The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Optoma HD65 Projector Review coming along nicely!

Ahh, where to begin?

As many of you have read, I was really impressed with the Optoma HD71.  It’s a really bright 720p home theater projector, who’s review posted earlier this month.  Being a big fan of having some lumens to spare, I really looked forward to the HD71 review, and considered the less expensive, physically tiny, and less bright HD65, to be of secondary interest, compared to the HD71.

Having said all that, I’ve been working with the HD65 for more than a week now (interrupted by a nice weekend out to the desert for the Joshua Tree Music Festival), and find it to be a rather formidable projector in its own right.

I’m already starting to write up the review and hope to post Wed. night, (May 21), but probably you’ll have to settle for Thursday evening.  Projector reviews rarely manage to get finished right on schedule.

Here’s some tasty tidbits about the HD65 that hopefully will hold you over until the full review posts:

It really is tiny for a home theater projector!

The HD65 actually has very good “out of the box” performance, I was most impressed with the color balance.  This is one of the few projectors that you can just bring home, plug in, and enjoy a really good picture, and I’m sure that will be a real strength that will have many people who simply don’t want to have to “fool around” with their projector – calibrating it, etc., before it can do a really good job.

There are a few downsides I should mention, but none of them are deal breakers for most home theater projector shoppers.  Thanks to its really small size, its fairly noisy in terms of fan and color wheel noise.  Of course most DLP projectors are.  The HD65 isn’t the noisiest out there, but, on the other hand, it isn’t a quiet projector either.  This little projector also leaks a fair amount of light. Some comes through the lens and you can see that light primarily below the screen if you have light colored walls.  More light comes out the front exhaust vent on an angle.  That has the light leakage exiting at about a 45 degree angle from the front – probably will hit your side wall.

The good news, is that the amount of light leaking isn’t a real problem.  If you are a purist, and demand minimal light leakage, fine, maybe shop elsewhere, but if you just want a really nice, little portable home theater projector that does a really nice job, with no real effort on your part, the HD65 really is one of the better choices out there.

If the HD65 was more typical in size, and improved on both noise and light leakage, it might find an even bigger following, but it should have plenty.  It produces one of those classic DLP type images that many really love.  Typical of Optoma’s in general, the gamma levels seem high in the lower IRE (brightness) ranges.  This provides a slightly darker than normal image in the darker areas, but one that produces really rich, standout, dark colors.  I’ve always found that to be a strength of most Optoma projectors.

OK, enough said, for now.  Tonight is “photo shoot night”, and the last night of viewing.  Check back Wednesday, if you are a real optimist – otherwise, Thursday night it is.

Last thoughts – we’re trying to bring in a number of projectors in the next 6 weeks (with Infocomm tradeshow in the middle).  On the home theater side, I’m still trying to talk SIM2 out of one of theirs, plus I’m waiting to hear back from Viewsonic on their new Pro1800, an LCD home theater projector, and of course, BenQ’s W20000.  And that, folks is just for starters.  -art

News And Comments

  • Scott

    How noisey is it compared to the IN72, if you can remember? Thank you!

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    You are right, it’s been too long, to remember accurately. If I had to take a guess, though, I’d it would be that the IN72 is the quieter. Back when the IN72 was reviewed, I described it as very quiet in low power mode, but a bit noisy in full power.

    While my standards would have changed a little in a couple of years, in reality, there hasn’t been much change in projector noise in the last two years. Some of the 3LCD projectors are incredibly quiet, but DLP’s haven’t changed much.

    Probably the IN72 is 2 maybe 3 db quieter at full power, and maybe 5-6 db quieter in low power. Purely guesswork, though. -art

  • Scott

    Thank you for the reply. I currently have an IN72, would you say the picture quality going from an IN72 to the HD65 will be jaw dropping? I am looking to upgrade within a couple of months, the HD65 is in the price range I was looking for, so is the HD71. The HD65 is $899 vs. the HD71 for $1249. I really wanted to get a Epson 1080UB, but I don’t think I will have the money to spend on it. Also, would you say there is a $1,500 worth of difference in picture quality from the HD65 to the Epson 1080UB? I love my IN72, even though the the pixel structure is very visible, I have a 110″ screen, sitting about 9 feet away. I have almost 2,700 hours on my first bulb and it still seems to be going strong. I really love this projector, I’ll be sad to see it go.

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    Well, lets say this about the difference between the IN72 and the HD65 (or HD71). The first thing you get, is higher resolution. That in its own right, makes a real difference, pixel visibility will almost completely disappear, and you’ll see more detail, from all hi-def sources (HDTV, Blu-ray).

    The IN72 is a really nice little projector, and its black levels should be about the same as the HD65, or HD71. You also get roughly a 50% boost in brightness in best mode, although only about 20% in brightest mode. (and of course you are starting with a new lamp, and as you know, it is very likely you will need to replace your 2700 hour old lamp on your IN72.

    So, improvements are resolution, and brightness, but not necessarily any significant change in black levels and shadow detail. It’s exactly 2 years since I reviewed the IN72, so I really can’t give you anything more precise in terms of differences. But, both use the Darkchip2 class of DLP processor, so should be very similar. The IN72 was very good at black levels “in its day”, compared to more of just a “good” for the newer HD65.

    Of course the HD71, is similar to the HD65, but much brighter still (and not as good “out of the box” in color accuracy, but otherwise very similar.

    You asked about the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and if it is worth the extra $1500. That, of course is a very subjective question. Within it, are two underlying issues:

    How much performance is $1500 more worth?
    How much do you prioritize that performance?

    The bottom line is: Yes, to me, it is worth it. While the two Optoma’s do a very nice job, at 720p, the Epson does a killer job at 1080p.

    To me, the Epson is the least cost, “last projector” for most enthusiasts. For barely $2500, you get a projector, that easily rivals most projectors at twice the price.

    Certainly, it’s not without fault – in best modes, it’s not exceptionally bright, certainly not as bright as the HD71, but also not as bright as the HD65. The Epson, however has multiple modes, and can still hammer out about 500 lumens, with not its best image, but still a better image than any of the similarly priced competition. While I still consider, overall, my JVC RS1 to be “better” than the Epson, it is slight, and I could certainly live with the UB, without complaining, if I had to give up the JVC RS1, (which was almost universally praised as the best under $10K projector last year, by virtually all reviewers.

    So, you have to make the call, it’s your wallet. Let’s just say, the jump in picture quality from the HD65 to the Epson is greater than from the IN72 to the IN65.

    That’s about it. -art

  • Scott

    Cool and thanks again. I really want to get the Epson, just not sure if my wallet wants it as much as I do. Are there any problems with dust blobs? I’ve heard LCD projectors are prone to getting them, but I’ve never owned one. That’s one thing that scares me a little. Is it hard to clean, or do you have to send it in for servicing?

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    Ahh, the mystery of dust blobs. Yes, they seem to only affect lcd projectors. They can be annoying, but actually having them seems to be a low probability, thing. As to cleaning them yourself, with the exception of Sanyo projectors, projectors aren’t really designed for end users to do so. No doubt (Sanyo excepted), a user attempt to open the projector and clean the panels, will be treated as voiding the warranty, by most manufacturers.

    However, most manufacturers will handle as a warranty repair – another good reason for having a longer warranty.

    The real questions are – what causes, and what is the likelyhood, of having dust blobs.

    Cause – well, simply – it’s not a sealed system, so dust can get in there, but few people report dust blobs. As a former dealer – selling at least 200 LCD based home theater projectors every month, hearing about dust blobs from customers was something that occurred a handful of times a year.

    Some say, cleaning your filters frequently makes it more likely, others argue that filters that are not cleaned often enough, and that are very full, are more likely to let dust get into the areas where the blobs occur – so, basically, one camp says “A” is the cause, and “B” is the way to prevent, and the other camp says “B” is the cause, and “A” is the best way to prevent. So much for consensus.

    Like many other potential problems that will affect a small percentage, I advise not to overtly worry about dust blobs. Even out of warranty, it’s a cleaning, which no doubt will be a couple hundred dollars, but probably not much more, and that, of course, only if you are one of the lucky few to have dust land on one of your LCD panels. -art

  • http://thetechunter.blogspot.com gwlaw99

    I wonder if Optoma sent you a pre-calibrated unit for review.

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    Always a possibility, but the first thing I do, is a reset. Often projectors are coming in after visiting other reviewers, tradeshows, etc. You never can tell what settings have been put in, and why, so the first thing done is a reset.

    Now, I realize there may be changes made inside service menus of some projectors, that a reset might not reset, and would require entering the service menu (which I avoid), but I don’t suspect that to be the case. -art

  • Red3

    I have been trying this projector out the past few days, and I am generally impressed by the picture quality.
    In its favor it is compact and bright, but I am disappointed with the light leakage, clearly audible noise level, the very limited placement options (the zoom seems more like another focus control!), and the black levels just don’t seem deep enough to me.
    I would recommend it as a filler PJ for enthusiasts, or a second PJ for someone who takes their movies on the road with them. I see it as a projector that doubles up nicely as a business presentation PJ for someone who might like to hook it up for a movie in the hotel room. It really is that small!
    It is probably me, but I see rainbows all the time on it, which means that I won’t be keeping it. I will be upgrading soon to 1080p (Sony VW40 takes my fancy – no rainbows, no dust blobs, no visible screen door effect, virtually silent and great blacks). The JVC is outside my budget range, and the Epson UB is noisier and similar in image quality, a little more noisy and a very worthy contender, especially if you’re fighting ambient light. The Panasonic AE2000 is also worth looking into, but I think the SXRD/LCoS of the Sony is a better option for the same ‘look’ as the Panny. On the DLP front, the strongest contender in this price bracket is probably the BenQ W5000.
    To me it’s worth the extra money for a quiet 1080p PJ over a cheaper 720p DLP. The biggest negative of the Sony in my estimation is the whopper size.

  • Speedxxx

    Hi Art,

    Well at first I was going with the HD65, but my screen size changed considerably, so now I’ve decided to go with the HD71. In your review, you mentioned that a shootout between the HD65 and HD71 would be forth coming but I guess you never had the time to do it. Would you please let me know of the improvements I’m going to get from the HD71 over the HD65 considering my screen size will be a HUGE 143″ diagonal in 16:9 AR and a whopping 179″ diagonal in 2.40:1 AR as I’ll be needing all the lumens I can get on 14′ wide AT screen. Thanks

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    Hi, Speedxxx

    Sorry, your answer is a long time coming. There are a few definite differences, but the compelling one is brightness. You have a huge screen, and I don’t think the HD65 is up to the challenge. While the HD65 has better color accuracy out of the box, the HD71 calibrates nicely. I just can’t imagine the HD65 handling your screen unless its a very high gain screen 2.0 or more. -art

  • Speedxxx

    Thanks Art for your reply, I appreciate it a lot, although I do admit that I was starting to lose hope but I’m sure you must have other important stuff on your hands :-)

    The screen is Sheerweave 4500 and the gain is 1.16
    I thought so too that the HD65 won’t be able to handle this screen size at this gain, hence the HD71. I don’t mind calibrating the HD71. In fact I’m looking forward to it as I’m mentally prepared for it after I read your review. It would be fun and I would definitly enjoy it as I’m into these kind of things anyways :-) Thanks again