HD37 PROJECTOR REVIEW - SUMMARY: Picture Quality, Brightness, Home Entertainment vs. Home Theater
Overall, the HD37 projector's picture quality is very good for a $1000 price range projector. What's most impressive is that it offers very good color right out of the box, something a number of competitors can't claim. Our calibration settings, in this case, only slightly improve on the default settings for Cinema or Bright modes.
In terms of color accuracy my one complaint was being unable to get rid of a small amount of color shift to yellow, or yellow green. This is sometimes seen in skin tones, or in a blue sky being a little too aqua. But, it is close. Those of us highly critical might complain, but our friends and family will certainly be happy, looking at color accuracy exceeding that of most folks LCDTVs as they normally view them.
Black level performance - the holy grail of serious home theater projectors is very entry level, as expected. Optoma's Dynamic Black is there to help with the blacks, but the improvements are slight, and the action of its lamp dimming is slightly noticeable, so that many enthusiasts just won't use that feature. BTW, to run Dynamic Black the projector must be in Bright lamp mode, which is a bit noisy (and also not surprising for the price range. Dark shadow detail, while good could be a little better.
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One thing of important for a number of us: The HD37 runs a relatively slow color filter wheel. This projector shows me more rainbows (RBE) than any other projector I've had in here in quite some time. Rainbow sensitive folks will likely be happier with a different brand. BenQ, for example, tends to use faster color filter wheels at this price point. And of course 3LCD projectors don't generate RBE, aka the rainbow effect.
3D is clean - as one expects from single chip DLP projectors. Brightness becomes the question when it comes to 3D.
Bottom line: Picture quality is above average for the price range, although you can get slightly more accurate color from one or two competitors. The operative term is "slightly."
On paper the HD37 claims 2600 lumens. Unfortunately we couldn't find a lot of those pesky lumens, they seem to be hiding somewhere?
We find most projectors measure between slightly above claim (rare to see any projector beat claim by more than 10%), to down 20-25%.
That's "normal". Oh, there are ways to crank up projectors, such as boosting contrast, which can deliver extra lumens, but by degrading picture quality. We don't go hunting for those extra lumens. Mike found that the HD37 measured a maximum of 1637 lumens in its brightest modes. That's down about 37%.
So, while Optoma misses their claim rather dramatically, the HD37 still manages an impressive, and very nicely bright 1600 plus lumens even calibrated.
That is, until you watch 3D. Here it's brightness is still good or very good, for a home theater projector - dark room viewing, but it could be brighter. 100" diagonal is about as bright as I would go for 3D. Some competitors offer a lot more lumens for 3D.
What matters is not what's claimed, but how many lumens there really are, and whether that's the right amount for what you are trying to do.
And that brings us to our next topic the concept of home entertainment, vs home theater usage.
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HD37 Projector: Home Entertainment or Home Theater
With the HD37 putting out 1475 lumens at mid zoom, even after calibration, it's on the bright side for watching in a dedicated home theater when fully darkened After all, one technically needs less than 450 lumens to fill a typical 100" screen at movie theater brightness.
That said, for those with 100" or larger diagonal screens, the HD37 can work. Eco mode (no Dyanmic Black) will reduce brightness, as can reducing Brilliant Color. You can get below 1000 lumens between them. Even 1000 lumens isn't too bright, in terms of the official movie theater brightness recommendations.
Overall I consider the HD37 as ok as an entry level home theater projector. I find it a bit more suitable though as a home entertainment projector, within the lmits of its brightness.
By home entertainment, I'm talking about use in less than great rooms, perhaps your living room or spare bedroom or family room. You know, where the walls, floor and ceiling aren't dark.
That means more ambient light reflecting from screen to walls, etc., but also rooms that typically cannot be really fully darkened (except maybe at night).
For home entertainment the brightness is very good, but do keep in mind that some competitors are serving up 2000, 2500, or even 3000 measured lumens, which gives them an advantage.
In other words, most home "entertainment" projectors are 25% to almost 100% brighter, and that can make a real difference.
As mentioned, at full out there is adequate brightness in 3D, but again, some competitors will move you from "almost too dim" to "good brightness", with their extra lumens.
Where the Optoma shines for home entertainment is having the "good" brightness, combine with really good color. Overall, for my sports viewing, general HDTV, even my music festival viewing, with modest or no lighting, I found the overall experience to be a good one. For movies, though, where dark scenes are often critical, there's nothing like moving up to "serious" home theater projectors but they really do start at almost twice the HD37's price.
HD37 Value Proposition and the Competition
Off of the top of my head, the closest competitors to the Optoma HD37 are BenQ's venerable W1070, and it's replacement HT1075 (except the W1070 just doesn't seem to want to go away, despite being 3 years old. The Optoma is slightly brighter, and comes very close in terms of color accuracy, but the BenQ wins on faster color wheel. The Optoma offers VESA (RF) optionally for 3D which the BenQ lacks, which, along with more brightness makes me favor the HD37 for 3D viewing.
Both have very modest amounts of lens shift, and the Optoma HD37 has a bit more zoom range (1.5:1 vs. 1.3:1) for better placement flexibility. And both have one year warranties.
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Straddling the price of the Optoma are Epson's HC2000/2030 (lower street prices) and their newer Home Cinema 3000. The 2000 series, like the HD37 has built in sound, but the HC3000 lacks it, which can be a disadvantage (or rather an inconvenience) for some home entertainment use. The 2000/2030 are pure home entertainment projectors, lots of lumens, but less placement flexibility.
BTW the more expensive Epson HC3500 and HC3600 compete more with Optoma's HD161X or HD50 which, honestly, I liked more from a value proposition, than I like the HD37.
More on the competition on the next page.