Two years ago, Optoma brought the price of 1080p projection under $1000 for the first time ever with the HD20. As it turns out, the HD20 is still one of the finest 1080p projectors under $1000, despite two years' worth of competition. Now, Optoma has released the HD33, a DLP 3D 1080p projector that sells for less than $1500. This is the first 1080p 3D projector to break the $3000 mark, let alone the $1500 mark, and that in itself is worth getting excited about. Add to that the HD33's solid 2D performance, great color, radio-frequency glasses, and virtual absence of crosstalk and you've got a projector that is a solid value at twice the price. At $1500, the HD33 is a steal.
Editor's Note 8/26/11: The original version of this article stated that the projector came with one pair of glasses. The glasses are actually purchased separately. We apologize for the error.
The Viewing Experience
While technical details can reveal a lot, the most important consideration for any home theater projector is how it looks--and the HD33, in a word, looks good. The default mode, Cinema, is also the best mode for movies and video, and we measured this mode at 847 lumens with the lamp at full power. This is a lot of light, so the first thing we did was switch to low power, called Standard on this projector. This brought light output to a more manageable 661 lumens, which is still plenty of light. We settled on a screen size of 120" diagonal--you can go bigger with a higher-gain screen or excellent light control--and fired up the Blu-ray player.
The Optoma HD33
Contrast on the HD33 is only 4000:1 full on/off, and it shows at times. The projector has no iris, auto or otherwise, and black level can suffer because of it. There is the ImageAI function, which varies lamp power in response to the content on screen, but this also causes fan noise to fluctuate and in our experience is not as fast as a good auto iris. Black level on the HD33 is very similar to black level on the older HD20, which we put up head-to-head with this new model. On the other hand, dynamic range shows a clear improvement, and the HD33 looks much more three-dimensional than the older model. The HD33's picture at times looks poised to pop off the screen. The image is vibrant, color is saturated without being overdone, and fine detail is razor sharp. It is a beautiful picture.
Next up is 3D. The HD33 is a full 1080p 3D projector with full HDMI 1.4 compatibility. It uses radio-frequency (RF) glasses, meaning line-of-sight is no longer required, as is the case with infrared (IR) emitters. Our preferred test disc these days is The Ultimate Wave: Tahiti, an IMAX film shot in 3D using live actors instead of CGI. The picture was plenty bright for our setup, perhaps even a touch too bright. A touch of ambient light in the room should not do the image much harm. The HD33 strikes a good balance between light transmission and crosstalk, which we saw very little of. The glasses never lost sync thanks to the RF transmitter--turn your head away or look down at the remote and the glasses keep on going. In the past, we have seen IR glasses lose sync at the slightest provocation. Color in 3D is about as accurate as we've seen, though the glasses do add a slight tint of green to the image. Since the HD33 has a separate 3D preset, this can be calibrated out if desired. All in all, it was one of the more enjoyable 3D experiences we've had in the home, regardless of price.