We, as consumer electronics reviewers, tend to focus on the buzziest buzzwords when it comes to new product reviews. It’s what’s sexy. At least, as sexy as inanimate electrical equipment can get. But an 8K 240Hz Dolby Vision projector with 10,000 lumens of light output isn’t what many of us need right now. Strike that. Nobody needs it right now.
For most home theater gamers, the optimal projector is still one with 1080p (1920x1080) resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate, with suitable light output and low input lag. HDR is a bonus, dead-on accurate color is great to have, and 4K is nice, but most gamers are not as concerned with those features. Yes, yes, things will evolve with the release of next-gen consoles, which will offer 4K at 120Hz. But for most home theater gamers, especially those not planning on a fall 2020 console upgrade, 1080p will still be enough for the immediate future.
The $799 Optoma GT1080HDR might be just what those masses are looking for. It’s a 1080p, 120Hz-capable projector with low input lag, a listed light output of 3,800 lumens, and even a few bonus goodies like HDR10 support and 4K input compatibility (scaled down to 1080p, obviously). For apartment dwellers (or anyone with a shallow theater), GT1080HDR’s short throw could be its best feature of all.
A 245W traditional lamp acts as the light source for the DLP projector. The life of the bulb is rated at 4,000 hours in Bright mode, 10,000 in ECO, and 15,000 in Dynamic (where the projector automatically adjusts brightness output between 30 and100 percent depending on content). Replacement lamps can be found for anywhere from $50 to $150.
To fill my 100-inch Stewart screen, I placed the Optoma GT1080HDR 44 inches away on a shelving unit I specifically set up for short-throw projectors. As with pretty much every projector nowadays, it could also be ceiling mounted or installed for rear projection. For a proper rectangular image, the lens needs to be about a half-foot below the bottom edge of the screen or above the top, if it’s ceiling mounted. There are three feet on the bottom, two (the front and back left) adjustable for alignment. The focus lever on the top of the projector has good resistance, so you won’t quickly push past the right setting for your distance, and there’s little chance it will move on its own. When the majority of the image is in focus, the corners can be a bit fuzzy if your lens angle isn’t perfectly perpendicular to the screen, but at a reasonable viewing distance the image looks fine. Ventilation enters through the projector’s left side (as viewed from behind) and exitsthrough the front and right, so you’ll need to make sure those areas have plenty of room to breathe.
There are two HDMI HDCP 2.2 ports on the back. One is HDMI 2.0 (4K/60Hz and HDR compatible), the second is v1.4 (4K/30Hz compatible) and supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link). Alongside are a USB port (for power only), VGA in and out (a component breakout connector is not included), RS-232, and 3.5mm audio in and out.
The menu can be accessed via eight control buttons on top of the projector or with the small, backlit remote. If you’ve seen an Optoma over the past few years, the menus will likely look familiar. The layout isn’t graphically the most attractive, but it gets the job done. What’s impressive for a projector in this price range is the number of calibration options. There’s hue, saturation, and gain for color points (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow, and white), RGB Gain and Bias, and seven gamma options. In addition to eight main SDR picture modes and a 3D mode, there are ISF modes that can be unlocked by a calibrator (Day, Night, and 3D) and four HDR modes that activate when the projector senses an HDR10 signal.
If you haven’t taken a close look at a DLP projector image before, you might be surprised to see a dark gray border around the edge of the GT1080HDR’s picture. Get the projector placement correct, and it will align that gray border with your screen frameborder and, if your screen has a wide black border, make it effectively disappear. If your screen doesn’t have a black border, the projector’s gray border can be distracting. It’s an unfortunate drawback of Texas Instruments’ DLP chips, not an Optoma issue. Recent chip iterations have made the border less conspicuous, but it’s not gone yet, so be aware of it if you plan to buy any DLP projector.
I performed measurements using a Photo Research PR-650 spectroradiometer, Calman calibration software, a Videoforge Classic for SDR patterns, and the HDR10 test patterns from Diversified Video Solutions. Even though the Optoma has plenty of calibration adjustments, spending $200-300 on calibrating a $799 projector is something most people won’t do, so I focused on out-of-the-box performance.
The most accurate picture modes were Cinema and User (which both measured the same grayscale and RGB balance). I stuck with User. Grayscale was decent, with an average DeltaE (the numerical value of how far from perfect the image is) of 3.5. Above 3 and you can start to see color inaccuracies, although at 3.5 they’re pretty minor. With the GT1080HDR, the grays are all a bit brighter than they should be, with a slight blue tint. The Rec. 709 color gamut coverage measured at 84.4 percent, with most color points (except red) being a little undersaturated. Dialing down the Brilliant Color setting to around 5 helps with the color accuracy, particularly when it comes to color luminance.
Optoma claims a light output of 3,800 lumens, which is impressive for a projector under $1,000. My light meter measured the brightest output at 3,400 lumens in Bright picture mode. Projectors rarely hit the light outputs published by manufacturers, and measuring 89 percent of the claimed output is very good. Also, 3,400 lumens is plenty bright to combat ambient light or a lamp that casts some illumination on the screen. The thing is, reaching this level of light output requires the use of the Bright picture mode, which has a distinct green tint to it (as do Bright picture modes on almost every projector). The output on User is about half that, which is still plenty to keep the GT1080HDR more than viable for a room with ambient light.
I began my subjective evaluation of the projector’s performance by watching a few episodes of Lovecraft Country. HBO’s 1080p presentation looked good on the GT1080HDR. Colors were realistic, including skin tones and the abundant foliage.
The colors in HDR look good, as well. For example, as K explores the orphanage in Blade Runner 2049, you can practically feel the age of the rust on the metal beams and scaffolding. There are four different HDR picture modes — Bright, Standard, Film, and Detail — all of which adjust the brightness curve from brightest to darkest and can be changed to suit your viewing conditions. Optoma implements these options on many, if not all, of its HDR projectors, and I usually find Standard or Film work best for my space.
The shadow detail in dark films can benefit from the slightly lifted brightness in Standard. With the GT1080HDR, I found changing the setting affected the image far less than it did on other models. Some shadow detail was lost in darker moments of films, such as when K looks through the furnace to find the toy wooden horse.
Even though there’s a picture mode labeled “Game,” it isn’t necessary to use that mode for gaming. Instead there’s an Enhanced Gaming menu option that can be toggled on that decreases the input lag. With a Leo Bodnar 1080p lag tester, I measured 16.7ms of lag at 60Hz, near-as-makes-no-difference to Optoma’s rating of 16ms. Gamers should make sure to use Enhanced Gaming, because lag time is 33.6ms when it’s not on.
At 120Hz, Optoma lists a time of 8.4ms, which is almost certainly accurate (I don’t have the capability to test lag at 120Hz). Loading up Mortal Kombat 11 on my Xbox One X set to 120Hz output to check this with an actual game, I can confirm there was no perceptible lag (although that did nothing to keep me from being terrible at MK11).
For the six of you reading who still care about 3D performance, the GT1080HDR was able to pick up the 3D signal from my copy of Ant-Man quickly. I didn’t see any sign of crosstalk, and while I’ve seen more depth between Paul Rudd’s title character and Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket in the toy train combat sequence on other projectors, it was still immersive and enjoyable to watch.
It shouldn’t come as a huge shock, but the black level on the GT1080HDR leaves something to be desired. Sub-$1,000 projectors typically have blacks that are closer to dark grays, so critical movie viewing in a dark theater won’t deliver images with an incredible amount of depth. This is really a projector that’s better suited to a room with ambient light.
It can take some time for the projector to pick up an HDR signal, a delay I initially thought might be a handshake issue with my Pioneer AVR. But even with a direct HDMI connection, it took upwards of 10 to 15 seconds for the projector to display an HDR image from both my Xbox and my LG Blu-ray player. Once it’s displayed, there’s no further issue, but the initial handshake is sluggish.
As with most projectors, the internal speaker is not good for movies or gaming. You’ll definitely want to get a soundbar or home theater speaker system for the GT1080HDR.
BenQ’s TH685 (reviewed here) looks very similar to the Optoma GT1080HDR on paper. They both have a native resolution of 1080p with support for 120Hz refresh rate, 4K signal input, HDR, and similar light output. The BenQ has slightly better color and grayscale accuracy, but the brightness uniformity on the GT1080HDR looked much better (the BenQ was visibly darker on one side of the screen). The main difference is that the BenQ is a long-throw projector and needs to be between 8.18 and 10.6 feet from the screen, whereas the Optoma only requires a few feet.
Optoma has a few other 1080p gaming projectors in the sub-$1,000 price category. The HD39HDR has a longer throw than the GT1080HDR (around 9 to 10 feet for a 100-inch diagonal screen) and a slightly higher light output, but other than that it’s very similar to the GT1080HDR. The HD146X costs a couple hundred dollars less and has an even longer throw (around 10.5 to 11.75 feet for a 100-inch diagonal screen) with similar light output and gaming features.
There are some options from Epson within a few hundred dollars of the GT1080HDR, but all of them have a lower light output and higher input lag times, so they aren’t as gaming-friendly as the offerings from Optoma.
With next-gen consoles nearly within reach, some early adopters will be looking for 4K/120Hz projectors with low input lag. But many either won’t be buying the Xbox Series X or PS5 day one or don’t see the need for a significantly more expensive projector for the few 4K/120Hz games expected to be initially available. And truthfully, for many, a 1080p 120Hz projector is exactly the right gaming projector.
The Optoma GT1080HDR is excellent at 1080p gaming. Detail looks great when it’s set up well, and its low input lag — especially in 120Hz mode — won’t get in your way when going for the win in Overwatch. It’s also bright, with more than enough light output to use in a room with some light, and maybe even a bit too bright in a dark room without switching to ECO or Dynamic mode. At $799, you shouldn’t expect superior black-level performance, but movies will still look engaging with the GT1080HDR, making it a good multi-use projector with a focus on gaming.