Last year, the Optoma HD25 made a splash in the sub-$1000 home theater projector market. This year, Optoma has released the HD26, another sub-$1000 home video projector, as the next iteration in its inexpensive home theater line-up.
Like many other inexpensive home theater projectors, the HD26 is powerfully bright but feature-light, eschewing many of the bells and whistles found on higher-end models in order to keep costs down without sacrificing image quality. However, its 6,500 hour lamp life in Eco mode makes it an obvious choice for television and video games, while its light weight adds to portability for mobile use. Prices on the HD26 have already fallen to $699, making it one of the most affordable 1080p projectors available, and you can buy the Optoma HD26 on Amazon as well as from specialty projector resellers. And while there is fierce competition in the sub-$1000 home theater market, the Optoma HD26 can be an attractive option for folks who want 1080p for as little money as possible.
Update 12/12: A statement from Optoma regarding the firmware update has been added to the Performance section.
The Viewing Experience
Just going by the spec sheet, the HD26 is a bright video projector built for ambient light use. So it came as a surprise when we started up the projector and found ourselves with an image that wasn't terribly bright after all.
The HD26 starts up for the first time in its Cinema mode, with the lamp at full power. Cinema mode emphasizes image balance rather than sheer light output, so it only measures about 1,000 lumens after the projector has warmed up for a few minutes.
Cinema mode produces bright colors with plenty of saturation, but white balance needs some adjustment. Detail sparkles with excellent definition and crisp focus. Black level is deeper than some competing projectors, and the image has good three-dimensionality, with foreground objects in good source material appearing to pop off the screen.
While viewing film and video, we saw a decent number of rainbows, especially in dark scenes whenever a bright highlight also appeared on screen. The opening minutes of Quantum of Solace are a good telltale scene if you need sample material. If you already know that you are sensitive to the rainbow effect, you will definitely want to audition the HD26 prior to purchase.
In 3D, the HD26 turns in a respectable performance, but it doesn't do much to differentiate itself from other DLP Link 3D projectors. Like those projectors, it has very good definition with very little crosstalk when using good-quality 3D glasses. We did not get a chance to test the VESA 3D sync port, but 3D performance using that feature is largely dependent on which glasses you choose, so our results would not mirror yours in any case.