Compared to most 1080p projectors, Optoma's HD20 is tiny. Not pico-sized, but certainly portable, and if space on your coffee table is at a premium, physically this is as compact 1080p projection currently gets.
Optoma's RRP for the HD20 is AU$2499, but after searching for a few seconds online we found several retailers offering it for under AU$2000 including the promise of a bonus lamp (RRP AU$499) thrown into the deal (Note: this is an Optoma promotion for a limited time). As always with online shopping, do some research to discover if the seller is reputable or authorised — a supposed bargain can often come back to bite you with warranty issues (grey imports, second-hand goods etc).
Design and features
White, compact and uncluttered by superfluous buttons, the HD20 looks deceptively plain. After setting it on a table it needed very little adjustment before our LP Morgan Galleria screen was filled. One foot is adjustable, and with the addition of manual zoom and focus, you're up and running in no time.
The Optoma features a Texas Instruments DLP chipset and native resolution is, naturally, 1920x1080 (1080p). Brightness is stated at 1700 ANSI lumens and the contrast ratio given at 4000:1 (or 3000:1 with the Image AI feature turned off). If it reaches close to these levels, it's a very respectable set of figures. Lamp life is also pretty good at 4000 hours in Eco-mode, dropping to 3000 with full brightness. Expect to pay around AU$300-$400 for a new lamp, which is about average price-wise. It also pays to stick with the genuine replacement article rather than opt for less expensive, but inferior, generic lamps.
The Optoma's menu is well laid out and presented — the basic set-up is quick and painless, and the image quality courtesy of the factory presetting is perfectly acceptable. Choosing "Reference" as the default setting, you may not want to further tinker with the picture settings as things looked pretty good to our eyes. But, if you simply can't help yourself, feel free to increase and decrease image settings, just make sure you're using a decent set-up DVD or BD such as Digital Video Essentials.
The HD20 comes with a small remote and it's perfect. The few buttons take care of the functions you want to have immediate control over and the blue backlighting is so bright it'll even help you find your way around a darkened room.
It took us no time at all to get great looking images from this projector. Table-top mounted it needed very little to coax the projected image to fill our 96-inch screen tightly and accurately. Some projectors can be well and truly fiddly with such temporary (or permanent) set-up, but the Optoma was a breeze. Some 3.2 metres from the screen, no keystone correction was necessary — just manual focus and zoom, plus a small adjustment of the front foot. Ceiling mounts are available and no matter how you set it up, this projector will be up and running rapidly.
It's a fine art calibrating projectors and flat panel TVs, but you can attempt it yourself with the help of a calibration disc, or if you're really serious, get a professional to do it for you. However, if such fine tuning doesn't personally matter then Optoma's "Reference" factory default settings will no doubt impress. Choose this easy option and the only decision is whether to run the HD20 in "Bright" lamp mode or not. Turned "On", this affects a couple of things — namely lamp life and operational noise/heat. It's noticeably noisier than the default mode and could be a distraction close by, but given its ample light output we were quite happy with brightness levels without resorting to this increase. Where it would be useful is if there was a bit of ambient light in the room, otherwise in full or near full darkness, it's not necessary.
Fed with 1080p material from both Blu-ray and HDD-based, the Optoma projects a quality image. It takes its sweet time to lock onto an HDMI signal, which is a little irksome but the wait is worth it. Blacks look solid and cohesive — not the deepest we've seen, but the Optoma handles dark scenes perfectly well, especially given its price. It does shadow detail well too — levels are good especially with the "Bright" mode switched off, as the extra light tends to rob the image of some finer shadow details.
Colours and flesh tones also look pleasing and convincing to our eyes. We found some picture calibration here helped, rather than simply sticking with the factory default picture settings, which is true of any projector. A basic colour temperature adjustment was all that was needed to achieve quite natural-looking flesh tones. The Blu-ray disc of Casino Royale shows this to great effect and scene after scene it looked vibrant with rich colours and had excellent texture and three-dimensionality. The picture was clean and noise-free throughout our time with the HD20 and it performed without a hitch with a variety of sources.
Though we were very happy without it, we'd recommend using the higher output "Bright" mode if you've a larger screen to fill (say, over 100 inches) or if you've ambient room light to contend with. Just remember lamp life is decreased and fan noise goes up.
Fine value, small size and easy to get up and running out of the box, there's a lot to like about the Optoma HD20. For quality 1080p images from BD, TV or gaming, it's more than capable and you'll have to spend a bit more to improve on its picture quality. Pick one up for under two grand with a spare lamp and you've got a really good deal.