What is the Optoma HD50?
It's always good to see projector manufacturers thinking of the home cinema fan when launching a new model.
Design and Connections
Setup is straightforward, you just position the HD50 correctly in front of the screen and then zoom and focus using the manual rings around the lens and, if necessary, shift using the little wheel above the lens assembly. We found that the best Display Mode to select out-of-the-box was Reference and you can find our suggested settings for all the other controls here.
As the graph on the left below shows, the greyscale performance was reasonable, with all the DeltaE (error) measurements at around five. There was an excess of green and a minor deficit of blue, which resulted in a slight yellow tinge to the image. However the gamma is tracking exactly at our target of 2.2 and overall this is a reasonable set of numbers for an out-of-the-box setting. The colour gamut is shown bottom right and wasn't as good, with white clearly skewing towards yellow and some sizeable errors in the luminance of all the colours, as well as the saturation of blue.
A few clicks on the two-point white balance control and we quickly had the greyscale delivering errors well below one, with the exception of 100IRE, although even that was below the visible threshold. The gamma was still tracking perfectly at 2.2 and overall this was a fantastic greyscale and gamma performance. Moving on to the CIE chart and white was now measuring at the industry standard of D65 and the colour accuracy had also improved. Thanks to the inclusion of a CMS, were were able to improve the colour accuracy further and the only real error outstanding was a slight under-saturation in blue and magenta. However this is an excellent performance and shows that after calibration the HD50 can deliver a very accurate image, especially considering the price.
The HD50 generally performed very well in these tests, correctly scaling 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The video deinterlacing tests were also good, although in the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the projector introduced some jaggies. In the cadence tests, the HD50 correctly detected the 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format but failed to detect the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. However the projector had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring.
The HD50 also performed well in the tests using high definition content and with the player set to 1080i, the projector correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed good 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.
The one area where the HD50 did fall down slightly was the Dynamic Range High test showing video levels above reference white (235) up to peak white (255). This test showed that the HD50 was clipping all three primary colours and white, thus losing detail above video level 235. Whilst it would be nice to be able to see all the way up to peak white, it isn't really a problem and certainly wouldn't adversely affect the projector's overall performance.
Optoma HD50 Video Review
Optoma HD50 Picture Quality
The HD50 is bright but the more powerful the bulb, the more heat it generates and the more cooling the projector requires. The fan noise on the HD50 wasn't bad but it's higher than the 29dB that Optoma claim in their specifications and definitely noisier than Sony's VPL-HW40ES. That's probably because the latter projector has a larger and more solid chassis but it's also £800 more expensive. In addition the HD50 suffers from a degree of light spill out of the air vent grilles, so you might want to think about where you plan on positioning the projector in your room.
If there is one area where DLP as a technology suffers, it's black levels and shadow detail. Almost every DLP projector we have tested has struggled in terms of delivering decent blacks and the HD50 is no excerption. Optoma claim a contrast ratio of 50,000:1 but that's obviously thanks to some DynamicBlack trickery that adjusts the brightness of the bulb and in reality you won't get anywhere near that - more like 2,000:1 - which, although not bad for a projector, isn't as good as the Sony HW40. The other issue relates to shadow detail and again, like most other DLP projectors, the HD50 will struggle to reveal subtle shadow details.
OK, now we've got that out of the way, let's get down to how the picture looked with real world content and overall we thought it was excellent. Thanks to the single-chip and the decent lens, the level of clarity and detail was exceptional and as is usually the case with a DLP projector, motion handling was excellent. You certainly don't need the PureMotion frame interpolation feature, although it might be useful for fast paced sports and gaming. Images were well rendered and the accurate greyscale and colour gamut delivered some very natural pictures. The uniformity was also good and aside from the previously mentioned black levels, there was nothing to complain about.
The HD50 actually delivered an impressive performance when it came to 2D, creating bright and detailed images that had plenty of impact. The HD50 has enough brightness to light up a reasonably big screen, whilst still retaining plenty of punch, which is clearly a bonus for the movie fan looking to take the next step. Once you combined the brightness and detail with the accurate greyscale and colour gamut, the images looked impressive whatever content we were watching although the HD50 obviously performed best with high definition material. Here the detailed and bright images were coupled with good motion handling, especially with 24p discs to deliver some great pictures.
Recent Blu-ray purchases like Transcendence and The Grand Budapest Hotel looked great on the HD50 and we often found ourselves forgetting how inexpensive it was - relatively speaking. Whilst blacks may not be inky, there was detail in the shadows and the images always felt as though they had sufficient dynamic range. Colours also looked natural and the whites were free of any unwanted discolouration, resulting in a very pleasing 2D performance. Of course the HD50 isn't perfect and the rather average deinterlacing and scaling meant that standard definition content didn't look as impressive, nor did some 1080i content, where the occasional deinterlacing artefact was apparent.
The other area where DLP projectors often perform well is in terms of their 3D performance where, thanks to their faster response times, they can deliver images that are free of crosstalk. This proved to be the case with the HD50 and yet, once again with an Optoma projector, we found ourselves slightly underwhelmed. Quite why this was we weren't entirely sure but it might well be due to Optoma's active shutter glasses, which have very dark lenses. It seemed to us that the lenses on the glasses were robbing the 3D image of some of its brightness and thus its potential impact.
Since the HD50 doesn't actually come with any glasses, it might be worth investigating alternative models, to help brighten the 3D image. Aside from the slight lack of 'pop', there was nothing wrong with the 3D and the images produced by the HD50 were accurate and detailed, with plenty of depth. The motion handling was also great and there was absolutely no crosstalk resulting in a generally enjoyable 3D experience. We certainly found that recent 3D films such as Stalingrad and The Lego Movie looked great on the HD50, as did old favourites such as Hugo and Avatar.
- Excellent image accuracy
- Detailed pictures
- Very good motion handling
- Image has plenty of brightness
- Impressive 3D performance
- Lens Shift
- Competitive price
- Black levels could be better
- Out-of-the-box image could be more accurate
- Possible rainbows
Optoma HD50 Projector Review
Since the HD50 is a single-chip DLP projector it inherits all the usual strengths and weaknesses. The use of a single chip means no alignment issues and a very sharp image, which is helped by the superior lens. The motion handling is also excellent and the accurate images mean that the HD50 can deliver some impressive pictures. However the use of a colour wheel also means that some individuals may suffer from rainbows and the overall dynamic range is limited. This is not because of the brightness of the projector, which is very good, but because of the mediocre blacks. However in the average living room, this wouldn't be so much of a problem and overall the HD50 did a great job of filling our big review screen with accurate and detailed images. The 3D performance was equally as impressive, with crosstalk-free images and plenty of depth. Although if you buy Optoma's active shutter glasses you might find that their dark lenses rob the image of some of its impact.
The obvious competitor to the Optoma HD50 is Sony's new HW40 and having reviewed both, the Sony is the more technologically advanced machine; it's also better built, quieter and has superior blacks. However it does use a three chip design, so the HD50 is sharper and has better motion handling. Of course the Sony is also £800 more, which is nearly double the price of the Optoma, making the HD50 great value for money. Ultimately if you're looking to get big screen projection but are on a budget, the Optoma HD50 might well be the model for you.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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