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Optoma HD72 Projector Review - Image Quality

Posted on February 21, 2006 by Art Feierman

Optoma HD72 Projector Review - Image Quality

I have been patiently waiting for the HD72. Originally, there was talk that this projector would be available in late December, but as it turns out, mid February saw the first shipments in the US, and I received a brand new production unit. Unlike some manufacturers who hand pick and pre-test projectors before shipping them to reviewers, my experience with Optoma, is that they simply send out new units without checking. This HD72 certainly looked like a brand new boxed unit, with no signs it had been opened or plugged in previously (and 0 hours on the lamp).

The first thing I noticed when powering it up was brightness. With the default settings, in Cinema mode it was obviously much brighter than the projector I just finished reviewing, the Sony HS51A. As I continued to work with the HD72, I did side by side observations with the other home theater projectors I had available. In addition to the HS51A, I looked at the Optoma side by side with the BenQ PE7700 and the Panasonic PT-AE900u. It was slightly brighter than the BenQ, and significantly brighter than the Panasonic.

The Optoma is one of those projectors that needs some attention to its settings when you first get it. Just as I have previously experienced with their more expensive H78DC3 projector, colors are off a bit, with a slight greenish caste to the image. This is particularly noticeable with flesh tones. To get the most out of your HD72 projector, I would definitely recommend using a basic calibration disk, such as AVIA, to adjust the color balance. (A respectable color calibration by a novice should take less than an hour, with most of the time watching the tutorial. It really is easy, even for "non-techies". When it comes to out-of-the-box color, by comparison, the Panasonic has more accurate color, with only a slight shift toward yellow. The BenQ PE7700 does even better out of the box, with very good flesh tones, and only some minor changes to brightness. I haven't worked with the Sanyo Z4 in a while, but, like the Optoma HD72, it definitely needs more adjustment out of the box, to get best colors.

Down below I will provide some of the info from my calibration of the projector, but first, I want to cover how the HD72 actually performs, before getting into technical settings.

Optoma HD72 Projector Review - Image Quality Slideshow

Optoma HD72 Projector Review - Flesh Tones

The image of Arwen above (from Lord of the Rings)

Optoma HD72 Projector Review - Flesh Tones

Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings

Optoma HD72 Projector Review - Flesh Tones

LiLu from The 5th Element.

Optoma HD72 Projector Review - Flesh Tones

Shadow detail

The HD72 does a very good job on shadow detail. I should note that often projectors (even after calibration), do not produce a true black. Rather you get a dark to very dark gray, depending on contrast levels, "AI" and other settings. In a perfect world

your "black" should be very close to true black, and it should be a perfectly balanced gray. Most projectors though, are off from a neutral gray. For example, with the Panasonic PT-AE900u, those blacks (such as a star scene) have a bluish caste. With the Optoma HD72, the shift on blacks is slightly toward brown. (This coloring of blacks, however is less than the Panasonic's shift to blue. It is not objectionable, and all in all about as good as any, except Sony's more expensive HS51A which really did neutral blacks.)

More important, is producing good black levels, and allowing the viewer to see the details in shadow areas. These two images (above and below) are the same frame, the first was exposed normally when photographed, the second, intentionally overexposed. The reason for this, is that my digital camera cannot capture the full dynamic range of what the projector can produce. So, on the first image the mountains look very good, but you really can't see detail in the right side of the image. By overexposing the second image, I have allowed you to see the see the shadow detail in this scene, that the projector captures.

Watchfire Aragorn image exposed normally
Watchfire Aragorn image intentionally overexposed

The image above from Star Wars shows the HD72 picking up good shadow detail in the front of the rock walls on the right (give or take the limitations of my digital camera). One more image which displays good shadow detail is this image from Sin City:

Color Dynamics

"Vibrant colors" is the phrase you will keep reading in this review. That is the HD72's real strength. This Optoma being an exceptionally bright projector, only partially explains the vibrant colors, but the combination of the richness of the colors and the brightness of the projector certainly has certainly convinced me that this is one excellent projector, image wise!

The HD72 projector uses "Brilliant Color" technology from TI. This is the first projector I have seen sporting this combination of firmware/settings. I am aware that Mitsubishi's new HC3000, a more expensive DLP projector also uses "Brilliant Color", but I haven't yet been able to get one for review. BTW, for most of my viewing I have Brilliant Color set for 4 (1-10 scale). I found 3 or 4 to be the most natural, with 4 providing the punchier image, which I preferred.

The image above is also a good image to start our consideration of the Optoma HD72's color dynamics. One thing striking, about the HD72 projector is its ability to bring out color especially in darker areas. I have found this also to be true of Optoma's H78DC3, one of my favorite projectors. I would watch a scene on the more expensive Optoma, and notice subtle colors that went unnoticed on other projectors.

The same is true for the HD72. Another good example of this is this night skyline shot from I, Robot. I notice more color in some of the lights than I did with the Panasonic AE900u, for example, which tended to display this image as a little more "black and white" looking.

The Optoma also did a very good job on this highly dynamic image from Sin City, capturing highlight details in her hair, very well. (Again, my camera is the biggest limitation in properly displaying what the projector captures from the DVD, and as a result some of the details are blown out.) You can see good shadow detail on the right side of her face (around her ear and cheek).

Above, you can appreciate the rich color saturation in this image of Frodo sleeping.

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