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Optoma H56 Projector Optoma H56
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2000:1 Contrast Ratio
1000 Lumens
Street Price: n/a
$3,999 MSRP

Optoma H56 - Simply Elegant Video

Evan Powell, March 27, 2003

Optoma is getting very serious about home theater. The new Optoma H56 is the strongest evidence of that fact to date. We liked what we saw last year in the earlier edition H55, but with the H56 Optoma takes video performance to a whole new level. It is a beautiful product with very little to complain about, and as of this writing we are enthusiastically adding it to our list of Highly Recommended Home Theater Projectors.

Product Overview

The H56 is a native 4:3 format, XGA (1024x768) resolution DLP projector with a brightness rating of 1000 ANSI lumens and a contrast ratio of 2000:1. It is a small unit, weighing under 7 lbs. with a footprint a shade under 9" x 11." The H56 features a 4x speed six-segment color wheel.

Signal compatibility: The H56 is compatible with HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, and 480i. It is also DVI-I compatible, and will take NTSC, NTSC4.43, PAL, PAL-M, PAL-N, SECAM.

Lens: The H56 has a 1.2x manual zoom lens with a relatively long throw distance as compared to other units in its class. If you wish to operate in 16:9 mode, to fill a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen you need to place the unit between 14.75 and 17.75 feet from the screen. Adding 1.5 feet for the projector itself plus some rear clearance, and the minimum front-wall to rear-wall room size to accommodate a 100" screen would be 16.25 feet. The connector panel is on the side of the unit, and exhaust intake is on the rear. So not much rear clearance is required, although it is always wise to leave some room for heat dissipation.

Though the throw distance limits its use in smaller rooms, the good news is that for those who have the room to accommodate it, the longer throw distance and smaller cone of projection provides more even image performance on the screen. That is because light strikes the sides of the screen at a lower angle of incidence and thus does not bounce off at oblique angles compared to machines with shorter throws.

Connector panel: Connection options include a DVI-I port, a 15-pin VGA port, one S-video, one composite video, one RS-232C, and a 12V trigger relay. It does not include a set of three RCAs for component video, but it does not need them. The H56 comes with an adapter that will convert the VGA port to three RCAs.

Set-up options: The H56 can be set up and operated as either a 4:3 projector or a 16:9 projector. You tell it which screen format you are using, and it will adjust both 4:3 and 16:9 source material to your screen. If you operate in 4:3 mode, a 4:3 source will fill the screen, and 16:9 material will be shown with black bars top and bottom. If you operate in 16:9 mode, then 16:9 source material will fill your screen, and 4:3 material will either be (at your option) truncated to fill the screen, or reduced full frame in the center with bars on the side.

The H56 also gives you the option to display HDTV 1080i and 720p in native modes as well as scaled to the traditional XGA format of 1024x576. If you select "native" 1080i, it will display it in 960x540p, or ΒΌ HD. The image is therefore smaller than the full 16:9 screen, but it is scaled more cleanly. If you select "native" for 720p, you get a 720p image in a 1024x720 format. You lose the outside 10% of the image on all four sides (assuming you are using a 16:9 screen filled with the 1024x576 format), but you get an image that is not scaled at all.

Frankly, the native feature does not significantly improve the image in our opinion. Instead, it provides good evidence as to the incredible power of the onboard scaler to render a clean HDTV image in 1024x576 format. We suspect most folks will opt for the full frame display after having experimented with it for a while.

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