It seems every year projector prices fall a little more. The $4999 Optoma HD8200 single-chip DLP 1080p projector offers features and image quality that would have cost you over $10,000 just a few years ago. Though it has some stiff competition from JVC and Sony in this price category, Optoma has met this challenge with some unique motion processing and image enhancement features.
While great advances in contrast performance and color accuracy have been made with LCD and LCoS projectors, DLP has evolved a bit more slowly. It used to have the contrast advantage but recent models using the latest LCD or LCoS chips have surpassed in black level performance. The area where DLP is still king however is in screen uniformity. Due to its single-chip design, there is no possibility of convergence error. Color and brightness are more even across the screen surface. DLP also has inherently superior motion processing. There is no possibility of blur or refresh lag with its all-digital signal path. LCD and LCoS still depend on precise control of voltage to individual pixels to produce a picture. Lastly, DLP projectors usually offer greater light output capability. When you’re trying to fill a large screen or throw an image in a large room, you need all the lumens you can get!
Optoma has always been known for its affordable DLP projectors. Their latest budget model, the HD20, offers 1080p for only $999. The line is topped by the HD8600; a flagship model with a rich feature set and interchangeable lenses. The subject of this review, the HD8200 fits squarely into the mid-priced category with the Sony VPL-VW60 ($4999) and the JVC DLA-HD550 ($4999). How did it measure up? Let’s find out.
- Design: Single-chip 0.65″ DLP Projector (Texas Instruments DarkChip 3)
- Native Resolution: 1920×1080 at 48 Hz or 60 Hz
- Throw ratio: 1.49-2.28
- Lens Shift: Vertical 105%-130% Above Lens Axis, Horizontal ±15%
- Light Output: 1,300 Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 20,000:1 (Dynamic)
- Automatic Iris Control
- Inputs: 2 HDMI 1.3, 1 Component, 1 S-Video, 1 Composite, 1 PC
- Fan Noise: 22 dB Standard, 26 dB Bright
- Control: RS-232, 2-12v Trigger
- Lamp power: 220 watts
- Rated Lamp Life: 3,000 Hrs Standard, 2,000 Hrs Bright
- Dimensions: 7.6″ H x 14.6″ W x 19.2″ D
- Weight: 18.5 Pounds
- MSRP: $4,999 USA
- Optoma USA
The HD8200 is a single-chip DLP projector using Texas Instruments’ .65-inch DarkChip 3 device. The lamp is 220 watts with a rated output of 1300 ANSI lumens. The case is simply styled with a piano-black top panel and a horizontal grill pattern around the sides. The two front feet are independently adjustable. The lens is centered in the chassis with rings to handle focus and zoom adjustments. The only other control on the projector itself is a power button. There are LED indicators for Power, Lamp and Temp. The rear panel has a full compliment of inputs: two HDMI 1.3 (with deep color support), one DVI (HDCP compliant), one VGA (15-pin D-sub), and one each of component, S-Video and composite. Also included are two 12V trigger outputs and an RS-232 control port. IR signals are picked up by either a front or left side sensor and there is an IR transmitter on the front for use with Optoma’s Panoview motorized screens.
The remote is small and efficiently laid out. Discreet power controls are at the top followed by keys for brightness, contrast, Dynamic Black (iris), PureEngine, Brite Mode (lamp power) and vertical image shift. In the center is menu navigation and picture mode selection. Further down are overscan and edge mask buttons and controls for a motorized screen. The final block has discreets for the different aspect ratios and direct selection of inputs. The handset is fully backlit though most of the buttons have icons rather than text on them. The text labels are printed on the plastic face of the remote and therefore unreadable in the dark. The remote worked well however, bouncing its commands off the screen reliably. Also included is a tiny secondary remote with power buttons, menu navigation and an input toggle. This half-credit card sized unit snaps into the HD8200’s back panel and is designed as a backup.
Menu System & Options
The menu system of the HD8200 is logically laid out with nearly everything you need to produce a high-quality image in a wide variety of theater environments. The first sub-menu, Image, contains two pages of controls for all calibration adjustments. The first page has Picture Mode selection (Cinema, Bright, Photo, Reference and User), Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint and Sharpness. I couldn’t quite turn the Sharpness off as it defocused the image a bit. A setting of 2 was just right with no ringing present. The Advanced page has controls for Noise Reduction (not needed in my tests), Gamma, Color Temp presets, PureEngine, Dynamic Black (auto iris) and the RGB Gain/Bias adjustments. The PureEngine menu, which can also be accessed directly from the remote, contains a set of Optoma-specific image enhancements that include choices for Detail, Color and Motion. PureDetail adds edge enhancement which I found excessive. Even on the lowest setting, there was obvious ringing in a sharpness test pattern. The effect was more subtle on actual content. PureColor manipulates the brightness, contrast, color and tint to pump up the image’s vividness and saturation. The effect was pleasing on the first couple of settings but on 5, the maximum, the color looked overblown. PureMotion is Optoma’s take on frame interpolation with choices of Low, Medium or High. The different options govern how much of each frame is de-blurred. The Low setting had a noticeable effect and really increased the perceived resolution. Motion was much smoother as well. There were no artifacts that I could detect. Finally there is a PureEngine Demo option that lets you set up a split screen to compare the effects of the various PureEngine adjustments.
The Display sub-menu has all the options for aspect ratio to include 16:9 with no overscan, 4:3, Native (no scaling) and LBX for anamorphic lenses. Following that are controls for Overscan and Edge Mask. There are controls for Vertical Image Shift (digital, not actual lens shift) and Vertical Keystone. I always recommend avoiding the keystone correction as it does degrade image quality. The final control is called SuperWide. This is a zoom function that stretches the image proportionally to fill a 2.0:1 aspect screen. SuperWide can be set to Off, On or Auto in which the zoom is adapted to the different aspect ratios used in film content.
The System sub-menu lets you specify the menu location, the installation type, bring up focus grid and white-field test patterns, specify the no signal background color, and control the two 12V triggers. The B trigger can be set to fire when a 2.35:1 aspect signal is shown in order to activate an anamorphic lens sled, very cool! There is also a sub-menu for Lamp Settings which lets you choose the Bright Mode, view and reset the lamp hours, and turn on a lamp replacement reminder. This will warn you up to 30 hours before lamp replacement is needed. The final option is called Image AI. This varies the lamp power dynamically according to picture content. I found this effect a bit bizarre as the brightness pumping was very obvious. It also increases the fan noise noticeably.
The final sub-menu is called Setup. Here you can choose the menu language, disable unused inputs, engage the High Altitude mode to increase fan speed, set an Auto Power Off timer, change phase, timing, and other options for PC and analog signals and specify the color decoding matrix (RGB or YPbPr). Finally there is a factory reset that will return the HD8200 to its default settings.
This projector presented a few challenges during installation. The vertical lens shift only allows you to move the image from 105% to 130% of the screen height above the lens axis. That means at the lowest setting, the lens is 5% of the screen height below the picture. If you want to place the projector above the top of the screen plane, you’ll need an inverted ceiling-mount. I rigged a little frame to accomplish this on my high shelf; placing the projector upside-down about a foot from the ceiling. The HD8200 also offers horizontal shift but I did not need this. I should point out that the Optoma’s lens shift options exceed those on some other more expensive DLP models. All the lens controls are mechanical which made focusing a bit time-consuming as I had to walk to and from the screen to check the crosshatch pattern. The end result was good however as I had a nice sharp image. You can also install the projector on a table and shoot up at the screen if you wish. I have seen setups where this is done. The fan is fairly quiet at a claimed 22dB but I think any projector is too loud to be installed that close to the seating. If your theater includes a mirror system, the System menu has options for rear-projection.
After a 50-hour burn-in I set about calibrating the HD8200. All the controls you need are in the user menu save a color management system. If you want a CMS, you’ll have to step up to the flagship HD8600 model. This projector is in my theater now and will be the subject of a future Secrets review. I employed the User mode for all adjustments. An ISF-certified technician can unlock the two ISF modes, Day and Night, if you wish. These modes contain the same controls as the other picture modes. The difference is once calibrated; they can be locked to prevent further adjustment.
After setting brightness and contrast, I dove in to the gamma options. Optoma has a unique system here. There are four presets, all of which can be modified. Within each preset are options for curve type and offset. While not as precise as a multi-point gamma control, I was able to achieve reasonably flat tracking at an average level of just under 2.3. See the Benchmark section for detailed results. After setting the gamma, it was a simple adjustment of the white balance controls that resulted in excellent grayscale tracking with an average error of 1.0 Delta E. The HD8200 has no manual iris option so I controlled peak light output with the contrast slider. I had to dial it down a bit to get my usual 13 foot-Lamberts. There is plenty of light available for longer throw distances and larger screens. Rated brightness is 1300 ANSI Lumens from its 220 watt UHP lamp; more than enough for a medium-large theater.
My only options for color adjustment were the Color and Tint controls which I did change slightly from the defaults. Luminances turned out very well with deviations of less than .5 fL from the target values. My only wish was for a more accurate color gamut. Red was visibly over-saturated; both in test patterns and in content. It wasn’t enough to negatively affect the all-important flesh tones but red objects sometimes looked unnaturally red. The overall color presentation however was good with excellent color delineation and a generally natural look.
Most horror movies use a stylized color palette to portray a more dark and foreboding atmosphere but Drag Me to Hell was an exception. This film has only a small amount of dark material. Most of the very cliché action scenes take place in brightly lit rooms with lots of color and light. While the overall presentation was pleasing and accurate, I found the when women wore lipstick or red clothing the color was too saturated. This was confirmed by measurements. The red primary is a bit outside the Rec 709 gamut. Fortunately it only affected red objects. The flesh tones were as good as I’ve ever seen. Fire also had a very natural look. I watched about half this movie with Pure Motion set to Low. The added smoothness took some getting used to but it was done well. I didn’t notice any artifacts or motion-related issues. Still, I would consider any type of frame interpolation to be an acquired taste.
Since I had watched Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope so recently, I couldn’t help but watch Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back on DVD. This a good-quality transfer with just a bit of added edge enhancement. The HD8200 did a fine job rendering a very clean image with good detail and texture. Color again was reasonably accurate with a slight oversaturation of red. Fleshtones were fine but red objects like control panel buttons or spaceship running lights took on a deeper hue than I have seen in this film previously. I tried out the other Pure Engine options, namely Pure Detail and Pure Color. Pure Detail is another form of edge enhancement. I was not a fan of the ringing effect it produced even on the lowest setting. I left it off for the rest of my evaluation. Pure Color increases the vividness of color, to quote the manual. As The Empire Strikes Back already looked a tad oversaturated, Pure Color did not help here.
I couldn’t resist watching a Pixar film while I had the HD8200 so I popped in Monsters Inc. ; recently re-released on Blu-ray. I always enjoy seeing the amazing hair effects on the Sully character and the Optoma rendered every follicle in impressive detail. What I really look for in CGI films are the textures. These are often hard to see on a flat panel television but a good projector will show you things you might not have seen before. For instance, Sully has a fine pebble-grain nose, a bit like a dog’s. This showed up very well as did things like wood grain and the fine scratches on metal surfaces. Darker scenes looked a bit gray so I tried out the dynamic iris (Dynamic Black) on its Cinema 1 setting. Blacks and shadow detail were improved quite noticeably. I did notice occasional brightness pumping as the iris did its thing but it was not objectionable. As perceived contrast was improved, I left Dynamic Black on for the rest of my evaluation. I also tried the Pure Motion again. The effect was less dramatic given the content is completely computer-generated. Perhaps I noticed it less because the camera is more static than in most live-action movies. It certainly does increase perceived resolution however. I believe there are users that will appreciate this feature and Optoma has implemented it well.
I was very happy to pick up the Blu-ray release of the three X-men films. I’ve always enjoyed them and it was a shame to have to watch them on DVD. The first chapter is presented with a nicely saturated yet natural color palette. Computer-generated special effects are executed seamlessly and showed well on the HD8200. There are plenty of dark scenes and they were rendered with good detail using the Cinema 1 preset on the dynamic iris. I experimented with the Cinema 2 setting which is more aggressive. While it did increase perceived contrast a bit more, the brightness pumping was quite obvious as the iris lagged a little behind the changing picture content. As the iris was more active, I could hear its operation at times. The motor that drives it is louder than I have experienced on other projectors. I went back to Cinema 1 which works just fine and creates a nice punchy image.
On The Bench
Equipment used: EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer, CalMAN Professional 3.3 analysis software, Accupel HDG-3000 signal generator, Spears & Munsil Benchmark Blu-ray disc.
All measurements were taken off the screen (Carada Brilliant White, gain 1.4) from the seating position (10 feet back). Though I did my calibration using the ISF Day mode, you would get the same results in User mode.
The out-of-the-box gamut measurement was only fair with magenta being quite a bit off. This was in the ISF Day mode with color temp defaulted to Medium. Luminances were also off their targets by as much as 6fL.
Pre-calibration grayscale ran fairly cool with an average temp of 7887 Kelvins. The gamma curve in the Film preset was quite poor and white was crushed at the 80 percent level and above.
After calibration, color was markedly improved with secondaries lining up nicely. Luminances were also excellent after adjustment of the Color control, missing the targets by no more than .5fL. Nothing could be done about the positions of the primary and secondary colors. There is only one gamut choice for HD signals.
Post-calibration grayscale and gamma were excellent with a Delta E average of 1.0. It only required small changes to the gamma controls to get nice flat tracking with an average value of 2.29.
Contrast performance was quite good with a minimum black level measurement of .0026 foot-Lamberts and a peak white value of 13.4395 fL for an on/off ratio of 5169.04:1. This was with the auto iris turned off. Dynamic contrast was perceptibly higher with the auto iris set to Cinema 1. Shadow detail was excellent with every bar of a 0-10 percent step pattern showing clearly without any crushing. The top end of the luminance scale was also excellent with proper rendering of above-white information without a color shift.
Video processing is handled by a proprietary solution unique to Optoma products. I tested the HD8200 using an Oppo BDP-83 in source direct mode. Performance on source adaptive tests was good with the only failure being the 2:2 clip. Edge adaptive performance was excellent with above-average handling of the jaggies tests. The HD8200 correctly handles a 24p signal displaying it at 48Hz with no observed flicker. When PureMotion is off, frames are doubled. Turning on PureMotion increases the area of each frame that is interpolated. 60Hz signals are displayed unaltered at an output refresh rate of 60Hz.
I really enjoyed my time with the HD8200. Its image quality was quite good and it was a pleasure to calibrate. At a price of $4999, I think it compares very favorably with the competition. As long as you plan your installation around an inverted ceiling configuration you’ll have little trouble setting it up. Its generous zoom range and bright lamp make it suitable for many different rooms and screen sizes. The full compliment of image controls makes it very calibration-friendly. My only wish was for a CMS to tame the over-saturated red and green primaries. Despite this, the image was very easy on the eyes. The PureMotion processing is one of the best frame-interpolation systems I’ve seen on any display. Given its feature set and image quality, I’d give the Optoma HD8200 a high recommendation.