720p DLP Home Theater Projector
February 3, 2010
The latest projector from Optoma, the HD66, is a compact, inexpensive 720p DLP home theater projector. Its 2500 lumens of brightness are perfect for games or sports, and its 4000:1 contrast ratio gives high-contrast images plenty of pop. Moreover, it is 3D Ready, which provides you with some insurance against the gathering storm of 3D that's just over the horizon. If you are not into 3D, don't worry--the HD66 is a great 2D home theater projector as well. The best part? This little powerhouse costs only $699, making it affordable to just about everyone.
Resolution. The HD66 is a bright little package, rated at 2500 lumens maximum. Now, the HD66 is marketed as a 720p projector, since that is the maximum resolution at which it can display 3D content. However, it has a 1280x800 DLP chip, so not only can it display native HD 720p, but it can also display computer signals in 1024x768 and 1280x800 without compression as well. It will display HD 1920x1080p/60 in compressed form. It cannot display 24p natively, but it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between 60p and 24p even on native 1080p projectors.
Lumen output. Bright mode is the projector's brightest setting, as the name implies. As is typical of high lumen output modes, it is biased towards green, and color accuracy is not as good as in other modes. It is suitable for HD sports and video gaming in a room where you'd like to keep the lighting turned up. Using 720p content, the projector measured 1979 lumens. When using a 1280x800 signal from a laptop or other 16:10 source, it measured 2199 lumens, due to the use of the entire DLP chip.
If you want to watch film or video content in a light-controlled environment, you can use one of the HD66's other image modes. These modes can improve color fidelity and contrast while cutting lumen output, which will help to reduce the incidence of headaches in your audience due to a too-bright picture. Movie mode measured 1410 lumens with the lamp on high, which is still awfully bright for movies in a dark room. Low lamp mode reduces this and all other image modes by 13%, which brings Movie mode to 1227 lumens.
For best results, though, you will want to change the default settings of the HD66 rather significantly. On our test unit, we lowered brightness from the default of 50 to 33, raised contrast from 50 to 67, increased color saturation to 68 and fine-tuned the color temperature settings. We also disabled BrilliantColor completely. The result is a higher-contrast picture with deeper color saturation that looks better than any of the factory default modes. With these adjustments, the HD66 delivered around 670 lumens of brightness, which is still brighter than the average video-optimized home theater projector. Low lamp drops this operating mode to 582 lumens.
Contrast. The HD66's 4000:1 contrast ratio doesn't sound like much. When we first began watching a movie in its factory preset modes, it was still disappointing. Blacks were not deep enough, appearing more gray than black, though shadow detail was good. But after calibration, the picture improved by leaps and bounds. You can lower brightness on the HD66 significantly from factory presets without losing shadow detail, and the result is a deeper black level, well-defined shadow detail, and a more three-dimensional image.
Color. In its preset calibrations, color on the HD66 is only fair. In the brighter modes, such as Presentation and Bright, colors lack proper saturation and accuracy is as normal for these modes. Movie mode is better, since the greenish bias is not present, but saturation still needs a boost. However, after some adjustments by the user, the HD66 has bright, vibrant, well-balanced color that is perfectly suitable for home theater use.
3D. The big story about the HD66 is not that it is another inexpensive 720p projector, but that it is a 720p 3D projector. The HD66 is capable of displaying 1280x720 content at 120 frames per second, which equates to 60 frames per second per eye. You will need a 3D signal source, such as a computer with a powerful graphics card, and one pair of active shutter glasses compatible with DLP Link for each viewer. Keep in mind that the fact that a projector is capable of showing 3D does not mean that it will be compatible with all 3D signal sources in the future. But if you are in the market for an inexpensive home theater projector and want to have the 3D experience, the HD66 will give you just that.