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Optoma HD8200 - Review Summary

Posted on March 29, 2009 by Art Feierman
A summary of the Optoma HD8200 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.

Optoma HD8200 Projector - The Bottom Line

I like where Optoma is going with the HD8200. All considered, the HD8200 projector is perhaps the second really impressive 1080p projector to come out of Optoma. The first being the HD81-LV - the brightest of the under $10,000 1080p projectors, and a veritable light cannon, compared to just about everything else.

With the HD8200, Optoma has built a quality, general consumer projector. Finally, in the form of the HD8200, they have a projector in their lineup with pretty good placement flexibility, rather than their usual, extremely limited placement flexiibility projectors.

What this translates to, is that the HD8200 is now viable (from a placement standpoint) for a much larger group of potential owners. Optoma's 1.5:1 zoom, plus some flexible lens shift, now make the HD8200 practical for ceiling mount installation in many rooms with average or low ceilings - where other Optoma's simply couldn't be used with 100 inch or larger screens because it had to be mounted well above the top of the screen. As noted in the Physical Tour section of this review, the strange implementation of lens shift may solve the lower ceiling issues for ceiling mounting that past Optoma's could not deal with. Optoma's lens shift, however, does not solve the issue of rear shelf mounting. The projector must be placed not much higher than the bottom of the screen surface, so you can't put the HD8200 on a high shelf. Too bad, and a "mistake" on their part I just can't explain away.

Then there's the 6x color wheel, combining with some enhanced processing, dramatically reduces the visibility of the Rainbow Effect, for those of us sensitive. I was able to watch virtually all of Quantum of Solace, before I noticed that I hadn't seen a rainbow. I'm moderately rainbow sensitive, so I consider this a real plus. With the HD8200, if I was selecting a projector, I would simply not consider Rainbow Effect as an issue, which is more than I can say for any other DLP projector I've worked with. There are some other Optomas with 6x color wheels, but there was still infrequent rainbow visibility, even if much better than those projectors with 4x and 5x wheels. In this case - though, rainbows, for me, at least, are a non-issue. I hopefully look forward to seeing this "breakthrough" in future DLP projectors from all manufacturers.

That takes us to the picture quality. True, this projector needs to be calibrated (or at least try our settings), more than most, but all projectors benefit to some degree or another. Of greater import, is the picture quality after the projector is properly set up.

I can't help but like the image that the HD8200 projects. Skin tones look very good. Colors appear rich and well saturated, especially darker colors, and the picture is very well balanced. While the best projectors at dark shadow detail are a bit better, the HD8200 is more than acceptable. If there is a weakness, it is black level performance, yet it does a very good job. It just isn't quite as good as competitors such as the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, Mitsubishi HC7000 and Panasonic PT-AE3000. It is probably most similar, in terms of black level performance to the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 (the ultra-high-contrast 3LCD projector with the least best black levels, and the BenQ W5000, which it may best slightly (hard to say, with over a year between doing this review, and the last time I worked with the W5000. For those with less than ideal rooms - minor ambient light, or white walls, the difference between the HD8200 and the best at black levels is likely to be almost completely negated. That said, in a really dark room, with dark walls, etc., you can appreciate those projectors that are better at black level performance.

At no point were the black levels, by any means weak. The HD8200 easily outperforms more standard 3LCD projectors like Epson's Home Cinema 6100, Sanyo PLV-Z700, although in fairness, those sell for roughly half to 60% of the price of the HD8200.

The HD8200 should have particularly strong appeal to those who really are almost completely focused on movie watching. For those folks the HD8200 in its best mode, is one of the brightest out there. Those people likely won't be concerned that the projector isn't significantly brighter in "brightest" mode. For movie watching, the HD8200 handles my 128 inch diagonal Firehawk G3 screen without any real difficulty.

For movie watching, the HD8200 does a great job on screens from 100 inch to about 120 inch diagonal, without breaking a sweat. On 100 inch and smaller screens, the HD8200 is downright spectacular looking - bright, rich and dynamic.

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