Although finding an extra £500 or so can certainly garner better full HD results, the HD80 still delivers plenty of HD bang for your buck
Many aspect of picture quality
Slight sharpness and noise level issues at times
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The appeal of this projector is simple: it gives you full HD resolution from DLP technology at a remarkably low price. Indeed, its £2,000 tag equates it with full HD LCD-based projectors - a competitive market that DLP has traditionally struggled to reach.
It's inevitable, though, that Optoma will have had to make sacrifices somewhere to hit such a groundbreaking price. So our job is to figure out how serious those sacrifices are - or rather, how easy they are to live with - given the hard cash you're saving.
Actually, the HD80 seems to have made few compromises on the features front. Its connectivity is quite impressive: two HDMIs, a DVI for PC or video, component video jacks, an RS232 control port and a 12V trigger output really stand out.
Even better, those HDMIs are v1.3 affairs, meaning they can handle features such as Deep Colour (should anyone put the extra colour data onto a source disc).
Next, it's pleasing to find the native full HD chipset resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels backed up by both a 'no overscan' mode (for direct pixel-for-pixel transposition of HD sources) and support for all hi-def modes including the 'pure' 1080p/24fps format delivered by some disc players.
The DLP system in the lightbox, meanwhile, is reckoned to produce a hugely impressive contrast ratio of 10000:1. Though we suspect that in arriving at this figure, Optoma factored in the HD80's manual iris adjustment, whereby you can reduce the amount of light emerging from the lens in order to produce deeper black levels at the expense of brightness.
So it's probably not as pure a contrast figure as those produced by projectors that don't cut brightness to boost black level. But it is still respectable, however it was rated.
The onscreen menu tricks include a series of thematic image presets, noise reduction, gamma adjustments, thematic degamma presets, an edge enhancer, the manual iris adjustment mentioned earlier, and even an 'AI' function that adjusts the picture to suit the light conditions in your room. Optimal performance can only be achieved, though, if you use the HD80 in a totally darkened room.
One final touch is True Vivid, a proprietary processor which can increase colour saturations.
Accessing features on the HD80 is a joy, thanks to a terrifically designed, very comfortable remote control, and some blindingly simple onscreen menus.
During setup, meanwhile, we were pleased to find a vertical image shifter and vertical keystone adjustment, but marks were lost by the fiddly legs used to help get the picture positioned correctly on screen, and a slightly limited throw ratio which effectively means the projector will only deliver a really large picture in a large room.
Perhaps inevitably given its price, it's quickly obvious that the HD80 doesn't make quite as much use of its 1080p status as many costlier rivals. Some of the most detailed scenes don't look quite as magnificently sharp and crisp as we're used to seeing on the best full HD projectors. Edges look slightly softer and fine details appear ever so slightly smoothed over.
The HD80's resolution is impressively apparent in other ways, though. For instance, there's remarkably little scaling-induced noise in the picture using the 'no overscan' setting.
Also, colours seem very smoothly and naturally blended, with no 'striping', thanks in part to the extra pixel density of the chipset.
In terms of other, more general strengths, the HD80's most striking success comes with its black level response. It can achieve near pitch blackness without looking forced or losing important detailing within the shadows, and in this respect, really leaves its LCD rivals trailing.
The richness of the black level response also helps its colours look quite vibrant, too, and there's impressively little sign of DLP's issues of rainbow effect interference and dotting over motion.
There are three more small negatives to report, though. Firstly, though vibrant, colours sometimes look fractionally unnatural in tone. Second, the image isn't quite as bright as that of more expensive models. And finally, while scaling noise is hard to spot, there does seem to be rather more general dot crawl around than we'd ideally like.
You should be in no doubt, though, that while not flawless, the HD80's images are still satisfying enough to justify the DLP unit's aggressively competitive price tag.
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