Unpacking and set up
The first thing that strikes you is the new design of the chassis which is likely to please even the fussiest partner. Made from black plastic, the case is shapely and rounded with cooling and heat exhausts neatly designed as smart looking vents. As the unit is intended to be ceiling mounted there are no controls on the top so it has a minimalist finish. The back of the unit extends to cover input and power cables, so anyone can locate this projector on the ceiling and end up with a well designed and neat looking installation.
Another major design change from previous models is a centrally mounted lens system which helps achieve a more accurate installation, and with the new lens, improves the throw ratio. Where the HD80/81 were long throw designs; the new HD82 has a 1.5 -2.28 ratio which allows far more flexibility in placement and produces a larger image at shorter distances. This brings the new model in line with its competitors in the mid price range.
The new central lens system also has improvements in optical light management with its TIR (Total Internal Reflection) system and non-telecentric design. In terms of placement and set up the new features certainly help matters, but the lens shift included is not entirely satisfying to use, with table or shelf mounting proving difficult. The HD82 is specifically designed for ceiling mounting so placement elsewhere with its almost fixed lens system and offset will cause issues. Indeed, as I use a shelf system for review products I ended up having to raise the back of the unit to bring the image offset in line with the screen. If I was going to own this projector I would ceiling mount it, so I would imagine that this issue will not be that common in the majority of cases, but its worth mentioning. Finally there is some lens shift with manual control, but correct placement is going to be important with this unit so do not rely on the lens shift.
The HD82 includes a 180w UHP Philips lamp which has that company’s Vidi technology built-in. Vidi allows the lamp to interact with the 6 segment colour wheel and be tuned for enhanced colour performance and greyscale performance by the factory engineers. The result is less noise in the image from dithering. This is a step up on the usual lamp approach and we will see what the measured results are later in the review.
As I mentioned the colour wheel employed by the HD82 is a 6 segment RGBRGB affair which Optoma claim cuts down on the rainbow side effect some users experoence. This is usually seen as stripes of coloured light on fast moving scenes, or when you move your eyes around the image or away from the screen quickly. I am normally quite susceptible to this effect so it will be interesting to see how this model behaves. The main processing chip used is the Texas Instruments Dark chip 3 and the HD82 also includes a dynamic iris control. More on that later.
Moving around the back of the unit we find a reasonable set of inputs and control ports available. As you would expect there are two HDMI v1.3 inputs, a VGA port that can also take a scart input via an adaptor, component and legacy video inputs, and interestingly, a DVI-D input. Plus there is the all important RS232 port for installation and control options along with not one, but two12v triggers. There is an unbelievably cool aspect to the triggers which I will cover later in the review.
Finally before switching the projector on we have the included remote control which is backlit and intuitive to use. The unit is a moulded plastic affair that does feel a little cheap when compared to the unit it operates, but then again you could always invest in a programmable option and get rid of your pile of other remotes at the same time. (Yes, that advice was aimed at me, and I have a feeling I am not the only person with this problem.)
Set Up and Menu systems
The main menu system on the Optoma is quite intuitive to use and you will be whizzing around the options in no time at all. As you would expect the main picture controls are fairly standard in their layout and operation. The more interesting controls come under the advanced menu system and its here where we can look at the frame interpolation features and calibration controls. In the main menu the mode selection provides us with the various picture presets. Interestingly there is a reference mode and cinema mode.
This is strange as I would expect the cinema mode to be the same as the reference option. If the point of watching movies is to see them as intended without the display adding in anything that is not welcome, then cinema mode should be at reference (Industry standard) levels. There are too many displays these days adding in ‘extra’ saturation and other picture artefacts that are certainly not desired and which effectively change the look and intention of the content. The explanation I was given by Optoma was that people ‘preferred’ the cinema mode gamma and ‘extra’ saturation to colours. They didn’t explain who these people were, though.
But I digress. We will measure and see what these differences are in the calibration area of this review. The other picture presets in the mode menu should be avoided by those looking to watch movies and TV with the correct colour and white points as they are over blue and change the look of the intended image by adding saturation and overcooking contrast. And turning down contrast in dynamic mode does nothing to correct an image - there are more important areas to get right which will never, ever, be the case in a mode like dynamic on any display. But we will cover more of that in the calibration area.
So let’s get stuck into the advanced menu system and see what Optoma offer us. It starts well with a full white balance (greyscale) menu system with 2 point controls (gain and bias). We use these controls to correct the RGB mix to correct white at a high point (usually 80ire using the gain control and a low point, usually 30ire with the bias control); don’t confuse these controls for setting colour points!
Also welcome in the advanced menu is the Gamma controls where we can correct the curve to reach the industry standard 2.2 point. Sadly, there is no Colour Management System (CMS) which is used to correct the primary and secondary colour points towards the picture standards used in mastering TV and Film content. Because this control is missing we need to know how close to the correct points the cinema or reference modes are, this will be done in the measurement area of the review.
Also within the advanced menu system is Optoma’s PureEngine picture processing controls. These are split into three picture areas: Detail is a sharpening tool which attempts to improve image detail and fine lines, Colour is used to increase saturation and Motion is the company’s frame interpolation technology to try and smooth image quality. Now this is where things do start to go wrong for me. I have to ask what is the point of these options (and others like them on the latest displays) when a well designed display will have all these areas covered correctly without needing to give end users added control. I will discuss the actual effects of the pure engine in the picture area.
The last feature to explore and test is the dynamic black control which is basically employing a dynamic iris in the light path to try and improve contrast and black levels. Again a well designed display shouldn’t really need such devices but we will explore what this technology provides.
So with the menu systems covered its time to see how the Optoma HD82 performs.
Basic Picture Set up out of the box
So the only difference between the out of the box settings in Cinema and Reference was a slight s-curved gamma response in cinema compared to reference. Both greyscales were very much pushing blue to the same extent to achieve a brighter (but bluer) white level.
When we mention out of the box settings, these have had their brightness and contrast corrected using simple test patterns like those you will find on a test DVD or THX optimode enabled disc. This allows a very basic set up for those two controls and the sharpness. Colour wise the THX and other test discs are very much subjective if not using a meter and software. The use of colour filters are really not ideal and certainly not something we would want to use for objective testing.
So measuring Cinema and Reference after initial basic set up, there is not much between them and really no need for two separate presets. Saying all that, there are still issues when assessing the image against the accepted standards. I decided to use the Reference preset for this section of the review, for no other reason than the projector was in this preset on the last run of measurements. Here are the results.
Starting with the greyscale results (as it’s the greyscale that is the back bone of your image), we can see that it really has a high blue in the mix with red about 10% down across most of the range (0-100ire). Gamma is also not tracking towards 2.2 as we would like and appears to still have a slight s-curve with the low end too high and from 70ire it is too low which is visible within the image on screen. [tip=Colortemp]Colour temperature[/tip] is also high at around 7200k for the majority.
Moving to the CIE chart of the HD82 we can see that the primary colours are pushed from the standard points with luminance and saturation too high. This gives vivid but over saturated colour on screen which is not accurate to the source material. Magenta and yellow are also wide of their desired points; with hue errors in particular for Magenta and yellow looking oversatured. Cyan sits a little better, but still not quite where we want it to be. So overall, the colour points are wide of Rec.709 and produce an over saturated look along with luminance points being high. We can not correct these points sadly as the HD82 doesn’t feature a 3D CMS system. However we should be able to improve the greyscale which hopefully should give us a more accurate white point.
Because Optoma give us control of the greyscale (white balance) I was able to get it to track extremely well across all stimulus points. This result points to a good design where the greyscale, even in the out of the box results Red, Green and Blue were uniform in their tracking. It just needed measuring and correcting with the provided controls to reach our reference standards. Just by correcting the greyscale we have already improved the projected image by hitting the desired mix points with delta E errors under 1 (human eyesight cannot see these errors).
This is an excellent result with gamma now back towards the 2.2 desired point, but not quite perfect. In fact this was down to the course controls available to try and dial out the curve added by Optoma. Although at some points the gamma does fall towards 2.0, I was happy to forgive this given the constraints and the fact that on screen it was not affecting the image in any real detrimental way. The side effect of the excellent greyscale result is that when we look at the CIE chart the secondary colours are now improved over the out of the box results, although not perfect. This will affect on screen colours and there is still an oversaturated look, but with no way to correct these we will have to live with this slight issue. In terms of comparison of contrast ratios against other projectors measured in the same room, in calibrated mode the HD82 managed 5,463:1 on/off and an ansi contrast of 348:1 calibrated.
It should be pointed out that our calibrated image has all the added PureEngine controls and dynamic black switched off, and for good reason. I will explain why in the picture area.
Finally in this area of the review I wanted to point out to Optoma that adding a factory calibrated preset, would be desirable for getting as close as possible to the source material. Other manufacturers are now starting to accept that standards exist for a very valid reason and that is to view content as it is supposed to be seen, without personal preference or a display adding in colour saturation that does not exist in the source material. JVC have added a THX picture present which attempts to do this, and it would certainly be an advantage for a home cinema designed display to try and be as accurate as possible to the source, with even just a factory calibration to D65 white point and the ITU-R BT.709 colour space.
Looking at some of the added features on the HD82 also gives us some issues to deal with. The PureEngine selections are much like the latest interpolation and picture enhancers on the latest flat panel TVs and the results are also very similar. Starting with Pure Motion and we are given three points to chose from. However, even in the lowest setting the interpolation is strange to look at, especially when playing back film material. The highest setting was actually entertaining…but sadly for the wrong reasons.
Suddenly Casino Royale looks like it was shot on digital video and is running too fast. It really is a strange side effect and although the image might be smooth, it is certainly not natural and you completely lose the filmic feel. In terms of a home cinema projector I am struggling to really find a use for this technology, unless you watch lots of fast moving sport on video cameras, but even then I will bet it looks strange. Moving to the PureDetail setting, this adds in sharpness to the image and even in low, this is like turning up the sharpness control too far. Optoma explain that it is interactive in that it looks for fine lines and attempts to add subtle sharpening. However as you can see in the images below, even in low we would advise against its use as it is covering fine detail in the image. There is no need to add this type of setting to HD material and even 576i material looks over sharpened. If you need to add any sharpness to a poor source, use the sharpness control.
I didn’t see any difference in what this tool was doing over pushing sharpness too high.
PureDetail Low Setting
Finally we have PureColor and you just know what is coming next. Yes this increases an already oversaturated image and well, do I have to continue? Obviously there will be people out there who don’t want to see a film or TV program as intended and they will have a field day adding all sorts of sharpness and over saturation. However, as we are about accuracy and critical viewing, these kinds of features are really not adding anything useful to that goal. That’s not to say that we will score the Optoma unfairly, it’s just that we don’t see the point of these kinds of features and would actually prefer that image quality is worked on to get it accurate for home cinema viewing, as intended.
With the PureEngine switched off we run our now standard HQV tests and surprisingly the Optoma did a very good job without any help from the added extras. It even managed to detect most used cadences. It’s out of the box performance for 24fps playback was also above average. That’s all you need.
So, with everything switched off and moving to our calibrated settings the Optoma was finally able to show us just how good it manages to project its images. By tuning in the white level (greyscale) and correcting the gamma as much as possible really does impact in the final image quality. Finally shadow details and fine edges can be enjoyed and add in the depth as intended in certain scenes. The final chapters of Kong on Blu-ray highlighted the excellent sense of depth and fine detail with a filmic look, i.e. a lack of artefacts and convincing motion. Colours were still over saturated and skin tones while improved over the out of the box settings were still slightly out. However, at the price point the Optoma offers very good video playback performance once it has been calibrated correctly. This just strikes home to me that spending some time in offering a factory calibration that attempts to get closer out of the box would be so beneficial. I was suitably impressed with the Optoma.
Optoma Themescene HD82 DLP Projector Review
And, if you have reached this point and think we were being unfair then that’s simply not the case. The Optoma has plenty of features that, in our opinion, are simply not required for producing reference video quality. It also has a colour space that is not quite as accurate as we would like and that can affect images in terms of over saturation. However, on the other hand its calibrated performance in terms of greyscale is reference quality with errors under dE1. So, even though it not perfect, and at this price point we wouldn’t expect that, it is a solid performer that we can recommend for a demo. If Optoma added a more accurate colour space (or a CMS) we believe they would have a product that would be able to add that extra level of accurate performance. Blacks are solid and contrast is also impressive, so it certainly deserves its Recommended badge.
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2D Picture Quality
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