Last year's Optoma H30 home theater projector was a fine machine, having earned the 2004 CES Innovation Award for its outstanding performance and value. ProjectorCentral also put it on the Highly Recommended list. However, for an added $300 or so, the new Optoma H31 surpasses the H30's performance in many respects. We are enthused about adding this one to the Highly Recommended list as well.
Specifications. 850 ANSI lumens, 3000:1 contrast, native 16:9 widescreen format, 854x480 resolution DLP chip with a 4x speed, six-segment color wheel.
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 480p, 480i, and computer resolutions up to SXGA. Full NTSC / PAL / SECAM.
Lens and Throw Distance. 1.20:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal image from 14-15 feet, depending on zoom.
Lamp Life. 2,000 hours in high-brightness mode, 3,000 hours in standard mode.
Connection Panel. One composite video, one S-Video, one set of standard YPbPr component video inputs, one DVI port that supports DVI-I with HDCP, VGA, and SCART, and one RS-232 port for an external control.
Installation Options. Table mount, rear shelf mount, ceiling mount.
Warranty. Two years, 90 days for lamp; "Zero dead pixel" two-year warranty.
Optoma H31 vs. Optoma H30
Sitting next to the H30, it takes some time to realize that the H31 is a vastly different machine. The cases for these two models are identical, and there is a weight difference of only a few ounces. It is only at the connection panel that external differences can be noticed. Optoma has chosen to discard the H30's 15-pin VGA ports (one for input, one for monitor pass-through) in favor of both a DVI port and a standard Component input set, as well as an RS-232 port for an external remote. While this does crowd the connection panel somewhat, the improvement in connectivity more than compensates for this minor annoyance. Optoma has also included an IR receiver for the remote control on both the front and back of the unit, just as they did with the H30.
It is once the H31 is up and running that it is able to truly distance itself from the H30. The first and most obvious difference between the two units is that on the H31, Optoma has switched to a native 16:9 format compared to the H30's 4:3. Furthermore, the 854x480 format enables the display of NTSC video (640x480) and DVD widescreen video (720x480) without vertical scaling. That translates to a cleaner, sharper image than you get from the H30, or any SVGA resolution projector that must fit a 16:9 image into an 800x450 matrix.
Less obvious improvements abound: the H31 has improved light shielding, creating less of a visual distraction in the case of a coffee-table setup; the H30 leaked a significant amount of light from the rear connection panel. While the product specifications for the H30 and H31 list identical operating noise, we noticed that the H30's fan had a noticeable high-pitched tone; the H31 has eliminated this and thus presents less of an audible distraction. For convenience, the H31 also has a well-designed backlit remote, including buttons dedicated to format change and source switching without forcing the user to delve into the menu system - which, by the way, is elegantly designed and easy to navigate.
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