Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Front Projector Reviewed

Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Front Projector Reviewed

Home Theater Review managing editor Andrew Robinson evaluated the Optoma HD8300 3D DLP front projector as his first 3D projector review. Though his experience was pretty positive, there were definitely some issues along the way.

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.

Performance
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.

Optoma-HD8300-3D-projector-review-angled-right.jpgHaving solved that dilemma, I started my evaluation of the HD8300 with Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger on Blu-ray disc (Paramount). The first 30 or so minutes of this film is a decidedly brown affair, with not a great deal of contrast found anywhere. Sure there are bits of color here and there, mainly red and blue, but overall it’s about as tan a film as I’ve seen in a long while – minus the scene featuring Mr. Stark’s World’s Fair. Still, the HD8300 managed to breathe appropriate levels of life into the image without feeling artificial. Skin tones were rich and lifelike (within the context of the color pallette) with good saturation and texture throughout. Speaking of texture, the HD8300’s ability to render detail even in the face of virtually little to no contrast was excellent. When the film finally decides to become a bit more four-color, the HD8300 was more than up to the task. The scenes involving Captain America shilling for Uncle Sam and his war bonds were brilliantly rendered, possessing rich, accurate colors combined with terrific edge fidelity and smooth motion, without having to resort to any gimmicky video processing and/or enhancements. Speaking of motion, the HD8300 was smooth as silk with all its motion aides turned off, evident in the film’s many battle sequences. If I had any knock against the HD8300 during my time enjoying Captain America it would be its slightly light black levels, which at times, on my unity gain screen, appeared more like a really dark shade of grey than absolute black. Dropping my .85 gain SI Screen in front of my 2:35.1 screen for comparison showcased how such a screen would most likely benefit a projector such as the HD8300 when it came to improving its black levels and black level detail. Are the HD8300’s black levels a deal breaker? Not for me, for few projectors near or even slightly above the HD8300’s asking price truly achieve reference quality black levels, though there are some in the HD8300’s range that do better.

Moving on, I cued up Transformers Dark of the Moon on Blu-ray disc (Paramount) and chaptered ahead to the sequence featuring the attack on the Chicago skyscraper. This particular sequence has it all – vivid colors, rapid motion (both in camera and out), levels of detail that border on insane and contrast, lots of contrast. Beginning with color, the HD8300 didn’t disappoint; in fact it felt completely natural within the context of the film’s color pallette despite director Michael Bay’s natural tendency to overripen skin tones while pushing the surrounding image towards a cool shade of teal. Colors were appropriately saturated and vividly rendered (in a good way) that was not only pleasing but also impressive. Equally impressive was the HD8300’s ability to roll, quite literally, with the punches possessing smooth motion throughout, again without the help of any video trickery and/or motion processing. More impressive still was the HD8300’s ability to render detail such as the floors of shattering glass and twisted rebar seen in many of the sequences’ wider shots. As for black levels, when presented in stark contrast next to some of the sequences’ lighter elements, such as the shimmer of broken glass or the highlight of a gun, the HD8300’s black levels seemed accurate and appropriately dark. It was only when displayed alongside other darker elements, such as shadows and the innards of several of the Transformers themselves, did I get the impression there was more to be had from the HD8300’s black level performance. Still, this shortcoming never stopped me from enjoying the projected image and was remedied, largely, when using a high contrast screen.

3D Performance
Since the HD8300 is a 3D-enabled projector, I went ahead and cued up my favorite 3D demo disc, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D on Blu-ray (Sony). Before I get into the HD8300’s 3D performance it should be noted that there is little to no instruction given on the part of Optoma when it comes to setting up and subsequently enjoying said 3D content via the HD8300. First you must plug in the included RF dongle, which connects to the back of the HD8300 via a port not unlike an S-video input. From there you must stick the dongle to the front of the projector via double stick tape, which Optoma provides. As I stated earlier the compatible 3D glasses are sold separately so you’ll want to make sure you’ve purchased a pair or two before returning home. Before you can enjoy the show, however, you must first charge the 3D glasses via a USB cable, which comes with the glasses. The initial charge recommended by Optoma is at least three hours, which may or may not put movie night on hold. Once charged you can place the glasses upon your head, cue up your favorite 3D Blu-ray and go. Just don’t forget to turn the glasses on via a small button towards the top of the left ear support. Turning the glasses on will cause a small red light on the inside of the left ear support to flash on and off, which in turn will then be reflected back onto your eye by the glasses themselves. This is nice and annoying but fixable with a small piece of masking tape. I don’t mean to sound overly critical but enjoying 3D content for the first time via the HD8300 is a bit more involved than just 1-2-3, though after some initial setup the only thing one will have to worry about going forward is ensuring that the glasses have an appropriate charge.

Back to Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D: the HD8300’s 3D performance on a 97-inch diagonal screen was, for the first time, the only demonstration of 3D in the home I’ve seen that made any sense for it was truly immersive and wholly enjoyable. While some may complain that 3D robs an image of its brightness (which it does), the slightly dimmer 3D image presented via the HD8300 proved to be just what the doctor ordered, for had it retained all of its 2D brilliance I’m not sure I would’ve been able to handle it. Now, those of you with larger screens (120 -140-inches diagonal) may disagree with my last statement but in my room, on a 97-inch unity gain screen, the HD8300’s 3D performance in terms of brightness was perfect. When presented with a 3D signal, the image automatically shifts to its 3D picture mode to enhance brightness, contrast and saturation, but even with said settings set to “stun,” the resulting image didn’t really feel any less natural than what I experienced with normal 2D viewing. The image was appropriately detailed, sharp with smooth motion that featured virtually zero crosstalk, even in the film’s more chaotic sequences. Black levels were still a bit subdued but again, nothing that took away from my overall enjoyment. Because the HD8300 employs active 3D technology you don’t need a special 3D-capable screen to enjoy truly immersive 3D imagery at home, evident in my use of my Elite Screen’s unity gain material. The only caveat I have regarding the HD8300’s 3D performance is that its acquisition of the 3D signal and subsequent sync with the RF glasses didn’t always bat a thousand. On two occasions I had to restart my Blu-ray player in order for the HD8300 to sync and lock onto the 3D signal. For the record, my Panasonic 3D plasma has the same issues from time to time so it’s not a problem exclusive to the HD8300.

Optoma-HD8300-3D-projector-review-front.jpgThe Downside
Right off the bat, the one thing I didn’t think I’d mind bugged me to no end and it was the HD8300’s manual lens controls. I know, I know, I’ve gone on record in the past as having praised manual controls, but those were done via Allen keys or screwdrivers whereas the HD8300’s manual adjustments are handled via dials that are far from precise. What I mean by precise is that there is an awful lot of give at the start of an adjustment that results in no change on screen, then the dials seem to “dig in,” at which point the adjustments become dramatic with very little movement. Obviously this makes image adjustment and screen alignment simply more tedious than it should be, however it’s a frustration you should only have to endure once.

I’m a stickler on this issue for it’s one of the epic fails behind the roll out of 3D in the home and that is that few seem to include the necessary eyewear with purchase. The HD8300 is no different for it too does not come complete with 3D specs in the box. Optoma will give you the emitter (gee thanks), but no glasses. At $1,499 I can forgive but at just under $4,500 you can’t be serious.

Lastly, the HD8300 runs warm and a bit loud. I don’t sit directly below my projectors but close enough that the heat generated by them is easily felt and the sounds heard. The HD8300 is one of the louder DLPs I’ve encountered in terms of fan noise (DLPs seem louder to me than any other type of projector) and it puts out the most heat too.

Competition and Comparison
DLP front projectors come in virtually every shape and size, not to mention budget, and at $4,499 the HD8300 occupies a weird space in the marketplace in that it’s not uber-affordable but by no means a cost-no-object product. Thankfully, the HD8300 punches above its weight class, possessing attributes, in terms of its performance, that are comparable to costlier rivals.

One such rival that comes to mind is Digital Projection’s M-Vision Cine 230, which at $6,995 is nearly $2,500 more, yet the HD8300 manages to possess more than 90 percent of the M-Vision Cine 230’s performance. Where the Cine 230 edges out the HD8300 is in its black level performance, which can be overcome through the use of a high contrast or grey material screen.

Not all high-end projector manufacturers are sticking to their high price pasts. Runco has a new DLP front projector in the LS-3 that retails for $4,995 and features very similar specs to that of the HD8300.

Of course there are options outside of the DLP arena that offer comparable performance to that of the HD8300, options such as Epson’s PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 or JVC’s DLA-X3.

For more information on these projectors and more please check out Home Theater Review’s front projection page.

Conclusion
My time spent with Optoma’s HD8300 3D DLP front projector was a first for me in many ways; it was my first 3D front projector review as well as my first experience with Optoma as a whole. On both counts color me impressed, for the HD8300 proved to be both a capable – okay, phenomenal 2D projector as well as a nice 3D one to boot.

Minus some less than reference black levels, a few minor annoyances with its manual lens adjustment and the two 3D sync issues, the HD8300 from Optoma was nothing if not an eye opening experience for me. I honestly haven’t seen this level of refinement from a DLP projector costing less than $5,000, and I’m not overstating when I say it competes favorably with the costlier and more esoteric Digital Projecton M-Vision Cine 230 at nearly $7,000. Furthermore, I truly believe that if you mate the HD8300 with the right screen, the gap between it and its costlier rivals will close even more.

If you’re in the market for an affordable, easy to use, high-performance DLP front projector and have the screen real estate to go big, then the Optoma HD8300 should definitely be on your short list of projectors to consider.

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.

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