One of the hot entry-level DLP projectors these days is the Optoma H31. Now at the opposite end of the performance spectrum comes the Optoma H79, featuring TI's DarkChip3, 1280x720 resolution, and an 8-segment, 5x speed color wheel. The H79 is a thoroughly impressive projector that delivers just about everything we could ask for.
Specifications. 1000 ANSI lumens, 4500:1 contrast, native 16:9 widescreen format, 1280x720 resolution DLP chip with a 5x eight-segment color wheel.
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i, and computer resolutions up to UXGA (1600x1200). Full NTSC / PAL / SECAM.
Lens and Throw Distance. 1.35:1 powered zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal image from 11'7" to 15'7", depending on zoom.
Lamp Life. 3,000 hours.
Connection Panel. One composite video, one S-Video, One set of standard YPbPr component video inputs, one set of 5 BNC component inputs that support YPbPr/RGB, one DVI-I port with HDCP, 2 12V relays, and one D-sub 15-pin RS-232 port.
Installation Options. Table mount, rear shelf mount, ceiling mount.
Warranty. Two years, 90 days for lamp; two year "Zero Dead Pixel" warranty.
As a general rule, a good video-optimized home theater projector will output somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 to 500 ANSI lumens, regardless of that unit's stated lumen rating. The H79 comes in at the high end of this spectrum, outputting 450 ANSI lumens at video-optimized settings. If this is not enough light for your needs, enabling "britemode" (essentially, high lamp mode) boosts lumen output to nearly 600 ANSI lumens. With this kind of power, very large screen diagonals - larger than 120" - pose no problem for the H79.
Contrast on the H79 was nothing short of astounding - black level is the best we've seen short of a CRT projector. Shadow details are open and well-defined, and there is no crushing of the grayscale on either end of the spectrum.
One of the benefits of the new DarkChip3 is that the space between actual mirrors on the chip - the inter-pixel gap - has been made smaller. Furthermore, the black dot in the middle of each pixel mirror is gone. These improvements eliminate visible pixelation entirely and produce an exceptionally smooth, well integrated image. You can go with larger screen sizes and sit closer to the screen than ever before without any distraction from pixel definition.
The H79 also uses an eight-segment color wheel that contains two dark green "Dark Video Enhancement" segments, rendering shadow areas of the image are nearly free of dither. In point of fact, the entire image is about as clean and stable as we've yet seen on a digital projector.
Color out of the box wasn't quite accurate - the projector was biased towards green, and reds seemed oversaturated. While it takes a fair amount of fine-tuning to get the H79's color performance right, it is impressive once it reaches its peak. Colors have excellent saturation, flesh tones are realistic, and the image almost seems to pop off of the screen.
The H79's de-interlacing and scaling is top-notch. When compared to a quality progressive-scan DVD player, we saw no loss of quality when we switched the DVD player back to outputting an interlaced signal and let the H79 do the heavy lifting. Furthermore, the DVDO iScan HD video processor did not contribute any incremental image acuity compared to the H79's internal processing.
With high definition 720p, the H79 looks truly amazing, as you'd probably expect - after all, this is what the projector is built for. 1080i still looks slightly softer in comparison due to scaling, but is still sharp, clean, and stable.
We fed the H79 a composite signal from a video game system in order to see how the H79 deals with inferior signals. While image quality is compromised with a composite signal, it was surprisingly watchable in most cases. However, when we switched to component cables, the difference was refreshing. If you plan on using a video game system with your projector, invest the $20 in a component cable adapter for your system. That $20 is the difference between a large image and a large high quality image.
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