Optoma HD20 Projector - Flesh Tones
The HD20, post calibration, does extremely well in terms of skin tones.
In that regard I would put it on par with the recently reviewed and more expensive new Samsung SP-A600. Check out the images below. Pretty impressive for the least expensive 1080p out there.
Next are our usual three images of Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale, under different lighting conditions. As I always point out, Skin tones should look different under different lighting conditions. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, flourescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three images - the first, in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with flourescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day with Bond sitting in the shade - indirect lighting.
OK, sufficiently impressed? I spent a lot of time watching movies and sports on the Optoma HD20, and found the picture pleasing, overall, with my only serious complaint being the black level performance, which we'll tackle next.
Black Level Performance:
I recently reviewed the Samsung SP-A600, a more expensive 1080p DLP projector, but one that should sell not far upward of $1500 in the US. One of my criticisms was the Samsung's rather "entry level" black level performance.
As it turns out, the Optoma HD20's black levels still come up a bit shy of the Samsung. Mind you, they are pretty close, but, if the Samsung is "rather entry level," then the HD20 defines "entry level" blacks.
For the enthusiast, the black level performance is the Achilles heel of the HD20 - the one area of image performance where it's going to come up short against the competition.
For those of you looking for your first projector, however, don't let me scare you off that easily. Consider this: The ability of the Optoma HD20 to produce deep blacks is easily better than most $4000 and $5000, 720p resolution home projectors of just 4 or 5 years ago, and a lot of folks plunked down the big bucks back then for projectors that couldn't do any better. Even the entry level DLP projectors back then, like the old BenQ PE8700 and 8700+ (I owned them), couldn't do any better.
And yet we loved our pricey 720p home projectors. And that's the point. While better black levels would be great, and, if you get "hooked" and plan to upgrade in the next couple of years, you will no doubt want better blacks, but, meantime, the HD20 gets you in the game, for the same or less than many 720p projectors.
Let's look at a couple of comparative images: The first pair, with the Samsung on the left, and HD20 on the right, shows a not particularly large difference in black level performance: Note that the Optoma is a touch brighter, but still, the blacks are definitely more gray, more than the slight difference in overall brightness.