Highly Recommended Award
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What's the only thing better than playing your favorite video games in stunning high definition? How about playing them in stunning high definition on a massive, wall-filling screen? The Optoma GameTime GT720 is a companion projector for the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 gaming consoles, bringing you everything you need to turn your game console into a bright, high-resolution, dynamic mobile party starter. It's not a perfect product; placement can be difficult and the 3D capability is deceptive. But when you want a big HD picture on the wall for an evening of gaming with your friends, and don't want to break the bank to get it, the GT720 is the way to go. Street prices begin at $799.
Image quality. The GT720 puts up a great looking picture. The image is plenty bright, so ambient light is not much of a concern. If you don't have light shining directly on the screen, you should be fine. Contrast is impressive as well, giving the image a very three-dimensional appearance. Since the PS3 outputs in standard HD formats like 1280x720 and 1920x1080, you will see some slight black bars on the top and bottom of the picture; the GT720 is a 1280x800 projector. But the end result is still a big beautiful HD picture.
Light output. At 2500 lumens, the GT720 promises to be very bright indeed. Our test sample measured 2233 lumens in its brightest mode, or 89% of the stated specification. Now, that's fantastic if you want to put up a 100" or 120" screen in ambient light, or even a 150" screen in the dark. But what if you're not aiming quite so large and need to reduce light output? Low lamp mode drops lumen output by 9% in all modes and also increases lamp life. Cinema mode improves the appearance of mid tones and color accuracy, and comes out at 1165 lumens in high lamp mode. For something between those two, Game mode has better color saturation and dynamic range than Bright mode does while still cranking out 1977 lumens.
Contrast. When a projector is meant to be used in ambient light, the contrast specification tells you almost nothing. The GT720 looks great in some ambient light, producing a picture with good dynamic range. Shadow detail is clearly visible, and blacks are solid without crushing detail in the shadows. Highlights can appear a touch overdriven with BrilliantColor turned all the way up, but even that only occurs in certain scenes with a lot of detail in very bright highlights. Even without any adjustment, the GT720 has a balanced, high-contrast picture that seems to pop off the screen.
Sharpness and clarity. Game consoles like the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 output in standard 16:9 HD formats such as 1280x720 and 1920x1080. The GT720 is a 1280x800 projector, which is a 16:10 format. This means you'll see some small black bars at the top and bottom of the image, unless you fill your 16:9 screen with a 16:9 image and let the bars fall onto the frame. It also means that 1280x720 can be displayed natively, while 1920x1080 must be scaled to fit. This scaling leads to a slightly softer picture, but when you start with native 1080p content, this softness is essentially invisible. Image quality after scaling is often a problem on lower-resolution projectors, but the GT720 did an excellent job of keeping the image crisp, clean, and detailed.
Color. The GT720's color performance is impressive. The projector is not exactly 6500K accurate, as one would expect from a movie projector, but then again this isn't a movie projector. The picture has a slight bluish cast to it, which we found useful when projecting in ambient light (which tends to be overwhelmingly yellow). The two tend to cancel one another out. Color is saturated, though, and looks good. Most importantly, the projector includes RGB Gain/Bias controls in case the color is not to your liking, and our test sample was very responsive to these adjustments.
Audible noise. Like its sister projector the GT360, the GT720 is nearly silent during operation. Unless you have your head within about three feet of the GT720's exhaust vent, you probably will not be able to hear it during operation at all--especially not if you are taking advantage of the on-board stereo speakers.
Stereo speakers. The GT720 has dual five-watt stereo speakers, which is much better than the usual tinny one-watt mono speaker found on many data projectors. In addition, the GT720's speakers are capable of some incredible volume. Volume is adjustable between 0 and 10. For normal use in a quiet room, there was no real need to go above 2 or 3; in a loud room we might increase volume to 6 or 7. Above 7 or 8, there was some tinny character to the sound produced, so do not exceed this level unless you must.
Portability. The real allure of the GT720 over other, similar projectors is portability. In this case, portability means more than just small size and light weight. It means that the projector's short-throw lens is ideal for setup in a small room against a light-colored wall. It means that the onboard speaker system keeps setup simple, allowing you to connect one HDMI cable and get back to playing. It means that the projector comes in its own backpack, freeing up your hands to carry other gaming equipment. One thing worth mentioning is that, despite the backpack's large size, the game system will need its own carrying bag; there is simply not enough room for a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 in addition to the projector itself.
Cost of ownership. The GT720 is a very low-maintenance machine. It has no air filter, so the only maintenance you'll have to perform is the occasional lamp change. Lamps are rated to last for 5,000 hours in eco-mode or 3,000 hours in bright mode. When the lamp finally does blow out, replacements cost only $200, which is exceptionally low for such a bright projector. All in all, the GT720 is cheap and easy to maintain, which is ideal for an entertainment projector. Keep a spare lamp on hand and you'll never have cause to worry.
Video delay. Some gamers, intent on milking the best possible performance from fighting or racing games, obsess over video delay. Video delay is what happens when the video output from a source device is delayed for a number of milliseconds in transit to the display. In a time-sensitive game, this can lead to frustration, low scores, and general discontent. The GT720 does not have any noticeable video delay, or at least not enough to manifest during our testing.
Placement flexibility. Having a fixed-throw lens is great for portability, keeps costs down, and works for the majority of users. It is also common to see short-throw projectors like the GT720 with no zoom lens, as short throw and zoom lenses don't get along very well. However, such a lens will not work for everyone. A 120" diagonal 16:9 image requires 6'3" of space, and in small rooms this can constrain the viewers to the very back of the house. If you intend to ceiling mount the projector, it will need to be mounted rather close to the front of the room. This almost requires a cable run through the ceiling to avoid unsightly dangling wires. While you can sometimes get away with stringing wires around the back of the room, this is less acceptable when those wires would hang between the audience and the image.
3D. The GT720 includes Texas Instruments' DLP-Link technology, allowing it to be used with active shutter glasses to display 3D content at a maximum resolution of 1280x720. There are now several games available for the Playstation 3 capable of stereoscopic 3D display. A potential buyer might make the assumption that a 3D projector meant to be paired with a 3D console would be able to display 3D content from that console. It's a reasonable assumption. It is also wrong.
The GT720 will display 3D content only if that content is presented at 1280x720 pixels and 120 frames per second. The PS3 will output a 3D signal only if it is connected to a display it recognizes as 3D capable. For lack of a better explanation, the GT720 and PS3 do not properly "handshake," so the PS3 will not output a 3D signal. Without a 3D signal, the GT720 will not switch into the proper 3D mode. Since it is not in a 3D mode, it cannot be recognized as a 3D display, so the PS3 will not output the proper 3D signal... the whole thing becomes a catch-22.
Now, if you would like to use the GT720 with a PC that is set up with NVIDIA's 3D Vision, it works perfectly. After several hours of use, we can confidently say that the GT720 displays a beautiful 3D picture. It just won't do it with the Playstation 3.
2x-speed color wheel. The GT720 has a 2x-speed color wheel, with five segments: red, green, blue, yellow, and white. If you see rainbow artifacts when using a DLP projector with a two-speed wheel, you'll see them on the GT720. This is not much of a problem for games, since the player's eye generally stays fixed on the center of the screen. But during movies, when the eye is free to roam, rainbows may become a factor. The solution is twofold: one, find out if you or anyone in your intended audience is sensitive to rainbows. Two, use the GT720 for games, not movies.
The Optoma GameTime GT720 is a great projector for the display of high-definition video games from the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, or even a high-end PC. It has a bright, dynamic image that pops off the screen, beautifully saturated color, and crystal-clear sharpness. It is highly portable and easy to use, and the onboard sound system is enough for all but the largest rooms.
The projector uses a 2x-speed color wheel, so rainbows are a factor when watching movies or other non-interactive content. And while the projector is 3D ready, it also serves as an object lesson of the perils of being an early adopter--3D from the Playstation 3 doesn't work. But as far as 2D is concerned, it puts a big beautiful HD picture on your wall or screen, and it does it all for less than $800.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma GameTime GT720 projector page.