Optoma HD20 Projector Review

The Optoma HD20 images below are all from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the exception of Lord of the Rings (standard DVD). Note: By the time these Optoma HD20 projector images get to your eyeball, through digital camera, software, browsers, and monitor, there is definitely color shifting, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind the limitations when trying to compare images from the HD20 with other home theater projectors. None are entirely faithful reproductions of the colors that you see, when projecting on a screen.

Remember also, that the projectors themselves look far better than what you see in these photos. Intentionally overexposed images to show shadow detail and black level performance, on the other hand, are very good at showing differences between the Optoma HD20 and other home theater projectors.

HD20 Out of the Box Picture Quality

Like Optoma’s lower cost (but in many ways similar) HD65, a 720p projector we reviewed a while ago, the HD20‘s out of the box picture quality is rather good. From a color temperature standpoint, the HD20′s “best” mode is almost dead on the ideal 6500K, but that number doesn’t account for green being a bit down from red and blue. Still, very watchable. With small adjustments, the color temperature ends up even a tad better, but the green ends up in proper balance with the other primary colors.

All considered, the HD20′s “out of the box” color accuracy is better than most under $2000 projectors.

Optoma HD20 Projector - Flesh Tones

The HD20, post calibration, does extremely well in terms of skin tones.

In that regard I would put it on par with the recently reviewed and more expensive new Samsung SP-A600. Check out the images below. Pretty impressive for the least expensive 1080p out there.

Next are our usual three images of Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale, under different lighting conditions. As I always point out, Skin tones should look different under different lighting conditions. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, flourescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three images – the first, in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with flourescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day with Bond sitting in the shade – indirect lighting.

OK, sufficiently impressed? I spent a lot of time watching movies and sports on the Optoma HD20, and found the picture pleasing, overall, with my only serious complaint being the black level performance, which we’ll tackle next.

HD20 Black Levels & Shadow Detail

Black Level Performance:

I recently reviewed the Samsung SP-A600, a more expensive 1080p DLP projector, but one that should sell not far upward of $1500 in the US. One of my criticisms was the Samsung’s rather “entry level” black level performance.

As it turns out, the Optoma HD20′s black levels still come up a bit shy of the Samsung. Mind you, they are pretty close, but, if the Samsung is “rather entry level,” then the HD20 defines “entry level” blacks.

For the enthusiast, the black level performance is the Achilles heel of the HD20 – the one area of image performance where it’s going to come up short against the competition.

For those of you looking for your first projector, however, don’t let me scare you off that easily. Consider this: The ability of the Optoma HD20 to produce deep blacks is easily better than most $4000 and $5000, 720p resolution home projectors of just 4 or 5 years ago, and a lot of folks plunked down the big bucks back then for projectors that couldn’t do any better. Even the entry level DLP projectors back then, like the old BenQ PE8700 and 8700+ (I owned them), couldn’t do any better.

And yet we loved our pricey 720p home projectors. And that’s the point. While better black levels would be great, and, if you get “hooked” and plan to upgrade in the next couple of years, you will no doubt want better blacks, but, meantime, the HD20 gets you in the game, for the same or less than many 720p projectors.

Let’s look at a couple of comparative images: The first pair, with the Samsung on the left, and HD20 on the right, shows a not particularly large difference in black level performance: Note that the Optoma is a touch brighter, but still, the blacks are definitely more gray, more than the slight difference in overall brightness.

HD20 Dark Knight explosion large
Epson 6500UB

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