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Optoma HD803 DLP Projector: Summary

Posted on February 20, 2008 by Art Feierman
Check out how the Optoma HD803 fared in our comparison report.

The Optoma HD803, is so similar to the HD80 and HD8000 that they all are virtually the same projector when comparing to other projector models from other manufacturers. (In fact the image on the right is actually an HD8000.)

Street price of the HD803 seems to be right about $2500 or slightly less, at the time of this review (2/08)

Throughout this review, I've commented on how this Optoma compares with other 1080p projectors, and normally I do a lot of competitive commentary here. Since, however I plan to be publishing our 1080p comparison report, in about 3 weeks (or less), I'm just going to reiterate a few comments, and leave the rest for the Comparison Report.

Click to enlarge. So close. Optoma currently (at least in the US) dominates the DLP segment of the 1080p home theater projector market. Techically they have five 1080 projectors, although three, the HD80, HD803, and HD8000 are almost identical. Moving up, they have the HD81, with better processing, and the spectacular HD81-LV, a light cannon that, when it comes to lumens, leaves everything else under $10,000 (US) in the dust.


Click Image to Enlarge

1080p Projector Competition

DLP projectors have always been described as film-like - natural looking, and the Optoma HD803 is no exception. The choice, for example, between the HD803, and the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, in many ways is going to be a personal one. The Epson may do significantly better black levels, but has a slightly hard looking image, compared directly to the HD803. The Epson can also really crank out the lumens when needed, offering close to double that of the HD803, even though it's a tad less bright in best mode. Personally I didn't find that hardness to be an issue, even being the owner of the JVC RS1, definitely considered to be a very film-like projector. Interestingly, despite the slight brightness advantage in best mode of the Optoma, I found the Epson to handle larger screens better. This I tie to the Optoma's overall slightly darker look to images (but in fairness, it has richer dark color handling).

1080p Projector Competition

Optoma HD803
Sony VW40


The Sony VW40 poses a greater challenge for the Optoma HD803. It's similar in film-like nature, although it has a different flavor to the image, and almost identical in brightness in "best" mode, although not as bright when you want maximum lumens (it's not that much less bright though). The Sony, like the Epson, wins hands down in placement flexibility, compared to the HD803, which being a typical DLP has only a 1.2:1 zoom (compared to 2:1 (Epson) and 1.8:1 (Sony VW40). Also, the other two have lens shift, making shelf mounting easy (the Optoma can't be shelf mounted except down low).

Between the Panasonic and the HD803, I just don't know. Black levels should be roughly comparable, and the Optoma appears sharper, but both provide really watchable images, though without gamma adjusted the Optoma will be noticeably darker. I've seen these, too far apart in time, to figure out which I would prefer. I'd really have to see them together, or at least close in time. Most people will buy the Panasonic though, because of its placement flexibility. The HD803, really needs to be ceiling mounted, and in addition, the significant lens offset puts it more than 1.5 feet above the top of the screen, which kills it for people doing basements that don't have standard ceilings.

What about the really low priced 1080p projectors

The Sanyo PLV-Z2000 is far less, and it really is a nice projector, roughly in the same class as the Optoma, and being 3LCD it has the usual placement advantage. The Optoma HD803 clobbers the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 in terms of brightness. It's got 40% more lumens when comparing best modes, and double the lumens when you need them for sports, etc., with significant ambient light.

The Mitsubishi HC4900 is also very good sharpness, but can't match the HD803 in black levels. The HC4900, though is one of the brightest projectors out there in best mode, producing about 650 lumens in Cinema mode. The two projectors are similar in brightness when in brightest modes. If you need the lumens, the Mitsubishi is the way to go. To me, however, there is enough of a step up in black level performance, that I really prefer the HD803 to the HC4900 for viewing. Of course, we're talking about a huge difference in selling price, with the Mitsubishi, it seems, currently being at least $600 less.

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