Optoma HD23 Home Theater Projector Review

This summary of the Optoma HD23, includes a list of the projector’s pros and cons, It’s time to briefly touch on a number of the aspects of this projector that are discussed at length in the interior pages of this projector review.

All the images below were of content projected with the Optoma HD23 home theater, or rather – “home entertainment” projector. The football images were taken with intentional, moderate ambient light present. They would have a lot more pop, in a fully darkened room.  All the movie (non-HDTV) images were photographed with the room pretty dark.   Enjoy!

Optoma HD23 Projector - The Bottom Line

The Optoma HD23 comes across as a solid, well built, entry level home entertainment projector.  We really like it, especially the great color.  The result of our appreciation is demonstrated by awarded Optoma’s HD23 with a Special Interest award.  We would have liked to see better black performance, even at this price point, but that is our only noteworthy complaint in terms of performance  Even without better blacks, though, we consider the HD23 very worthy.  It should prove to be a great family room projector for most families, and gamers too.

Now not everyone cares about 3D, but, we’re reaching the time where almost all over $1500 dollar projectors (other than super expensive ones), are now offering 3D.  Since the Optoma HD23 is a “home entertainment” projector – it’s bought in many cases, for general family use, not necessarily just for an enthusiast hiding in his “cave” or theater.

Well lots of families have kids, and kids love 3D, so I really see having 3D as moving in the right direction for sub-$1000 projectors.

All else being equal, if the HD23 had 3D, it would have picked up the higher award, as I believe the HD23 would have been a top choice for a larger slice of the family room set. Enough said.

The price seems just right, to provide a really good value as a 2D projector.  When you consider that in the the sub-$1000 price range, you just aren’t going to get a projector with both really good performance and a long feature set.

The HD23 projector does well when it comes to the the single most important aspect of picture quality, which is having good color. Very good out of the box, it improves further with our settings or your own calibration.

Color, all by itself, or perhaps in conjunction with the HD23 projector’s overall very good sharpness (which is a touch soft in the corners), make for a truly watchable, affordable projector.

While black level performance may be typical for the price, do be aware that better blacks can be found on some similarly priced projectors. That alone, though, doesn’t make those others better choices.  Our forthcoming video on Black Level Performance (due later this month) demonstrates how ambient light destroy’s most of the advantage of projectors with better blacks.

Whether you will care about the blacks, especially in a family room  type environment, will primarily depend in part if you usually have some ambient light present, and if you really plan to darken the room as much as possible nightime viewing.  But the bigger part – the more important one will be whether you find yourself becoming an “enthusiast”.

Are you becoming a home theater enthusiast?  How can you tell:  Did you really care about the difference between the various modes on your LCDTV? Did you even try them?  Are you the kind of person who will quickly transition from:  “I want a nice (first projector), and this is just great”, to “I’m definitely going to want better blacks in my next projector, and also…” In other words, are you going to get into the “spirit” of home theater?

Enough philosophy. Let’s touch on brightness again:

Brightness of the HD23 is more than adequate for a non-3D projector.  3D projectors need to be more than twice as bright, when watching 3D, to seem almost as bright as when watching 2D.  True, when dealing with less than great rooms, you can never have too much brightness.  While some similar projectors can put another 400-500 lumens on the screen or wall, don’t expect those to have as good color when they are that much brighter.

With 700 calibrated lumens, filling a larger screen is pretty easy. All you need is good lighting control.  And better, “brightest mode” gets you a picture that still is very good color wise, when calibrated, while approaching 1100+ lumens at mid-point  on the zoom.  If you aren’t yet an enthusiast, you won’t have the least problem with the color quality when in that brighter Cinema mode, that we use as “brightest” mode.  Below, borrowed from the Performance page, consider this image below in the 1100 lumen Cinema mode.

When we talk 700 and 1100 lumens in “best” and “brightest”, that really isn’t a lot for home entertainment projectors.  It is really good for that “best” mode.  Although the HD23 has an especially good looking “brightest” mode, there are competitors with up to 50-60% more lumens in “brightest”, (but without as good color) in the under $1000 range. It’s when you move up to the $1200 price point that you find one really much brighter projector if you really need it. At $1500 – $1600, there are some really bright 3D projectors. Of course spending $1600 is very different than spending $999.  The difference can get you a good fixed or motorized screen, and a small HTIB – Home Theater in a Box.  It always comes back to budget.

You can find brighter at $999, but at least in a couple of cases, those are similar projectors – DLPs, that typically have slower color wheels.

That brings us to the Rainbow Effect which a small percentage of us see with most DLP projectors.  I am rainbow sensitive, and I can definitely spot rainbows on the right type of scenes. (high contrast, with whites/grays/blacks)  But they aren’t near as frequent as I would find with several of those also low cost DLPs – the ones that are significantly brighter.  There’s a reason for that. All else being equal, the slower wheels (more rainbows) result in a brighter picture.  There is a concious trade-off for the manufacturers.  “Do I give the user more rainbows, as a cost for delivering more brightness?”

This Optoma HD23 is a good compromise.  One of the best at eliminating rainbows at the price point. That’s a real plus to those of us who are rainbow sensitive.  I recently reviewed a Mitsubishi (at 2.5 times the Optoma’s price).  It has a very fast color wheel (6x with 24fps movie content, where you are most likely to care).  Rarely did I spot a flash of rainbows.  With this Optoma, I see them occasionally.  With the brighter Vivitek H1080, you get more brightness, but I see also more rainbows.  I know you are going to ask, everyone does – “what is the color wheel speed of the HD23″.  I don’t know, and Optoma won’t say.  I can tell you that they use a six segment color wheel, but not the speed.  Perhaps some engineer with one will dissect it and tell us all.

The Very Bottom Line on the HD23 projector

This Optoma HD23 projector would have to be considered an excelent example of a home entertainment projector around $1000. Other than black level performance, it happens to be particularly competent at most other things, with no major complaints.

If you are looking for more features, such as creative frame interpolation, 3D, or more dynamic features, you are going to have to look elsewhere, to more expensive projectors.  There’s a reason why we refer to the Sub-$1000 1080p projectors as entry level.  It’s because, in most ways, they all are.

One of the great benefits of the HD23 is that it is sold by a local dealer (or perhaps I should say a “brick and mortar” store), in this case, Best Buy. I see only one risk when buying a projector like this, that goes beyond the feature and performance aspects that we discuss in depth.

That is the rainbow effect.  It’s great to have a local dealer where if it’s your first projector, and you take it home and see rainbows, to the point that you’d rather not, then it’s easy to return it.  Best Buy’s return policy these days is a lot more flexible than a few years ago, when they thought they ruled the home electronics world.

If this projector is in your budget range, and 3D isn’t something you crave. Definitely put the HD23 on your short list.  It’s got plenty of competition, but is a strong entry, without any obvious issues for the price. Overall I did enjoy watching the HD23, and isn’t that what it’s all about.

Optoma HD23 Projector: Pros and Cons

Optoma HD23 Projector: Pros

  • Very good brightness calibrated – over 700 lumens in “best”, over 1100 in brightest mode (mid on the zoom)
  • Very good color, out of the box, great color post calibration
  • Skin tones (post calibration) are excellent
  • Respectable shadow detail
  • Nicely sharp 1080p image
  • Offers Edge Masking and Vertical digital image shift
  • Capable of handling fairly large screens
  • Low lag times – great for gamers
  • Lamp Life is better than average, long term cost of ownership is very good
  • No filters to change
  • Reasonably attractive, sculpted lines (cute)
  • Very good menu layout
  • Good low cost choice for family room type use
  • Very good Price / Performance proposition

Optoma HD23 Projector: Cons

  • Black level performance is definitely entry level
  • Limited placement flexibility (typical of low cost DLP projectors)
  • A bit noisy in full power mode (typical for the price)
  • Remote control’s blue LED blacklight is blinding in a darkened room
  • Offers Image AI – lamp dimming to enhance black level performance (instead of a dynamic iris), but it’s too visible – I recommend leaving it turned off.
  • One year warranty – although typical of the price range, we like to see longer
  • While small and portable, lacks internal speaker (which would provide an easy, although so-so quality, audio solution in rooms, or in the back yard, when other sound systems not available)
  • Lacks CFI for smooth motion (generally not found in under $1000 projectors – only one or two under $1500 have this feature)
  • Front grill of projector leaks a fair amount of light

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