1080p DLP Home Theater Projector
Vivitek H1080FD versus Optoma HD20
Vivitek's H1080FD and the Optoma HD20 are the first two 1080p projectors to retail for under $1000 at launch. These two projectors share some common features, as both are portable DLP projectors with very similar brightness and contrast specifications. Both have 1.2:1 zoom lenses with fixed throw angles. Both offset the projected image by 15%, and should be mounted on the ceiling or between the seats. But there are some key differences between the two.
Lumen output. The H1080FD is rated at 1800 lumens to the HD20's 1700. That's not much of a difference, but in actual use there is more of a spread. The H1080FD's 1607 lumens in Bright mode is much brighter than the HD20's 954 lumens, and makes the H1080FD more flexible for use in ambient light. In their respective theater modes, the two projectors are much more similar, with the H1080FD measuring 712 lumens to the HD20's 633. In practical terms, the two projectors are on equal footing when calibrated for home theater.
Contrast. The H1080FD and HD20 have similar contrast specifications - the HD20 is 4000:1 while the H1080FD is 5000:1. However, when placed side by side, the difference shows - the H1080FD has noticeably higher visible contrast than the HD20, making the images on that projector more dynamic and three-dimensional than those on its competitor. The HD20 had a deeper black level, but overall its contrast does not quite match that of the H1080FD.
Color. If you want a projector that you can simply plug in and start using, the HD20 is your best bet. Out-of-the-box color accuracy is far better on the HD20 than it is on the H1080FD, and the projector needs very little adjustment to reach its peak. However, if you don't mind a little fine-tuning, the H1080FD has brighter, richer, more vibrant color post-calibration than the HD20, so do-it-yourselfers who don't mind fiddling with the picture adjustments will prefer Vivitek's offering.
Portability. Since both projectors are so small, some people will want to travel with them. The HD20 is physically smaller, though not by much. The H1080FD is lighter by about a pound, and also has one feature that the HD20 lacks - an onboard speaker. The five-watt speaker is small and tinny when compared to even the most rudimentary outboard setups, but it can accept audio signals over an HDMI link and turn the H1080FD into a complete mobile theater solution. The HD20 lacks a speaker, and so any mobile use must incorporate an alternate speaker system, such as that on a laptop.
Fan noise. The Optoma HD20 is noticeably louder than the H1080FD, in both normal and eco lamp modes. Quiet operation is typically a feature of much more expensive projectors, and it is nice to see an inexpensive model like the H1080FD that has so little fan noise. Fan noise on the HD20 will be more of an issue if you want to set the unit between the seats right next to the viewer. Both projectors will fade into the background if ceiling mounted.
Rainbows. The Optoma HD20 has a 4x-speed color wheel with RGBRGB segments, while the H1080FD has a 3x-speed wheel with RGBCMY segments. All this gibberish means that we saw more rainbows on the H1080FD than we did on the HD20. If you are sensitive to rainbows, you will have to consider the trade-off: you can get better contrast and color on the H1080FD, but you will see more rainbows.
Vivitek's H1080FD is among the first 1080p projectors to launch at a retail price of $999. People still are not quite sure what to expect from projectors in this range. You might notice that all of the H1080FD's advantages have to do with image quality. This is for good reason; the projector looks fantastic for the price. Conversely, most of the H1080FD's quirks relate to user interface. The projector has some weaknesses, to be certain - navigating and using the menu system is annoying, color calibration takes some effort, and the color temperature presets do not seem to do anything at all. That said, these issues can be worked around, and once you have the projector set up and tuned to your liking, you won't have to deal with them during everyday use.
The H1080FD is a great choice for HD sports and video game display to large-screen home theater. If you have children who play video games and you already own a projector, the H1080FD would be a great second projector to preserve lamp hours on your higher-end primary unit. Photography display is bright and dynamic, with plenty of three-dimensionality; furthermore, rainbows artifacts are a non-issue for still images, and the H1080FD is clearly a great choice as a photography projector.
For $999, the H1080FD offers an excellent value proposition. If you can ignore or work around the projector's quirks, it offers a beautiful image for very little money, and can be a great first step into large-screen home theater.
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