Optoma HD23 Home Theater Projector Review

Optoma HD23 Black Levels & Shadow Detail

HD23 Black Level Performance, as stated elsewhere is entry level. Optoma claims a 5000:1 contrast ratio and by today’s standards, that’s very near the bottom of the food chain, for any projector headed for the home.  Black level performance is ok for the price, as this projector isn’t for those looking for “high performance” in that area.  The least expensive projector I can think of with what we call “ultra high contrast” performance is th Acer H9500BD, but that’s far more expensive at $1599.

I didn’t do any side by side photo shoots with the HD23 projector. Sorry about that.  If I can hang on to it a bit longer, I’ve got the BenQ W1070 (recently going on sale in the US as I write this), coming back from one of our  two “gaming with projectors” bloggers.  This HD23 will soon be heading to the other  gaming blogger.

Our primary look at black level performance is the Starship image from The Fifth Element. All the images are at least a good bit overexposed. This allows you to get a better handle on the black levels.A lot of bright stars in its own right may just reflect gamma differences. It’s the blacks you want to be watching).

Note that the letterbox area of the HD23 image immediately below, is already a medium dark gray. If the letterbox areas are the same brightness on two different projector’s starship images, then the one with the most overexposed starship is the one with the better black levels on this, and similar scenes. Well, this starship appears barely overexposed at all, indicating unimpressive blacks.

Further down on the list of images is the $2600 Epson with exceptional blacks, note how incredibly overxposed the starship looks there.

Overall, the Optoma HD23′s black levels are entry level.  This should be acceptable to anyone who’s standards consider any good LCDTV to have acceptable blacks. In a family room / living room type environment, with typical light colored walls and other surfaces, and minor ambient light, most of the advantage of great blacks gets lost. Still, an advantage will always be there even if far less noticeable.  Check out our video on black levels.

Black Levels Comparison

Optoma HD23
Vivitek H1080FD
Acer H9500BD
Mitsubishi HC4000
Optoma HD20
Optoma HD33
Epson HC5020 UB
Panasonic PT-AR100U
BenQ W6000

The Optoma HD33

Acer H9500BD:  (Best black levels we’ve seen that sells for well under $2000) The Acer is just a touch more overexposed, but the blacks there are very black (I should have overxposed the Acer image more).  Look at the difference – stunning:

Panasonic PT-AR100U: (Panasonic’s $1199 light canon of a 2D projector)  Blacks are a bit better than the HD23 – still a far cry from the Acer above, however.

Mitsubishi HC4000: This projector always had pretty decent blacks considering it has no form of dynamic iris or dynamic lamp dimming:

Top under $3000 projector for blacks – Epson HC5020 UB projector (compared to these others, the starship is a lot brighter, and the lettterbox at least as dark.

Vivitek H1080FD: ($899)  Blacks here are pretty much in line with the HD23′s.

BenQ W6000: This BenQ costs only a few hundred more but has dramatically better blacks.  The projector has been around for 3 years (at one point $2499) An old image (and taken with a different camera), the letterbox isn’t there for reference, but this projector has far superior blacks:

Optoma HD20:  Older, litte brother to the HD23 – one in the same case, is extremely similar but less bright.  Comparable blacks.

Shadow Detail Performance

Our primary comparison image is the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the Optoma, followed by the BenQ W1200, Viewsonic Pro8200, the HC4000, the BenQ W6000, then Sony VPL-HW15, the Sharp XV-Z15000.

All considered, the HD23 shadow detail is very good, although not outstanding. That’s not surprising for a projector with less than great black levels.  Everything is brighter – blacks, and near blacks, so dark detail tends to be brighter, if nothing else, and therefore easier to see. No complaints here.  We’ll have to see what my gaming bloggers have to say about whether all the dark details they need for good gaming are visible.

Shadow Detail Comparison

Optoma HD23 Projector
Optoma HD33
Epson Home Cinema 3020
Mitsubishi HC4000
Epson Home Cinema 8350
Viewsonic Pro8200
Panasonic PT-AR100U
BenQ W6000

Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: HD23 Projector - Bottom Line

Black levels are entry level. Handling of dark shadow detail is very good, although not exceptional.   Both are about what you expect in a sub-$1000 projector.

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