Posted on September 15, 2019 By Scott Wilkinson
The HD27HDR serves up High dynamic range (HDR), which is the biggest improvement in consumer video since HDTV was introduced about 20 years ago. Increasing the range between the brightest and darkest parts of a video image clearly enhances the picture quality more than increasing the spatial resolution from HD to UHD/4K.
Unfortunately, HDR is implemented only in UHD/4K content, and it’s supported only by displays with UHD/4K resolution—that is, until now. The Optoma HD27HDR home-entertainment projector is unique in its ability to display UHD HDR images at a resolution of 1920×1080. Even better, it’s much more affordable than most models with UHD/4K resolution.
The Optoma HD27HDR measures 12.4″ x 9.7″ x 4.3″ (WxDxH) and weighs in at 6.2 pounds. It offers a modest 1.1x zoom lens, but it provides no lens shift, making placement is relatively inflexible. You can compensate for some placement-related geometric anomalies with keystone correction, but I strongly recommend against that, since it reduces detail in the image.
The HD27HDR a single-chip DLP projector using a 0.65″ 1080p DMD (Digital Micromirror Device), the imaging chip at the heart of DLP technology. The six-segment color wheel includes red, green, blue, yellow, cyan, and white segments, resulting in a color gamut that encompasses 100% of BT.709, the standard for HD video.
Optoma claims a peak light output of 3400 lumens, which is quite high for this price. (The Optoma HD27e also claims 3400 lumens, and some of the company’s other models have similarly high peak-brightness specs.) Of course, it will almost certainly be less after calibration, but even then, it might still be higher than most calibrated SDR projectors in order to display HDR effectively. If so, the HD27HDR is particularly well suited for use rooms that are not dedicated home theaters, though HDR looks best in dark environments. You can also use an ambient light-rejecting screen in brighter rooms.
In addition, the lamp can be dynamically modulated according to the average image brightness at any given moment—more accurately called the average picture level (APL)—leading Optoma to specify a contrast ratio of 50,000:1. (The HD27e claims 25,000:1.) Again, this is undoubtedly greater than an independent measurement would be, as virtually all manufacturer contrast-ratio specs are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a real-world measurement results in a higher-than-usual number for the sake of HDR.
Optoma specifies that the lamp—a 203W high-pressure lamp from Philips—will last up to 15,000 hours with dynamic modulation enabled. The specs also indicate that the lamp life is 10,000 hours in Eco mode and 6000 hours in Bright mode, neither of which dynamically modulate the lamp. These lifespan numbers are similar to other Optoma projectors, and longer than most, though I’m sure the lamp will dim considerably well before that much time has elapsed.
The most important feature of the HD27HDR, which sets it apart from the other similarly priced competition, is its ability to accept and display HDR images that use the HDR10 format; it does not support HLG or Dolby Vision HDR. Dolby charges a licensing fee for Dolby Vision, so it’s no surprise that Optoma did not include it here. But there is no fee to implement HLG, which is becoming important for broadcast HDR, so I wish the HD27HDR supported it as well. As mentioned earlier, HDR is found only in UHD/4K content, which the projector accepts and downscales to 1080p. In addition, it can synthesize HDR images from SDR content.
Many experts say that projectors can’t do “real” HDR, because there is simply too little light coming off the screen. For example, Dolby Vision projectors in Dolby Cinema venues achieve a peak brightness of 108 nits, which is twice the peak brightness of a conventional commercial-cinema projector but only a tenth or less of what many HDR-capable LED/LCD TVs can reach. So, most people say that HDR projectors are more properly called “extended dynamic range” or EDR. I’m fine with that distinction, though in my view, the image quality of such projectors is still clearly better than those that reproduce only SDR.
The HD27HDR 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 of that model. In general, an input lag of 55ms or less is acceptable, while a lag in the mid-30s is considered good. The HD27HDR’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 HD27HDR 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 HD27HDR 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. The ISF 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. Of course, it’s unlikely that someone will spend several hundred dollars to calibrate a projector they purchased for under $650, but if they do, these modes are important.
Like many home-entertainment projectors, the HD27HDR provides an onboard audio system with a built-in speaker 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 HD27HDR—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 HD27HDR.
The HD27HDR provides two HDMI inputs. One is HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 operating at the full bitrate of 18 Gbps, which can accept UHD HDR signals at frame rates up to 60 fps. The other one is HDMI 1.4a, also with HDCP 2.2, which can accept signals up to UHD at 30 fps, but not HDR. In addition, the HDMI 1.4a input doubles as an MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) input for mobile devices.
A USB port provides power (5V/1.5A) 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. The other connections include a 3.5mm analog-audio output and a 3D sync port, which connects to an optional RF transmitter to synchronize active 3D glasses. Unlike some other Optoma projectors, this one does not provide a 12V trigger output.
The remote is quite comprehensive—in fact, it offers more buttons than are needed for the HD27HDR, 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 HD27HDR 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.
I love the look of HDR and even EDR from projectors with so-called HDR capabilities. To my eye, such images look much better than SDR on any display. So, I’m thrilled that Optoma now offers the HD27HDR, a 1080p projector that supports and displays HDR content. Being 1080p, it’s less expensive than UHD models, bringing the joy of HDR to many more projector enthusiasts.
Speaking of price, the Optoma HD27HDR carries a street price of just $649. (Optoma does not publish MSRPs.) That’s well below the cost of other HDR-capable projectors, all of which have UHD/4K resolution. When you add Enhanced Gaming Mode with 16ms lag time, the HD27HDR seems like a heck of a deal.
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