If you look at the evolution of flat panel televisions versus front projectors you’ll see two very different trends taking place. Televisions are all about adding features. Every year there’s something new like Ultra HD resolution, SmartTV and now we see High Dynamic Range starting to appear.

Projectors have taken a very different road. Every year it seems they get brighter, smaller and less expensive. It’s now routine to see a projector be smaller than a receiver, as light as a Blu-ray player and sell for less than $2000. Both DLP and LCD models have become cheaper than many flat panels and require fewer compromises than their predecessors. Optoma continues that happy trend with its HD37 which we’ll be looking at today.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

Highlights

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Premier Home Cinema Projector

  • Bright image in both 2D and 3D
  • Sharp optics
  • Vertical lens shift
  • Accurate color and grayscale
  • Flexible calibration options with ISF modes
  • MHL mobile device support
  • Light and compact
  • Includes a carry bag
Introduction

Of the three major projection technologies, LCoS, LCD and DLP; it seems the latter two have taken a fast path to greater and greater value. While LCoS models still rule the contrast game. LCD and DLP projectors have not only made strides toward better contrast and deeper blacks, they’ve become far less expensive in the process.

OPTOMA PROJECTOR REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS
Light engine:

single-chip DLP

Native aspect ratio:

16:9

Native resolution:

1920 x 1080

Anamorphic lens support:

Yes

3D formats:

frame-packing, side-by-side, top-bottom

2D-3D conversion:

No

Throw ratio:

1.39 – 2.09

Lens shift:

Vertical – 110-124%

Light output (mfr):

2600 lumens

Contrast ratio (mfr):

20,000:1

Image size:

25.5” – 325”

Inputs:

2 x HDMI, 1 x composite, 1 x VGA

Audio inputs:

1 x RCA, 1 x 3.5mm

Audio output:

1 x 3.5mm

Speaker:

1 x 10 watts

Control:

1 x RS-232, 1 x 12V trigger

Lamp power:

310 watts

Rated lamp life:

3000/5000/7000 hours (Bright/Eco/Dynamic)

Dimensions (HxWxD):

4.88" x 11.26" x 10.43"

Weight:

7.7 lbs

Warranty:

1 year/90 days lamp

MSRP:

$1999

3D glasses:

sold separately $59 each

Company:

Optoma

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optoma, hd37, dlp 3d, projector, projector reviews

I’ve reviewed quite a few examples in the past year from Epson, BenQ and Optoma, that set a new benchmark for value coming in at under $2000. The best part is manufacturers haven’t cut corners in quality. The images from these projectors are bright, sharp and color accurate. And even though they can’t compete in the black level department with LCoS, the DLPs have especially impressed me with their superior clarity and excellent motion processing that’s free of motion blur.

Optoma has always been a leader in DLP projectors dating back to the first use of Texas Instruments’ technology in the late 1990s. I’ve reviewed six of its products for Secrets and today I’m looking at the seventh, the new HD37.

Design

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

The HD37 anchors its light engine with a single DarkChip 3 DMD device. The color wheel has six segments in an RGBRGB configuration which helps improve saturation. The lamp is rated at 310 watts in its brightest mode which provides over 50 foot-Lamberts of peak output; enough for projection in a dimly-lit room.

Optoma has always been a leader in DLP projectors dating back to the first use of Texas Instruments’ technology in the late 1990s. I’ve reviewed six of its products for Secrets and today I’m looking at the seventh, the new HD37.

The chassis is compact and light with a large lens offset to the right. Focus, zoom and vertical shift are all manual and the controls move with firm precision. Lens shift ranges from 110 to 124 percent. This means you’ll have to place the projector at least 10 percent of the screen height either above the top or below the bottom. Obviously the most practical approach is a ceiling mount where the projector will always be higher than the screen. The extra 14-percent shift allows you to keep the HD37 close to the ceiling while placing the screen at the proper height for your seating. If you want to create a temporary installation, it’s easily set up on a coffee table in front of your seating. With a throw ratio of 1.39 to 2.09, it’s easy to size the image to your particular environment.

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One of the drawbacks of small projectors like this is greater fan noise. Larger models have the internal space for baffles that prevent both sound and light from escaping. While the noise is pretty minimal on the bulb’s Eco setting, there is light leakage from both sides and a little from the front as well. It was not enough to affect the image in my completely dark theater but in rooms with light-colored walls you’ll need to watch out for reflections.

In addition to lens shift, the HD37 has three adjustable feet for leveling. In tough installations, you can employ up to a 40-percent keystone correction. This should be used a last resort however since it reduces resolution.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

Up top you can see the lens controls. The inset contains a barrel adjuster for zoom and a small dial for vertical shift. Focus is on the front, also on the lens barrel. The control panel has a power toggle plus menu navigation, input selector, re-sync and keystone correction.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

Around back there are two HDMI inputs, one of which supports MHL for mobile devices. Not only can you mirror content from your smartphone or tablet, the HD37 will charge it while connected. Analog support comes in the form of composite and VGA inputs. There is also a built-in speaker which can play audio from the two analog (RCA and 3.5mm) or the HDMI inputs. If you want to hook up additional speakers, there is a 3.5mm output as well. A VESA port is provided for a 3D emitter but it’s far easier to use the projector’s DLP-Link option. That lets you use any compatible glasses you wish and you only need line-of-sight to the screen to make them work. For control systems there is an RS-232 port plus a 12-volt trigger that can activate a roll-up screen or slide an anamorphic lens into place.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

The remote is compact and efficient with an extremely bright blue backlight. It’s a bit jarring when your room is otherwise dark. I would prefer a soft red. There are discrete power keys followed by buttons that access functions like brightness, contrast and picture mode directly. In the center is menu navigation and at the bottom are input selectors. The wand is very powerful and easily able to bounce commands off the screen.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

Optoma shipped me a pair of its DLP-Link glasses along with the HD37. They sell for $59 and are some of the lightest active glasses I’ve ever seen. The side and nose pieces are nice and soft and the whole assembly fits comfortably over my prescription eyewear. The red color is unusual but if anything, it makes them easier to find when misplaced. Since the projector supports DLP-Link, you can use glasses from other manufacturers if you wish. They are charged by plugging into your computer’s USB port.

Setup

While the ceiling is the best place to install the HD37, I used a small table in front of my seating to set it up for the review. Using the lens shift allowed me to center the image perfectly on the screen. Sources included an Oppo BDP-93 and my trusty Accupel pattern generator. All were connected via HDMI.

Optoma’s menu system is very familiar to me but I was glad to see they’ve made it more efficient in this latest model. Gone is the Pure Engine which was effective but sometimes confusing. The more-useful features like BrilliantColor and Dynamic Black are present can be found in the Advanced section of the Image menu. Also left off the HD37 is the PureMotion frame interpolation option. I didn’t miss that since it imparts a soap-opera effect on content.

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Calibration is accomplished completely in the Image menu and its various sub-sections. The HD37 clips information below digital level 16 unless you set the Color Space option to 0-255. This isn’t a big deal since there are other ways to set the black level. The Sharpness control actually improves clarity without adding edge enhancement even at the highest setting, which is a first in my experience.

Turning to the Advanced menu there are several gamma presets but no editor as in other Optoma models. The 2.2, 2.4 and Film options all work well with 2.4 being closest to the BT.1886 spec; and my personal preference.

While an instrumented calibration provides the best results, there are some settings you can make that greatly enhance the picture from its stock form. First, switch to the Reference picture mode. Then go into the Advanced menu and set Color Temp to D65 and Color Gamut to Native. That will get you most of the way to a very accurate image with rich saturated color and good contrast.

Rather than using a mechanical iris, the HD37 employs bulb modulation to create its Dynamic Black feature. It will lower black levels and increase contrast but I could see some brightness pumping when content changed rapidly. Overall though, I preferred to leave the feature turned on. Speaking of the bulb, most home theater users will get more than enough light from the Eco mode which means a lamp life of a claimed 5000 hours. Dynamic Black increases that to 7000.

In Use

DLP’s main advantage over LCD and LCoS is its superior clarity. Even the most expensive LCoS models from Sony and JVC can’t quite achieve the razor’s edge of detail-rendering possible from the average DLP display, and the HD37 is no exception to this rule. Everything I watched on it had tremendous clarity that easily rivaled, and sometimes surpassed, what I’m used to seeing on my Anthem LTX-500 which is extremely sharp.

Apollo 13
Apollo 13

Recently Universal Studios remastered Apollo 13 using a 4K scan. If you’re a fan of this film it’s worth buying it again because the transfer is greatly improved over the edge-enhancement-riddled release from 2010. There is still visible film grain and it isn’t the super-sharp movie that most of today’s CGI-filled titles are. But during close-up shots in the Apollo capsule, the astronaut’s faces had tremendous depth and texture. Shadow detail looked fantastic and even shots outside in the black of space looked pretty good. To be fair, they weren’t quite an inky black but contrast still looked solid.

Maze Runner
Maze Runner

Maze Runner is another title that doesn’t resort to a lot of computer-generated sharpness to tell its tale. There is plenty of murky material, especially inside the giant maze, where it’s hard to pick out fine details and small objects. Thanks to the HD37’s high brightness, I had no trouble; yet the image never appeared harsh or fatiguing. Color was nicely saturated and the scenes lit by firelight looked especially good.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. From a visual standpoint it boasts a true reference-quality image. Honestly I can’t imagine it looking better on an Ultra HD display than it looks on my 1080p setup. The HD37 took that fine detail to the next level. Even though much of the image is computer-generated, it did not lack a bit in realism. It was truly mesmerizing to watch this film again.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes wouldn’t even be possible without the hundreds of CGI primates depicted on the screen. This projector did a fine job with the hair and dirt that covered every non-human character in the film. And thanks to DLP’s inherently smoother motion, it looked even more realistic than usual.

3D Movies

To use the Optoma glasses that came with my review unit, I had to select the DLP-Link option in the menu before they would sync up. The default setting is VESA 3D which requires an external IR emitter. I also visited the 3D format menu to make sure it was set to Auto. The projector automatically goes into its 3D picture mode which can be calibrated separately. It won’t kick the bulb up to its Bright setting though. That has to be done manually each time.

Beauty And The Beast
Beauty And The Beast

Beauty And The Beast is an iconic example of Disney animation. The 3D version takes it to a new level by making the drawings move on different planes in the fore and backgrounds. You don’t get the sense of texture like you do in live-action footage but the effect is still mesmerizing. The HD37’s clarity and ghost-free presentation just furthered that feeling. Even though the brightness reduction is substantial, I didn’t feel it looked too dark. Shadow detail looks great and blacks are a little richer than their 2D counterparts.

Avatar
Avatar

I also watched Avatar, which looked equally excellent. Every detail both real and computer-generated popped from the screen. Yet the depth never looked un-natural in any way. I was glad to have the ability for a separate grayscale calibration because without it, the glasses impart a slight green tint to the image.

3D may have fallen out of fashion in the marketplace but it’s still fun to watch on a big screen with a bright projector like the HD37. If you are a fan of the genre, it’s a great way to enjoy it.

On The Bench

All grayscale, gamma and chroma readings are taken from the projector’s lens using an X-Rite i1Pro with the diffuser attachment. Contrast tests are done with a Spectracal C6 tri-stimulus meter positioned at the lens axis and measuring from the screen at a 12-foot throw distance. This method provides an accurate picture of the contrast performance seen in a typical viewing environment.

Screen material is Carada Brilliant White with a gain of 1.3 in a 92-inch diagonal size. 3D measurements are taken with the glasses placed over the meter’s sensor head. Patterns come from an Accupel DVG-5000 signal generator and the whole procedure is controlled by CalMAN version 5. Color standards are Rec.709 with a white point of 6500 Kelvins. Gamma is compared to the BT.1886 spec or the 2.2 power function where appropriate.

Grayscale & Gamma Performance

After measuring the User, Cinema and Reference modes at their default settings, I settled on Reference as the best starting point. Here’s how it looks before calibration.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

The grayscale tracking is too warm with a distinct lack of blue as brightness levels rise. When measured against BT.1886, gamma runs a bit dark, especially at the low end of the scale. Looking at the errors however, you can see that it isn’t too far off the mark. The average value is 3.85 Delta E. If you’d like a little cooler white point, just change the color temp preset to D75. I also suggest setting the gamma to 2.2. That will get you closer to the target.

Of course to realize maximum performance, an instrumented calibration is necessary.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

After adjustment of the RGB gain and bias controls, the tracking is pretty much perfect. Now the average error is just .46dE. It’s difficult to achieve better and even if you do, the visual difference is too small to be seen with the naked eye. This is excellent performance.

Color Gamut & Luminance Accuracy

Color gamut accuracy has definite room for improvement in the Reference mode. If you don’t calibrate, be sure and change the Color Gamut option to Native from its default of HDTV. You’ll see why below.

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

The Reference mode defaults to the HDTV color gamut preset which should be accurate but is not. Blue is under-saturated and the three secondary colors are all off in hue. Luminance values are too high and climb in intensity as saturation increases. While this mode looks better than Cinema or User, it still needs calibration for best results. The average error here is 5.33dE.

After a change to the Native color gamut and some work with the color management system, things look much better. This is the first Optoma projector I’ve reviewed that includes luminance controls for all six colors and that is a welcome thing. I was able to align the secondaries reasonably well and dial in the luminances to a good balance. The average error is now a low 2.04dE.

Contrast Performance

The HD37 is an extremely bright projector yet it provides decent contrast. It won’t compete with the best LCoS models but it can put out nearly double the light of most of them.

After calibration in the Reference mode with the lamp on its Eco setting, I recorded a max white of 36.4641fL, a minimum black level of .0362fL and a native contrast ratio of 1008.3:1. Turning on the Dynamic Black feature doesn’t affect the peak output but it lowers the black level to .0167fL resulting in a contrast ratio of 2165.3:1.

If you need more light than that, Bright mode is the way to go with over 50fL of peak output. If you have some ambient light in the room it’s a good choice and you can still dial in decent color with full access to the CMS and grayscale adjustments.

3D Performance

When the HD37 detects a 3D signal, it automatically switches to its 3D picture mode which you can calibrate separately if you wish. With the bulb set on Bright I recorded a peak white of 7.3661fL, a black level of .0082fL and a contrast ratio of 894.1:1. You can increase that last number a bit with the Dynamic Black option. Then the 3D contrast improves to 1037.1:1.

In the crosstalk test, I measured a nearly perfect result of .02%. If you see any crosstalk or ghosting on the HD37 it’s a result of poorly mastered content, not the projector. It’s 3D performance is exemplary.

Video Processing

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

It’s usually best to let your Blu-ray player handle video processing duties but when you use a laptop or mobile device as the source, it’s up to the projector to de-interlace and scale incoming signals. The HD37 does a good job here as long as that signal is RGB. I couldn’t get below-black or above-white information to display in either 4:4:4 or 4:2:2 formats. Even when you use RGB, you have to set the Color Space option to 0-255 to see levels below 16. Steps above 235 are shown regardless. This isn’t a big deal since you can set brightness by using a 0-10% step pattern as I did.

In the de-interlacing tests the only failures were 2:2 and mixed content vertical which are common to just about every display on the planet. Scaling and jaggy performance was just fine and the HD37 handles 24p signals correctly.

Conclusions

Optoma HD37 DLP 3D Projector

THE OPTOMA HD37 DLP is a Best Value 3D Projector.

Likes
  • Plenty of light output
  • Sharp image thanks to DLP technology and good optics
  • Reasonably accurate without calibration
  • Calibrates to a high standard
  • Decent contrast
  • Good 3D with zero crosstalk
  • Lens shift
  • Excellent value
WOULD LIKE TO SEE
  • No manual iris to control output
  • Light leakage from vents on front and sides

Obviously there’s very little to dislike about the HD37. I’ve been very impressed of late with the quality of all the value-priced DLP projectors that have occupied my theater. There’s more than enough light output, a super-sharp and well-saturated image, plus great motion processing with no blur or stutter.

Thanks to the small form factor and portability of projectors like the HD37, it’s becoming easier to create the big-screen experience in the home. There are plenty of options in portable screens too, which means you can have a cinema in your living room for about the price of a decent 65-inch flat panel television. And the projector can be packed up and taken to a friend’s house – try that with a 100-pound LCD!

Since the HD37 is a value-priced model I have to note its solid out-of-box performance. While a calibration will make it look its best, it can be enjoyed simply by choosing the Reference picture mode, then setting the color space to Native and the color temp to D65. Then it can be used even in a room with some ambient light thanks to output that tops 50fL in the bulb’s Bright mode. And for fans of 3D films, there’s enough light and zero crosstalk to help you enjoy them all.

If you have a light-controlled room I still recommend an LCD or LCoS projector for its superior contrast. But DLP options are becoming better with each new model generation and their extra clarity and bright 3D presentation are compelling factors. For portability and easy setup in a variety of environments, a compact DLP like the Optoma HD37 makes for an excellent choice. I certainly enjoyed using it and have no problem giving it a high recommendation.

  • When i tested the Optoma HD50 i got pretty decent output but dynamic black was a problem on bright images, it worked on dark movies very well, after a full calibration and with dynamic black off the native contrast of an Optoma HD50 was 1221:1 with 16ft lambert brightness and this was projecting onto a 1.0 gain 92 inch screen, with dynamic black off the native black level was 0.013, this is using ft lambert readings,

    On the Optoma HD50 at 16ft lambert of brightness with dynamic black on i got 0.003 black levels and over 4600:1 contrast

  • Christopher Kurby

    Great review, thank you. I bought an HD37 about a week ago, and I really like it. But, I have a calibration issue that I’m hoping you can weigh in on. I have the projector hooked up to a Playstation 4. I usually calibrate my projector (I owned an HD20 before this) with a calibration disc (the AVS one, for example). As you know, for blu ray playback, the player uses the YCbCr space. But, the PS4 outputs in RGB. The issue is that I can’t use my disc to calibrate for video games because it uses a different color space. A bigger issue is that the HD37 deactivates the Color and Tint controls when the color space is RGB, so I am completely at a loss on how to calibrate using only the CMS (when the color space is RGB, it changes the Color and Tint values to zero, and locks the scales). Can you help me figure out how to calibrate it in that situation? Or, do you have any advice?