In the game of projector specification trumps, Optoma's DLP-based H78 is an ace card. A whopping 3,800:1 contrast ratio, a near silent 23dB operation noise and full HD-readiness go a long way to explain the sky-high price tag. It's also a true widescreen 1280 x 720 resolution, offers power focusing and power zoom and has lens shift to reduce the need for keystone correction. You do get what you pay for.
For those of you thinking that this enormous white box looks familiar, the H78 is simply a H77 with some internal upgrades to improve contrast and PAL picture quality. You can purchase the H78 as it is, or have your H77 upgraded for a rather affordable £79 (as we've done here). Considering you get faster pixel response time, better greyscale and full HD compatibility with HDCP copy protection, this seems like something of a bargain for existing owners.
Upgrades aside, the key feature of the H77/78 is Optoma's eight-segment colour wheel with Dark Video Enhancement (DVE) coating. This improves dark detail and contrast, which is ideal for home cinema applications, albeit at the expense of overall picture brightness.
Of all the projectors we've tested, this is the first that we've had to put our ears against to make sure it was warming up - it really is impressively quiet. The on-screen menus are more functional than pretty, but you get individual RGB contrast and brightness adjustments.
Even the lack of RGB PC input marks the H78 as a true home cinema model and, outside of a completely darkened room, the performance is poor. The claimed 1,000 lumens is optimistic, and maximising the brightness setting greys out blacks. Draw curtains and turn off lights before proceeding.
Wow, what a transformation! Hooked up via DVI to our current DVD doyenne, Denon's DVD-3910, black levels are up there with very high-end SIM2 DLP and Barco CRT projectors. The picture is gorgeously smooth and the colour is a rich vista of hues, texture and depth. This is no overconfident super-vivid picture, but one of the most natural, cleanest and near three-dimensional images any home cinema projector has made to date.
There's not the slightest hint of processing noise, edge definition is super sharp without artificial enhancement, and flesh tones are superb. Darker, moodier films are at their best with the H78, and a revisit of The Matrix is a visual treat. The dark scenes have very real depth and Neo's famous coat is really very black. There's a trade-off that some black-level detail is lost, but it's worth it for the near three-dimensional martial arts display.
While it's bulky and expensive, and noticeably poor in the daytime, in a darkened room, the H78 creates a picture like few other projectors today.