Projector Reviews

Optoma HD161X Home Theater Projector – Summary 2

HD161X PROJECTOR – SUMMARY Page 2:  Value Proposition and Competition, Pros, Cons

Value Proposition and the Competition

I really do like the HD161X, for those with the enthusiasm to really tweak the color, this is an excellent value.   That is a key factor though in how good a value the HD161X really is.  With improved overall color, and especially skin tones, this is a great projector, but our calibration which on paper looks great, doesn’t get it there.

So let’s consider.  We have here a projector that’s typically selling for $1499 or less, up to a couple hundred less at the time of this review.

It’s black level performance, even with Dynamic Black turned off (for reasons already discussed) is superior to any other projector I can think of at around the price.  Other than some older, or closeout type projectors, you’d have to spend about $500 more to find real competition in that regard.

 

 

Brightness is very good for a home theater projector under $2000.  Most of the DLP projectors out there that are significantly brighter, are no match for this Optoma in terms of black levels, so are more home entertainment projectors designed for brighter rooms.  This Optoma is geared for suitable rooms – home theaters, caves, etc.

So let’s look at some of the competition.  I’ll start with the old Acer H6510.  We need to review their replacement, but the H6510 also has excellent blacks, but had trouble with great color as well.  But the Acer was very rough around the edges.  No way to save more than one set of settings, and changing things in any other mode would knock out all those – lets say – calibration settings you spent so much time putting in. The Optoma is far better.  The Optoma HD25-LV which we reviewed a couple years back (and has a replacement) is very bright, but crushed all the dark shadow detail- great blacks, no detail, large flat areas.  I’ll choose the HD161X no question.

BenQ’s projectors, from he older W1070, to the newer HT1075 and HT1085, I’ve always considered entry level home THEATER projectors as well.  But here’s the difference.  Those have better color, but the Optoma blows them away at black level performance.

I’ve always recommended the Sharp XV-Z30000 an excellent DLP, that sometimes is under $2000, but generally its far more expensive, not near as bright, but offers the combination of great color and really good black levels, plus far more placement flexibility.  But mostly, it’s priced far above.

That brings us to the Epsons and Sonys.  First, though, I know there are still a few Mitsubishi projectors around, but Mitsubishi quit the projector market over a year ago.  There are great values there, down at this price, projectors that sold for about $3K, but they seem to be about gone, and not everyone wants to mess with buying something from someone who’s given up on that business.

Epson.  Epson has the less expensive HC2000/2030, which are strictly bright home entertainment projectors with excellent color so not direct competitors.  Their new HC3000, HC3500 and HC3600e offer the great color, and much improved black level performance.

The HC3000 is the closest in terms of price (very similar, often less) and features.  The Epson is good enough/bright enough (easily brighter than this Optoma HD161X) to qualify for home entertainment or home THEATER use.  It’s color is definitely superior, and while black levels are much better than earlier 3000 series, and now respectable, the Optoma wins on black levels, the Epson on color.  Warranties in this case strongly favor Epson (2 years, with 2 years rapid replacement program) since Optoma’s 1 year warranty is as basic as it can get.  The Epson wins on picture quality, except black levels where the Optoma wins.

That takes us to the more expensive Epson Pro Cinema 4030 (but that nets out close to $2000 after free spare lamp, etc.), and the new Home Cinema 5025UB which is inbound for review.  But the 5025UB perform very similarly to the 5030UB, but for $1999.  That folks is your step up projector (based on our 5030UB review)- bright, excellent color, great black levels.  But, like the Sharp XV-Z30000 it’s not at the same price point.  It’s a projector if you want more, and are willing to pay more.   The Epsons do have the advantage of definitely being significantly brighter for those times you need bright  (i.e. sports with friends, fair amount of ambient light) in their brightest modes.

Bottom line:  If you are going into a home theater type environment, (or have a decent room and only watch movies at night – no lights) the HD161X is a great choice, with that limitation in color, which again, I think enthusiasts can improve.

If you can live with less than great color fidelity, and have that proper room, this is likely the best choice around.  If you can live without it’s great blacks, great color is available from calibrated BenQ’s and Epsons.  Personally it came down to the color, when it came to an award.  Better color certainly would have earned it that Hot Product Award.  Tweeters – start your engines.

Pretty darn good!

Despite all my complaining about the skin tones… this is my favorite new Optoma projector in several years, and that color issue notwithstanding, the most refined offering they’ve had under $2000.

HD161X Pros

Listed here are strengths, and a number of nice features.

  • Very good brightness (for home theater)
  • Excellent “ultra high contrast” black level performance
  • Excellent dark shadow detail handling
  • Basic vertical lens shift
  • Good range on zoom lens (1.5:10
  • Very good selection of inputs
  • Very good menu organization
  • Full set of image quality controls
  • Built in timers
  • One of the quieter projectors in the class
  • Edge masking (I prefer over Overscan)
  • CFI – smooth motion, three steps, nicely implemented (I favor low)
  • Adjustable Brilliant Color.  Not huge differences, but 10 settings is better than on/off found on many other single chip DLP projectors
  • Detail enhancement (not a whole lot of effect but better than no option)
  • Priced right

HD161X Cons

  • Color – Even post calibration, color not quite right
  • Could be brighter in brightest modes (for viewing sports etc. with ambient light)
  • 3D recommend an optional RF emitter (although didn’t test) over built in DLP-link – no glasses included
  • Leaks light out of front vent (not terrible, but “sloppy”)
  • Minimal warranty (many competitors offer 2 years, 3 years, or 2 years with replacement program)
  • Dynamic Black is sometimes noticeable, bothers me.  But, projector still has great blacks (especially for the bucks) even with it off
  • There’s MHL on HDMI, but since there’s no audio it’s not really usable, unless you don’t care about sound (but that’s normal for home Theater projectors as they normally have no built in speakers)
  • 3D could be brighter – that ties back to the Optoma not having a much brighter “Bright” mode.  100″ screen 3D still not as bright as I like (1.3 gain screen)