Around £2,000 can buy you a lot of TV these days but in terms of square inches per pound the ThemeScene is way ahead. This quiet projector is based on 1,024 x 576 pixel DarkChip 2 DLP technology, ideal for PAL but will have to scale down full 720p high definition.
However it packs a high quality lens to produce a widescreen image up to 245 inches across. Cosmetically it's a chunky beast but comes in ceiling-friendly white with a rear connection panel for neat cable routing.
Using the back-lit remote control you can adjust both vertical and horizontal keystone to aid room positioning but, more thoughtfully, the H57 has fixed vertical lens shift of a few degrees to throw a fully square image a little distance above the horizontal. This means that an H57 placed on a tabletop or hung flush to the ceiling will produce a picture just about where your screen will be, without having to rely on picture-damaging keystone.
The complex but pretty on-screen menu is a paragon of control and would not disgrace a Hollywood mixing desk. You get the usual suite of colour, contrast, brightness, tint and sharpness controls plus individual sliders for red, green and blue brightness and contrast, colour temp, gamma and DLP white peaking.
Phew. The picture position can be adjusted slightly, there are controls over menu position and you can even use the picture-in-picture feature with multiple sources. Thankfully there are a number of reset buttons along the way if you manage to mess the picture up completely.
At just 23dB it really is the quietest projector we've tried. Better still, the H57 projects to impress. With good broadcast TV, the image is bright, sharp and colourful. There is the finest of visible screen mask if you go large with the image, but the excellent contrast injects a great sense of depth into the picture. The 'Cinema' picture mode produces the most natural looking image and 'Dynamic' is great for watching TV in a lit room.
Connect a DVD player using the DVI port and the H57 really shows its colours. The picture gains a near plasma-like depth and clarity, and the action moves seamlessly. The vivid colours in Ang Lee's Hero have all the intensity the director intended.
Darker films are treated with equal respect, the H57 producing great detail in the darker areas even if the white level in the Cinema mode is a little more muted than ideal. Twiddling with the vast array of picture adjustments is likely to result in a form of tweaking madness, so it's worth sticking to the excellent standard modes.
Only a year ago this sort of performance from a projector would have cost you around £4,000. At just £1,900, Optoma's ThemeScene H57 is this year's home cinema bargain.