Of course adding 3D playback on a projector nowadays is almost required of all manufacturers in the domestic market and this adds extra demands from end users for not only exemplary 3D functionality, but any such product also has to excel at good old 2D playback. With demands like these, which are of course expected and valid from end users; you soon realise how difficult it is for manufacturers like Optoma to make all this happen within their products and hit the staggeringly low price points they are aiming at. Surely something has to give performance or build quality wise to be able to produce a quality product with such budget restraints? Indeed the other big names out there in 3D projector land have yet to dare to even consider entering the sub £3k market!
The Themescene name of the HD83 points to this model being aimed at the dedicated home theatre market where custom installation and calibration are important. The projector promises high levels of brightness and contrast, accurate colours and of course good black levels and dynamic range in its marketing materials. It also promises flicker free full HD playback of 3D material in a number of flavours and boasts glasses that won’t lose sync or a great deal of brightness in the process. So, what gives? Can the Themescene HD83 really offer all this and a price point of just £2400? Have corners been cut? We are about to find out.
Design and Features
Unlike the HD33 which looks very much like an old office DLP projector, with its lens offset to the right hand side of the body; the HD83 optics are centrally mounted in the chassis with controls for lens shift and zoom placed on the underside of the body. Like most DLP projectors the actual lens shift available is quite limited with a Vertical +105% to +130% and horizontal of just +/-15% which means that initial installation and positioning in relation to your screen will be important. As always, we would advise that you consult the manufacturer's published guidelines and/or a dealer to ensure correct installation of the HD83; and never be tempted to compensate with the keystone control. Adding keystone to any projected image will add in image artefacts that will rob the image of resolution and detail. We are remain baffled that home cinema based projectors still have keystone controls available. As the HD83 is a budget model there has been some cost savings made with the chassis sporting a very plastic feel and the lens shift and focus/zoom all being manual affairs. However, even at this price point the lens used in the HD83 does offer a good range of sharpness to images with no obvious issues. This highlights the plus points of DLP pictures which while sharp, are also detailed and smooth. Like any optical device the quality of the glass used is paramount and thankfully the Optoma has been spared any unnecessary cash savings in this department which would affect performance on screen.
The source connections are placed at the rear of the chassis and offer a good deal of inputs for the average home cinema set up. Unlike any other projector in its class the HD83 offers two 12V triggers, with one used for a screen and the second being programmable. This would allow use with items like an anamorphic lens sled which the HD83 takes full advantage of for such a cost effective model. Indeed Optoma even offer such a device as a package if 2.35:1 home cinema is for you. In terms of video inputs we have two HDMI, a component, a composite and a VGA input available. Plus there is full RS232C available through the usual 9 pin D-Sub connector and a sync input for 3D playback. All in all the connections available and their flexibility is extremely good for a budget home cinema model.
Moving on to the 3D side of the HD83 we have one pair of 3D-RF system glasses and emitter. For those familiar with such things these are based on the Monster Max 3D universal active eyewear system. Because the sync emitter and glasses do not use infra-red signals, but rather radio frequency signals, this makes sure that sync is maintained by the glasses with no need for line of sight. This approach does away with some of the issues we saw recently with the Panasonic PT-AT5000E and Sony VPL-HW30ES where their IR systems took some time to set up correctly to maintain sync signals with their glasses. There is nothing more annoying than finding you have sync issues, or like the JVC approach, a room full of strong IR signals that drown out your remote controls signals in your cinema room.
With the Optoma glasses we had no such issues and the glasses were always in sync with the pictures on screen. Set up was painless and the emitter is so small that you can easily hide it away out of sight and still have the sync with the glasses.
Moving to the glasses in question and we have to say that thank God you will be sitting in the dark when wearing them! If your fantasy is to look like Deirdre Barlow from the 70’s then you might like the design used for the Optoma glasses, if not, you had best turn the lights out before putting them on. Looks aside, the functionality is straight forward and they are fully rechargeable taking just 30 mins of charge for many hours use. We found the glasses a little heavy in long term use but comfort and design is very much a personal thing, so these remarks may be the complete opposite for you.
Finally, the remote control supplied with the HD83 is a plastic affair that is light weight but well laid out. There is a backlight for use in your cinema room and the layout of the main controls is logical and easy to follow when in the hand. Most of the important functions can be found here with direct access to the main front panel controls included. While it feels cheap and plastic, the remote works as it should and we couldn’t fault its use.
The main picture menu on the HD83 is a simple and straight forward affair with a selection of display modes available such with cinema and reference being the most accurate to the industry standard picture quality for TV and Film. We then have the main front panel controls such as Contrast, Brightness and Sharpness plus a selection for the advanced menus.
With the advanced controls we have options for Gamma, Pure engine, dynamic black and colour settings. Gamma allows us to fine tune to a certain degree the type of curve we require to get close to our desired 2.2 reference point, while PureEngine is Optoma’s DLP based colour boost controls and frame interpolation system. Dynamic black controls the iris functions available on the HD83 to improve the black level response, however, this also affects image balance and gamma during mixed contrast scenes. The colour settings is the most important area of the menu structure for image set up.
The colour settings allow the correct image set up for the colour gamut and white balance, both extremely important areas of image reproduction to get right. Not only do we have preset controls for D65 white balance and HDTV (Rec.709) colour space, we also have full manual controls to fine tune both using the correct measuring device and software for a full ISF/THX calibration. The white balance controls are a straight forward two point (Gain/Bias) greyscale correction layout and the CMS is a full 3D colour management system with controls for all the primary and secondary points with hue, saturation and brightness controls. These controls are rare on such a budget projector and Optoma should be congratulated for adding these to the HD83. We will see just how accurately they work in the calibration section of this review. Some of the calibration tools also work with the 3D signal when watching that type of content and these are independent of the 2D settings, allowing fine tuning of the 3D signal as well.
Out of the Box measurements
As we can see with the out of the box D65 preset the greyscale tracking is very good but not perfect. We have errors of around 7 DeltaE towards the top end of the tracking which means that there will be slightly visible colour casting to the image. In the case of the HD83 the image looked a little too warm with a slight greeny/yellow cast when compared to a reference greyscale. This is perfectly normal for such a preset and the vast majority of users would be unaware or not bothered by such errors with real world material. Gamma tracking was also good with just a small dip in the lower reaches towards 2.1 at around 10IRE. In terms of an out of the box mode the performance here is very good indeed and in the majority of cases will be good enough for most users as a mode to watch their film material without worrying about a professional calibration. However, it is possible to get even better results with a pro calibration as seen below.
The HDTV preset for the colour gamut is again another good preset that has a few more issues than the greyscale, but again nothing that is going to upset the vast majority of users. The gamut is for the most part under saturated for all primary and secondary points and some of this is due to the settings used to get this preset programed in the factory and some issues are a result of the native gamut of the projector. Blue and green are the main culprits when it comes to DLP projectors because of the colour wheel system and we usually find that green is either over saturated with yellow to try and get brighter images or it is under saturated to try and meet picture standards. Only the high end DLP models from the likes of Sim2 or Digital Projection sort these issues out, but they are super expensive!
The issues here may look bad on the graph, but remember that the graph is only half the story of what is actually going on and onscreen test scenes are also important in the assessment of picture quality. Here the HD83 does look a little subdued colour wise in the HDTV preset as the graph suggests, but it is far better than an over the top, over saturated DCI style gamut with green pushed for brightness.
The majority of users will be satisfied with the filmic look of the HDTV gamut and D65 greyscale and will in most cases be happy with the image quality; only the real eagle eyes would notice anything overly wrong here with this result. It is not perfect but we would much rather see attempts at accuracy like this picture mode, than those which end up with cartoon colours and an over the top bluish white greyscale. Of course we have some wider presets available if that floats your boat and we also have a CMS control to use on these to see if we can get them back to Rec709 in a calibration.
While the controls on the HD83 are a little coarse in use we were able to get a good tracking greyscale with DeltaE errors that are unseen to the eye. Testing on-screen material backed up the results obtained from the graphs with no colour cast visible at any stimulus point and whites looking natural. Gamma also tracked well with just a few tweaks of the manual controls available. Of course with projectors on a bat cave environment we would suggest that a 2.4 curve would probably work just as well in most circumstances, but for our reference point here, the HD83 passes with flying colours (excuse the pun).
We used a slightly wider colour gamut setting for use with the CMS so that we could try and bring the primary and secondary colours back to hit the Rec.709 points. This is important as you cannot add back what is not already there. Doing this gave us a quite acceptable result that was better than the out of the box settings and added a little more accuracy to colours on screen. In almost all cases we were able to balance the luminance results with the correct colour co-ordinates to achieve a good deal of accuracy and low DeltaE errors.
Only blue and green were playing hard to get, but this is usually the case with DLP colour wheel units as explained earlier and as blue is the colour our eyes are the least susceptible to seeing errors in, we found on-screen results to be really pleasing and very accurate to look at. It is certainly worth spending the time calibrating the HD83 to squeeze the last ounces of colour performance from it.
One issue that has been a problem with past Optoma units has been correctly displaying 24p content with some instances of it falling back to 60hz in some cases and needing to be resynced. Happily we can report that the HD83 manages to display 24p content correctly without any sync issues; although the HDMI handshake takes forever!
We also didn’t find any issues with video signals or clipping with high dynamic range tests and there were no issues with clipping is the HD83 is set up correctly (the default setting do clip black detail so require the end user to set for their video chain and room conditions).
Overall, we couldn’t fault the HD83’s video processing performance and at the price point it does everything as well as can be expected.
Picture Quality – 2D
While it is true that in perfect cinema room conditions the HD83 gives a good account of itself, it also highlights some of the units weaknesses. Chief of these is a black level and dynamic range response that struggles to match those of its slightly more expensive competitors such as the Panasonic PT-AT5000, JVC X30 and Sony HW30. While there is at least £800 between those models and the Optoma, they all give a much better account of themselves with black level and shadow detail than the HD83. Where we should be seeing the finer points of low level shadow detail in the image, the HD83 struggles to match the dynamic range of the more expensive models and turns fine shadows into blocks of grey black. This does somewhat take depth out of the image and whilst we never get an off navy black response like the days of old, the black level is not going to touch the other 3D machines we have tested lately. Where it did manage to stand up better was against the similarly priced Panasonic PT-AH1000 (Panasonic’s recently released 2D only LCD projector). I managed to put them side by side in our test room just before sending back the Optoma and they both had very similar images that suited a not so perfect room thanks to their brightness levels. But both also offered around the same in terms of black levels and shadow detail in ideal conditions and correctly calibrated, so I guess that indicates a benchmark for the type of black level response we can expect at the price point. But if black level and the finest shadow detail is what you want and you have perfect surroundings, you may be better saving up another £500 or so and looking at the more expensive models like the JVC, Panasonic or Sony to get that dynamic range performance level.
So, whilst the black levels and dynamic range are not going to set the heather alight you do get a decent amount of lumens output with the HD83 which will please owners of large screens. After calibration we estimated the HD83 still output a good 900 lumens of brightness which will appeal to owners of 110” and larger screen sizes and of course those with less than ideal rooms. With most content the HD83 provides a very appealing image that has a nice accuracy in the greyscale which helps with natural looking skin tones and fine detail. Colour accuracy is also good with no severe off hues to pull you out of the movie and whilst the out of the box HDTV preset is under saturated, it still provides a very convincing and interesting image to watch. Motion is also a strong point of the HD83 with good motion detail in fast pans on screen and no obvious blur that can be seen with the JVC and Panasonic’s due to their display technology. Plus image sharpness is fantastic with the HD83 and this adds to the image without it looking too digital; it retains just enough of the motion smoothness to feel cinematic.
So, overall the 2D picture quality is quite appealing on the HD83 with only it’s lack of overall dynamic range and lack of fine shadow detail stopping it achieving a higher mark as it is a good all-round performer with 2D content.
Picture Quality – 3D
So, with 2D material the blacks were a little lacking and there was no fine shadow detail in the lowest of reaches, but you soon forget all that when you don the 3D RF glasses and start watching 3D content. This thing is a blast!
Thanks to the generous light output of the HD83 it manages to produce some really rather bright 3D images that don’t suffer as much as some projectors when you put the 3D glasses in between you and the image. Where the Sony, JVC and Panasonic have quite noticeable drops in brightness when using the 3D glasses, the Optoma manages to hang on to more light and in turn offers an excellent image even in calibrated modes. Images are sharp with excellent depth and crosstalk is almost a thing of the past. Indeed, I spent so much time looking for instances of image artefacts that I eventually just left the 3D film running past my test scene and sat back and enjoyed the movie to the end. The colour balance is still an issue as it is with most 3D displays and the Optoma Glasses were ultimately uncomfortable for me after 2 hours or so of wearing, but none of that detracted from a 3D image that easily competes with the more expensive models out there and is free from IR sync issues.
The HD83 was very much an average budget line DLP projector for me in 2D mode, add in the excellent 3D and it becomes a recommended must see!
- Good image brightness, even in calibrated and 3D modes
- Good out of the box greyscale
- Good out of the box colour space
- Good calibration controls available
- Excellent calibrated results for greyscale
- Good colour accuracy when calibrated
- Excellent 3D performance
- Hardly any crosstalk seen
- Excellent sync with 3D glasses
- Good price point and value for money
- Lacks dynamic range and black levels are average to good
- Lens shift is limited
- LBX mode in 3D causes image artefacts and crosstalk
- HDMI handshake takes an age
- Colour gamut out of the box could be more accurate
Optoma Themescene HD83 3D DLP Projector Review
It’s 2D performance for a £2400 unit is about average for this section of the market for new projectors. It produces a fairly accurate image out of the box for greyscale and colour accuracy, which is improved with calibration as expected. The fact it has calibration controls, including a 3D colour management system, at this price point is to be congratulated. It also produces nice, sharp and detailed images with excellent video processing performance and good motion handling which is a strong point for a single chip DLP projector. It also doesn’t suffer too badly from the rainbow effect that can make DLP a no go for some people who will see the colour striping this causes. This is something I do see easily with DLP technology but on the very occasional instances that it was visible it never really annoyed me or drew me out of the experience, but it certainly something you need to test with the whole family. I was also impressed with the design, size and weight of the projector which will look the part in any cinema room it is installed in.
For the negatives, well the limited lens shift capabilities will make the HD83 an awkward unit to set up initially and we recommend ceiling mounting it at the correct height to your screen – don’t be tempted to use the keystone correction! Once set up it runs at a reasonable noise level, even in 3D mode, but the colour wheel can be a little noisy. I wouldn’t recommend sitting directly next to the unit if noise will annoy you. In terms of picture quality in 2D mode the only real negative we have is the lack of dynamic range and black levels. Fine shadow detail is non-existent with areas that should contain the finest of detail turning into large areas of block black. This is somewhat restricting but certainly not unusual at this price point. It is a shame that it cannot resolve a dynamic range like the more expensive projectors from JVC, Panasonic or Sony. We would imagine that like us, this will only really annoy when watching movies with particularly dark scenes, like The Dark Knight. In these scenes the finest of black detail and depth is sadly missing, which is a shame.
But the main point we have to raise from our long assessment of the HD83 is that at this price point it may offer average black levels, but put the 3D RF specs on and it suddenly makes a lot of sense! The HD83 offers a 3D image that is immediately appealing and engrossing, with next to no crosstalk or other image artefacts and a stunning depth to the image. Even the loss of light output by wearing the glasses beats the competition hands down. Yes, it loses some brightness, but nowhere near as much as the big boys from JVC, Sony and Panasonic. This again will appeal to users who don’t have the best possible surroundings for a projector but who will benefit from the lumens available from the HD83 in 2D and 3D modes.
If you don’t have a dedicated bat cave and your best hope is a room with white walls and ceilings then the HD83 might just be the projector to have a look at. It offers good 2D images and in those conditions the lack of absolute black level and dynamic range are not such a great issue. Then add in the excellent 3D experience on offer and the price tag being asked and suddenly the HD83 can make a lot of sense.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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