Optoma HD7100 Projector Review

Pros

  • Overall excellent color
  • Especially good color “out of the box” without any fuss
  • Excellent black levels and very good shadow detail
  • Rich colors, notably in dark areas and very impressive
  • Menus – this new menu look for Optoma is one I really enjoyed navigating
  • Two component video inputs
  • Pretty bright – not the brightest, but did well on my large screen including sports, Discovery HD with more ambient room lighting
  • A 3 year warranty – great!
  • Construction looks and feels solid
  • Variable lens shift (vertical and horizontal)
  • By far, the least expensive Darkchip3 DLP projector available
  • RS-232 should work for updating firmware, a real plus with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players hitting the market, who knows what minor incompatibilities will spring up?

Cons

  • Remote has limited range
  • Could use more range on lens shift (but glad to have lens shift at all!)
  • Zoom range and a slightly longer throw zoom would allow more people to shelf mount
  • Noisy, in Low power mode the fan is a little noisier than average or than we’d like, but acceptable to most. In Bight mode it’s pretty noisy (like many)
  • Would have liked to see a 2nd DVI or HDMI digital input – this is more of a wish list thing than a shortcoming.

Typical Performance

  • Noise levels in Eco Mode (a little quieter would have been better, but it should be acceptable
  • Lamp Life – Optoma does not offer different numbers for Full and Eco mode. 2000 hours (claimed) is average for full power, estimated by Optoma to be 3000 hours in low power That’s about as typical as home theater projectors get!
  • Manual – just not enough explanation and and a couple of minor typos. Strong on hooking things up, weaker on explaining the many nice controls. No mention at all of the whole ISF Day and Night settings for calibrators (unless I totally missed it). Strange!
  • Only one digital input – very typical

The competition for the HD7100

Not a whole lot in its price range. There is the Samsung 710 projector, which we haven’t reviewed yet, which is supposed to be one fo the best Darkchip2 projectors, and in the same general price range. The InFocus IN76 is less money, but again Darkchip2. The HD7100 is a big winner over the IN76 in my book, for the extra $500+. BenQ offers the PE8720 which is a $5000+ range Darkchip 3 DLP projector (which I own). I believe my BenQ still offers a slightly sharper image, likely by virtue of its lens – and it also has more zoom range, etc. In most other areas they appear pretty even, each with minor strengths and weaknesses compared to the other.

Sony’s HS-51A is now a lot less expensive, and is LCD powered for those bothered by rainbows, but the Sony is relatively dim, and although a very good LCD projector, also has some minor issues. There are also a number of Darkchip2 powered DLP’s spanning the range from under $2000 like the BenQ PE7700 or Optoma’s own HD72, up to $5000+ featuring projectors from Marantz, DWIN and other premium brands. Yamaha also has its more expensive LCD projector which we would like to review, but it too, is far more expensive. The Optoma HD7100, again, sells for under $3500, making it the bargain of darkchip3 DLP’s out there.

Congrats to Optoma, for another in a consistant string of excellent home theater projectors. I can’t wait to get my hands on the far more expensive 1080p resolution HD81 scheduled for this summer! If it even performs only as well as the HD7100 plus offers the higher resolution, it will be truly impressive.

To summarize – if I had a $3500 or less budget for a home theater projector, and if the Optoma HD7100 is compatible with my theater room (placement wise), it would absolutely be my first choice of all the projectors I have reviewed!

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