Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Front Projector Reviewed

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Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Front Projector Reviewed

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Optoma-HD8300-3D-projector-review-angled-left.jpgOptoma is probably better known for affordability than outright performance. This is why projectors such as Optoma's HD33 at $1,499 retail have been their bread and butter for years - surpassed only by their educational and business offerings. So it begs the question, what is a value-oriented brand like Optoma thinking by releasing a performance driven front projector such as the HD8300 reviewed here? After spending a few weeks with it in my own home, my question to Optoma would be: Why haven't you pushed your performance line of products harder?

Additional Resources
• Read more video projector reviews from the Home Theater Review staff.
• Explore projector screens to pair with the Optoma HD8300.
• See reviews in our Blu-ray Player Review section.

Retailing for $4,499 (with street prices even lower still) the HD8300 isn't cheap, but considering it goes toe-to-toe with Sony's SXRD, JVC's D-ILA and even SIM2's and Digital Projection's (DPI) higher-end offerings, it's not unobtainable either. While Sony and JVC's projectors aren't DLP-based like the HD8300, they generally cost more and when compared against other DLP offerings from SIM2 and DPI, the HD8300 is positively affordable. So what does the HD8300's nearly $4,500 asking price get you?

For starters the HD8300 is a single chip DLP design featuring Texas Instruments latest DarkChip3 technology. The HD8300 is a full HD native 1080p front projector for both 2D and 3D. The HD8300 has a reported brightness of 1,500 ANSI Lumens with a real world contrast ratio of 2,000:1, though its max (dynamic) contrast ratio is stated to be 30,000:1. The HD8300 comes standard with an adjustable lens, albeit manual, with a throw ratio of 1.50 to 2.25 with a projection distance of 4.9 feet to 32.8. Between these distances users can expect to achieve an image between 30-inches diagonal on up to 297-inches. Its brightness rating of 1,500 ANSI Lumens means the HD8300 is most suitable for screen sizes ranging from 92 to perhaps 140-inches diagonal. The HD8300 has a 16:9 native aspect ratio though it does support 2.35:1 aspect ratios provided you supply the anamorphic lens attachment, which is sold separately or through a third party manufacturer such as Panamorph.

In terms of connection options the HD8300 is rather robust, sporting two 3D compliant HDMI 1.4a inputs as well as a single VGA-In, composite video, component video, RS-232 port, mini USB-B, Vesa 3D Port and two 12-Volt Triggers. The HD8300 comes standard with an AC power cord, composite video cable, two remote controls, RF Emitter and batteries for its two remotes. A quick start guide, user manual and warranty card are also included. The big omission in the HD8300's case has to be its lack of 3D specs, or what Optoma calls their 3D-RF glasses, in the box. Optoma gives you the required RF Emitter but not the glasses - c'mon man.

Optoma-HD8300-3D-projector-review-side.jpgThe HD8300 itself is quite handsome with delicate sloping lines that streamline and disguise its larger size. The HD8300 measures 19 inches wide by seven and a half inches tall by 14 and a half inches deep and it tips the scales at a robust, but not unmanageable, 18 and a half pounds.

Behind the scenes, the HD8300 boasts some nice features beginning with PureMotion4D processing, which is another form of image interpolation and smooth motion processing not unlike your typical HDTVs nowadays. The HD8300 also has Optoma's PureShift Technology, which aides in installation (the HD8300 is aimed at the custom installer after all) and ISF Certified Calibration Controls with both day and night modes. The ISF Modes are useful in fine-tuning the HD8300's image performance, as is the inclusion of Optoma's proprietary PureColor technology, though it should be noted that these features do not equal out-of-the-box calibration.

As for the HD8300's main remote (I didn't use the secondary one), it's a fully backlit affair with all the necessary buttons necessary to make adjustments on the fly without having to navigate too much through the HD8300's onscreen menus. The remote felt good in the hand and was clearly, though not always the most intuitively laid out. My biggest gripe was with the button featuring a picture of a heart and word "mode" written below it; to Optoma this combination means picture modes - who knew?

Optoma-HD8300-3D-projector-review-rear.jpgThe Hookup
If you've installed one front projector you've installed them all, so getting the HD8300 up onto my ceiling via my reference Sanus VP1 universal mount was no big deal and easy enough for me to complete solo. Once mounted on the ceiling, I had to manually adjust the lens, both horizontally and vertically, to get it dialed in and onto my Elite Screen's Osprey dual format screen, which features both a 78-inch diagonal 16:9 screen as well as a 97-inch 2.35:1 screen. Both are unity gain (1.0) in their material, which suited the HD8300 just fine; however since the HD8300 has a manual lens I had to choose an aspect ratio and stick to it. The other screen I had on hand was an 84-inch, 16:9, high contrast (.85 gain) Reference Screen from Screen Innovations.

Once I had the HD8300's lens dialed in, I popped in my ever-ready Digital Video Essentials disc on Blu-ray and did some basic picture control adjustments and low-level calibration. Out of the box, my review unit was in "bright" mode which according to the manual is a setting best saved for PC inputs, though I'd go so far as to just call it the HD8300's dynamic mode. The picture modes that come as standard with the HD8300 are Cinema, Reference, Photo, Bright, 3D, ISF Day, ISF Night and User. Obviously, for true calibration you're going to want to begin with one of the two ISF modes; however if you're one to do it yourself or perhaps you lack a deep understanding of ISF calibration techniques, then both the User and/or Cinema picture modes are a good jumping off point. In my tests, with my particular HD8300, I found the Cinema mode to be quite accurate, at least with regard to my adjustments to the User setting after using the Digital Video Essentials disc.

I must say I had higher expectations for Optoma's Reference setting, for according to them it's the "mode intended to reproduce, as close as possible, the image the way the movie director intended. Color, color temperature, brightness, contrast and gamma settings are all configured to standard reference levels." This may be true but the resulting image appears a little washed out and lifeless, though it can be adjusted; however if you're looking for a solid, out-of-the-box mode, I suggest Cinema - just remember to turn off the motion processing.

All in all I was able to unbox, install and dial in the HD8300's image to my liking in just under two hours. Not bad.

Let me just start by saying this: the HD8300, despite it's somewhat pedestrian 1,500 ANSI Lumen rating (by some DLP standards), is bright, real bright. The HD8300 is so bright in fact, that when projected onto my 84-inch high-contrast screen from SI, it was too much and seeing as how it has only two lamp settings, standard and bright, I needed to make a change. I don't normally do this but since I didn't have a larger screen on hand at the time of the review (a problem I have since remedied), I went ahead and aligned the HD8300's image to project onto my larger 97-inch diagonal 2.35:1 screen without the use of an anamorphic lens. Obviously this meant that the black bars top and bottom of any 2:35.1 content would be projected above and below the unity gain screen material. It also meant that I would be using native 2:35.1 movies exclusively as my demo material, and after I just bought Jurassic Park on Blu-ray ...damn. It is in my humble opinion that in a light controlled environment, the HD8300 is best suited for a screen of at least 100-inches in diagonal size, regardless of the its material or aspect ratio.

Read more about the performance of the Optoma HD8300 3D DLP projector on Page 2.

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