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Optoma HD803 Home Theater Projector Review - General Performance

Posted on February 20, 2008 by Art Feierman

Optoma HD803 with Optional Anamorphic Lens

Optoma sells an optional anamorphic Lens, with motorized sled option for $3999 extra (more than the projector itself), for those planning on a 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) shaped screen. It works with the HD803, as well as their HD80, HD8000, HD81, and HD81-LV projectors.

When using Optoma's anamorphic lens in conjunction with a Cinemascope shaped screen, the placement difference and screen size, of course, are different than using a much more common 16:9 screen without the optional lens.

If you choose to go anamorphic, you'll set the Letter-Box aspect ratio option from the remote control, or menus.

What does this all mean? You get a wider image, relative to a standard setup, and the projector stretches the vertical, so every pixel is used, and there is no letter box at the top and bottom. Because all of the projector's pixels are being used, the overall image is also brighter, since approximately 20% more pixels are being used to create the image.

I did not test the Optoma HD803 with the anamorphic lens, but it is the identical lens system that I wrote about in the Optoma HD81-LV review. To read more: Optoma HD81-LV.

The real question is: Does one buy a $2500ish projector and a $4000 lens system, or does it make more sense, since you are spending the bigger bucks for the lens system, to buy the step up products - either the HD81, or HD81-LV?

Myself, I would think it makes more sense to buy the higher end projector as well, but I can also understand the idea, that if you want the cinemascope setup, you aren't hyper-critical of the last few percent of performance, and the budget is tight, I can see pairing the HD803 with an anamorphic lens and Cinemascope ratio, as a viable option for some.

Optoma HD803 Projector: Menus

Overall the HD803 menus, like those of its siblings, are reasonably laid out. However, there are a lot of levels for some of the advanced features. For example: From the main menu system, switching lamp brightness or controlling Iris settings, are two levels down, three if you count the top Main menu.

Let's take a look. Note: The menus of the HD803 are very similar to the HD8000, HD80, HD81 and HD81-LV projectors we've reviewed already. Optoma confirms that the menus of the HD80 and HD803 menus are identical. The images and much of the content in this menu section is from the HD80 review.

Selecting the Menu button on the remote or the Optoma HD803's control panel, you bring up the menu seen on the right; the Image Menu. On the left side, you can see the three other primary menus. Display, System, and Setup.

Mode offers the choice of 3 User presets. Each is different. I used User 1 as the basis for most of my work.

After that, there are the usual basic image controls, like brightness and contrast. Unfortunately if you scroll down, to, say, Brightness, you then have to Enter or right arrow key which will then bring up

your ability to adjust Brightness. It would be nicer if once on Brightness, the left and right arrow keys simply let you change the value, instead of essentially opening another window, and adding several extra keystrokes.

The last item on the Image menu opens the Advanced menu, shown here, which lets you adjust Noise Reduction, Gamma, Degamma (shown below), and Color Temperature. Also below is the Color Temp Menu. In addition to the three presets (Warm, Mid, and Cold), you can access the User menu, also shown below. From this menu, you can individually control the R, G, and B Contrast and Brightness settings. This is where most of the calibration work gets done - to come up with a well tuned grayscale balance for movie watching. For movie watching, the ideal color temperature is 6500K. The Color Temp controls let you adjust to achieve that.

Gamma allows 10 steps of control of the image, leaving the blacks black and the full intensity colors and white as is, but adjusting the lower, mid, and upper ranges. For example, movies are looking for a higher gamma to provide a richer (and some would say darker overall) image.

Color Vividness seems similar to TI's Brilliant Color circuitry. It seems to affect a number of aspects of the image, but basically allows you to increase intensity, theoretically, without oversaturating.

Format allows you to select the aspect ratio for your content. From reading the manual, the most interesting feature might be the Edge masking. The manual does not clearly explain what this is for. Image Shift, I am familiar with. It allows you to move the image up or down the screen. If you have a full screen image, using Image Shift will cause you to lose part of the image. If though, you are working with a letter boxed 16:9 movie, you could move the image up the screen so the top of the actual content, is even with the top of your screen. If you have the ability to control how far down your screen goes (motorized or manual), for example, you could only extend it as far as the 2.35:1 Cinemascope shape. Then by moving the image up, you would fill the visible screen and not have a letterbox. I always thought that was a usable feature for some.

On the System Menu, we find a couple of key capabilities, beyond selecting menu language or the background color. Equally important, is the Projector sub menu, which allows you to control the Iris (auto, off, or manual - with 16 settings), and the all important lamp mode. From there you can select low power or full power settings.

Optoma HD803 Projector Menus SlideShow








Color Temperature


Advance Color Temperature



The last major menu is the Setup menu.

It provides choice of power up to last source, or source search. There is also a high altitude fan mode, and a reset control.

In other words, the HD803 (or HD80) offer fairly extensive controls of not just image quality, but almost all aspects of use.

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