh tones, after a tricky calibration, were very, very good. In part thanks to the 8 segment color wheel. The ability to de-interlace from an interlaced component video signal from my DVD was excellent, clear of visible artifacts. It is obviously an excellent de-interlacer.

I’m jealous – its not time to replace my BenQ PE8700+ (which cost as much as this Optoma H78DC3 just 6 months ago, and it would require re-mounting – since my BenQ projector has a shorter throw zoom. But the idea of getting one of these is certainly tempting. (I won’t be truly happy until I have a 3 chip, 1080 res projector!)

I consider this a step up from the BenQ projectors. We’ll have to see how the BenQ PE8720 (expected later this summer) with DC3 compares. Right now, however, it is anticipated to be a much more expensive projector – with a list price set $3000 higher – although that can be deceiving.

Of particular note, the H78DC3 projector has manual vertical lens shift – which gives you placement flexibility in terms of the mounting height. Unfortunately, the highest position for the projector is center of lens being even with the top of the screen. It would have been great if you could mount it up to a couple of feet above the screen top, for those with high ceilings.

Pros:

  • DarkChip3 provides great black levels and excellent shadow detail
  • 8 segment wheel provides excellent color balance, although I found calibrating the color to be a bit tricky.
  • Great little remote control
  • Extremely quiet - even in high power mode
  • Manual lens shift for easier height placement
  • Extremely sharp looking image. Whether the optics or other reasons, it produces a slightly sharper image off of DVD than many other projectors.
  • Very good flesh tones – once calibrated
  • Dual 12volt screen triggers – few will need both, but having one is a plus for those with motorized screens.
  • Multiple image modes
  • Multiple gamma settings
  • Bright Power mode, TV setting and Vivid modes help with handling rooms with some ambient light.
  • Power zoom and power focus
  • High quality digital (DVI-I) and component inputs
  • Projector’s Price/Performance

Cons

  • Out of the box, the projector needs calibration. My test unit definitely leaned toward too much green – ask your dealer what they can do for you to help.
  • Brightness in best modes – I found that the projector – at its best settings comes up a bit short in brightness on my 128″ Firehawk screen
  • Manual – not bad, but lacks detail to better explain how to get the best results, especially regarding various modes
  • Lack of saveable user settings - my biggest complaint. But, since the projector will hold any settings you put in for a particular input – and input resolution, this is not a problem for most users, and only a minor inconvenience in some cases. For more details see Saving Settings in the Performance Other section.
  • Lacks a separate analog computer input (RGB – with an HD15 connector. However the BNC’s can be used for hooking up a computer.

Typical Capabilities

  • Warranty – Two years, no loaner or replacement
  • Ease of use
  • Input panel
  • Menus – good but not great layout, however, easy to navigate

So far, I don’t think you can find another projector that can rival Optoma’s H78DC3 for anywhere near the price. And that is probably the most telling statement in this review. Other DC3 powered projectors sell from $1000 – $10,000 more than this Optoma, and while there are projectors like the Marantz (see the side by side image comparison in the Projector Performance Image Quality section), that will outperform it, consider that the Marantz sells for about 3 times the price. This Optoma projector definitely outpeforms their H77 model and the less expensive BenQ, both with HD2+ chips. For those with the gold to spend, this may be the bargain you have been waiting for.

For all but the most fanatical (or rich), this should be your last projector! Congratulations to Optoma.

PS. Strangely, in Europe at least, there is a different version of the H78 – it lacks the DC3 (DarkChip3 marking, and has the older HD2+ processor inside. Why the US is getting the higher performance version, I can’t answer, but hopefully for the rest of the world, the H78DC3 will become available in the not too distant future. Otherwise, they will have to spend the (significant) extra money for the similar H79 projector which also has DC3 technology.

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