Optoma HD91 Home Theater Projector Review

OPTOMA HD91 PROJECTOR – SUMMARY:  The big picture is that when it looks good, it can look great. Vibrant.

The HD91 gives you a serious LED light projector to consider if you are spending upward of $3000.  Overall I would use the term “Rough around the edges” to describe the HD91, but it’s important to note that when it looks good, it look really good!  I would also say that with the HD91 projector the sum is greater than the parts.  I have a number of criticisms but like the projector well more than those issues would indicate.

The greater color space of the HD91 compared to lamp based projectors does seem to make calibrating it a little for of a challenge as what would be slight differences in color on a traditional lamp projector tend to be bigger differences with the HD91.  But there’s no reason a good calibrator can’t dial in some first class color, with a little effort.

 

 

HD91 Brightness revisited...

Brightness is a factor with the calibrated output measuring below 600 lumens maximum.  Just remember that this “600″ lumens will still be very close to that number when the projector has several thousand hours on it.  An 800 lumen lamp projector will be down to about 400 lumens by the rated life of the lamp  - these days mostly 3000 – 5000 hour at full power.

Trading off against that is that most home theater projectors produce more than 600 lumens calibrated, and have bright modes with decent color that are far brighter than the HD91′s.  We compared against the Epson which is in reality about 25% brighter calibrated, but when the Epson lamp hits 3500 hours the HD91 will likely be slightly brighter.

Where the lower lumen count costs in particular is in 3D viewing, always a challenge.  I do like that the 3D is exceptionally clean and that the glasses are RF (the emitter is external), not DLP-Link.

The HD91 is a great projector for those who just want to watch and enjoy, who don’t want to constantly be analyzing the picture quality.  Hang this one and you can get years, maybe a decade or out of it.

It’s image is especially sharp, even before engaging any dynamic processing such as UltraDetail.  In that sense, sharper than typical 3LCD and LCoS projectors, but the differences these days are definitely not dramatic.

A Dedicated Home Theater Projector

The HD91 is going to be most at home on smaller screens, say 100″ diagonal or less, unless you choose to go with a higher than usual gain screen (upward of 1.3 or 1.4 gain).

If you have the right room, there’s enough brightness to definitely go around.  For your sports and HDTV viewing with some modest, controlled  ambient light, the combination of brightness and and a gamma that lightens up brighter parts of images while tending to darken lower brightness scenes, provides a lot of pop and rich colors on dark scenes and a good look for sports and regular sitcom or Discover HD  type programming.  In other words, if I stuck to a 100″ diagonal screen, and improved just slightly on Mike’s initial calibration, I could definitely use this projector – and enjoy it reasonably well – in my own home theater.

The rough around the edges Dynamic Black will be of concern to black level fanatics, and it is my biggest complaint, with this projector.

I like that it has a good 1.9:1 zoom range with lens shift, but you’ll probably want to stick to placing the projector near as close to the screen as possible, to extract maximum brightness.  Most dynamic features – except the Dynamic Black lamp dimming work comparably well when you consider the competition’s features.

Optoma HD91 Projector - The Bottom Line

The HD91 home theater projector is one that can be an excellent choice for some.  Limited brightness, and the need for a serious calibration though will limit the number of folks who this projector will be a really good fit for.  First, if you aren’t prepared to have it calibrated (or try our settings – not perfect, but a dramatic improvement compared to “out of the box”), you probably won’t be happy.

I’d recommend screen sizes no larger than 110″ diagonal for use in a dedicated home theater type of space.  This projector though is probably best at 100″ diagonal or smaller, unless you go high gain screens (1.6 to 2.8+), which will make up for the low lumens but bring in their own set of issues.

Of course once you plunk down for the HD91, you won’t be buying lamps, so over a lifetime of perhaps 5+ years, that will save you $300 – $800, relative to replacing one or two lamps over that life.  We’ll just have to assume that the 20,000+ light engine really will last because the 3 year warranty won’t protect you if it fails at 8,000 hours after 4 years.

On the really positive side, the picture does pop, there’s a sense of depth to it.  For example, xplosions were dazzling pre calibration (even though color was way off).  Post calibration, they are tamer, but still pretty stunning.  I attribute that to the larger color space that is inherent to LED light engines.

Add to that a really natively sharp image that can be further enhanced.  It will naturally be sharper than any of the 3LCD or LCoS projectors in the price range – the inherent benefit of a single chip design.

Ultimately, though, this is a projector that doesn’t live up to its potential.  Two things stand between its current existence, and that of being a top competitor.  The brightness is one thing, and the only ok black level performance – which is further complicated by it’s iris equivalent – Dynamic Black, being less smooth than the dynamic irises on any of the direct competition.  If Optoma could improve on the “iris” really the lamp dimming action, it would take the HD91 up a notch and make it a more serious competitor.

Optoma’s HD91 is the best yet that I’ve seen in an affordable (under $10,000) home theater projector with a solid state light engine.  If you don’t need the brightness needed for large screens, you plan to keep your projector for a good number of years, and want a projector you can  install and (other than watching it) forget it – no maintenance, give the HD91 some serious consideration.

Ultimately, though, the Optoma HD91 is a projector that doesn’t live up to its potential.  Two things stand between its current existence, and that of being a top competitor.  The brightness is one thing – but that’s not an issue for those using smaller screens, but the other is the only ok black level performance – which is further complicated by it’s iris equivalent – Dynamic Black, being less smooth than the dynamic irises on any of the direct competition.

If Optoma could improve on the “iris” really the lamp dimming action, it would take the HD91 up a notch and make it a more serious competitor.

Optoma’s HD91 is the best yet that I’ve seen in an affordable (under $10,000) home theater projector with a solid state light engine.  If you don’t need the brightness needed for large screens, you plan to keep your projector for a good number of years, and want a projector you can  install and (other than watching it) forget it – no maintenance, give the HD91 some serious consideration.

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