Designed for the domestic and custom installation market the HD87 promises supreme flexibility with its configuration and use. It is claimed to stand up well in normal domestic surroundings, add accurate colour through a new CMS system, a choice of interchangeable lenses depending on throw ratio and the ability to add a custom anamorphic lens sled for constant image height projection. So does it live up to its master of all trades PR? We are about to find out…The full in-depth review follows below the scores.
Design and set up
There are no controls for the projector situated on the chassis which adds to the sleek rounded design. However, under the top Themescene logo is a hidden compartment which contains the lens release and lens shift controls. You have a reasonable 130% vertical and 30% horizontal adjustment of the lens shift which should help with correct placement of the projector. Although there are options for digital keystone correction this control should never be used to set up any projector. Correct alignment of the lens and screen offers the best set up of a projector and this should be followed in all cases; digital keystone just adds image artefacts straight away to the image, despite what some set up guides claim. There is a comprehensive detailed set up guide on the Optoma website and in the user manual to assist you in correct placement and set up.
Another excellent aspect of the HD87 set up is the choice of three lens options when you purchase the projector from your dealer. These include a short throw, long throw and standard lens option so no matter how short or long your room may be, there is a solution available with the HD87. The lens is easily attached and removed using the hidden lens release button and the lens can only be attached one way (don’t force it!). For the review room here we used the standard lens which offered a good 7ft (16:9) image from a throw of 13ft and with the zoom towards the short end stop. Again the information provided on Optoma’s website will assist you in specifying what your own requirements might be, or of course you can consult with your local Optoma dealer.
Around the back of the projector we have the input and output connections which includes three HDMI inputs, one set of component inputs and legacy connections for composite and s-video. Also included are a VGA PC input and two 12v triggers which allow some unique control functions in a constant height system – more on that later. There is also a USB socket situated on the rear panel but as far as I could see, this is for service use only.
Constant Height Projection ready - BX-AL133 lens system
We had the opportunity to fully test this set up option with our 2.37:1 projection screen and the Optoma lens system was easy to set up and the results were slick and smooth. When a 2.40:1 movie was selected the lens moved into position and the image processing in the projector applied the vertical stretch to the image removing the black bars and the lens then expanding the image horizontally to its correct ratio on our screen. Sharpness from the lens was very good with no noticeable difference between normal 16:9 materials with the lens out of the way against the 2.40:1 Blu-rays with the lens in place.
This also applied to colour balance and image luminance with the lens in place with no noticeable differences. The picture processing was also top notch with no apparent artefacts at any stage when the image is stretched vertically. Obviously there are a few little downsides to using this approach, such as subtitle placement on some Blu-ray discs which may see them missing when used with the lens – however some BD players do offer a solution to move them back to the image area (where they would have been originally burnt into the cinematic print when shown in the cinema, so you won’t be introducing anything that wouldn’t have been on the original version shown in cinemas).
Overall, the lens option is not cheap as it is just over the cost of the projector (using SRP prices) but when you consider you could purchase the projector, lens and a screen that changes aspect ratios all for under £10k, it suddenly doesn’t look that expensive when compared to other systems available on the market. Performance wise I really enjoyed using the HD87 and the lens system as it offered a fluid change between material without adding any side effects or artefacts to the image quality.
Menu set up
Moving to the menu system we have the usual main front panel picture adjustment controls on the main page.
The menu layout offers us a number of picture modes to choose from, these include options like Reference, Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Photo, Graphics, user and bright modes. As we measure the out of the box presets and choose the most accurate to industry standards we always find it unnecessary to have so many preset options. However, the choice is there for users. Of course you have the main front panel controls you would expect to see on any display (Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Sharpness) and the more interesting advanced menu selections.
As expected for an advanced menu we have selections for a whole host of important picture set up options, as well as those manufacturer marketing options that can be left well alone. Gamma set up affords a useful if not fully manual gamma settings system, where fine tuning can be attempted to try and hit your required curve. Pure Engine is Optoma’s advanced processing menu where you will find frame interpolation and added colour enhancers to play with, but ultimately switch off as they ruin the look and feel of film and broadcast material. Perhaps only sports material really benefits from Pure motion as long as it is set carefully and you don’t mind seeing the odd artefact here and there. For films it just does what all these systems do and that’s make classics look like Eastenders shot with a digital video camera at a high frame rate; yes its smooth but it kills any natural movement. It also adds some pretty funny artefacts such as the chunks of a wall following a few steps behind Bond as he runs down a corridor in Casino Royale, we kid you not! Our advice would be to experiment with the Pure settings for 10 minutes, then switch them all off to get the most natural image from the projector.
Also included here are controls for the auto Iris system which can be controlled by selection of numbered steps between 1 and 10, with the higher number adding more iris control. I have said a few times in reviews now that I would much rather see development of light paths that naturally increase the contrast and dynamic range of a projector, over using electronic cheats like Iris systems. I have always disabled these systems whenever they're implemented on projectors I review as you get a better idea of the underlying image consistency and quality, and in most cases when set up correctly for the environment they are used in, projectors benefit from having the Iris switched off as it causes less distraction and produces a more consistent image level. Like LCD TVs that use the same global dimming cheat, you actually lose image detailing in the shadows and compromise the overall dynamic range using them. But at least the end user has a choice with most projectors to turn these systems off and the same is somewhat true here at the lowest setting.
There is still some movement but it is not noticeable in the majority.
Moving to the Colour Settings sub menu we are greeted with the most important of picture set up options. First up are the global white balance settings. Here as you would imagine D65 gives the most accurate out of the box performance to match the industry standards.
Next is Colour Gamut and we have a choice listed based on industry standards. First up we have native which is the natural colour gamut of the projector which is almost identical to the DCI standard for digital cinema. This may sound appealing on first glance, but as there are no Blu-rays or broadcast material mastered in the DCI specification for home viewing (the bandwidth of which is many times that of current 8bit video) watching content in these gamuts is futile. All you will do is add excessive saturation to colour and an excessive blue hue to whites. This is not how the content we watch is meant to be seen as you are effectively adding what is not there in the first place.
Also as the wider gamut uses more Green the errors are far more pronounced with normal content. Where the native gamut is useful is in calibrating the image using the Colour Management System (CMS+) to bring the colour points back to the Rec.709 colour space. This is important as unfortunately the HDTV (Rec.709) gamut preset (and the SMPTE-C option) available on the HD87 are actually under saturated and this error is visible as well as measurable – See the measurements later in the review.
Talking about the Colour Management System (CMS), this is a very welcome addition to the Optoma projectors and brings them in line with their competitors in this price range of the market. It is also a full 3D system meaning we can control the x & y co-ordinates as well as the Y luminance (brightness) points, which is the most important to get right with colour gamut calibration. Unfortunately the entire CMS system doesn’t work correctly in its present form and will require a fix from Optoma; more on this in the calibration area of the review. The final important areas of this menu are the white balance (greyscale) controls in the RGB Gain/Bias menu which affect the gamut and colour Temp. settings you are in to allow accurate greyscale calibration. Greyscale is above all others the most important area to set correctly on any display and it is great to see that not only has Optoma continued to allow access to calibrate, the controls are far less coarse than previous models.
Note that the settings shown in the menu pictures are not the final calibrated settings and should not be copied
Out of the Box Measurements
Looking at the Greyscale and Gamma results first we can see that the HD87 tries to offer an error free result, but there are some noticeable errors on screen and in the measurements. We can see that although Blue and Green track close to each other They are both 5% higher than the 100% marker point and Red is tracking low in the mix with an approximate 10% error. This is visible on screen with whites looking too blue (or cyan) and the lack of red energy noticeable. This is only seen in the mid tones and higher within images with Blacks and dark greys remaining somewhat error free (as can be seen in the DeltaE errors). The dip in the gamma at around 10% luminance we feel is connected with the Iris control not being defeated fully at the 1 position. Otherwise the gamma tracks just a little over our desired 2.2 point, which is not an issue with projection in light controlled surroundings like our review room. We would be more likely to go with a slightly higher gamma curve in these circumstances.
Moving to the colour gamut we have a few choices, with Native and HDTV (Rec.709) mirroring the other options such as DCI (matches native) and SMPTE-C (which matches HDTV). First up in the chart above is the Native colour gamut and as you can see it is a wide gamut which mirrors the DCI specifications. This is wider than we want and the errors are visible with over saturation, especially in green which is very noticeable. Skin tones tend to have that slightly sun burnt and slightly green look to cheek bones. We would advise against using this option, unless you intend to use the CMS to bring the points back towards Rec.709 as we have done below in the calibrated section of the review.
And above is the HDTV (Rec.709) preset gamut choice which attempts to follow the industry standards but as you can see is under saturated against the standard. This is also visible with on screen content where colours just look that little bit subdued in comparison to a correctly calibrated image. In terms of watching the HD87 in the best settings without a full calibration we would go with the HDTV preset and the D65 white balance settings as a best as possible solution. When compared against the other options, these settings offer the most accurate as possible image, with just a few noticeable errors to those with eyes for complete accuracy. We would suggest that most users would be more than happy with these settings unless they had a calibrated image sat next to the HD87's image. And remember that with projectors the measured (and indeed visible) results are likely to change a fair amount with the aging of the bulb throughout the life of the projector. The HD87 also offers us some comprehensive calibration settings so just how much can we improve on the out of the box results?
First up we calibrated the Greyscale using the RGB Gain/Bias menu and achieved a reference result with DeltaE errors well under 1 across the board. As any result under 3 is normally unseen by the vast majority of people this means the Greyscale results obtained are perfect. There is still a slight issue with gamma at the 10% mark in terms of luminance and this also brings the overall curve down below our 2.2 mark. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue as we would select a slightly higher point in the gamma menu and recalibrate to get a better gamma curve. However, this was the first bug that we found with the menu system and software as whenever we tried to change the gamma settings the projector more or less crashed wiping the results. When were forced to leave it as is seen on the charts because of this. That wouldn’t have been a major issue overall had we not then encountered the next issue.
Moving to the Colour Management System (CMS) controls we looked at using the native gamut settings as this would allow us to bring the points back to where they should be to achieve Rec.709 co-ordinates. The CMS is promising as it is a fully 3D system which allows complete control over the x,y,Y co-ordinate points, or at least that is what should happen. Again, as we worked on the CMS we got software errors, most notably during adjustments the menu would suddenly change to the bulb setting menu and would force you to come out of that and back to the CMS menu. Doing this sometimes allowed you to continue with your adjustments or in other cases it wiped the settings at all the points where we had made adjustments. This went on for well over 8 hours of frustrating backwards and forwards through the bulb menu, the CMS menu and then finding the settings had been wiped. Finally and with persistence we managed to complete a calibration and obtain the results above, which are impressive. However, then we hit the next issue as there was no way to save the settings and as soon as we switched to a different input, it wiped the calibrated results! As you can imagine at this point (and probably well before it), there had been some pretty loud Scottish flavoured expletives heard coming from our review room measuring at least 114db!!
In the end we had to admit defeat and go back and set the greyscale results at the very least and forget about using the CMS. Obviously this creates a few issues for our review results. In terms of what we managed to get out of the HD87 before the software crashed and wiped all our settings (or the memory on-board was not sufficient enough to cope), we managed to get some very promising results which pointed to the HD87 perhaps being able to achieve some pretty fantastic calibrated images. Sadly, we won’t know until the software issues are fixed as I was unable to keep the results long enough to watch anything in a calibrated mode. As we have mentioned, Optoma are fully aware of these issues and we hope to get a HD87 back again once the issues are resolved and see if we are right about the promise this projector has shown in fleeting glances. In the meantime our scores have to reflect the actual quality of the product as it stands at this time.
Update: We have had the HD87 returned for further assessment after the above issues were reported to Optoma. We are happy to report that the issue of settings not being saved seems to have been solved along with issues of the menu crashing on us. There is one slight issue with the menu swapping page from time to time while going through a calibration workflow; however, I am happy to report this does not affect the calibration results above. Even switching input now works with calibrated settings being saved and accessible. We were not able to adjust the gamma results any further than above and this is just a limitation of the HD87 and would feedback that this section should be addressed in future models by Optoma. So now that we can get the above results saved, we can also now fully assess picture quality in calibrated modes below.
However, we did have some issues with 24p playback and HDMI handshake problems which affected the sync with BD images. In some instances we could only get the projector to display 24p content at 60Hz, in other instances it would playback at 24p but with frame jumps every few frames. These jumps were noticeable as the image would move to the right hand side of the screen quickly, then resume as normal before the next frame jump. We tried a number of Blu-ray players to solve the sync and handshake issues without any success. Again this has been reported to Optoma and they are working with the feedback given. Occasionally we did manage to get the projector to playback material without any of these obvious issues, which we believe points to a software issue.
Updated - Having had the HD87 sent back for reassessment the video scaling and de-interlacing performance remains the same as above. 24p playback has improved over the first unit we reviewed and now doesn't exibit issues with sync. Send the unit a 24p signal and it now plays this back with no sync issues. Handshake is also improved with no issues with a number of BD players used. We can also report that we were not able to replicate the jumping issue and can report this now appears to be fixed.
It’s a shame then that the excellent calibration results were lost before we could assess the HD87’s potential fully. We will wait to see if Optoma send us a unit back with the issues resolved and we can finally put the projector to the full test.
Updated - Finally with an updated HD87 sent for final assessment we were able to gain excellent results with calibration and none of the major issues were present. Because of this we can now fully assess the HD87’s picture quality and it is a very good performer; as we thought it might be.
Blu-ray images are nice and detailed with motion resolution that holds up very well; a strong point of DLP technology. Colour accuracy following a full THX/ISF calibration is spot on with no visible errors and natural looking skin tones. A well balanced grayscale also helps with image accuracy and shadow detailing in the low and mid-range areas of the image. Out of the box the HD87 does clip the mid-level colour range and an adjustment of the global colour decoder (colour control) is necessary to resolve this issue. However once correctly set up the HD87 offers a very compelling image with excellent depth and rich colour tones were required. The only slight disappointment with the projector is the absolute lack of black level and a slightly skewed gamma. In a normal living room environment where wall colours are light and light control is harder to achieve these slight issues will not be visible as the overall contrast level is affected by the surroundings. However, in our complete black review room this lack of gamma control does produce a slightly washed out image with dark scenes and there is a lack of absolute shadow detailing. However, move to bright scenes and this is where the HD87 excels in calibrated settings.
We are happy to report that the HD87 does offer an excellent performance for its price point, with only a few niggles for the videophiles out there to worry about.
- Good dynamic range and a good projector for large screens
- Well designed colour presets which attempt to be accurate
- Inclusion of a full Colour Management System and Greyscale set up
- Will work well in rooms with ambient lighting
- Good rainbow effect suppression
- Easy set up and good ergonomics of the Chassis
- Well integrated anamorphic projection control when used with Optoma's lens sled set up
- Average video processing
- Black levels are not the best at the price point
- Gamma control restricted
Optoma HD87 DLP Projector Review Updated
The HD87 promises to be an excellent projector that is hampered by software problems and video processing issues that we have found distracting and frustrating. There is plenty of potential on show when the unit works as it should and we would have loved to have sampled the calibrated results we obtained before software crashes. As it stands the review unit we have spent time with here is flawed in its execution which is a real shame considering there is a lot to like about it. We hope Optoma do manage to resolve the issues highlighted as we think they would have a cracking proposition on their hands for this market sector. As it stands our verdict and scores can only highlight what we have seen so far, until such a time as a fixed sample arrives back and we can re-assess.
Update - Having now reassessed the HD87 (as you can read above) it has lived up to its initial promise and also fixes the vast majority of issues we had with the original review sample. Optoma assure us that all retail models are now offering the same performance we have reassessed here and we have to say that it is a compelling projector that needs to be auditioned by anyone looking at a DLP in this price range. Whilst it still has a few niggles, there is no such thing as a perfect consumer display and only the most ardent of videophiles are likely to be disappointed in that regard. Black levels could be better and a further fix of the gamma tracking would improve the image, in our opinion, but with bright images and larger screens, the HD87 certainly offers a punchy image in normal living room environments, where the lack of contrast will not be overly noticed. If you are going to use it in a cinema room, we would advise a home demo.
Overall, with all our main concerns now covered - and the issues ironed out with this second review sample, we are happy to recommend anyone looking for a bright projector for a large screen, or less than ideal viewing room, to certainly check out the HD87 and add it to their demo list. As such, we are confident enough to add a recommended badge to Optoma on this occasion. Well done for listening to feedback.
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