Optoma HD20 Projector Review

Optoma HD20 Remote Control

The HD20′s remote control has a nice curved shape that should fit well in your hand. The layout is pretty good, and the range, while not exceptional, is very good and adequate to get a bounce off of my screen to the projector – a total trip of about 24 feet, in my larger theater.

I have one real complaint about the HD20 remote control, but I should note, first, that it is more likely to be an annoyance to a reviewer like myself, who is constantly playing with settings, than a typical user, who, once set up, only occasionally makes changes (such as from Bright mode, to Cinema, or a minor adjustment here and there.)

My complaint is the backlight. Yes, the HD20 has one, and it’s bright LED blue. People, it’s too bright. The backlight comes on, and holding it in front of me, it’s too bright if I’m trying to easily watch changes on the screen if I’m adjusting color saturation, contrast, or other settings. I’ve been learning to hold the remote away from me, and turned away from me when doing fine adjustments, but it’s a nuisance. Hey, if this was the only weakness of the low cost HD20, wouldn’t that be nice!

From the top: First, any key will light up the backlight (so no option to leave it off). Top left is the Power On button, on the right is the Off button (press twice to turn off). Right below in the center is the lamp mode button. Surrounding it, and on the next row, are four buttons for different aspect ratios: 16:9, 4:3, Letterbox, and Native.

Further down are direct access buttons. In the center is the mode control (Bright, Cinema…), and to its left and right are Brightness and Contrast.

On the following row, you’ll find Edge Mask on the left, Overscan on the right (you can choose one or the other, but both can’t be used at the same time. Overscan gives you a slightly smaller image, chopping off the outermost pixels to remove unwanted image noise that is not unusual from cable and satellite source material (and some standard DVDs). Edge mask, instead, simply gets rid of the same “junk”, making the overall image a slight bit smaller. I personally favor edge masking (though many projectors lack it). It allows you to maintain 1:1 pixel masking for the sharpest possible image, while overscan expands the image that’s left, which is going to be less accurate, and a bit softer.

There’s a source lock button between those two. Your choices are having the HD20, when powered up, going directly to the last source used (say HDMI 1), or searching for the first source it finds. Some like it one way, some, the other.

Next comes the navigation area, with arrow keys in a round formation, and the Enter button in the center. The menu button is just below to the left, in a comfortable place.

And that covers it, except for the five lower buttons, which are direct access buttons for the different sources (HDMI 1, HDMI 2, Component video…)

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HD20 Lens Throw

The manual lens has a 1.2:1 zoom ratio – typical for most DLP home theater projectors. For a 100 inch diagonal, 16:9 screen, the projector (measured from the front of the lens), can be placed as close as 10 feet 10.5 inches to 13 feet 1 inch. This type of throw distance is also very typical for a DLP projector. This gives you just over 2 feet of placement flexibility for a screen of that size. Looking at a larger or smaller screen, you can calculate the distances easily from the numbers above. (A 10% larger screen – 110″ diagonal would have distances 10% greater for both closest and furthest away…)

HD20 Lens Shift

The HD20 lacks any adjustable lens shift. This Optoma has less lens offset than many past Optoma projectors (and a number of other DLP models with no lens shift). That’s a good thing. For that same 100″ diagonal screen, the Optoma HD20, when ceiling mounted, needs to be placed (measured from the center of the lens) almost exactly 8 inches above the top of the screen surface – or if on a table, 8 inches below the bottom of the screen surface.

Most previous Optoma projectors had a lot more offset – typically more like 18 inches worth. This configuration on the HD20 will allow more folks to own and properly place the HD20 in their rooms. Unlike those projectors with that extra offset, the HD20 should work in most rooms with 8 and 9 foot ceilings, unless you go with a very large screen (over 110″ diagonal).

HD20 Anamorphic Lens

Update: Originally, I noted that the HD20 would not support an anamorphic lens. That was incorrect. The LBX aspect ratio on the Optoma HD20 is there to support an anamorphic lens.

On the other hand, it is extremely unlikely that almost anyone would pair an anamorphic lens with a $999 home theater projector, or even a $1500 one, considering that an anamorphic lens typically is upward of $2000, and, with a motorized sled, more like $3000 – $4000.

Those dropping the big bucks on the lens/sled, are far more likely to spend at least $2500 for a higher performance projector. This is one reason why few entry level projectors (let’s say, under $2000), even offer the support. Of course, since, to support the lens, a projector only needs one more aspect ratio, it is easy enough for manufacturers to do.

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