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Optoma HD141X Projector Review - Picture Quality 2

Posted on October 12, 2014 by Art Feierman
OPTOMA HD141X PROJECTOR - PICTURE QUALITY:  Black Level Performance, Dark Shadow Detail, Overall Picture Quality

HD141X Black Level Performance

Before you read all of this, some perspective.  Black level performance in particular, and dark shadow detail (and highlight detail) are the types of performance that separate low cost projectors from far more expensive ones.  So, don't take a lot of this as being highly critical.

This is truly an entry level projector, and it does about as well in these areas as we would expect such a projector to do:  We inherently expect that black level performance will be the major weakness of a projector in this price range, just as it's likely to in lower cost LCDTVs.    Well, the HD141X did not disappoint, black level performance is very entry level.  I did take these images with Dynamic Black on which helped a little, but personally I prefer watching movies on this projector with Dynamic Black turned off.

Too often there's an occasional "flash" of change to scene brightness, because, I believe, lamp dimming is slow, so at some point it has to "catch up"  by dropping down a step in brightness.  It doesn't matter exactly how that's happening, but you'll be watching a medium bright scene or a pretty dark one, and just some minor things change in the scene and then a sort of small jump up or down in overall brightness. You could think of it as a single flicker.  Note:  The blacks would be a little less black with Dynamic Black off.

Above are two sets of images - the first group is our usual Bond night train scene, and the second group of images using the "Sleep" image from The Hunger Games.

Let's start with the night train.  First image is the Optoma, followed by the BenQ W1075, then a just over $1000 LED projector, the LG PF85U.  That's followed by the Epson 5030UB/6030UB far more expensive, and best black levels in the $2000-$3500 range, which is why we use it as a reference projector.  Finally, the last of the group is the roughly $2000 new Sony HW40ES, which has respectable black levels for the price, despite no dynamic iris.

OK, you can tell by the pause bar (lower left) how overexposed each image is.  The Optoma and BenQ about the same, but the blacks are just a touch darker (better) on the BenQ, for the extra money.  The PF85U is more overexposed in the image and showing lighter "blacks" but due to the overexposure hard to tell.  The LG is also comparable, but also a touch better than the HD141X.

With the night train scene black levels are really medium dark grays, as is typical for the class, when viewing scenes like this, with entry level projectors you lack the "pop" of having great black levels.

The Epson (also similarly overexposed has dramatically darker blacks, and with it a lot more pop to this dark image.  The Sony, last, is the most overexposed, but even considering, a good bit better than the Optoma, but not a match for the Epson.

Folks, there's a huge difference in how the Optoma and Epson look on a dark scene, and that's a key reason why people spend more for better projectors.  BTW both scenes used here are originally in color.  We convert them to grayscale so that variations in color, from one projector to another are not distractions when trying to observe black level performance or dark shadow detail.

Sleep Image:  First of course is the HD141X, followed by the BenQ HT1075 I just reviewed ($1100 street).  That is followed by the older HD131xe, and then a side by side with that same HD131xe on the left, and the $900 Epson HC2030 on the right, and then the stand alone HC2030 image.  At best, the BenQ HT1075 is just a tad better than the HD141X.  Overall those two dark images are very, very, similar!

What's interesting is the HD141x vs the older HD131x.  You'll notice that the older projector has blacker blacks, but I complained when reviewing it that it was way too contrasty.  You can see that here, as detail in the faces is less on the HD131x, due to that.

Bottom line in terms of black levels - purely entry level home entertainment, but even so, still a bit better than the 3LCD Epson Home Cinema 2000 / 2030!

Keep in mind that ambient light is the killer of black levels, which is why you want to have your room darkened for best movie viewing.  If you have a lamp going in the back of the room, it's probably going to wipe out much of the difference in between a good $600-$700 projector and one more in the $2000 range!

Dark Shadow Detail

I use the same sets of images for comparing dark shadow detail as for black levels, so start with the images at the top.  The additional images for your consideration, found in the player immediately above are all from the HD141X.

When viewing the Train images look for the fine detail of the shrubs behind the tracks on the right.  Also look for faint details in the dark large (almost roundish) area of the woods on the middle right.

Overall, the HD141X does a better job than a few other entry level or under $2000 Optoma projectors we've reviewed in the past, when it comes to dark shadow detail.  The HD141X does a good job, really, but several other Optomas were far worse, due to being more contrasty - too much so.  The HD131Xe is a good example of that.    That is, they had more pop on very dark scenes, but lost detail.  On the sleep image look for dark details in the area near the bottom, left of center, also below Katniss's face.

Keep in mind when viewing with some ambient light present, that will make this "nitpicking" be pretty unimportant.

Bottom line:  Very respectable black level performance, considering the price.

Optoma HD141X - Overall Picture Quality

Not bad! Color accuracy is definitely not the strength of this projector, but the projector is very watchable in Cinema and Reference modes, and Vivid mode cuts nicely through noticeable amounts ambient light, while still looking pretty respectable (if less accurate than Cinema or Reference) and has a lot of pop to the image, which really helps with the ambient light.

Bright mode is typically ugly, yellow green, very thin on blues, best avoided.  Few Bright or Dynamic modes on projectors  offer color that's even half way decent.  Treat it as a "break glass in case of an emergency" with that emergency being way too much ambient light That will let you tap the full 3000 lumens, and make watchable a picture that wouldn't be in Cinema mode.

All considered, about right for the money spent.  Calibrating it would provide a bit more accurate colors, as the projector has a CMS for adjusting individual primary and secondary colors.  It also has the red, green and blue controls for adjusting grayscale but only a single control for each which would limit nailing down really good color balance.

So, you ask, what does all this mean?  Well, if you bought a $600 LCDTV brought it home, hooked it up, and watched it, and have never adjusted the colors - tweaked it, so to speak, then you have probably been looking a a picture that's no more accurate than this projector's Cinema or Reference mode.  In other words, you just aren't critical enough of a TV's image to have a problem with this Optoma projector.  

We know that this description fits most folks buying under $1000 projectors, so you are in good company.  But we go though all the fine examination because some of you really want to know everything and how to get the best possible out of this projector.

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