Optoma HD28DSE Projector Review
October 2, 2015,
The Optoma HD28DSE is the company's newest portable 1080p home theater projector. ("DSE" stands for Darbee Special Edition, in reference to the DarbeeVision video processing system on board.) With a MAP price of just $799, the HD28DSE is a formidable new entry in the hotly competitive entry level home theater niche. It weighs under 6 lbs and sports an onboard speaker, so it is usable for both home theater and transportable applications.
In addition to the DarbeeVision system, this projector has another noteworthy feature -- an estimated lamp life of 8000 hours in Dynamic Eco mode. This will make the cost of replacement lamps a non-issue for many users.
Rest assured that once it is adjusted the Optoma HD28DSE can indeed deliver an engaging, clean, natural video image. However, I was shocked when I first fired it up. My initial reaction was, "Wow, never seen anything like that before - what's wrong with it?" The picture looked dramatically overprocessed, as if Sharpness was highly overdriven. After some further poking around I discovered that the projector had powered on with the optional DarbeeVision feature already enabled at an aggressive setting.
DarbeeVision is a video processing sub-system intended to increase contrast, color saturation, and detail definition/separation, in the hope of creating a sharper, cleaner picture. You have the choice of activating it or not, in the same way that you can activate frame interpolation or detail enhancement features on other products. When DarbeeVision is on, you can choose varying degrees of aggressiveness between 0% and 120%. (It was already "on" and set to 80% in its factory configuration out of the box.) At more modest settings it can be quite helpful, making the picture look sharper and clearer. But, like most other video enhancement techniques, when it is overdriven it can make the picture look artificial. Though not the same thing, the effect is not unlike the soap opera effect that many people object to with frame interpolation. DarbeeVision can also introduce undesirable noise-like artifacts that make the picture unstable. And with close-ups of a face, it can make natural looking skin appear oddly mottled by exaggerating every subtle skin detail.
The good news is you can turn DarbeeVision down, or turn it entirely off as many videophiles will prefer. But there are situations where you will probably want to activate it. With video games, since the subject matter is artificial to begin with, giving it additional detail, contrast and saturation is all good. Similarly, some animated films can take the enhanced sharpening without appearing over processed. Although with a film like Ratatouille, the exceptional detail in the rats' fur can appear "too sharp" to the point of distracting if DarbeeVision is set to the 80% default.
In general, for standard film/video, choosing a low processing setting like 30% will give the picture some additional clarity and definition that some viewers will like and others won't. In the end, there is nothing right or wrong about these enhancement techniques. They can all be overdriven to produce artificial looking results. But used in moderation many users will find their effects beneficial and will enjoy having the option.
Regardless of whether the DarbeeVision system is activated or not, the HD28DSE is able to deliver an engaging and exciting picture that will easily satisfy new home theater buffs. Black levels are solid. Rainbow artifacts are rare, even when viewing b/w material like Casablanca. And as long as Brilliant Color is not overdriven, colored and white objects appear reasonably and believably balanced. The picture is sharp from edge to edge, top to bottom with all pixel structure clearly defined even in all four corners when examined close up, but there is no pixelation in the image when viewed from a normal distance.
The only noticeable flaws in the picture are brightness uniformity and digital noise. Uniformity falls off about 29% toward the right side and upper right corner. Though easily visible on a 100 IRE white pattern, this is a subtle and largely unnoticeable flaw when viewing video/film. The projector also has somewhat more digital noise than competing units. There is no noise reduction filter and viewers who are particularly sensitive to noise artifacts may find them objectionable.
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