The $649 Optoma HD27HDR gives away the big news about itself with its three-digit price and the three-letter acronym in its name: HDR. At this writing it is the only projector on the planet that costs anything like the price, supports HDR10, and can accept 4K input. Connect it to, say, a 4K Blu-ray player, and you can watch a 4K HDR movie with the benefits of HDR, even though the projector will downsample the resolution to its native 1080p.
The HD27HDR also has two key advantages over most current 4K projectors. It offers playback of 1080p 3D, which only a few 4K models support so far, and it has a far shorter input lag than any current 4K model. With Enhanced Gaming mode On, the lag is only 16.4 ms in most color modes, making it fast enough for serious gamers.
Optoma rates the HD27HDR at 3,400 ANSI lumens. We measured it at a little more than 2,800 lumens—bright enough to fill a 135" diagonal 1.0 gain screen in moderate ambient light. With video optimized settings, we measured it at a little over 900 lumens—bright enough to light up a 140" 1.0-gain screen in the dark or a 100" 1.3-gain screen in moderate ambient light.
Brightness. We measured the HD27HDR test unit at 83% of its 3,400 ANSI lumen rating. Using the widest angle setting for the 1.1x zoom lens, our measurements are as follows for Bright and Eco power modes:
Low Lamp Mode. Eco reduces brightness by about 33% compared with Bright mode. There are also two other power settings. Dynamic Black, called simply Dynamic in the projector menu, works like an auto-iris to make dark scenes darker and bright scenes brighter by adjusting the power level based on the contents of the current image. Eco+ is a few percent brighter than Eco. We measured it in Bright color mode at 2,310 lumens. When the image isn't changing however—as when you pause a movie—it slowly dims over time by as much as 70% according to Optoma. As soon as the image changes again, the projector immediately goes back to the brightest Eco+ level.
Zoom Lens Light Loss. The 1.1x zoom isn't enough to curtail brightness significantly at the telephoto end of the lens. You can ignore it as a factor when choosing how far to put the projector from the screen.
Brightness Uniformity. The measured brightness uniformity for the test unit is 64%. This would be low for a more expensive home theater projector, but it is a touch better than typical for projectors in this price range. A close look at a solid white image shows that it is a little brighter towards the vertical center and towards the bottom, making it dimmest at the upper left and right corners. Those who are particularly concerned with low uniformity may find it unacceptable. However, most people will never notice it, especially with photorealistic images.
Video Optimized Lumens (SDR). After adjusting brightness and contrast properly, Film mode with default color settings delivers a close color match to a reference projector. It also offers top tier image quality overall for the price, with suitably dark blacks and excellent contrast, shadow detail, and three-dimensionality for a sub-$700 projector. Film mode also does notably well maintaining the subtle gradations in shading that help make close ups of faces and the like look rounded rather than flat.
With the optimized settings, brightness drops slightly, to 918 lumens, making it bright enough to light up a 140" 1.0-gain screen in a dark room or a 100" 1.3-gain screen in a family room at night with moderate ambient light. Eco mode drops the brightness to a touch more than 700 lumens, which is still enough with a 1.3-gain screen for a 135" image in a dark room or an 85" image in moderate ambient light.
Color Preset Mode Performance (SDR). Colors for all but one SDR color mode are well within a realistic-looking range with default settings, despite side-by-side comparisons with a reference image showing slight, but varying, levels of blue bias. The exception is Bright mode, which has an obvious green bias for photos, video, and film. However, that's true of the brightest mode in most projectors. Most people will consider the HD27HDR's Bright mode somewhere between tolerable and acceptable for occasional use in, say, a family room in daytime.
With default settings for each mode, Vivid delivers the closest color match to a reference projector but loses subtle gradations, which makes close ups of rounded objects like faces, for example, look a little flat instead of three dimensional. Game is similar to Vivid and a bit brighter, but makes rounded objects look even flatter.
Cinema and Film modes are also similar to each other, with Cinema being the brighter of the two. However, Cinema also turns some colors—like bright, saturated yellow as seen on a reference projector—into pastel shades. Reference mode offers the lowest brightness, but without delivering the most accurate color, a combination that leaves little reason to use it.
With any of these modes, more demanding users will want to adjust at least brightness and contrast, which makes a significant difference for black level, contrast, and sense of three-dimensionality. In some modes it even improves color accuracy, affecting hue and making colors more saturated. For even more accurate color, the HD27HDR's easy-to-use color management system provides settings for hue, saturation, and gain for each primary and secondary color (RGBCYM).
We saw no benefit from adjusting Brilliant Color. Changing from the maximum 10 to the 1 setting (off) in Bright mode increased the green bias instead of decreasing it.
For those who are willing to pay for calibration, the HD27HDR supports ISF Day and Night modes, which become available only after calibration.
SDR Performance with 4K input. When the HD27HDR is connected to a 4K video source, it automatically establishes a connection at 3840x2160. And with 4K material, all the comments above about SDR performance hold true. If you're not viewing 4K material, however, the 4K connection doesn't always provide the best image quality. With a Blu-ray player, for example, playing a 1080p disc—or a DVD—means the player has to upscale the image to 4K, and then the HD27HDR has to downscale it to 1080p to display it. The combination of upscaling and downscaling can degrade the image.
The actual effect varies from disc to disc. With one, I saw more noise when connecting at 4K. With another, I saw occasional momentary dead stops in movement, possibly because the projector couldn't keep up with the incoming data. When I set the player to connect only at 1080p, movement was appropriately smooth. With a third disc, colors were noticeably different between 4K and 1080p connections. And with still another I didn't see any differences.
The HD27HDR doesn't offer a setting to force a 1080p connection, so you have to set the video source instead. Probably the best approach is to leave the source at 4K unless you're seeing a problem. But if you switch the video source to force a 1080p connection, don't forget to switch it back.
HDR Performance with 4K HDR Video. Of course, what makes the HD27HDR notable is that it will let you take advantage of HDR with 4K HDR material. So the really good news is that it handles 4K HDR nicely. To begin with, it automatically switches to HDR color mode—as the only mode available—when it sees an incoming HDR10 video stream, and it switches back to whatever color mode was previously in use when the input changes back to SDR.
Unlike most projectors with HDR, the test unit offered only one HDR setting. Optoma's 4K-resolution projectors offer four, which provide a range of brightness levels. Optoma says that a firmware upgrade, which should be available by the time you read this, will add the missing three HDR settings to the HD27HDR. Optoma also says that the setting in the test unit is the same as the brightest end of the range. As tested, the one available HDR setting delivered the rich color and excellent shadow detail you would expect from HDR.
3D Performance. The HD27HDR handles 3D better than most projectors. I didn't see any crosstalk in my tests and saw barely a hint of 3D-related motion artifacts. The result was much smoother motion in scenes that tend to show those artifacts than with any other projector I've tested. Like most Optoma models, the 3D is switchable between supporting DLP-Link and Vesa RF glasses. And for those who really love 3D, there's also a 2D to 3D conversion setting.
Rainbow artifacts. Like most Optoma projectors, the HD27HDR scores well for rainbow artifacts. I see these artifacts easily, and saw them only rarely with the HD27HDR. With 1080p material, using both 4K and 1080p connections, they were so fleeting that I barely noticed them. With 4K material, they were still rare, but a little more obvious when they showed. If you're unusually sensitive to rainbow artifacts or don't know if you are, it is best to buy from a dealer who allows easy returns so you can test this for yourself.
Onboard audio. The HD27HDR's 10-watt mono speaker delivers usable sound, despite a slight bottom-of-the barrel echo effect, along with enough volume to fill a small to mid-size room. It can be helpful for portable use, or for a backyard movie night, but for stereo or better sound quality, you'll need an external sound system.
Fan noise. The HD27HDR is rated at 28 dB in full power mode and 26 dB in Eco. In full power mode, you can hear it in quiet moments in a small room, but it is the kind of steady sound that tends to fade into the background. In Eco mode, it is quiet enough that it can easily be hidden by other ambient noise—like a ceiling fan—in a typical family room.
Optoma recommends using High Altitude mode at 5,000 feet and above. With High Altitude On, Eco mode is only a little louder than full power mode with High Altitude Off. With full power and High Altitude On, those who are more sensitive to fan noise may want to apply some form of acoustic isolation.
Input lag. With Enhanced Gaming Mode On, the HD27HDR's input lag is 16.4 ms in most color modes, 17.1 ms in Vivid and 17.4 ms in Reference. This feature does not work with 4K input. With Enhanced Gaming Mode Off, we measured 33.1 to 34.1 ms with 1080p input, and Optoma says it is the same for 4K. Optoma also says the lag drops to 8 ms in Enhanced Gaming Mode for 120 Hz 1080p input. Although it currently works with PC games only, the Xbox One also supports 120 Hz 1080p, and Xbox games are on the way.
Throw Distance. The 1.1x zoom offers enough throw distance range so you can position the projector at approximately the right distance for the screen size, and then adjust the zoom to fine tune the image size. For a 100" 16:9 image, the range is roughly 10.75 to 11.75 feet. You can use the Optoma HD27HDR Projection Calculator to find the throw distance range for the image size you want.
Lens offset. The lens offset is designed for placement on a low table or upside down in a ceiling mount. With the test unit right side up on a table, the bottom edge of the image is roughly 12% of the image height higher than the lens centerline. According to Optoma, this can vary, unit to unit, from roughly 10% to 22%.
Even without support for HDR and 4K input, the Optoma HD27HDR would be a solid value at $649, with nicely saturated color; excellent contrast, shadow detail, and three-dimensionality; and better-than-typical brightness uniformity for its price class. Adding HDR and the ability to accept 4K input makes it even more of a value, and unique for its price.
In its brightest color mode and full power, the HD27HDR can stand up to daylight in a family room, with enough brightness to fill a 135" diagonal 1.0 gain screen in moderate ambient light. With video optimized settings, it can light up a 100" 1.3-gain screen in moderate ambient light, or a 140" 1.0-gain screen in a traditional home theater in a dark room.
Gamers will appreciate the 16.4 ms input lag with 1080p input, not to mention the rated 8 ms lag with 120 Hz, 1080p games. Enhanced Gaming mode isn't available for 4K input, but the 33.1 ms lag with Enhanced Gaming mode off is fast enough for all but the most serious gamers.
The support for 4K input and HDR—including the 1080p HDR modes on the PS4 and Xbox One S—makes the HD27HDR a compelling choice in its price range. It will let you take advantage HDR's rich color and boost in contrast without the budget you need for a true 4K or pixel-shifting 4K projector. Beyond that, the Full 3D and fast input lag is a major advantage over today's 4K models, most of which have input lags of 50 ms or more. The HD27HDR may well be your preferred choice while you're waiting for 4K projectors to catch up on these other features, or just waiting for them to drop in price.
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