Introduction to the Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Projector
Now that 3D has become commonplace in HDTVs, projectors are following suit. Most of the new models introduced at CEDIA 2011 incorporate 3D into their feature set. While 3D has not lured me into upgrading my reference equipment just yet, I can’t help but wonder when I might really want to watch Avatar in 3D; if Panasonic’s exclusive would ever end so I can pick up a copy for under $100! Still, I am always interested in the latest display technologies. After reviewing two other 3D projectors, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for the time being, the best way to experience good 3D movies is at the Cineplex. The immersion that comes from having almost all your peripheral vision filled with an image is already familiar to any projector owner. Adding good 3D to that can enhance the experience, given the right content, and the right gear.
Optoma sent me their HD33 for review a few weeks ago, and I was blown away by the quality they offered for a paltry $1,499. As I was finishing that article, they offered me an HD8300 for evaluation. Of course, I agreed without hesitation. In fact I was about ready to drive to wherever I needed to and pick up the unit personally! I was quite happy with the HD8200 projector I checked out in 2010, so I had high expectations for its successor.
OPTOMA HD8300 3D DLP PROJECTOR SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Digital Projector
- Panel Type: Single .65″ DMD, DarkChip3
- Native Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Anamorphic Lens Support: Yes
- Native Resolution: 1920×1080
- Max Refresh Rate: 120 Hz
- Throw Ratio: 1.5 – 2.25:1
- Lens Shift: 105% – 130% Vertical, 15% Horizontal
- Light Output: 1,500 Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 2,000:1 Native, 30,000:1 Dynamic
- Iris Control: 2 Auto Modes
- Image Size: 29.8″ – 297.3″
- Inputs: HDMI 1.4a (2), Component (1), Composite (1), VGA (1),
- Control: RS-232 (1), 12v Trigger Out (2)
- Other: mini-USB (1), VESA 3D (1)
- Lamp power: 280 Watts
- Rated Lamp Life: 4000/3000 Hours (Standard/Bright)
- Dimensions: 7.6″ H x 14.6″ W x 19.3″ D
- Weight: 18.5 Pounds
- Warranty: 3 Years, 2 Years Lamp
- MSRP: $3,999 with 3D Emitter
- 3D glasses – $99/pair
- SECRETS Tags: 3D, Projector, Optoma
In addition to 3D, Optoma has also brought over a new color management system previously available only in the flagship HD8600. This is quite exciting since few projectors under $5000 have any kind of CMS. This feature is typically available in only the most expensive models in a manufacturer’s line. Optoma threw down a new standard for value in the HD33. It looks like the HD8300 has the same intentions. Let’s install it and see what we have!
Design of the Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Projector
The HD8300 uses the same case design as its predecessor, the HD8200 except for the finish of the top which is now matte instead of gloss. Cooling fins extend around the front and sides of the projector and the optics are center-mounted. Lens controls are manual, with rings for focus and zoom, and dials underneath for shift functions. At the minimum vertical shift, the offset is 5% above the lens axis which means the projector will need to be mounted slightly above or below the screen. The zoom and focus controls interact which makes getting the size and sharpness right a bit more time-consuming. The final result however is outstanding. DLP usually provides a sharp image but the HD8300 is well above-average. This is one of the best lenses I’ve seen at this price point. A grid pattern is provided in the System menu to aid in setting the geometry. To provide another means of tweaking image alignment, the four feet are independently adjustable.
Optoma has always relied on Texas Instruments’ DLP technology in its home theater products. The HD8300 uses the latest iteration of that with DarkChip3. This is the same chip used in the $13,000 Samsung/Joe Kane projector I reviewed back in 2010. The most significant feature of this newer chip is its superb black levels. It’s not quite as black as the top LCoS projectors out there but it’s a lot closer than ever before. It was obvious when I first turned the unit on that contrast was noticeably improved over last year’s models. This single-chip implementation with its 280-watt bulb puts out plenty of light which is so important for a good 3D presentation. The other plus of a single-chip DLP is the lack of any convergence error. Image clarity is governed completely by the lens and Optoma has done extremely well in that regard. Only the more expensive models I’ve reviewed from Runco are in the HD8300’s league for clarity and perceived resolution.
The input panel is around back and has a full complement of connection options. Two HDMI 1.4a jacks are included for full 3D support. Optoma provides one each of component and composite video. There is no S-video. There is a VGA port for computer support along with a VESA 3D DIN connector for the included 3D sync emitter. Like the HD33 I reviewed recently, Optoma’s 3D sync is via RF rather than IR so the transmitter can be left near the projector. No line-of-sight is needed for the 3D glasses which are sold separately; super-convenient for both installation and use. Control ports include two 12v triggers and RS-232. The triggers are customizable in the menu to activate a motorized screen and/or slide an anamorphic lens in place when a particular aspect ratio is selected. Also on the back panel is a small secondary remote. This can control all the basic functions of the projector when the primary remote is MIA.
The remote will be familiar to anyone who has used an Optoma product before. It is compact but provides one-touch access to most projector functions. There are separate power-on and power-off keys; a nice touch when programming theater control systems. The next set of buttons brings up menus for setting brightness, contrast, gamma, iris, CMS and lamp power. In the center of the wand are the menu controls. On the bottom half are more keys for PureEngine, aspect ratio, and a full set of discrete input selectors. Backlighting is a soft blue and activates when any button is pressed.
Included with my review unit was one pair of glasses and the RF emitter. The emitter is always included with the HD8300 and the glasses are an extra $99 a pair. Though they feel heavy in the hand, their soft nosepiece and good balance make them the most comfortable active glasses I’ve encountered yet. If you think they look just like the ones pictured in my recent HD33 review, that’s because they are the same. All Optoma 3D projectors use the same glasses and RF emitter. Also included is a USB cable for recharging; no battery changes!
Setup of the Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Projector
Installation was trouble-free. Since I use a shelf mounted above the screen, I had to invert the HD8300. I use a cradle for this which I fabricated myself. Typically, one would use a ceiling mount. With an 11-foot throw distance I was able to fill my 92-inch Carada screen with a nice bright image. Zoom and focus took a bit longer to dial in since they interact. I don’t like to overscan the image more than a pixel so it took me some time to get it right. The super-sharp picture made it completely worth the effort. My only connection was a single HDMI cable. By the way, if you’re wondering whether you need to upgrade your cabling to accommodate 3D; I am still using the heavy-gauge cable from Bluejeans I bought back in 2007. I have yet to experience issues with any of the 3D displays I’ve reviewed.
The menu system is just like the other Optoma projectors I’ve worked with, simple and concise. There are four major areas – Image, Display, System and Setup. Image is where you’ll find all the calibration controls. There are eight picture modes including ISF Day and Night which can be adjusted and locked using a passcode. All the modes are fully customizable so I just had to choose which one provided the best starting point which was Cinema. The Image menu has every conceivable option to achieve an accurate picture including white balance, multiple gamma curves with editing, and a full color management system. There are also two auto-iris settings labeled Cinema 1 and Cinema 2. Cinema 1 provided superb contrast with deep blacks and no hint of its operation. I turned it on during my first viewing session and left it on for the duration of my review. It’s the best iris implementation I’ve seen to date.
The Display menu has all the aspect ratio choices. These are 4:3, 16:9, LBX (for anamorphic lenses) and Native which turns off the scaler. You can use other controls for a digital zoom and image shift, keystone correction and edge masking. SuperWide is an auto-aspect feature that requires a 2.0:1 aspect screen and will eliminate black bars from cinemascope content. I was not able to test this feature. The final control is 3D where you can choose between VESA 3D or DLP Link which requires different glasses. You can choose the format (frame sequential, side-by-side, or top-and-bottom) or turn 3D off. There is no feature to convert 2D to 3D.
The System and Setup menus contain all other projector functions like lamp power, installation type and so on. Every convenience feature you could possibly need is in one of these two menus. The only thing I noticed that I have not seen on any other brand of projector is the Image AI setting in the Lamp Power menu. This will actually change the lamp brightness according to image content. I was able to see this taking place when I tried it out. You will always see the lamp changing brightness since it can’t respond as quickly as an iris. I saw no need to use this particular feature since the auto iris works extremely well. I also could hear the change in fan speed which was a bit distracting.
Calibration was an extreme pleasure due to the excellent design of the image controls. You’ll see when you get to the benchmark section just how accurate the HD8300 is. I used the Cinema picture mode to start which wasn’t too bad out of the box. Brightness, contrast, gamma and white balance were quick and easy to dial in. The color gamut needed some work though and I was anxious to try out the new CMS. Using this was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had as a calibrator. Rather than the usual hue, saturation and lightness controls, Optoma lets you move the color points around the CIE triangle using x offset and y offset values. This is the same function I encountered on the HD8600 back in 2010 but now the brightness option has been added. It’s simplicity itself to center each color point in proper spot than adjust the brightness. I wish all CMSs worked this way. The only flaw is the controls don’t have quite enough range. I maxed the brightness for green and still couldn’t quite get to the correct level. And blue didn’t have quite enough y offset to get me centered. I came pretty close though and it’s a huge improvement over the default gamut. I think if the defaults were a little closer to the target, the CMS would be able to produce perfect results. With an excellent calibration completed, it was time to watch some actual content.
The Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Projector In Use
Takers is a fun crime-caper/thriller based in Los Angeles. The bank robbers are young and pretty, and despite their evil intentions, you can’t help but root for them. Color is very saturated with a cool look for outdoor scenes and a very warm presentation for indoor material. The more dimly-lit sequences always looked good with excellent detail and good black levels. It’s not quite as deep as the higher-end LCoS projectors but it sure comes close. I really didn’t miss my Anthem LTX-500 too much as I watched this film. DLP has really come a long way in this regard and with generally superior light output, makes a compelling choice even in smaller theaters. The clarity and sharpness of a single-chip display like this are hard to equal with the three-panel technologies like LCD or LCoS. It’s definitely a good thing when convergence is taken out of the equation.
I’ve been watching the CGI-based Clone Wars series for quite a while now and I just received Season 3 in my mailbox. Thank you Lucasfilm for finally including a hi-res soundtrack by the way! I really like the way surfaces are presented in these 30-minute episodes. Rather than the 3D textures found in most computer animation, objects have a painted look which gives them a lived-in feel that I think we’re all accustomed to from Star Wars films. Of course, CGI looks good on practically any display but a few projectors provide that little extra punch; the HD8300 being one. Space scenes looked great with sufficiently black starfields and ships that moved smoothly as the camera panned across the screen. Color was also superb with bold, bright hues and a very natural look. Contrast was also deep and three-dimensional thanks to the DarkChip3 imager from Texas Instruments.
Staying with the latest from Lucasfilm, I managed to get in a viewing of Star Wars Episode 3, The Revenge of the Sith. These new Blu-rays are extremely well-done and Episode 3 is by far the best of the new trilogy. This is reference-level material all the way and it was nothing short of breathtaking on the HD8300. Even the most subtle textures and color gradations leapt off the screen in razor-sharp hi-def glory. My favorite scenes were the panoramic daylight shots of Coruscant. The digitally produced cityscapes were incredibly realistic with bright color, high contrast and amazing detail. Motion during panned shots (and there are many) was buttery smooth. Not smooth like the frame interpolated kind of smoothness (which I had turned off) but a perfect film-like motion that highlights the super-fast response of DLP technology and the cadence-matched performance of Blu-ray. Even space scenes looked nice and black thanks to the excellent iris control. Optoma has really improved this aspect of their products. I never noticed any brightness pumping at all.
Next up was the somewhat odd but entertaining Cowboys and Aliens. Being that it’s a recently released film, I expected a bright, sharp image, and the HD8300 did not disappoint. Every bead of sweat, blade of grass, tumbleweed, splinter of wood; you name it, detail just popped. I literally wanted to reach out and touch what I was seeing. This is a superb transfer, nearly flawless in fact, and this projector made it a sight to behold. This is DLP at its best and the level of clarity is almost intoxicating. To make a picture look this good on a big screen, viewed close up, a projector has to be really good and this one is.
Nirvana Live at the Paramount was originally shot on high-speed 16mm film and it shows. Detail is soft with a high level of grain throughout. Black levels are also elevated which all adds up to a torture test for any display. Lesser projectors would have a hard time rendering any dimension at all but the Optoma takes care of business very well. Close-up shots of the performers’ faces were not loaded with detail but everything that made it onto the film, made it onto my screen. The gritty look fit the material perfectly and I was instantly transported to the Paramount Theater in Seattle on Halloween, 1991. I was easily able to see detail in the audience shots, or when the lights dropped to low levels. The HD8300 made the most of some very challenging content.
Of course 3D is the main reason for this new model from Optoma so I pulled out my small but familiar stack of titles. I sampled the Imax films Grand Canyon Adventure and Wild Ocean. I saw no crosstalk whatsoever at any time. Of the 3D displays I’ve reviewed so far, DLP is still the undisputed champ when it comes to artifact-free images. Putting in any 3D Blu-ray automatically kicks the projector into the 3D picture mode. This includes turning the lamp to the high setting which is necessary to overcome the light loss caused by the glasses. All calibration settings are still available in this mode. Optoma’s end result is a perfect balance of light levels between 2D and 3D. I didn’t have to make any extra adjustments to see a perfectly accurate image. The glasses are also the most comfortable I’ve used. Other brands manage to dig uncomfortably into my nose after 30 minutes or so. Optoma’s soft rubber bridge and light weight mean I can wear the glasses for two hours or more and feel nothing. The RF sync allows me to turn my head without breaking the signal and the emitter sits out of the way above my head; very cool!
In addition to the Imax titles, I also watched A Christmas Carol. This is a conversion done by Disney that is of superb quality. The 3D effect is always just right, never too much or too little, and never distracting. The challenge of this film is its darkness. Almost the entire movie takes place at night. Even the daytime street scenes look gray thanks to overcast winter weather. Though the HD8300 is one of the brighter projectors I’ve reviewed, I found this title too muted for my taste. Detail was always there thanks to accurate gamma and a proper calibration but I was wanting for more brightness. I attribute it more to the movie than the projector but if 3D is going to succeed in the marketplace, displays need to put out more light or the glasses need to let in more light. Other discs I watched like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Meet the Robinsons looked great since they make generous use of bright images and bold colors. No matter what title I watched, there were no ghosting artifacts at all. I was even able to turn and tilt my head without penalty.
The Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Projector on the Bench
Equipment used: EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer, CalMAN Professional 3.7 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). Video processing tests were performed using an Oppo BDP-93 connected directly to the projector and set to Source Direct mode.
The default numbers for the HDTV gamut preset aren’t too bad. Color points are a bit undersaturated. Not to worry because the native gamut is quite large so you can use the CMS to push the points outward. Luminances are visibly light which makes the image look somewhat washed-out.
Out-of-the-box grayscale was quite good with errors of less than 3 DeltaE from bottom top. This is excellent performance. Gamma is not as good but it’s partially skewed by the auto iris which is on by default. I always turn this off during calibration. I did turn it back on to watch movies however.
After spending some quality time with the CMS, I achieved the result below. Color points are all right on the money except for blue where I ran out of adjustment range. It’s a pretty minor error though of only 4.5 DeltaE, barely visible. I also used up all the adjustment for green luminance. I still managed to get within .2fL of the target for all colors.
It only required a few tweaks to the white balance and gamma controls to achieve nearly perfect grayscale tracking. With an average DeltaE of only .7 for grayscale, it’s pretty much perfect. Gamma was a tiny bit light at 2.15 but well within the range of superb. Without a multi-point curve editor, you won’t get better results than this on any display.
Video processing performance was fine in terms of resolution and colorspace support, but came up a bit short in levels and motion processing. Specifically, if you want to see below-black and above-white information, you will have to output RGB from your video source. The only cadence test passed was 24p. You will need to use a decent disc player if you have a lot of DVDs in your collection. For Blu-ray, there were no flaws whatsoever.
Contrast performance was at the upper end for DLP projectors in my experience. The DarkChip 3 imager used by Optoma is also used in many other high-end brands. While black levels aren’t quite as deep as the latest LCoS units, they rivaled the best I’ve seen from LED projection which is saying something. Minimum black measured a very low .004 fL. With a peak calibrated output of 18.28 fL, that makes the on/off contrast ratio 4570:1. When the iris was engaged, the black level was unmeasurable. I do recommend using the auto-iris as it does not have a negative impact on accuracy and is not obvious in operation.
Optical performance was superb for a projector in this price range. In fact, the HD8300 has one of the best lenses I’ve seen on any projector at any price. That it comes for only $3999 is quite amazing. I could not see any aberrations in crosshatch patterns and field uniformity was visually perfect. The image was razor-sharp with great edge-to-edge focus.
Conclusions About the Optoma HD8300 3D DLP Projector
- Plenty of light output in both 2D and 3D modes
- Very accurate color and grayscale
- Optics are among the best I’ve seen to date
- Comfortable glasses and an RF emitter make 3D setup a breeze
- Superb iris control
- Best frame interpolation I’ve seen to date
- Excellent value
My Wish List
- More range in CMS controls or a closer starting point
- More vertical lens shift to allow shelf-mounting
I was quite impressed with every aspect of the HD8300’s performance. With its well-designed set of picture controls, I was able to achieve near-perfect image accuracy. For a projector in this price range, that’s saying something. A projector this good was at least $8,000 only two short years ago. Thanks to a bright image, there’s plenty of light for 3D too. With the convenience of Optoma’s RF controlled glasses, this is my front-runner for 3D projection right now. Image sharpness was also in the league of much more expensive products. With the latest DarkChip3 DLP imager and a superb lens, Optoma has another winner here. I give the HD8300 my highest recommendation.