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Optoma HD81 Projector Review - General Performance-3

Posted on October 16, 2013 by Art Feierman

That takes us to rainbows. The HD81 is a typical higher end DLP projector, with a 5X color wheel. That means the usual very small portion of viewers may see rainbows (which are most visible when fine edge white areas are moving across a dark background. That also means even those rainbow sensitive that see them occasionally on a dark movie scene, are not likely to ever see one while watching a football game, or a typical well lit sitcom. Fortunately for 90-95% of the population (my best guess), rainbows will not be an issue.

Optoma HD81 Light Leakage

The Optoma leaks a small amount of light out the lens. It is spottable (barely) if your walls aren't dark, and the scene on the screen is extremely dark (black, or maybe a starfield). Although easy to spot when feeding the projector the right dark image to project, it is not something that I noticed during normal viewing in my theater room, (which still has light colored walls).

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Optoma HD81 Audible Noise Levels

Ouch. Noise is the HD81's achilles heel. Not that it's terribly loud, but in full power mode, it is noisier than any other 1080p projector I have seen. It is noisy enough, I believe, to discourage some buyers, but not most. Remember too, the HD81 is bright, so in low power mode, for example, its still brighter than the Panasonic or Mitsubishi 1080p projectors. In a serious theater environment, you might want to try to absorb some of the sound, if practical. Let me put it this way. In full power mode, its noisier than when my heater or air conditioner come on. Of course, it is steady, so the mind tends to ignore it to some degree.

As nice a guy as I am, though, the HD81 deserves criticism here. It really is just a bit too noisy in full power mode! I'm not a fanatic for noise levels, but since the HD81 has been on my short list for my next projector, it is an issue I am not taking lightly.

Optoma HD81 Brightness

The Optoma HD81 really shines (sorry - had to throw in a pun), when it comes to brightness. In best mode, it is the brightest 1080p projector we have yet seen. I know that SIM2 has a single chip DLP 1080p that just started shipping, that is brighter, but then since it sells for about $15K, it isn't exactly "competition".

Here are the numbers:

In "Best" mode - Film, Color Temp set to Warm, Iris fully open, and lamp on Bright, the HD81 cranked out a very, very impressive 674 lumens. More importantly: After doing a basic grayscale calibration and brightness/contrast adjust, the HD81 still managed 526 lumens.

Even the very bright BenQ W10000 came up slightly short of that with a meere 506 lumens is its most similar mode, and after its grayscale calibration.

In low power the HD81 is almost exactly 20% dimmer, still putting out 419 lumens.

We measured the Graphics mode at full power, at 693 lumens. The HD81 doesn't seem to have a user mode tricked out for maximum brightness where some color performance is sacrificed, to be able to punch through ambient light. I didn't spend much time trying to create such a setting, but while fooling around, I did get some measurements in the high 800 lumen range. I have no doubt I could push it further, but, unless I was going to be really intent in "designing" my "Family Room/ ambient light mode, to the point where I felt it really usable, it didn't make sense to worry about the lumens.

Let's figure, that if you need it, the HD81 won't have any trouble producing a usable picture at 1000 lumens, or higher. By comparison, the best I got out of the BenQ was 1119. As such, I'll say for practical purposes that the HD81 and the BenQ are going to be pretty much comparable in "bright modes" and the HD81 has a very, very slight edge in best mode.

I did not bother to measure the HD81 with the iris stopped down. There is little benefit to stopping down the iris (unless you want to use it to dim down the projector for small screens in a dark room). Technically, stopping down an iris will increase contrast slightly, but slightly is a poor trade off against a darker image.

Optoma HD81 Lamp Life and Replacement

Oh, how typical: 2000 hours in full power mode, and 3000 hours rated for low power. That has to be the "industry norm".

When it comes to replacing the lamp, the lamp door is on the bottom of the projector. That means you are going to have to unmount a celing mounted projector to change the lamp. That's a pain, but typical of most projectors. Problem is, it's competition includes the BenQ W10000 and the Panasonic PT-AE1000U, neither of which requires unmounting to change their lamps.

Optoma HD81 Projector Screen Recommendations

As is typical of fairly bright home theater projectors that have extremely good black levels, you can go "either way". The HD81 looks absolutely great on my large Firehawk, and it had simply eye popping colors on my smaller 106" Carada Brilliant white. I don't think the Brilliant White at that size is too bright - black levels in the letterbox area, are still pretty dark. I would say, though that below 100" diagonal, a white surface screen like the BW with it's 1.4 gain (measured 1.3), is too bright, unless this is a family room and you are watching football with some light coming in the windows.

My Firehawk at 128" is about the limit for the HD81 in best mode. Not a lot of horsepower to spare.

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