The Optoma HD8300 is Optoma's newest 1080p full HD 3D projector. While the HD33, reviewed in August, covers the low-cost end of the spectrum, the HD8300 is a more refined product that caters to videophiles and dedicated theater enthusiasts. Maximum light output of 1500 lumens means you can power a very large screen, while 30,000:1 iris-assisted contrast creates the deep, dark blacks and nuanced shadows required for a satisfying home cinema experience. When it comes to 3D, the HD8300's image has almost zero crosstalk and plenty of brightness. Sold through custom installers and authorized resellers, the HD8300 is priced at $4,499.
We set up the HD8300 on a shelf in the back of a room with very little ambient light. The projector has lens shift, but the shift range is limited, so while a rear shelf mount is possible the shelf needs to be low. Thanks to the 1.5:1 zoom lens, it was easy to get the HD8300 adjusted to fit our screen. We stuck with the default Cinema mode, as it has the best default calibration, and left the HD8300 in its standard lamp mode. The alternative, Bright, is more appropriate for living room and entertainment use due to its very high light output. In a darkened theater, it can be overwhelming.
Taken as a whole, the picture from the HD8300 is film-like and engaging. We noticed a few things right away. First, the HD8300 has near-perfect color even before calibration, though saturation needs to be increased a couple of points. Second, the image is very bright in Cinema mode, and in a properly darkened room it can sometimes be too bright. We found ourselves wishing for a manual iris, though videophiles already know that one can use a neutral-density filter to accomplish the same thing. Three, while contrast is good, it's not as good as the old Optoma HD8600 from 2009, the company's flagship model. There's a noticeable difference in black level and dynamic range between the two, with the HD8600 having the advantage in both areas.
The HD8300's image is smooth and natural, though digital noise is more apparent than on the HD8600. PureMotion, the HD8300's frame interpolation system, is set to Low by default. In this setting, it subtly reduces judder in film content without adding any of the digital video effect sometimes seen with FI systems. We did not find it objectionable enough to disable, even for 24p film content.
2D Picture Quality. The HD8300 makes 2D Blu-ray and broadcast content look its best through a combination of excellent color performance, good dynamic range, and a clear, detailed picture. Standard definition content also looks good, especially when using the HD8300's PureDetail feature. This control helps to resolve fine detail more clearly while avoiding the nasty ringing artifacts associated with edge enhancement.
3D Picture Quality. Optoma clearly has its act together regarding 3D. The HD33, reviewed last month, had some of the cleanest 3D available, with almost zero crosstalk. The HD8300 has that same clean quality. Most of the time, crosstalk was not visible at all. In very high contrast scenes when a bright highlight was directly adjacent to a shadowed area, mild crosstalk was occasionally visible, but it never became annoying or distracting. In addition, the HD8300's higher dynamic range and better black levels make it look miles better than the HD33, as one would hope when comparing two projectors at such widely disparate prices. The projector's natural three-dimensionality combined with its excellent 3D performance make the HD8300 one of the better projectors in its price range for 3D viewing.
PureEngine. Optoma's PureEngine encompasses all of the "enhancement" features often found on fully-featured projectors. Included are PureDetail, which increases fine detail without edge enhancement artifacts, PureMotion, which is a frame interpolation option, and PureColor, which selectively boosts color saturation. All of these options are enabled by default, though they are set to their lowest options. PureMotion in particular has been improved. The Low setting showed almost none of the digital video effect while reducing judder, the High setting completely eliminated judder while adding a fair amount of digital video effect, and the Medium setting struck a balance between the two. If you dislike the effect, you can also disable it completely.
Radio frequency 3D Glasses. Optoma's use of radio instead of infrared sync for 3D glasses ensures no loss of sync when you turn your head or look down at the remote, no interference with the remote control's infrared signal, and no crosstalk to speak of. While the glasses are sold separately, the HD8300 includes an emitter and the glasses themselves are available for less than $100 per pair.
Anamorphic triggering. When the HD8300 detects a 2.35:1 signal, it can be set to automatically engage the powered sled of an anamorphic lens via one of its 12V triggers. You could use the other to engage an electronic masking system, if desired. For those interested in 2.35:1 theater, this is a convenient feature.
Light output. With a rated maximum light output of 1500 lumens, the HD8300 is a great projector for both large-screen home theater and more casual presentations in the living room. Its Cinema mode, which has the best color and contrast performance of all of the projector's preset modes, measures 832 lumens in standard lamp mode with the lens at its widest angle setting. Bright lamp mode increases lumen output by about 20%, bringing Cinema to 996 lumens. On a large screen of 150" diagonal or greater, in a room with good control over ambient light, the HD8300 looks superb. Smaller screens look bright and clear in rooms with some ambient lighting.
The HD8300's image modes are all in the same ballpark when it comes to lumen output. In addition to Cinema, available modes include Reference (761 lumens), Photo (896 lumens), 3D (704 lumens), and Bright (872 lumens). All of these modes were measured using the lamp's Standard setting and the widest angle available on the projector's 1.5:1 zoom lens. What's missing from the HD8300 is a preset image mode that produces between 400 and 600 lumens, which would be useful for owners of small screens or folks with excellent ambient light control in their theaters. Note that the HD8300's zoom lens loses up to 32% of its light output at the telephoto end of its range, which brings Cinema mode to 573 lumens. However, not all users will be able to use the lens at max telephoto. With no manual iris, the only remaining option for lower lumen output besides the lens is a neutral density (ND) filter.
If you need more brightness from the HD8300, say for a football game in the living room, you can use Bright mode with the Bright lamp setting (Dear Optoma, this is confusing) and the Lamp Native color temperature preset to push output up to around 1200 lumens. In exchange for the extra light, though, you lose most of the HD8300's black level, some dynamic range, and color accuracy goes to pot. Still, if you're in ambient light, you'll be losing contrast anyway.
Color. Even at its factory defaults, the HD8300 has respectable color. As far as color temperature, the D65 preset measures around 6000K with no adjustments--a touch too warm, but certainly livable. Calibration of this projector was quick; the controls are responsive and the adjustments have enough granularity that it's easy to hit the exact value needed. After ten minutes with our CalMAN calibration system, the HD8300 was producing 6500K across the board.
The color gamut is likewise in pretty good shape without any adjustments, and the HD8300's color management system is easy to use. Twenty minutes of fine-tuning produced a color gamut nearly identical to the Rec.709 standard used for HD. In English, this means that movies and video shown on the HD8300 will look exactly how the director wants them to look.
3D. The HD8300 is capable of full HD 3D from any HDMI 1.4 enabled 3D device. This means you can hook up your 3D Blu-ray player, satellite or cable set-top box, or other 3D device directly to the HD8300 and everything will work perfectly.
Like the HD33, the HD8300 supports Optoma's radio frequency (RF) active shutter glasses. Unlike infrared systems, line-of-sight between the glasses and the emitter is not required when using RF. This simplifies emitter placement in a big way--as long as the emitter is within 15 meters of the audience, regardless of direction, the system will still work as advertised. Obstructions between the emitter and the glasses can reduce the range somewhat, so be sure to test your configuration before mounting anything permanently.
In 3D, the projector takes certain options out of your hands, namely the auto iris, PureMotion (the control remains active but has no tangible effect), and image mode selection (you are limited to 3D and User). On the other hand, you retain control over lamp mode, while several competing projectors disable this option.
Warranty. The HD8300 has a full three-year warranty complete with Optoma's Express Replacement service, as well as two years of coverage on the lamp. These days, it is increasingly rare to see a manufacturer stand behind their product the way that Optoma has with the HD8300.
Color wheel. As the HD8300 has a native speed of 120Hz, color wheel numbers must be interpreted slightly differently. The projector has a six-segment color wheel (RGBRGB) that runs at 3x speed; that is, it refreshes each color three times per frame. However, since the projector runs at 120Hz, that means the equivalent of a 6x speed color wheel when viewing 60Hz content. Whichever way you slice it, the end result is a rainbow-free image.
Connectivity. The HD8300 has the standard slew of connections, but the highlights are a pair of HDMI 1.4 ports, a set of YPbPr component inputs, and a pair of 12V triggers. The VESA port for the 3D emitter is also located here, and looks kind of like an s-video jack. It's even located next to the composite video port. It is not advised that you try to use it to display s-video, however--it won't work and you'll probably break something.
Contrast. The HD8300 has solid dynamic range and a black level that is aided by an automatic iris. Unfortunately, its dynamic range is not as good as some other projectors in its price range, and black level is likewise outmatched by some competitors. The end result is that contrast as a whole is somewhat lacking for the price. Now, if you're using the HD8300 in a room with some ambient light, contrast matters a lot less--the little bit of ambient light you have is affecting contrast more than you know, and you might not ever see the improvement from a higher-contrast projector in that situation. But for those who have pitch-black home cinema rooms dedicated to the theater experience, the slight differences are noticeable.
Light output. The HD8300 is a very bright projector, putting out almost 1,000 lumens in Cinema mode. However, it has two problems. For one, there's no way to curtail lumen output for smaller screens, and even the 761 lumens of Reference mode may be too bright for some. Secondly, the projector is rated at 1,500 lumens maximum. This means that the brightest precalibrated mode, Bright mode using the Native color temperature, still falls short by 20% of the specification. Those who need or want 800-1000 lumens will be delighted, while edge cases to either side are out of luck.
Placement flexibility. The HD8300 has a 1.5:1 manual zoom/focus lens with manual horizontal and vertical lens shift. The 1.5:1 lens allows for some flexibility when mounting the projector. For example, if you are using a 120" diagonal 16:9 screen, you can mount the HD8300 anywhere between 13' and 19' 10" away from the screen. Unfortunately, as with any zoom lens, as you move towards the telephoto end of the lens you lose light output. In this case, the HD8300 loses 32% of its maximum light output at the telephoto end of the zoom. The progression is roughly linear across the lens' range; at halfway between wide and telephoto you'll lose 16%. This is higher than average for a 1.5:1 lens, where most similar lenses lose around 20%. As an example, Cinema mode at wide angle produces 832 lumens, while Cinema mode at telephoto produces 573.
The HD8300 has lens shift, but the range is somewhat limited. Vertical shift allows for a total range of 1/3 of the image height, while horizontal shift allows for 1/3 of the image's width. If the projector is mounted level and perpendicular to the screen, the bottom edge of the image can appear anywhere between 11% below the centerline of the lens and 24% above it. In all instances, the bulk of the projected image is above the lens centerline. In this way, the lens shift allows for some fine-tuning once you have the projector mounted, but does not allow for the same kind of off-center placement that is possible on certain LCD projectors with more extensive shift ranges.
Remote control. The HD8300 has two remote controls--one main remote for day to day use and one miniature, credit-card-style remote that can be attached to the back of the projector just over the connection panel. The main remote is well laid out, with intuitive button placement. However, the buttons themselves have icons rather than words on them, and the strong blue backlight makes it impossible to read any of them in the dark. Once you learn the layout, this becomes less of a concern. The second remote is meant to function in place of a hardwired control panel, since the HD8300 has none save for a single power on/off button. While this is an unlikely scenario, this means if you manage to lose both remotes, you'll be unable to adjust your projector.
So what happens when you put a $4499 DLP 3D 1080p projector up against a $2999 LCD 3D 1080p projector? We put the Optoma HD8300 and the Panasonic PT-AE7000U (read our Panasonic AE7000 review) side-by-side and took a look. This is what we found.
Light output. The HD8300's Cinema mode is brighter than that of the AE7000 by a fair margin - 996 lumens versus 526 lumens using the high lamp and wide angle settings for both projectors. This will make the HD8300 more useful for very large screens in rooms with good ambient light control, while theaters with smaller screens might benefit from the AE7000. The AE7000 has Normal mode, which cranks out 1300 lumens and has no direct analogue on the HD8300--Bright mode loses too much color fidelity and contrast to be directly comparable. However, keep in mind that the HD8300's Cinema mode produces 996 lumens with perfect color balance, while Normal mode sacrifices some color performance to reach that level of brightness. In a very bright room, the AE7000's Dynamic mode produces 1685 lumens which the HD8300 cannot match. As you can see, each projector has its advantages, depending on the situation.
Contrast. The AE7000 is rated at 300,000:1 contrast while the HD8300 is rated at 30,000:1. While we will be the first to tell anyone that specs never tell the whole story, they do sometimes offer a grain of truth. Black level on the AE7000 is clearly deeper in almost all scenes while the AE7000's dynamic range has a slight edge as well.
The photo below shows both the AE7000 and the HD8300. Note the higher dynamic range and deeper black level of the AE7000. Both projectors were simultaneously projecting onto the same screen, a Stewart Studiotek 100, using an HDMI splitter and a Blu-ray of 50 First Dates. Both projectors were calibrated using our CalMAN calibration system to put them on an equal footing. We put the AE7000 in high lamp mode and the HD8300 in standard mode. As both images were captured in a single exposure, this photograph illustrates the relative difference between the two projectors. The HD8300 is still brighter despite the lower lamp mode, but the AE7000 shows greater contrast, detail, and color saturation:
These two projectors are displaying an identical image simultaneously. This is a single photograph of the two images at once.
Color. Both the HD8300 and the AE7000 have very good color before calibration, and both improve even further with calibration. The HD8300 has more granular controls, so it's easier to fine-tune the projector to the exact value you need. On the other hand, the AE7000 is closer to D65 by default and has a stronger red than the HD8300, where red appears slightly weak in comparison. Both projectors are usable without calibration, but both improve substantially with a bit of fine-tuning.
Placement flexibility. The AE7000 has a 2.0:1 powered lens compared to the HD8300's 1.5:1 manual lens, and the AE7000's lens shift range is greater than that of the HD8300. The two projectors both lose a significant chunk of total light output when using the telephoto end of the zoom lens - the HD8300 loses 32% while the AE7000 loses 40%.
Features. The HD8300 and AE7000 both have frame interpolation systems, detail enhancement systems, and automatic detection of anamorphic content. The AE7000's frame interpolation system exhibited less of the digital video effect when at its highest setting than the HD8300 did, though both eliminated judder equally well.
3D. The HD8300 uses radio-frequency sync 3D glasses while the AE7000 uses infrared sync, meaning that the HD8300's emitter does not have to be in line-of-sight while the AE7000's emitter does. On the other hand, the AE7000's emitter is built-in to the projector itself, while the HD8300's external emitter plugs into the back.
When it comes to 3D image quality, neither projector shows much crosstalk, and it is hard to decide which is better, if either has an edge at all. While the HD8300 has a very bright 3D mode (around 700 lumens), the AE7000 makes use of 480Hz processing to allow more light to pass through the glasses. The end result is that brightness is a wash--in real use, the two projectors appear equally bright in 3D mode. The AE7000's deeper black level gives it an advantage in darkened theater rooms.
The Optoma HD8300 is a strong addition to Optoma's home theater projector lineup, bringing high-quality 3D and high contrast home at an attractive price point of $4,499. Crosstalk-free 3D and an improved frame interpolation system, combined with a film-like image and accurate color, make the HD8300 an attractive option for the custom install market.
Of course, no projector is without faults. The HD8300's lens loses more light than most other projectors with 1.5:1 lenses when used at the telephoto end of the range. Lumen output is not as configurable as some other projectors, either, so consumers with smaller screens up to 100" diagonal might find themselves overwhelmed by the projector's brightness. Contrast, though reasonably good, fails to measure up to the best of the competition this year. And while lens shift is always a welcome feature, the range available on the HD8300 is limited.
The HD8300 is a perfect projector for a large 140" diagonal screen in a very dark room. With proper light control and a 1.3 gain screen, even 3D is bright and enjoyable at this size. The 2D picture has a refined feel, especially after calibration, while the 3D image retains the "wow" factor many people experience when viewing 3D for the first time. A best-in-class warranty ensures satisfaction for years to come. If any of this sounds appealing to you, you can find the Optoma HD8300 through your local custom install professional.