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Optoma HD91 Projector Optoma HD91
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Street Price: n/a
3D: Full HD 3D
Weight: 15.4 lbs
Aspect Ratio:16:9
Lens:1.9x manual
Lens Shift:H + V
Lamp Life:20,000 Hrs
20,000 (eco)
Warranty:3 year
Connectors:  Composite, Component, VGA In, HDMI 1.4a (x2), USB, RS232, 12-Volt Trigger (x2),
Video Formats:  480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, 1080p/24

Review: Optoma HD91
LED 1080p Home Theater Projector

Bill Livolsi, March 26, 2014

Optoma HD91 versus Epson Home Cinema 5030UB

For a competitive comparison, we set up the Optoma HD91 next to the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB, a lamp-based home theater projector that sells for $2,499. Both are 1080p projectors built for home theater from established manufacturers who've had a lot of time to iron out the kinks.

When considering strictly image quality and leaving aside brightness, it's amazing how similar these two projectors look. Both do a wonderful job putting highly detailed, high-contrast, well-saturated pictures on the screen, and both calibrate to the established standards without much fuss. If your only concern is your ability to get a high-quality HD image onto an appropriately-sized screen, either projector will suit your needs. If you have requirements about the size of that screen, or where it is located in your home, continue on.

The 5030UB produces much more light than the HD91 in both its brightest and calibrated modes. Dynamic on the 5030UB produces 2230 lumens, making it nearly three times as bright as the HD91's Bright mode at 840 lumens. The 5030UB's Cinema mode measured 805 lumens, giving it a significant brightness edge over the HD91's Cinema mode at 517 lumens. And the 5030UB also has Living Room mode, which produces 1550 lumens with color and contrast that aren't much different from Cinema mode. In other words, you can get roughly three times as much light out of the Epson 5030UB.

This means that the Epson 5030UB can serve double-duty in a living room while the HD91 cannot. It means you can shine the 5030UB onto a 140" diagonal screen without compromising color or contrast. It also means that you can watch 3D on a much larger screen when using the 5030UB. And it is easier to mount the 5030UB using the longer end of the zoom range without reducing image brightness to unacceptably low levels.

The 5030UB also has an advantage in black level, especially in dark scenes, thanks to its iris. The 5030UB has an excellent auto-iris system, and while DynamicBlack is an interesting solution, it cannot match the speed or the effectiveness of a good iris. Brightness changes on the 5030UB were faster, more dramatic, and less noticeable than on the HD91.

On the other hand, the HD91 has an advantage in single-frame contrast, especially in brighter scenes. The HD91 appeared dramatically three-dimensional next to the 5030UB in these scenes, despite the 5030UB's strong contrast performance. This is not a flaw in the 5030UB, in other words, but a strength of the HD91.

As far as color is concerned, the 5030UB is more accurate out of the box, but both projectors calibrate to Rec.709 and 6500K. And, honestly, you should not be purchasing either of these projectors if you don't plan to calibrate them.

Neither projector had a clear advantage in terms of detail, but the 5030UB did have one advantage in terms of clarity. We saw significant temporal dithering in the HD91's image, which isn't the same thing as digital noise but can have a similar appearance (and a similar effect on your enjoyment of the picture). The 5030UB is not without noise itself, but that noise can be reduced by using the projector's noise reduction system. Since temporal dithering is an artifact of the technology itself and not a signal problem, it cannot be reduced through image controls.

Features. The HD91's LED light source has an estimated life of 20,000 hours, while the 5030UB's lamp is estimated to last from 4,000 to 5,000 hours. If both light sources last for their full lifespans, the HD91's LED source is equivalent to four or five 5030UB replacement lamps, which would cost between $897 and $1196. That brings the lifetime cost of the 5030UB up to $3695 -- roughly equal to the HD91's $3999 price tag.

But by purchasing the 5030UB and the spare lamps, you get a projector with the same 20,000 hour lamp life that is three times as bright. That extra brightness gives you the flexibility to use large screens, or mount the projector near the back of the room, or watch large-screen 3D. These things are much more difficult to accomplish on the HD91.

And this is all assuming that you'll actually use the projector for 20,000 hours. Few people do - that is 10,000 2-hour movies, or one movie per day for 27 years. In other words, 20,000 hours is a very long time, and most folks will replace their projector before they get anywhere near that much viewing time. If you decide to replace the 5030UB before you reach 20,000 hours, the extra money you would have spent on lamp replacements is still in your pocket. With the HD91, that extra cost is built in to the projector. There's no opting out.

The HD91 has anamorphic stretch mode, something the 5030UB lacks. The HD91's three-year warranty is one year longer than that of the 5030UB. Both projectors have full HD 3D compatibility, frame interpolation, smart sharpening, excellent placement flexibility and lens zoom, and low fan noise.

All in all, the HD91 produces a very good cinema image that is comparable to that of the 5030UB. However, the 5030UB's light output advantage allows it to display that same great image on larger screens, or in less perfect environments, or from longer distances -- all of which would compromise the HD91's image to the point where it is no longer competitive.

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Review Contents: The Viewing Experience Setup and Configuration Key Features Performance
  Limitations Shootout vs Epson 5030UB Conclusion

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Comments (11) Post a Comment
crabarts231 Posted Mar 27, 2014 3:07 AM PST
If I want to turn the Dynamic Black on what Dynamic Black you guys suggest? DB1, 2, or3?? Of course I will calibrate with DB on.
Robert Posted Mar 27, 2014 10:19 AM PST
Bill, thanks for the detailed review.

One major benefit of LED projection is that brightness remains relatively unchanged over the long haul. So, once you set up and calibrate the projector, that's it.

With lamp based projectors, how much dimmer is the bulb after 100 hours, 500 hours or 1000 hours? Brightness of a new lamp tends to drop significantly and then stabilize over time. So, how long will it take for a lamp based projector to be less bright than the LED projector? Also, as the lamp fades, colors and black detail will change, requiring recalibration.

It would be interesting to compare measurements after long term testing - after 100, 500 and 1000 hours.
Edgar_in_Indy Posted Mar 28, 2014 7:57 AM PST
It would be a great selling point for LED-based projectors if they maintained their maximum brightness over the full life of the light source, but I have heard some reports from other LED projectors that they actually do lose brightness over time. So it will be interesting to see the long-term reports come in.
Bill Livolsi Posted Mar 31, 2014 2:44 PM PST
Hi everyone. Thanks for reading.

crabarts231 - it really depends on the content you're watching and the room you're watching it in. The higher levels of DynamicBlack will dim brightness more than the lower levels, so unless your room is dark and non-reflective enough to eliminate ambient light, the downsides may outweigh the benefits.

Robert - obviously this depends on the projector in question. I have yet to see a trustworthy source for long-term lamp dimming that is generalizable across all projectors, but it is clear that many projector lamps lose a chunk of brightness in their first 100 hours and then gradually fade from that point. With our specific comparison (Epson 5030UB versus Optoma HD91), I don't think the cross-over point exists.

The problem with long-term testing (and the reason why we haven't done something like this already) is that you need to maintain a normal pattern of use for your data to be meaningful. In other words, we can't just burn the lamp for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and expect to get results that are applicable to typical home use. Instead, we'd have to turn the projector on for smaller periods of time (say, 2 to 4 hours at a stretch), then turn it off and allow it to cool down before starting it up again. This takes a lot more time than just running the projector all day. If we used a "six hours on, six hours off" schedule on a projector with a lamp life of 4,000 hours, it would take just under a year to exhaust the lamp's life span.

Still, it is a topic that we are interested in, and we will likely write more about the differences between mercury lamps and alternative light sources in the future.

Edgar_in_Indy - To our knowledge, the projectors that suffer the largest light loss are hybrids -- those that use a combination of LED and laser sources. Pure LED projectors have less brightness but also lose less light output over their lives. Some estimates (unconfirmed) put total brightness loss of LEDs at 30% over the entire specified lifespan, and that loss is heavily weighted towards the end.
Frank Posted Apr 4, 2014 12:25 PM PST
What a great ittle projector! Of course, for LESS MONEY than what Optoma is peddling their HD91 for, you could get a PROFESSIONAL LED+laser light engine projector from Panasonic (Model PT-RZ470) that outputs 3500 ANSI lumen instead of just 1000. Just sayin'....
Stunko Posted Apr 4, 2014 2:03 PM PST
Funny that for a 1000 lumen PJ Optoma actually gives in their spec sheet a maximum projection size of 300-inches. Do the law of optics and physics support this size screen for any 1000 ANSI lumen projector, I wonder?
Frank Posted Apr 4, 2014 2:10 PM PST
"... projectors that suffer the largest light loss are hybrids -- those that use a combination of LED and laser sources. Pure LED projectors have less brightness but also lose less light output over their lives."

Trying to figure out how this goes. Okay, so a pure LED projector used R+G+B LEDs, whereas a hybrid projector uses a RED LED, a BLUE LED, and for the GREEN color, it uses a blue laser with a yellow phosphor wheel. If these LED+laser combination "hybrid" projectors lose more of their brightness than the pure LED chip projectors do, as seems to be suggested here, than the lightness loss must be related to the laser part in the hybrid, specifically the tiny blue laser gun that is used to generate the greens via the spinning phosphor wheel. I was not aware that laser sources dim over time at all, although I know that LEDs do.
Bill Livolsi Posted Apr 4, 2014 2:43 PM PST
Stunko - a projector emitting exactly 1000 lumens, projecting onto a 300" diagonal screen at 1.0 gain, would measure 3.8 foot-Lamberts. However, using a screen of equal size with a gain of 4.5 would give you 17 fL. So yes, it is possible.

Frank - I may have overstated things a little.

Some hybrid models we've tested experienced significant loss of light output over the first few hundred hours of runtime, specifically in the green channel. I'm not an engineer, but I suspect it was related to the phosphor. Then again, we tested this phenomenon years ago when the first Casio hybrid projectors were released. We did not see that same dramatic degradation in the Panasonic hybrid model we reviewed.

So far, we have not seen evidence of similar rapid degradation in projectors that are solely LED-based, but we have also only reviewed a small handful of pure LED projectors. This is something we'll be testing further as the market matures.

It's possible that the loss of green we observed in the early Casio hybrids was a model-specific problem that will not reappear in other hybrid models, but I was commenting based on my own experiences. I realize now that I phrased my comment too broadly, and for that I apologize.
Art Posted Apr 21, 2014 11:49 AM PST
Hi Bill, You done with that HD91 yet, I'm still trying to get one out of Optoma to review…

Great review, btw, I tend to agree, and do believe from my conversations with them and others, that their green problem has to a large degree tied to the design of their first (and second?) gen systems.

To Stunko, let's just say some manufacturers tend to be more optimistic than others. Interestingly 25 foot diagonal has been the favorite "maximum size" of most projectors going back to the early days. Back in 1994, the first "portable" the Proxima DP2800 projector claimed 110 lumens and claimed maximum screen size was 25' diagonal - a popular size used in a great many hotel ballrooms. Of course back then, all lights but emergency exits were normally out so that the screen was bright enough to see… Some times marketing trumps reality. -art
Doug Blackburn Posted May 27, 2014 12:33 PM PST
Calibrating with Dynamic Black ON is not going to be as easy as you might think -- I haven't thought about this in GREAT depth yet, but it seems to me that to get best results if you want to use Dynamic Black is to do calibration in 2 phases. This will be required to get decent results...

Phase 1 - Turn Dynamic Black off and calibrate everything as best you can

Phase 2 - Turn Dynamic Black ON to the setting you plan to use and as you fine tune grayscale steps and even colors, you will need to make your adjustments so that you do not change the luminance of the step you are adjusting. For example. Let's make this easy and say with DB OFF you calibrated the grayscale and you measured 10% White at 0.1 fL and you set your gamma to 2.25 (with variations in gamma that are practically inevitable, you managed to maintain your gamma between 2.2 and 2.3 for 10%-100% white). Now remember, this is with DB OFF. OK, so now you have a good grayscale and good gamma. Now, you turn DB ON and pick your setting/level (1-3). For whatever reason, when you measure some steps, especially darker steps, there are color shifts you need to get rid of. So now you measure 10% white as 0.05 fL due to the action of DB. In order NOT to screw up that gamma you set when DB was OFF (remember, your result where each grayscale step was between 2.2 and 2.3 gamma), you now need to remove some green from 10% white but when you do that, 10% white is going to get quite a lot dimmer... you don't want to let that happen. You need to make your 10% adjustments but you have to keep your luminance at 0.05 fL. So you can't just take out some green. If you were to determine that -4 on green would "fix" 10% white... your luminance level might drop to 0.04 or even 0.03... you can't let that happen. To keep that from happening, you might have to make your adjustments something like -1 for green and +3 for red and +3 for blue. That way you are removing green but also adding red and blue to keep that step from getting dimmer (these numbers are samples only, each projector is going to respond differently).

If you maintain luminance of each step after you have calibrated with DB off, you should maintain your gamma performance pretty darn well.

Similarly, when adjusting colors (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow), one of the things you SHOULD be looking at is color luminance. After you turn DB ON, your first measurement of each of the 6 colors will give you the target luminance for each color that you want to maintain as you make each of the 6 colors accurate. If your Red luminance was 3.36 fL, for example (with DB ON) but you need to tweak red to make it more accurate, you will want to do what you can to maintain that 3.36 fL of luminance which may mean making adjustments of multiple controls to keep your luminance at 3.36.

Doing this should allow you to use DB (or Auto Iris) while not introducing odd gamma behavior as image brightness goes up or down in response to the iris or changing light levels of the LED light source at different calibration settings. You may be used to having your d65 target (x=313, y=329), but luminance determines gamma -- so when adjusting any step AFTER the DB-OFF phase of calibration, you must maintain the DB ON luminance you began with... skipping that step is how we get those strange gamma results when using DB or Auto Iris.
Manuel Posted Jul 30, 2014 2:57 AM PST
Great report, though, for me one major positive of aspect of LED is the instant on and off feature, making a projector equal in speed to a TV and less hassle to start. We often use ours only 20 min/day, so this makes a difference. One question remains: why aren't there 2000 lumen LED home theater projectors yet?

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