Posted on July 30, 2019 By Scott Wilkinson
Optoma is one of the leading makers of affordable single-chip DLP projectors in the world today. Projector Reviews has evaluated quite a few of its products over the years, including the HD143X. Recently, Optoma introduced a sibling to that model, the HD243X.
These two projectors are quite similar, so we probably won’t do a full review of the new one. However, it does offer some improvements over its predecessor, so we thought it would be worthwhile to check it out.
Like its predecessor, the Optoma HD243X is a home-entertainment projector with plenty of light output to stand up to ambient light in a room. In fact, its peak light output is specified to be 3300 lumens, 300 more than the HD143X, though that number will surely decrease if you have it fully calibrated.
Its single-chip DLP design offers full HD resolution (1920×1080) using Texas Instruments’ latest 0.47″ DLP imaging chip. This chip helps to increase the light output and avoids the light-border issue of the previous-generation chip, which bothered some reviewers, though most casual users probably wouldn’t notice it.
Weighing in at 6.75 pounds, the HD243X is quite portable, allowing you to easily set it up wherever you’d like. It offers a modest 1.1x zoom lens, but it provides no lens shift, making placement is relatively inflexible. Of course, you can compensate for some geometric anomalies with keystone correction, but I strongly recommend against that, since it reduces detail in the image.
One interesting feature offered by the HD143X and HD243X is called Dynamic Black, which is part of the technology suite offered by Texas Instruments for DLP-based products and also found on many other DLP projectors. Instead of using a dynamic iris, these projectors modulate the brightness of the lamp itself according to the average picture level (APL). During dark scenes, the lamp is dimmed, and it’s brightened during bright scenes. This leads to a specified contrast ratio of 24,000:1—up from 23,000:1 in the HD143X—and a lamp life up to 12,000 hours. (Interestingly, the HD143X’s lamp life is spec’d up to 15,000 hours.)
Unfortunately, dynamically changing the brightness of the lamp in this manner is not nearly as good as using a dynamic iris, which is much quicker to respond than the lamp itself. As a result, I would expect to see obvious “pumping” as the lamp dims and brightens. This is much more effective in laser-illuminated projectors because lasers can be modulated much faster than lamps, but such projectors are also much more expensive.
Another important feature is called Reference mode, which is said to accurately reproduce 100% of the BT.709 color gamut. For more vivid colors, you can crank up the BrilliantColor control, another part of TI’s technology suite. Both features are supported by a new RGBCYW (red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, white) color wheel. The white segment increases brightness at the expense of black level, but Dynamic Black compensates for that.
The new model is well-suited for video gaming as well. The input lag is specified at 16ms in Enhanced Gaming Mode, which is about the same as the lag measured for the HD143X in our review. In general, an input lag of 55ms or less is acceptable, while a lag in the mid-30s is considered good. The HD243X’s input lag of 16ms is awesome, which will greatly please serious gamers.
3D might be gone from new flat-panel TVs, but it’s still going strong in projectors. The HD243X supports all 3D formats, including side-by-side at 1080i50/60 and 720p50/60, over-under at WUXGA24 (1920×1200 at 24 fps) and 720p50/60, and frame-packed at WUXGA24 and 720p50/60. Viewing 3D requires an optional RF transmitter and compatible active-shutter glasses. Optoma no longer offers these accessories, but you can easily find them online from companies like Xpand.
Happily, the HD243X offers ISF Day, Night, and 3D calibration modes. These modes let you—or a professional technician—calibrate the projector for optimum performance with ambient light, in the dark, and for 3D content, respectively. These modes are normally locked so they can’t be inadvertently tweaked; you need a special code to access them, which you can get from your dealer or calibrator.
One feature I haven’t seen before automatically adjusts the picture according to the wall color in the room. You can choose light yellow, light green, light blue, pink, gray, and “blackboard” (presumably black, not the dark green of many school blackboards). You can also turn this feature off, which is certainly where I’d start. Of course, I would take a look at how these settings affect the picture, but I bet I’d end up keeping this control off.
Like many home-entertainment projectors, the HD243X provides an onboard audio system with a speaker driver and a 10-watt amplifier. This is handy if you want to use it where there is no external sound system, but it’s only a single speaker, whereas some competitors offer stereo or even stereo with surround effects. In any case, it’s undoubtedly a far cry from just about any outboard speaker. Fortunately, the projector offers an audio-output jack that sends the audio signal to a speaker system, which should give you much better sound quality.
One feature that’s missing from the HD243X—and, to be fair, most other projectors—is a suite of built-in streaming apps that can be found in so-called smart TVs these days. Optoma and LG offer a few “smart projectors” with streaming apps, but this is still fairly rare. Of course, most folks get their online content from a streamer such as Roku or Amazon Fire TV, which can easily be used with the HD243X.
Aside from the AC power-cord receptacle, the HD243X provides two HDMI 1.4 inputs, one of which doubles as an MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) input. This lets you connect an MHL-compatible mobile device—smartphone, tablet, etc.—to that input and mirror the device’s display on the projection screen.
A USB port provides power for things like streaming dongles, such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Stick, which plug into one of the HDMI ports but require power from a USB port. In addition, the USB port is an access point for service technicians.
Other connections include a 3D Sync port, which connects to an optional RF transmitter that sends a sync signal to optional RF-based 3D glasses. A 12V trigger out allows the projector to trigger things like a retractable screen, curtains, and lights. Finally, a 3.5mm audio output sends the audio signal from the projector to an external sound system.
The remote is quite comprehensive—in fact, it offers more buttons than are needed for the HD243X, implying that Optoma uses the same remote for several different models. For example, it provides direct-selection buttons for two HDMI inputs as well as two VGA inputs, a component-video input, and a composite-video input. But the HD243X has only two HDMI inputs, so those other input-selection buttons are extraneous for this model.
The rest of the remote buttons are more useful, including direct-access buttons for brightness, contrast, picture mode, keystone correction, aspect ratio, 3D, and Dynamic Black as well as three user-setting memories. A menu button and cursor-navigation buttons provide full access to all controls, and the cursor up and down buttons double as the volume up/down controls when you’re not in the menu.
The Optoma HD243X represents a growing trend toward low-cost home-entertainment projectors that excel in several video applications, such as movies, sports, and video games, in a variety of environments. Normally, the white segment in its color wheel would result in higher black level than models without a white segment, but the Dynamic Black feature compensates for that to some degree. According to Nikki Kahl in her review of the HD143X, “I can safely say that the black level performance is better than entry level, and excellent for the price…I’d even venture to say this projector has the best black level performance I’ve seen at this price.”
Speaking of price, the Optoma HD243X carries a street price of just $499. (Optoma does not publish MSRPs.) That’s roughly the same price as the HD143X when we reviewed it last December, but Optoma recently dropped its price to $449. Interestingly, both models will remain in the Optoma lineup at least through the rest of 2019.
If you’re looking for an affordable DLP projector that’s well suited to a variety of applications and environments, either model will work well. However, I’d spend the extra $50 for the increased light output and improved DLP chip in the HD243X.
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