Optoma HD81-LV Home Theater Projector Review: Overview

Optoma HD81-LV Projector Highlights:

  • By far, the brightest 1080p home theater projector selling for under $10K
  • Very good black levels, and shadow detail
  • Limited placement flexibility due to 1.2:1 and no lens shift
  • Extremely flexible in terms of lots of inputs, with outboard processor box, which also simplifies installation
  • Out of the box color accuracy is not good, but easy to correct
  • Optional motorized anamorphic lens for full Cinemascope aspect ratio
  • $12,999 MSRP, but MAP of only $6999 (lowest price that dealers are allowed to advertise)

I am so jealous! The Optoma HD81-LV is so much brighter than my JVC RS1 (or any of the other under $10,000 competition). In fact, after doing a grayscale balance on the projector, for its best mode, it measured almost twice as many lumens as my JVC (which was close to the brightest previously tested, when in “best” movie mode). Those with large projector screens – over 110″ diagonal, and especially those that deal with some ambient light, or like content other than movies, with some lights on, such as watching sports, will be extremely pleased with the ability of the Optoma HD81-LV. It produces a very watchable image in conditions that will overwhelm its competition. Basically the HD81-LV is just a brighter version of the HD81 that has been shipping since last fall, and we had already reviewed the HD81, and deemed it to be brighter than most. Optoma has been showing the HD81-LV at trade shows for at least six months, and usually with a huge screen, and coupled with the optional anamorphic lens. This allows it to work with a cinemascope (2.35:1) screen, so that when watching Cinemascope movies (most), there is no letterboxing (black bars) at the top and bottom of the screen. You need to buy an extra wide screen (2.35:1), in conjuction with the anamorphic lens to take full advantage of Cinemascope movies.

Image above from Aeon Flux, Blu-Ray DVD.

I do believe that the last time I saw it at a show, the screen was about 160″ diagonal, in a fully dark room, and the image was more than bright enough.

After you get past the brightness, what you have is a DLP projector that definitely needs some calibration work (with a projector at this price point, do yourself a favor and hire a professional calibrator for $400 to $1000). Alternately, Plan B, would be to get yourself a calibration disk and use it. They are not hard to figure out. The colors of the HD81 are far enough off out of the box, that the adjustments are sorely needed. More on this in the General Performance section.

The HD81-LV’s outboard processor lets you connect everything to the processor box, and just run two cables to the projector. This should definitely reduce the amount of long cables you need in wiring your room, saving you hundreds of dollars, for installation, and cables, at the same time.

Since the HD81-LV lacks lens shift, and has a zoom with only a 20% range, placement is limited. A few folks will be able to shelf mount on their back wall, but most will have to ceiling mount. Thanks to a lot of lens offset, the projector will need to be above the top of the screen surface, by about a foot and a half for a 110″ screen, and more for larger ones. This will prevent many doing theaters in their basements, or other rooms with low ceilings from using this Optoma projector.

The Optoma HD81-LV most definitely receives our Hot Product Award. The lower poweredHD81 is an excellent projector, and combining all of its capabilities, with this much extra brightness, is a real win-win. For those who prefer larger screens, or want the ability to put up a great looking image in an environment with enough ambient light to significantly wash out the competition, the HD81-LV is going to be at the top of their list, with only far more expensive 3 chip DLP projectors offering more brightness. There is no 3 chip 1080p projector, shipping or announced, with an MSRP below $35,000 at this time!

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