Optoma HD81-LV Home Theater Projector Review: Overview

The Mode gives you the choice of 3 User presets. All are slightly different. I used User 1 as the basis for most of my work. In addition the Mode lets you select from ISF Day, and ISF Night, if you have had your projector professionally calibrated, giving you a total of five sets of settings.

After that, there are the usual basic image controls, like brightness and contrast. Unfortunately if you scroll down, to, say, Brightness, you then have to Enter or right arrow key which will then bring up your ability to adjust Brightness. It would be nicer if once on Brightness, the left and right arrow keys simply let you change the value, instead of essentially opening another window, and adding several extra keystrokes.

The last item on the Image menu is the Advanced option, shown above, which gives you access to adjust the following: Noise Reduction, Gamma, Color Temperature, Image Mode, Edge Enhancement, Color Vividness, Black and White Extension, Demo mode, and a Reset. Shown here is the Color Temp Menu. In addition to the three presets (Warm, Standard, and Cold), you can access the User menu, shown immediately below. From this menu, you can individually control the R,G, and B Contrast and Brightness settings. This is where most of the calibration work gets done – to come up with a well tuned grayscale balance for movie watching. The ideal is a color temperature of 6500K. Some notes on a few of these options: Gamma allows 10 steps of control of the image, leaving the blacks black and the full intensity colors and white, as is, but adjusting the lower, mid, and upper ranges. For example, movies are looking for a higher gamma to provide a richer (and some would say darker) image. Color Vividness seems similar to TI’s Brilliant Color circuitry. It seems to affect a number of aspects of the image, but basically allows you to increase intensity without oversaturating. Demo is very interesting. It puts up a rectangle on the screen that allows you to compare the original settings with the changes you are making to controls, thus essentially giving you a bit of side-by-side comparison.

Format allows you to select the aspect ratio for your content. From reading the manual, the most interesting feature might be the Edge masking. The manual does not clearly explain what this is for. At first glance, it sounded like the projector was going to put a physical mask where you want it, to, for example, eliminate the dark gray light in the letterbox area. Problem is, I could never get it to do anything noticeable. So my assumption may be wrong. I plan to try to get someone at Optoma to explain exactly what it’s for, and how to make it happen. Image shift, on the other hand, I am familiar with. It allows you to move the image up or down the screen. If you have a full screen image, using image shift will cause you to lose part of the image. If though, you are working with a letter boxed 16:9 movie, you could move the image up the screen so the top of the actual content is even with the top of your screen. If you have the ability to control how far down your screen goes (motorized or manual), for example, you could only extend it as far as the 2.35:1 Cinemascope shape. Then by moving the image up, you would fill the visible screen and not have a letterbox. I always thought that was a usable feature for some.

Moving to the System Menu, we find a couple of key capabilities, beyond selecting menu language or the background color. You can select source from here, but more interesting, you can program the 12 volt triggers for screen control, which would allow you to control a motorized masking screen. Equally important, is the Projector sub menu, which allows you to control the Iris (auto, off, or manual – with 16 settings), and the all important lamp mode. From there you can select low power or full power settings. The last major menu is the Setup menu – which tells you the current source signal information, and allows more adjustments, such as choice of 0 or 7.5 IRE for most inputs, as well as additional white level, black level and saturation controls. It also provides access to the Auto Calibration mode. In other words, the HD81-LV gives you a wealth of adjustable features, enough to likely keep even the most hard core tweakers happy.

Optoma HD81-LV Memory Settings

The HD81-LV projector has User settings in several areas, but does not offer formal saving of the settings. Image modes: Between the three User areas, plus ISF Day, and ISF Night (those two are for calibrators), there are plenty of savable areas. There is also User Color Temperature, and you can have different settings for each of the 5 modes. Without formal Save settings capability though, you should definitely store what your settings are. For example, you might be using User 1 mode for movies, but find a particular movie needs some adjustment because the production qualities left something to be desired. So, let’s say you increase color saturation, and reduce contrast. That is now part of your setting, and will remain until you change it. No big deal, when you want to return to your “default” setting for user 1, and you know what it is, but if you don’t record it, I hope your memory is very good.

Optoma HD81-LV Remote Control

It’s pretty (I love those blue LED lights, even though I’m not sure they are as easy to read as other colors), it’s loaded with buttons, and the layout is pretty good, which means controls are logically grouped, and there are lots of different sized buttons and it’s not all rows and columns. As a result, it is easy to navigate and find what you are looking for, without needing the backlight. The backlight, incidentally, comes on whenever you press any key.

Unlike many projectors, the HD81-LV has one button for powering up, another for off.

Next comes the Brite Mode button for toggling the projector between lamp in high power mode, or economy. To its right, is the Iris button which lets you choose from Auto, Manual, and Off.

Below them, your primary preset modes, which consist of Users 1,2,3 and the ISF Day and Night settings.

Directly below those controls are four image controls in a slight curve – Edge enhancement, Gamma, Color Vividness, and BW (black and white image) enhancement.

Right below that, the obligatory four navigation arrow keys and a center Enter button.

To the lower left, the Menu button (just about where you would expect to find it), and opposite it, the Demo button (again, this allows you to compare original settings with the changes you make).

The next two are vertical bars for the Vertical image shift, and Overscan adjustment (for those pesky TV images that have noise at the top, bottom or sides of the image). I’m not sure why they get such prime real estate on the remote, but, so be it.

Finally, at the bottom you get to be overwhelmed by the vast number of input choices. The three HDMIs are in the first row, with space between them and the other twelve buttons. That’s about it for the HD81-LV remote, except to say that it fits well in the hand, and you can access most of the buttons you are likely to use, without needing your other hand, or having to shift your hand up and down on the remote. Overall, a really nice remote control. And, don’t forget those lovely blue lights!

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Optoma HD81-LV Projector: Lens Throw and Lens Shift

As noted, the HD81-LV lacks adjustable lens shift, which will pretty much limit mounting the projector on a back wall. The projector will end up being placed (due to the significant fixed lens shift), either well below the bottom of the screen, or ceiling mounted well above the top of the screen. If you are using a 100″ diagonal 16:9 screen that offset is going to be just over 16 inches (above the top, or below the bottom of the screen surface).

As to distance, for a 100″ diagonal screen, the front of the lens can be as close as 13 feet 6 inches, to approximately 16 feet 2 inches from the screen. That’s only a 20% range, far less than the range offered by LCD and LCOS home theater projectors.

A good place to start in determining if the HD81-LV is for you, is to see if you can place it in your room. If your ceiling isn’t too low, however, you should be fine, when ceiling mounted, as that’s where you have maximum flexibility.

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