The Optoma ML500 overall is a decent projector, but a true test of a great projector is image quality and clarity. Surprisingly, it did great in some areas and not so great in others. Unfortunately the image was not as sharp as I was hoping it could be. When you see a compact unit that is just 2.5 pounds and 500 lumens, not to mention with a lamp life of 20,000 hours, who wouldn't hope it could be the complete package.
In the projector's native resolution of 1280x800, the image was satisfactory but not clear enough to be considered a top rated projector. Crisp, sharp lettering that I come to expect from more expensive projectors, was a little bit fuzzy and over time eye fatigue set in. Although I felt at this point trying out higher resolutions would be futile, I did just to be comprehensive. What I suspected was only reinforced even more. Lettering in 12pt and smaller type became unreadable and when resolution was bumped to the maximum tolerable, which was 1680x1050, I stopped testing.
Ultimately the ML500 just doesn't produce a sharp, crisp image. This is not to say that the current product run of ML500's aren't sharp but the unit I evaluated needs sharpness improvement. Here is a look at the projector in three different resolutions. Click on the image to see a larger view.
Color is where I was really surprised. For a DLP projector, the ML500 did a pretty decent job of displaying colors that most DLP projectors seem to have trouble with. Most DLP projectors produce a more muddy looking yellow that almost shifts to green. They also can produce a red that looks more like an orange. As you will see below in the pictures, the ML500 does a much improved yellow and the red actually looks more true red than most DLP's. It is possible to adjust the projectors brightness and contrast to achieve better color, so keep that in mind.
When it comes to video, the Optoma ML500 actually performed well. I am able to say this after mentioning that the sharpness was not as good as I would like because video doesn't require the same level of sharpness to enjoy as does working with spreadsheets and other text heavy documents. Can't honestly say it would be a good ultra portable home theater considering there are some really great models out there that are affordable, but if you were looking for a HD projector for just video and you really wanted it to be small, then the ML500 is definitely worth a look. Below are some images taken while displaying HD through a HDMI cable.