We, here at AVForums, are firm believers in the maxim that, when it comes to 3D, size does matter. So we were delighted when the first 3D projectors began to appear a year ago, affording an opportunity to create a genuinely immersive experience akin to one found at your local cinema. However back then, the choice was relatively thin on the ground with the only realistic options being Sony's disappointing VW90ES and the excellent X3, X7 and DLA-X9 from JVC. Of particular interest was the JVC DLA-X3, which deservedly won a Best Buy badge and at £3,500 had no real competition at that price point, effectively having the entry level 3D projector market to itself for much of this year.
Well, what a difference a year makes and already we have seen Sony raise their game with the much improved HW30ES and Panasonic enter the 3D projector market with their very impressive PT-AT5000. Over the next few months we will also see new entry level 3D projectors from JVC in the form of the DLA-X30, Optoma with their HD83 and Epson with their EH-TW9000. It is certainly shaping up to be a highly competitive market over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, with all of these projectors retailing in the £2,300 to £3,000 price range.
However, even Optoma's HD83 - which is priced at £2,300 - isn't the cheapest option available this holiday season because Optoma are also releasing the HD33. which will retail for a jaw dropping £1,350. Obviously to reach this price point Optoma have had to drop a number of features but, even so, it offers the promise of big screen 3D at a cost below even most 3D TVs. Can the HD33 deliver on this promise and are we seeing a paradigm shift in 3D projector pricing? Let's take a look and see.
Design and Features
There are large air intakes on the right hand side and large air exhausts on the left hand side, out of which hot air vents when the projector is in use. The marketing claims that the projector is 'whisper quiet', presumably this was written by same guy who claimed that the PS3 was 'almost silent'. The truth is that fans on the HD33 do make enough noise to be heard during very quiet passages in a film but, in reality, you won't hear the HD33 most of the time and at least it is free of the high pitched whine that plagues some single chip DLPs. One point to mention, there is a fair amount of light spill out of the air vents and whilst this won't be an issue if the projector is behind you or up on the ceiling, it is worth bearing in mind if the HD33 is table mounted in front of you. Given the HD33's relatively narrow throw ratio (1.5 - 1.8), it is quite possible that the projector will be positioned in front of you, unless you are using a very small room.
As is common with the majority of Optoma's projectors, the lens is off-centre on the right hand side of the chassis but we're not fans of this approach because it makes centring the lens more difficult. By comparison, Optoma's HD83 has a centred lens which we feel both looks more attractive and makes installation easier. In the case of the HD33, centring the lens is important because one of the features that has been dropped to keep the price down is lens shift. This lack of lens shift - coupled with the narrow throw range - means that positioning the HD33 correctly is essential for an effective installation of the projector. Whilst the HD33 comes with keystone correction, you always want to avoid using this, if at all possible, because keystone correction introduces scaling which results in a loss of resolution.
Above the lens mount there is a manual zoom control and the lens mount itself can be rotated manually to focus the image. There is a rubber lens cap that can be used to keep dust off the lens but putting it on and off will require the lens to be refocused. The HD33 also comes with a three pin power cord that connects at the rear of the chassis, which is where you will also find all the other connections.
The HD33 has a standard set of connections for a modern projector which includes two HDMI inputs (v1.4a for full 3D support) and a component input, using three times RCA connectors. Unlike with the HD83, we had no problems making firm connections with the HDMI inputs, even when using quite chunky HDMI cables. The HD33 has dropped the legacy S-Video connector but it still includes a composite video input with RCA connector and a VGA input. There is also a RS232 connector for system control, as well as a 12v screen trigger and a 3D-Sync Out (3-Pin VESA) connector for the RF 3D emitter.
The HD33 comes with the Optoma 3D-RF System which is their implementation of Monster's Max 3D Universal Active Eyewear System. Included with the projector is one pair of active shutter 3D glasses and a RF sync emitter that is connected to the projector. The RF sync emitter is very small and since it doesn't use infra-red and thus doesn't need line-of-sight, it can be placed anywhere. The range of the RF emitter is big enough for even the largest room and we never once had a problem with a loss of sync. The RF glasses themselves are rechargeable and can be turned on by pressing a small button on the top of the left hand arm, a LED light flashes once to indicate the glasses are ready for 3D use. The glasses themselves are a gloss black and are quite large, in fact they look like they should be adorning the head of Jackie Onassis or Elizabeth Taylor, rather than a home cinema. They have large lenses, which is good because it provides a wide field of view, and a soft rubber nose piece and fit comfortably over normal glasses. They also have very wide sides which is excellent for blocking out ambient light. Some people might find the glasses rather heavy, over long periods of time, but we were prepared to accept this in lieu of all the other benefits the design offered.
The accompanying remote control is small, comfortable to hold and includes backlighting. At the bottom are buttons for directly selecting the inputs (HDMI1, HDMI2, Component, VGA or Video) which is preferable to cycling through a single input button. The middle of the remote control comprises of the navigation and enter buttons and, at the bottom left of the navigation buttons, is the menu button. We aren't too happy with the location of the menu button, it appears almost like an afterthought and can be hard to locate in the dark, even with backlighting. We would recommend moving the input buttons further down the remote control to allow for a bigger menu button directly below the navigation buttons. Above the navigation controls there are buttons for direct access to selections such as Native, LBX and 3D Format, as well as key controls like Brightness, Contrast and Lamp Mode. Finally, at the top of the remote control are the on and off buttons. There is no dedicated button for turning on the backlight which means you need to know where the button you initially want to press is when using the remote control in the dark. This problem would be mitigated if the menu button was more prominent and better positioned. It should also be noted that there are no controls on the projector itself, so don't lose the remote control.
Menus and Setup
The menu system is relatively simple, easy to use, well laid out and responsive to instructions from the remote control. The menu system itself is broken down into four sub-menus, Image, Display, System and Setup. The first is Display and here you will find the options for selecting the Format (4:3, 16:9, LBX or Native), SuperWide (Off/On(16:9)/On(2.35:1)/Auto) as well as electronic controls for zoom, shift, masking and keystone. There is also a sub-menu for 3D including controls to convert 3D to 2D, Invert the 3D image and select the 3D Format (Off/SBS/Top and Bottom/Frame Sequential).
The second menu selection is System which includes controls for selecting the Menu Location, the Lamp Settings (Hours/Reminder/Mode/Reset) and Projection (front-stand/front-ceiling/rear-stand/rear-ceiling). You can also select a series of Test Patterns, the Background Colour and turn on or off the 12v Trigger.
The third menu selection is Setup which includes all the controls for selecting the menu Language, the Input Source, Source Lock, High Altitude, Auto Power Off, Signal (VGA), Signal (Video) and a system Reset.
The final main menu selection is Image which contains all the picture controls such as Display Mode (Cinema, Reference, Photo, Bright, 3D and User), Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint. There is also the Advanced sub-menu which contains all the additional picture controls.
Within the Advanced sub-menu there is the [tip=gamma]Gamma[/tip] selection (Film, Video, Standard, Graphics), the PureEngine controls and the Colour Settings.
Within the Colour Settings sub-menu, you will find the controls for the Colour Temperature (Cold/Warm), the Colour Space (Auto/RGB/RGB(0-255)/RGB(16-235)/YUV) and the RGB Gain/Bias which is the White Balance control. This control is used to calibrate the Greyscale by adjusting the Bias and Gain of Red, Green and Blue.
The PureEngine sub-menu allow you to adjust the PureDetail control which applies edge enhancement, the PureColor control which adjusts the vividness of the colours and the PureMotion control which applies frame interpolation to moving images.
The chart above shows the greyscale and gamma performance using the Cinema preset and as you can see, overall it is excellent. All three primary colours are tracking in a straight line on the RGB Balance chart, with red and green both tracking close to the target of 100 and blue tracking slightly above. The DeltaEs (errors) are all less than 3 with the exception of 90 IRE which is just above 3. Anything below 3 is indistinguishable to the human eye and looking at a stair step greyscale pattern it was largely free of discolouration. The Gamma Luminance or brightness of the greyscale was also excellent and the gamma itself is tracking close to our target of 2.2. Overall this is an excellent out-of-the-box greyscale performance.
Moving on to the Reference setting and, as you can see from the chart above, the greyscale and gamma performance is even better with the mid-section RGB tracking from 30 to 80 IRE being essentially perfect. All three primary colours are tracking in a straight line on the RGB Balance chart and tracking close to the target of 100. The DeltaEs (errors) are all less than 1 with the exception of 90 and 100 IRE which are at 3 and 6. As we mentioned in the previous section, anything below 3 is indistinguishable to the human eye and looking at a stair step greyscale pattern it was once again largely free of discolouration. The Gamma Luminance or brightness of the greyscale was also very good and the gamma itself is tracking close to our target of 2.2 with a slight bump around 80 and 90 IRE. However, overall both the Cinema and Reference presets offer superb out-of-the-box greyscale performance which is remarkable for a projector at this price point.
The CIE chart above shows the colour gamut for the Cinema preset and it is fairly inaccurate compared to the industry standard of Rec.709. The luminance or brightness of red, green, magenta and yellow are under, whilst the colour or saturation is over saturated in terms of green, blue, magenta and yellow. In addition there are errors in the hue or tint of red, green and blue. The overall DeltaEs are quite high for red, green and blue and clearly given that magenta is a combination of red and blue, the errors in blue are also creating inaccuracies in magenta. The same is true for yellow, that colour is a combination of green and red and errors in green are causing inaccuracies in yellow.
In the case of the Reference preset, the CIE chart shows a similar colour gamut to the one we saw for the Cinema preset. In this case the luminance or brightness of all six colours is under saturated, whilst the colour or saturation is over saturated in terms of every colour except cyan. In addition there are again errors in the hue or tint of red, green and blue. The overall DeltaEs are quite high for red, green, blue and magenta and the error in yellow is also reasonably high. As with the Cinema preset the over saturated colours are offset to a degree by the under saturated luminance but we would still like to see a more accurate colour gamut from one of these presets, especially as the HD33 doesn't have a Colour Management System.
Using the white balance control, which Optoma call RGB Gain/Bias, we were able to improve the greyscale tracking still further, with all the RGB Balance measurements producing errors that are well below 3, with the exception of a slight error at 100 IRE. In addition, the Gamma Luminance is spot on and the gamma itself is tracking exactly at our target of 2.2. This is near reference performance and is excellent for a projector at this price point.
Unfortunately as we mentioned in the previous section on colour gamut measurements, there is no Colour Management System (CMS) on the HD33. In all fairness we wouldn't expect one at this price point and it is worth remembering that there also isn't a CMS on the JVC DLA-X3 which is over twice the price. It is a shame that the out-of-the-box colour gamut isn't more accurate but as you can see from the CIE chart, thanks to the excellent greyscale, the colour of white is measuring almost exactly at the industry standard of D65. Aside from that there is very little we can do and we found that trying to use the Colour or Tint controls to improve the accuracy only resulted in even greater errors.
The video deinterlacing tests were also good, with the HD33 reproducing the rotating line without introducing any jaggies, except at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance wasn't quite as good, all three moving lines being reproduced correctly but there were some jaggies on the bottom line. However the projector had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs.
On the film detail test the HD33's performance was impressive, correctly locking on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car. In the cadence tests the projector continued to perform flawlessly, correctly detecting the 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format as well as the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The projector also had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring.
The HD33 also performed well in the tests on the HQV Blu-ray using high definition content. With the player set to 1080i, the projector correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed excellent scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. With 1080i material the projector had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
We also used our Spears & Munsil Blu-ray disc to check the overall performance of the HD33, especially the Dynamic Range High test to ensure the display was reproducing all the video levels above reference white (235) up to peak white (255). This test is an easy way of spotting if a display is clipping above reference white and thus losing detail in bright parts of the image. The HD33 failed to show detail above video level 235 which would suggest it has been set internally to the video standard (16-235). Some projectors offer a control that allows them to show detail up to video level 255 but this did not appear to be the case with the HD33. Whilst it would be nice to be able to see all the way up to peak white, because otherwise you might lose some detail in bright whites, it isn't a problem and certainly wouldn't adversely affect the projector's performance.
The other useful test is Dynamic Range Low which allows you to check that a display is only showing detail down to video level 17, below which represents reference black. Initially the HD33 Brightness control was set too low and we were losing detail just above black but, by setting the control slightly higher, we could then see detail down to 17 (but not below it) which means the HD33 was correctly reproducing black whilst maintaining appropriate shadow detail. In doing this we had to sacrifice some perceived black in order to ensure that we retained detail in shadows which is important.
Picture Performance - 2D
Since this is a single chip DLP projector the image was pin sharp and, as a result, high definition material just exploded with detail. The HD33 handled 24p content especially well and movement was smooth and judder free. One of the major strengths of DLP is motion and here the HD33 performed admirably, reproducing movement and camera pans with clarity and detail, without smearing.
The HD33 comes with two lamp settings, Standard and Bright and obviously the higher the lamp setting, the greater the heat and the louder the fan noise. There is also an AI Lamp setting which adjusts the lamp brightness according to the content but you can hear the fan noise changing depending on how bright the image is and this can be quite annoying. We used the Standard setting for all our testing and found that this delivered more than enough lumens. The actual light output was nowhere near the 1,800 lumens that Optoma claim when watching content in Cinema mode with the Standard lamp setting, in fact, we measured it at around 800 lumens, which is still pretty good. The brightness of HD33 gave images more punch and the projector was capable of lighting up a reasonably large screen without any issues. Overall the result was a very impressive 2D performance from the HD33, especially considering how much it costs.
Of course the images weren't perfect and, as one would expect from a projector at this price point, there were limitations. The better the blacks on a projector, the better the dynamic range and the more solid and film-like the image appears. There is no question that the JVC DLA-X3 for example is capable of excellent blacks and these give its image far more impact than many other projectors in its price range. The blacks on the HD33 were very mediocre in comparison and this detracted a little from the impact of the image, robbing it of some of its dynamic range; Optoma claims an on/off contrast ratio of 10,000:1 but we measured it nearer to 4,000:1 . In addition, shadow detail could have been better but this area was improved once the Brightness control had been set correctly.
The HD33 uses a 3x-speed, 6 segment RGBRGB colour wheel which is designed to help eliminate rainbows. We wheeled out our usual rainbow guinea pig to test the performance of the HD33 in this area and overall it performed very well, yes there were still occasional rainbows but far less than had been seen on other far more expensive projectors. One area of complaint related to the time it takes for the HD33 to HDMI handshake with other devices. It could take 5 or 10 seconds before the projector produced an image which isn't a problem once a film has started, for example, but can be annoying when you're changing inputs a lot.
Picture Performance - 3D
As with any 3D projector, the larger image size immediately makes the experience far more immersive but the increased brightness of the HD33 also gives the 3D more impact. When it comes to delivering 3D, whether it's in the cinema or at home, you are always battling against dim images, but thankfully with the HD33 this wasn't a problem. The blacks on the HD33 might well have been sacrificed in favour of a brighter image but when it comes to 3D material this trade off really pays dividends. Thanks to the reduced brightness of 3D, the blacks also look much darker when looking through the glasses. Another interesting side effect of watching 3D was that there never seemed to be any rainbows, our rainbow guinea pig didn't report any when watching 3D material. Another area where the impact of 3D can be diminished is problem of [tip=crosstalk]crosstalk[/tip], if there is too much it can shatter the illusion and take the viewer out of the experience. This is an area where projectors have also been improving, all year, but the HD33 really surprised us. We saw almost no crosstalk at all in any of the 3D content that we watched on the HD33 and the performance was as good as we have seen on projectors five times the price. The only time that we really experienced noticeable crosstalk was when using the LBX mode for anamorphic stretch. However, in all fairness, it is unlikely that anyone buying the HD33 will be using it with an anamorphic lens that would probably cost more than the projector, so this a moot point.
As mentioned in the previous section on 2D performance, one of the strengths of DLP is motion handling and this also translated to the 3D performance. The HD33 handled 3D motion very well and 3D Blu-rays in particular looked very good with smooth movement and plenty of detail. The HD33 had no problem handling any of the 3D content that we watched on it and both frame sequential and side-by-side looked very impressive.
Optoma's choice of glasses has also paid dividends with the use of an RF transmitter resulting in the glasses never losing sync and delivering both flicker and crosstalk free images. The colour accuracy in 3D mode was reasonably good and whilst the glasses added a slight green tint, it was no worse than any other 3D display. The glasses larger lenses allowed for a wide field of view, they could be worn over regular glasses and the wide sides helped to cut out any stray light. Of course the larger frames make the glasses a little heavy but we didn't find them uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
- Out-of-the-box greyscale accuracy is excellent
- Calibrated greyscale performance approaches reference
- Motion handling in both 2D and 3D is very good
- Very good video processing
- Bright image in both 2D and 3D
- 3D performance is excellent with almost no crosstalk
- 3D glasses are very good and never lost sync
- Menu system well laid out and easy to use
- Very competitive price
- Black levels are mediocre in 2D
- Dynamic range is limited by black levels
- Out-of-the-box colour gamut could be better
- No colour management system
- No lens shift feature
- Crosstalk in 3D when LBX mode used
- HDMI handshake takes a long time
- Limited documentation relating to glasses and emitter
- Remote control could be better laid out
Optoma HD33 1080p Full HD 3D DLP Projector Review
The promise has certainly been fulfilled by the HD33, this remarkable little projector delivers 2D - and especially 3D performance - that is far in excess of its cost. The design of the HD33 chassis is fairly basic and the build quality has a slightly plastic feel to it but at this price point no one is expecting high-end styling. There is a manual zoom and focus but to cut costs the HD33 does not have any lens shift controls and, given the narrow throw range, this could make installing the projector tricky. However, the connections are more than adequate and although the projector isn't as whisper quiet as Optoma claim, the noise level is low enough not to be an issue with most viewing material.
The 2D picture performance is very good with an accurate greyscale, reasonable colours and good video processing that combine to produce some quite impressive images from both standard definition and, especially, high definition content. The incredibly sharp focus on the HD33 allows you to appreciate every last pixel of resolution in a Blu-ray disc and, being a DLP projector, the HD33 reproduces movement with clarity and no smearing. We would have preferred to see a more accurate out-of-the-box colour gamut but no one is expecting a colour management system at this price point. The out-of-the-box greyscale was excellent and the performance could be improved still further by calibrating the white balance controls.
Where the HD33 really shone was with 3D content, producing wonderfully rendered and bright images that were solid in depth and largely free from crosstalk and other artefacts. As with 2D, one of the strengths of DLP is motion and this also translated to the 3D performance, with objects moving in 3D showing real clarity. The HD33 had no problem handling any of the 3D content that we watched on it and both frame sequential and side-by-side looked very impressive, with 3D Blu-rays ,in particular, looking very good with smooth movement and plenty of detail.
Optoma's choice of glasses has also paid dividends with the use of an RF transmitter resulting in the glasses never losing sync and delivering both flicker and artefact free images. The glasses also didn't cause too much discolouration, their larger lenses allowed for a wide field of view, they could be worn over regular glasses and the wide sides helped to cut out any stray light. Of course, the larger frames make the glasses a little heavy but we didn't find them uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
The HD33 does have some issues, of course, the main one being mediocre blacks which in turn affected the dynamic range of the projector. It is likely that Optoma have decided to sacrifice some black performance in favour of a brighter image which makes sense as this approach has delivered the goods in terms of 3D performance. We also found the HDMI handshaking can take between 5 and 10 seconds which can get annoying if you are changing inputs a lot. There also seemed to be a problem with the LBX mode introducing crosstalk on 3D content but it is unlikely that anyone buying the HD33 will be using it with an anamorphic lens. Our only remaining comments relate to trivial matters like the rubber lens cap moving the focus ring when you put it on and off, the position of the menu button on the remote being in a slightly annoying place and the documentation for the 3D-RF system being a bit limited.
Overall, the Optoma HD33 is a fantastic projector for the money and the performance was so good, especially in 3D, that we had to remind ourselves of how cheap it was. If you're looking for a projector that combines a great 2D image with excellent 3D performance at a price point lower than most TVs, then we suggest you take a look at the HD33 because it is a deserved winner of an AVForums Best Buy badge.
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
2D Picture Quality
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
Our Review Ethos
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