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Optoma HD131Xe Home Projector - A "First Look" Review

Greetings to all of you interested in Optoma's HD131Xe home theater projector.
The Optoma HD131Xe packs a lot of punch for an entry level 1080p projector for your home!

The Optoma HD131Xe, an entry level home entertainment projector with 1080p resolution and 3D, packs a lot of punch!

The full review of the Optoma HD131Xe should post a few days after this "first look", but this should help many of you trying to make a quick decision. The Optoma HD131Xe is an entry level projector for home entertainment use.  As one would expect from one of the least expensive 1080p (Full HD) resolution projectors, there are both strengths and weaknesses in terms of performance.  As I was saying to one of my other reviewers just last night:  If "entry level" projectors didn't have issues, there wouldn't be more expensive, better projectors out there." I already mentioned that the HD131Xe is 1080p resolution.  It's also pretty bright, although not quite as bright from our measurements as Optoma projects.   They claim 2500 lumens, we measured almost 1800. However, we don't try to find every last lumen, we know we can adjust and find a few hundred more, but we are measuring when we have a good looking picture, rather than brightest possible. Still 1700+ lumens is a lot, and this projector when calibrated (with Brilliant Color on maximum setting, which is 10), still came in at 1591 lumens with the lens at mid-point of its zoom range.  That qualifies as "light canon."  This projector is definitely ready for the family room/bonus room, rather than a dedicated cave. I want to keep this pretty short, get the full review done soonest, so I'll be brief. As I see it from watching it, in Mike's calibrated User mode, Bright mode, and Cinema, among others, there is one real strength, one real weakness, and one lesser weakness that, together, pretty much sum up picture quality and performance, at least for 2D viewing.  Here we go: The most surprising strength of the HD131Xe is the black level performance.  It seems about equal to the $500+ more expensive Optoma HD25-LV, which we previously reviewed.  It's even better than the very popular, (and one of our favorites), the slightly more expensive BenQ W1070 when it comes to black level performance. But the color accuracy of this projector is its weakness.  It's not terrible, for sure, but it sure isn't good.  Mike could never come up with a way to calibrate it that resulted in reasonably accurate numbers, or reasonably accurate color.  Most of the time Red is the big problem.  For the most part you just don't get to see a really bright, rich, pure red.  Not in any of the preset color modes, or after Mike's calibration.  Blues are off too, and greens in many modes are too strong.  The only sub-$1000 projector I've had here, for comparison purposes is the Epson Home Cinema 2030, which is way better at color, but no match for the Optoma in terms of black levels. The silver lining though, is that if you aren't a hard core enthusiast demanding really accurate color - you know -  if you are the type of person who has bought LCDTV's, hooked them up, but never adjusted anything, you may not even notice. You see, despite the color inaccuracies, the picture is pretty watchable, for most.  I snuck it into the theater the other night (before we started viewing), for some HDTV, changing out from the $3500ish Sony HW55ES, a great projector, but neither my wife or a friend noticed enough to comment something like:  Is this a different projector?  It doesn't look as good. I've also heard from two recent buyers of the HD131Xe.  While one had some minor problem, and a replacement was being sent out, but both reported that they really liked their HD131Xe projectors.   A third person, I believe was going to spend more and opt for an Epson Home Cinema 2030. (We'll have several side by side comparisons in the full review.)

Optoma HD131Xe projector - Color is off, but definitely watchable

While reds just don't seem really red, faces often seem to reddish.  Go figure! The other issue we found is the same one noted when we reviewed the Optoma HD25-LV:  The image combines a lot of image noise with a contrasty look.  In terms of those on a quest of a really great picture, those are both negatives.  On the other hand, the HD131Xe sure has a lot of pop to the image!  I haven't run lag time tests for you gamers out there, but will have them done for the full review.  That said, almost all Optoma's are at least very good in terms of low lag times.  Not surprising as Optoma heavily focuses on projectors for gamers, such as the even lower cost, 720p resolution Optoma GT760 projector A close look at some faces easily shows the problem (although not obvious on the Daniel Craig image).    

Not a great choice of image but it does show that the Optoma calibrated has a good deal more red in Bond's face, than does the Epson 2030, to its right.

I did some side by sides with the Epson Home Cinema 2030, and this image gives you some idea of the extra red in skin tones.       There are times where the image noise/contrast, to me, is very noticeable, but then, I'm paid to notice.  The readers who bought the HD131Xe and commented on the projector to me, didn't seem to notice or if they did, they didn't seem to mind.
There's a fair amount of image noise visible, in most parts of the face. Not smooth. Click to enlarge.

There's a fair amount of image noise visible, in most parts of the face. Not smooth. Click to enlarge.

Here's a close-up look (above) at the noise in this image from The Hunger Games.  Bright mode, the brightest, would show even more noise, although it's barely brighter than User mode (calibrated).  Interestingly, dialing down Brilliant Color did not have much affect on the noise. I really can't think of a single sub $1500 projector, let alone one under $1000, that doesn't have some real trade-offs, so please don't be overly concerned.  The HD131Xe is a competitive projector for the dollars.  But, it will appeal to the folks who aren't seriously image critical, who just want to project a large image, kick back and enjoy the content. Warranty on the Optoma HD131Xe is your basic limited one year parts and labor.   That's the most common under $1000, but there are competitors out there with two, and even one with athree year warranty. From an ergonomic standpoint, I mostly like this projector, but have one real complaint.  Again, it's the same complaint I had when reviewing Optoma's more expensive HD25-LV.  The User area settings can't be saved.  The projector will remember them until that moment, when you are in a different mode, such as Cinema, or Bright, and make an adjustment.  Soon as you adjust the image, what was in the User mode (in our case, the post calibration settings) get wiped out.   So, write them down somewhere, you just might need them again, should you forget, and make changes to a different mode.  Check out our recommended settings, in the review when it publishes, but as Mike points out, he did the best he could, trying to calibrate it, but it's still not close to being correct.  If you like other modes better, go for it.  Whatever picture makes you happy, because none will be close to what a really good projector should produce, color wise, after a calibration. Other things of note.  There's a decent speaker built in.  Of course it's small, and limited in audio quality, but it will do in a pinch for watching TV and sports, and movies (if you must).  The remote control is nice, however, it's bright backlight can be somewhat blinding, should you be in a fully darkened room.  Such is life for this under $800 street priced projector. All considered, it's definitely a competitor.  I'm still deciding how it fits in with other projectors like the Viewsonic  PJD7820HD, Acer H6510, Epson HC2030, and a couple of older projectors still on the market.  The full review is coming soon! -art  

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