Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The new Optoma HD142X full HD home theater projector puts up a gorgeous image with good contrast, natural flesh tones, and plenty of shadow detail, all for a street price of just $579. And it is bright--when calibrated for optimum video it puts out over 1200 lumens, more than ample for dark room home theater. And you can double the light output if you need it for gaming in moderate ambient light.
Beyond the great picture and low price, Optoma says the lamp will run 5000 hours in full power mode and even longer in eco, so you won't be spending much on replacement lamps.
Rated at 3,000 lumens, the HD142X can tolerate high ambient light and still put up an image that is not washed out. With a contrast ratio of 23,000:1, there is still some pop to the image even in a sunlit room.
An unexpected bonus is that the HD142X can serve as a very capable data projector. In its preset Bright or Vivid modes, even small typefaces are rendered clear and sharp. The only data usage limitation is that there is no VGA input, so you need HDMI outputs from whatever your data source happens to be. One of the HD142X's two HDMI inputs is MHL-compatible, so you can display content from tablets, phones, and other mobile devices.
While the HD142X may serve as an entry-level home theater projector, it really hits its stride as a projector for the living room or den when the crowd is over for some weekend entertainment. It is also small and light enough (5.5 lbs) to be used at work or on the road if HDMI sources are available.
The video image from the HD142X was clear, sharp from edge to edge and top to bottom, and noise free. Cinema mode rendered very natural flesh tones, and after a slight boost in contrast and a reduction in brightness, highlight and shadow detail were well-defined. Black levels were excellent with dark scenes showing smooth transitions and small grey-scale differences easily distinguished.
Rainbow artifacts were more evident than in some other inexpensive DLP projectors we have seen. Color wheel speed was not specified, but low speed wheels are usually responsible for rainbow artifacts. Some viewers are not susceptible to this phenomenon, but a trial viewing is in order before you purchase an HD142X.
3D performance was better than most in this price class with little crosstalk or noise. The HD 142X is compatible with IR-based 3D shutter glasses, but it also sports a connection for an RF emitter (optional) that eliminates the directional limitations of the IR glasses.
The 70% brightness uniformity is adequate for an entry-level home theater projector. It is good enough to keep any hotspots undetectable in most video scenes, but in slow panning with dark scenes one might notice that the lower right portion of the image is a bit brighter than the other parts of the image.
The HD142X offers five picture mode choices: Cinema, Vivid, Game, Reference, and Bright. They each have their particular color and brightness biases, and they offer a quick way to get a good image on the screen with Cinema needing almost no adjustment at all. However, for those who are willing to spend some time to get the best image possible, the HD142X offers a wide range of image settings including four settings for color temperature ranging from warm (red) to cold (blue).
The HD142X also offers ISF settings in the picture mode menu once an ISF calibration has been completed. An ISF calibration will dial in the "best" picture quality by technical standards that the projector can produce. However, quite often users find that they prefer calibrations that deviate from these standards since the projector is capable of producing more "pop" than it does when set to ideal calibrations. In any event, an ISF calibration is a significant investment on top of the price of the HD142X itself, so many users who are buying the HD42X due to its very attractive entry level price will probably not bother with it.
Brightness. The HD142X is rated at 3,000 ANSI lumens. In Bright mode with Brilliant Color set at its maximum, our test unit delivered 2,575 lumens. With the zoom lens at its wide angle setting, the HD142X delivered the following ANSI brightness results:
Brightness Uniformity. Although brightness uniformity was a modest 70%, brightness differences across the image were unnoticeable for video projections except for a few instances when the bottom third of the scene was dark.
Eco Modes. Like many new projectors, the HD142X offers multiple Eco lamp modes. Normal Eco reduced brightness in all preset modes by 20%, but the Dynamic Black mode was image content sensitive and varied lamp brightness according to the brightness levels in the scenes being projected. Eco mode reduced fan noise substantially, but Dynamic Black mode had no such effect.
Audio. The audio quality of our test unit's internal 10-watt speaker was disappointing. It was certainly loud enough for a small to medium room, but at half volume or higher, there was a lack of clarity that made the upper volume settings unappealing. There was no buzz or rattle, just a muddiness that reduced speech quality.
Input Lag. The HD142X has an input lag meter reading of 33 milliseconds, which is typical for most of the inexpensive DLP projectors we've seen lately. Professional gamers may want to see input lag under 20 milliseconds, but 33 ms is far quicker than many of the higher performance home theater projectors on the market.
Fan Noise. In any of the preset modes, fan noise from the HD142X is fairly low and in the middle frequency range. At the high altitude setting (above 5,000'), fan noise increases substantially, and sitting within ten feet of the HD142X might be distracting. Also, if the room temperature gets into the 80's, the fan speed increases and noise becomes quite noticeable.
Zoom Lens. With a range of 1.1:1, the HD142X's zoom lens does not offer much latitude in placing the projector--rather just the convenience of a slight adjustment in image size to achieve a fit to a preinstalled screen. There is no effect on image brightness based on where the lens position is set.
For a 120" 16:9 diagonal image, the front of the lens on the HD142X must be between about 13 and 14 feet from the screen. If your preferred viewing distance is about 1.3x the screen width, that would put the viewers at about 11 feet, so the projector would be just behind the seats. To check the throw distance for the screen size you want, see the Projection Calculator.
With respect to vertical offset, the bottom of the projected 120" diagonal image is 9" above lens centerline at the wide angle zoom setting. The optical design dictates that in most cases a ceiling mount will be the ideal solution. If the projector is placed on a shelf behind and above the heads of the audience, the projector will have to be tilted downward, resulting in the need for keystone correction to square up the image -- something we would prefer to avoid on 1080p projectors if possible.
As a side note, the HD142X offers a digital image shift, but this is not a feature that contributes to mounting flexibility like physical lens shift does. Normally, lens shift actually moves the full optical path left-or-right and up-or-down with all projected information intact. When the HD142X does a digital image shift, the image on the screen does shift, but it loses vertical or horizontal pixels on the edge in the direction of the shift. In other words, if you perform a digital shift to the right of 5% of the image width, you simply lose the 5% of the image on the right side. It can be used to shift a 2.4:1 format movie up or down in the black bar space but other than this it is of limited use in trying to re-position the image on the screen.
Menus and Remote Control. The HD142X's on-screen menu system is extensive but easy to navigate. When functions are selected, most of them collapse to a small slider at the bottom of the screen so that adjustments can be made while viewing most of the image. The remote control is laid out clearly and offers direct selection of sources and other functions such as contrast, brightness, aspect ratio, keystone correction, and picture mode. Keys are labeled both in writing and by icons illustrating their function. The remote does include a bottom row of buttons for legacy analog inputs that are not active because those inputs do not exist on this model.
Image Adjustment. Even though there is a User mode on the HD142X where specific preferred settings can be stored, each of the five preset picture modes can be adjusted independently which effectively creates five additional User modes. Within each mode, brightness, contrast, saturation, tint, color temperature, and sharpness can be adjusted.
Lamp life and Brightness. Lamps generally lose about 25% of their brightness after 500 hours of usage. If you want to maintain roughly the same image brightness for longer than 500 hours, one approach is to run your projector in Eco mode from day one, and after about 500 hours, switch to normal brightness. This should increase the brightness level back to what you saw originally for perhaps another few thousand hours, and your overall brightness perception will be close to the same level for the entire time span.
Projector Positioning. With a 1.1:1 zooms lens ratio, you do not have much wiggle room in terms of distance from the screen when mounting the HD142X permanently. For a 120" diagonal image, there is only a 15" differential between the closest and farthest mounting distance. Due to the built-in vertical offset, ceiling mounting or placement on a low table between the seats are your best options.
Rainbows. Those sensitive to rainbow artifacts will probably see them on this unit. Whether their frequency is enough to bother you is something you can only determine by auditioning a sample.
Fan Noise. Fan noise is not much of a problem unless room temperature rises into the 80s. At that point, fan speed increases, and its associated noise becomes a distraction.
No legacy inputs. Not usually a big deal these days since many home theater models have omitted traditional analog inputs, but if you happen to have a beloved VCR that you just can't let go of, it won't interface to the HD142X.
Audio Quality. The HD142X's internal 10-watt speaker is loud enough, but above the 50% volume setting it lacks definition and sounds a bit muddy. Of course, most higher performance home theater projectors have no on-board audio at all, and compared to those the audio on the HD142X is outstanding. If you're doing a surround sound system in your theater as you should, the audio limitations on this unit are irrelevant.
The Optoma HD142X is one of the lowest priced 1080p home theater projectors on the market. It delivers a very bright, richly saturated, naturally color balanced image that some would enthusiastically describe as stunning. Optoma has done a great job in color balancing the Cinema preset in particular, so the projector is perfectly watchable out of the box without any muss or fuss of extensive calibration adjustments. The HD142X is limited in placement options due to its ultra-short zoom and fixed vertical offset, but if it fits in your room it is an excellent value for both dark room home theater and ambient light gaming and video entertainment for under $600.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma HD142x projector page.