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Optoma HD81 Home Theater Projector Review - Image Quality

Posted on October 16, 2013 by Art Feierman

Overall, I was very impressed with image quality. Color out of the box was good, not exceptional, but easily tunable. The color Temp I found to be too "cool" for movies - in the mid 7000K range, instead of 6500K. But, as I said, easily fixable with a basic calibration disk designed for end users.

Other highlights include an extremely sharp image, and very good black levels and equally good shadow detail.

A very important point for you to think on. The HD81 is an ISF certified projector. What that means is that it has all the "hooks" to allow a professional (ISF) calibrator, to work with the projector, and produce near perfect performance, in terms of color handling, accuracy, dynamics, and more. Also an ISF calibrator normally works in your room, and the settings they place into the projector (areas called ISF Day, and ISF Night), will have been designed to take into consideration, your room (walls, ambient light), screen, and sources.

Considering the price tag on the HD81 home theater projector, the typical $1000 or less for a professional calibration is something I would definitely recommend. Certainly, the overall performance doesn't call out for a calibration, but having a professional one done, should take the overall performance and viewing pleasure up a notch!


Optoma HD81 Projector: Handling of Skin Tones

Once the color temperature was adjusted, the resulting flesh tones were excellent. I should point out that they were very respectable out of the box, but tuning the color temperature improves them visibly.

The first images are from standard DVD; Arwen and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings (Return of the King), and The Fifth Element. Rounding out the standard DVD's is a shot of Will Smith in I, Robot. You may click on most images for much larger versions. Also, you will find many of these images in other 1080p projector reviews, so that you can compare.

Note, there are limits to what my camera (digital) can capture, compared the performance of the projectors I review. The camera can't capture the full dynamic range (for example, it looses most shadow details). Please understand, the images, while helpful, are here to support the commentary, not the other way around. So take them with a prescribed pound of salt.

Now it's time to look at some Hi-Def images, from HD-DVD.

The first is from Phantom of the Opera, of Carlota. This is another excellent image for comparison, fleshtones (despite makeup) look natural, overall color saturation is very good.

Two more for your consideration: Clint Eastwood (from Space Cowboys). I should note that these fleshtones lean towards red, as is true for the same image shot on other projectors.

And here are a couple of images from AeonFlux, (also HD-DVD): (note, AeonFlux does not support the HD-DVD bookmarking feature, so the images are typically a few frames apart, from review to review.

Optoma HD81 General Color Handling

Colors, overall, are rich, and again, Optoma, somehow manages to have particularly rich colors in the dark ranges, something I have always admired in their projectors. The result of watching hours of movies, is that, even on my large screen, the HD81 was both film-like (and free of pixel visibility), and vibrant, and in some scenes (especially AeonFlux, a very well produced Sci-fi movie, in terms of production values), I have to say, "eye-popping" imagery.

Since I just mentioned the HD-DVD AeonFlux, here is a side by side of the HD81 (on the right) and the BenQ W10000 (the Optoma's closest competitor) on the left: (click to enlarge). Note, the HD81 image is slightly brighter - an error on my part, so don't let overall brightness fool you.

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