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Optoma HD20 Review

Oct 7, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

A native 1080p projector that crosses the low price-point threshold and balances brightness and color.

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Optoma HD20 projector

Price erosion is hardly new to the front-projection industry and neither is the less-than-$1,000 level. We’ve seen a variety of projector classes and types—first SVGA business units, then XGA models, then 720p video projectors, etc.—hit that noteworthy sub-four-digit mark over the last few of years. Now Optoma has hit another milestone with the first native 1080p video projector: the Optoma HD20 for $999.

On the one hand, this could be seen as just another price-point threshold, but it’s certainly a big one. In the case of the HD20, it’s not just the three-digit pricing, but the fact that it sacrifices nothing in terms of resolution. Sure, home theater projectors have been this affordable in the past, but only 720p models. Right or wrong, that’s left the perception of resolution—and thus picture quality—shortcomings. The same was true of SVGA models before XGA business projectors broke the same price mark. At 1080p, consumers are getting top resolution at an affordable price.

Has Optoma found the magic formula to open the home-theater-for-the-masses floodgates? I found that the HD20 delivers a wonderful, crisp image—although there are clearly corners that have been cut to lower costs. For many, that will make for a pretty good tradeoff, including a new, broader base of home theater buyers and installers in need of affordable, yet high-quality video displays at entertainment, sports, house of worship, and other venues.

The corner-cutting starts with connectivity, although the HD20 will have all that most users need and not much extra. Specifically, there are two HDMI inputs and a signal analog 3x RCA component video set, allowing for multiple source cabling connections at one time. Optoma does include a 15-pin D-sub, doubling as VGA and a second component input, and a rather superfluous composite video input. However, there’s no S-Video input. That may be a drawback for consumers with older equipment (or familiarity with S-Video cabling), but most will prefer the extra pennies of savings.

There is no audio whatsoever; the expectation being that users will have a separate audio system. A few companies, including Optoma, have offered home-theater-in-a-box style products that have had audio, loudspeakers, and DVD players built into the projector chassis. That easy-to-use class of products never attained great success. The HD20 offers higher quality, although it assumes a higher level of media and cabling sophistication. Hopefully that will appeal to a generation that is becoming accustomed to larger images and bigger sound.

Manual focus and zoom are a given at this price point, although Optoma’s manual control knobs are obvious and easy to use. The unit can be placed on a table top or ceiling mounted with an optional mounting bracket. The menus are smartly straightforward for typical consumers and deep enough to allow installers to configure the projector to a specific environment. It even has a 12V trigger.

Optoma has included four image mode presets—cinema, bright, photo, reference, as well as a user mode—and basic color temperature settings. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll be able to adjust individual color gain and bias, as well as gamma curves and offset. There are even controls for overscan and edge masking, and a super-wide mode for cinema aspect ratios.

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