Review: Optoma HD131Xe Projector
OPTOMA HD131XE PROJECTOR: SPECIAL FEATURES
The single thing that strikes me most about the HD131Xe projector is that it does some really good black level handling considering its one of the least expensive 1080p projectors on the market!
The special feature in charge of those blacks, responsible for the 18,000:1 claimed On/Off contrast ratio is Optoma’s Dynamic Black. Over the years Dynamic Black on previous Optoma’s have gone from obvious (seeing its action when watching content,) to reasonably well behaved. Dynamic Black on the HD131Xe fits into the more well behaved group.
But the key here, is that this projector offers up blacks that are easily able to beat some more expensive projectors. Certainly the lowest cost 3LCD competion such as the Epson 2030, is not even close, as this side by side comparison indicates. This image was taken with more than a modest amount of ambient light present. The Optoma is on the left, Epson’s $999 Home Cinema 2030 on the right. (Epson’s Home Cinema 2000 – a lower cost variation of the HC2030, is officially $899.)
Although I haven’t had a BenQ W1070 here since early in 2013, after looking at images, etc., that other popular projector, will also come up short of the HD131Xe projector, although closer than the Epson.
The bottom line is that this Optoma projector is serving up black level performance better than we all have a right to expect, for a projector that sells for under $800. Great job Optoma, when it comes to black levels.
Important to note, the fan does work harder, with this engaged. The fan is variable speed, so accelerates and then quiets back down as needed, and I must admit that Optoma has tamed the difference. It used to be on some older Optoma projectors that the fan would kick up and down in speed very quickly, making it easy to notice. This one seems to accelerate the the fan (and it’s noise), and decelerate them as well, a bit slower, to make it far less noticeable. No doubt it will bother some that I dub “noise adverse”.
Long Lamp Life
This Optoma is pretty efficient, first it produces all of its brightness with a 190 watt lamp, which is very good. But better still, are the lamp hour claims.
Running at full power, the HD131Xe is rated 3500 hours for its lamp, but if you run in Eco-mode, that number jumps to 6000 hours. In places like California where electricity is very expensive, you’ll likely be spending more money on electricity to feed your projector than on the costs of replacing lamps. After all, if you are in Eco mode, then that 6000 hours translates to 40 hours a week for 3 full years (2 weeks off a year for vacation from your projectors).
Mind you 3500/6000 hours is no where’s near the best, but it’s competitive. 4000 is not uncommon at full power. There are even some 5000 hour ratings at full power, although no direct competitors, I think. The highest claim for an eco-mode, has to be a BenQ, that now claims 10,000 hours, but that isn’t 10,000 hours of viewing, to the best of my understanding. That projector recognizes when there’s no picture, or perhaps your satellite/cable box is on standby, or there’s been no activity – perhaps pause has been left on. That projector will dial down the lamp power draw dramatically in such cases, so it gives you more total “on hours” but not necessarily total watching hours.
The devil, as they say, is in the details. BTW such features are great for the environment, and I applaud all the green features, and the folks, like myself, that do engage their various projector’s features to auto shut down or idle under such non-viewing circumstances! Not every projector coming through here has such features, but I’ll bet my use of them on most projectors, cuts my monthly electric bill by $25-$50. (California, where a kilowatt can cost just about $.40!)
Variable Brilliant Color
For those new to home theater projectors let’s start by painting a picture of what Brilliant Color is, and why, etc.
Brilliant Color itself is something that Texas Instruments, the makers of the DLP chip, have been offering in their chip sets for many years. It enhances a number of features such as saturation, contrast, and who knows what else, in order to improve the image. What is perhaps most interesting is that TI presents Brilliant Color as something that each manufacturer can customize in their projectors, even use it differently in different DLP projectors from the same manufacturer. Some projector companies utilize it, I believe, without using the Brilliant Color name, they just incorporate that into their image processing, with or without a fancy name.
In earlier days it was not uncommon for a projector with Brilliant Color to have multiple choices. But these days, more often, it seems to me, projector manufacturers offer Brilliant Color as an Off, or On choice.
Not so, in the case of this Optoma HD131Xe. They offer a sliding scale from Off (0) to 10.
Since we see this as a home entertainment projector, and Mike only calibrates one mode, he left it on 10, because that setting provides the brightest image, and we see this projector, mostly going into rooms that are less than ideal, and need the brightest image.
The first three images in this section show you some different settings on the 0-10 scale for Brilliant Color. It’s relatively subtle on these dark images, but look at the light (yellowish) from the large windows in the building, look at the detail and perceived sharpness of the roof to its left. You’ll also find in general, some fine lines that stand out more with the higher settings. The last three images – of Captain Kirk, in order are Brilliant Color at 10, 5, and Off.
When looking at Kirk, look at his forehead and left cheek for image noise, also the light blue vertical structure on the right. For contrast/perceived sharpness, look to his uniform collar and the stitching below.
Bottom Line on Brilliant Color: First, Mike says grayscale balance is as good with a setting of 10 as lower numbers, usually better. Consider Brilliant Color to be a tool to use to get the image to look the way you want it to. The more you use, due to contrast increases, etc., the less natural the image, but if it pleases you, go for it. You might want to remember, though, that BC off will cost you more than half your total brightness (see the chart on the Performance pages of this review.
Remember, this is an entry level projector, there are lots of picture quality compromises. You can hold out for perfection in your next projector – which if DLP, you can leave Brilliant Color turned off. I do like it, though, having multiple settings. Often the maximum is way over the top, on some projectors, so if their choice is Off or On, then it’s without, or over the top, as your only two choices. I’d say the Optoma HD131Xe projector has a very good Brilliant Color implementation.
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