Review: Optoma HD131Xe Projector

OPTOMA HD131XE PERFORMANCE:  ZOOM LENS, SHARPNESS, IMAGE NOISE…

Affect of Zoom Lens on Brightness

Zoom Lens Setting Affets Brightness
Wide Angle (largest image from a distance) 1759
Mid-Point (on zoom) 1653
Telephoto (smallest image from a distance) 1510

Wide Angle (Zoom out) on the zoom lens means you are projecting the larges possible image from where the projector is sitting, relative to the screen.  In other words, the projector is placed as close as it can focus to your screen.  Telephoto is the opposite, it has the projector sitting about 20% further back, as far back as you can place it to fill the same screen.

Note that the drop in brightness is not great, only about 6% drop from Wide Angle to Mid-Point, and only a total drop of about 14%.  That’s a pretty minimal drop, but then, this zoom lens is equally minimal in it’s zoom range.  Home projectors have zoom ranges that vary from about 1.1:1 (a 10% range – a foot or so) to 2.1:1 which would be about 10 feet+ of front to back range.  The least expensive projectors to get up to 2:1 not much over $1000, mostly 3LCD projectors like the Panasonic PT-AR100U and Epson Home Cinema 8350.  Both, though, I should note, are 2D only.  BTW, that Panasonic is significantly brighter, while the Epson 8350 has about the same maximum brightness, but offers far less calibrated (more in line if you turned Brilliant Color off.)

Sharpness of HD131Xe Projector

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HD131Xe vs. Competition

Playstation start screen: HD131Xe Projector

Very good sharpness is exhibited by this Optoma. The corners tend to be slightly less sharp. Focus projector about 1/3 out from center for best picture.

Mitsubishi HC4000

No gone, this was for several years, one of the best $1000 range DLP projectors, and very sharp.

Panasonic PT-AR100U

3LCD, this projector has 3 panels. It has a zoom lens with 2:1 range, but doesn't look as crisp as the Optoma

BenQ W1070

The BenQ W1070 has become one of the benchmark projectors around $1000. Comparable in sharpness.

Viewsonic PJD-7820HD

Another very low cost 1080p projector, in fact perhaps the closest direct competitor, in price and overall performance

Epson Home Cinema 2030 / 2000

Definitely not as crisp, as is typical of 3 chip projectors

Additional Images Relating to Sharpness

There’s little more to say, the HD131Xe projector is typically sharp for a $1000 or less home entertainment / cross-over projector.  It’s picture for the most part is definitely sharper than the more expensive 3LCD projectors but more typical of the other DLP projectors.   The roll off in sharpness to the corners is perhaps a slight bit more than some competitors, but not overtly an issue.

Apparently, per readers, some early units of the HD131Xe did have more serious center to edge focus problems.  I would assume that the issue is a quality control one, that should be fixed with projectors shipping currently, although you never can tell what’s in some dealers’ inventory.  If you do want to avoid the possibility of an earlier unit, your best bet is probably to buy from an online authorized AV projector dealer.  Those are the volume movers of projectors, and most likely to have the freshest inventory.   At least one reader has reported that theirs needed to be sent back, due to the focus.  That same person, I should mention is otherwise very pleased with the HD131Xe.

The two Spiderman images are both cropped, even the more distant image is cropped about 50%.  Very nicely done, if you look at the sharpness of the small gears.  The last image in the sequence is the $11,999 ish JVC DLA-X95R (their flagship projector),and a 3 panel LCoS.  In this shot, the JVC has it’s “4K e-shift2″ engaged to enhance perceived detail.  Which do you find to look sharper, the $12,000 JVC or the under $800 Optoma?  How big a difference?

The correct answer, as I’m sure you have determined is that the JVC is visibly sharper, but, hey, you must admit, it’s pretty subtle considering the JVC is only 15 times the price!

Image Noise

There’s really good news here, and some not so great.   Let’s start with the good news.  One of the issues that can trip up projectors expensive as well as inexpensive is motion artifacts.  One of the tests I do for most projectors is watch a particular sequence from near the beginning of the movie Red.  In that scene, a suburban neighborhood is viewed with a slow panning, for about a 360 degree rotation.  This Optoma did particularly well on the panning, by comparison, the $3500 range Sony HW55ES, has, by comparison, real trouble with the same scene.

So score the Optoma an A for that type of noise.  General image noise, notably mosquito noise, is typically noticeable compared to non-DLP technologies.  I never figured out exactly why, but even much more expensive single chip DLP projectors show more of such noise than even low cost 3LCD projectors, or any LCoS ones.  (There are no inexpensive LCoS projectors.)  While the Optoma is typical for DLP projectors, consider that noise a minor drawback only when compared to other technology projectors.

The real issue with the HD131Xe projector, at least noise wise, is that there’s a coarse contrasty feel, that you can see on faces, where noise is just over the top.  I had the same complaint about the more expensive Optoma HD25-LV.  This isn’t DLP specific, the BenQ W1070 is much cleaner than either Optoma projectors, which straddle the BenQ in price.

Noise Showing Up in Skin Tones

Let’s look at the images above after you click in the upper right hand corner to expand them.  The first two images in the player are side by side comparisons with the Epson Home Cinema 2030 – which should look the same as the Epson Home Cinema 2000.   The Optoma’s on the left.  There are various differences, but in general you can see the more contrasty look.  Since side by side images are inherently lower res (per projector), it’s not that easy to see.

But, the next three images do tell a story.  All are the same basic scene from The Hunger Games, with a close-up on Jennifer Lawrence in her chariot, doing her “Girl on Fire” thing.

The first of the three photos is the closeup of her face with the HD131Xe set for Reference mode, the least bright, with the least Brilliant Color, of the projector’s modes.  The next version is same frame, but in Bright mode.  Notice how dramatically more visible and darker the noise is on her left cheek (and elsewhere).  So, while it’s worse with Brilliant Color at maximum, the issue is there at lower Brilliant Color settings as well.

That brings us to our last image, which is another side by side.  The left side, is the more expensive HD25-LV (about $500 more), vs. the Optoma W1080ST, which is a short throw version of the BenQ W1070.   Even in this side by side, you can see that the BenQ has noticeably less noise and flattening of the colors in her face.

Whether there’s a direct trade-off between the better blacks of these Optoma projectors compared to the Epson and BenQ which can’t match the Optoma’s blacks, and the increased, and visible image noise, is uncertain, but ultimately the Optomas do better blacks and have more trouble with smooth, natural skin tones, due to the noise.

Note that these are still images.  This noise is less evident than you see here, when you are watching the scene with its normal motion.  This is a case where the paused image makes the flaw far more noticeable.

Bottom line on image noise:  Overall reasonably good, and especially good on slow panning, but too much noise in faces, especially with Brilliant Color cranked up.   Will the average consumer notice?  I really don’t think so, not even on the Jennifer Lawrence close up, but it might drive some enthusiast’s a bit crazy!  Well, that’s my 2 cents!

 

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News And Comments

  • http://www.darkrealmfox.com/film_reviews/ FoxyMulder

    Image noise or film grain. ?

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      I’m in Japan, don’t know exactly what specifically you are asking about in terms of what I wrote, but my guess is – image noise, because the HD131xe was significantly noisier than anything else around, including BenQs, Epsons and Viewsonics that have recently been reviewed. The projector does have a contrasty look, perhaps a trade-off for the good blacks. All in all, that seems to be the projector’s weakness, is that any “graininess” seems to be worse than other projectors, so let’s call it image noise.

      Ultimately with the lower cost projectors there are always compromises, or there wouldn’t be higher priced projectors. -art