High-definition is upon us. While the TV industry has managed to get its act together and offer displays, the projector world still flounders to match this productivity at the budget end, where units don't cost much more than large CRT displays.
Affordable 1080p still seems a projectionist's dream; but in an effort to bridge the gap, Optoma offers this interesting 4:3, 1,400x1,050-pixel unit. Based on the DLP DarkChip3, it offers a 3000:1 contrast ratio and an impressive maximum brightness of 3,500 lumens.
It's a wonderfully equipped unit around the back: there's DVI with HDCP, VGA in and out, component, composite and S-Video - all with individual audio inputs - as well as USB and Ethernet for remote management. This is alongside a comprehensive remote, with mouse controls and a laser pointer that ties in with the new-style Optoma menu system, which is simple and easy to navigate.
It's a surprisingly big unit, but that's not usual for projectors this bright. What isn't so surprising is the low noise - just 30dB on full power and 28dB on the low-power setting, which is impressive considering the 3,500-lumen output. The 2:1 throw ratio is ideal for installation settings, and is helped by a 1:4 zoom lens.
The DarkChip 3 DMD brings in a new colour system that seems to pay dividends, with some of the best yellow and green reproduction we've seen from a DLP unit. The results are truly warm, vibrant colours.
Less impressive is the sharpness halo around text and windows when in PC mode, which seems to be made worse using the White Peaking controls. The impact of this is negligible for work with video, but it affects text and is distracting. This seems to tie into the slight burning out of bright white areas.
With the 3,500-lumen brightness and 4:3 aspect ratio, this is really a business installation unit. It's quiet in operation, uses a longer throw ratio, is a little bulky and offers Ethernet remote management. The odd 1,400x1,050 resolution is great for 720p but rather pointless for 1080p content. There are better home entertainment units around but if your needs are more serious, this certainly is a shining star. Neil Mohr