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Full HD Projectors

Optoma HD20

Our Settings

The first step is to adjust the gamma curve to maximize the depth of the blacks. To do so, adjust the brightness to 26 and set the gamma correction to -1. These two settings will move the gamma curve above the default position which is too bright.

The next thing to do is to adjust the color temperature. Here are the values you need: Gain - Red 1; Green 1; Blue -7 - Bias: Red -1; Green -1; Blue -1. That brings the color temperature closer to 6500 K, albeit with a few gaps here and there that we couldn't do anything about.

Dynamic range: By default, the lightest shades are very bright, and so we preferred to rein them in to something more natural. We chose settings of Color 44 and Tone 49. For this last setting, it's best to adjust it gradually, stopping when you have a result that seems appropriate.

Just in time for the end of the year, Optoma has launched a series of well-priced Full HD video projectors.  One such model is the HD20, which has been released almost at exactly the same time as the HD200X, which is destined to be sold online, primarily.

The manufacturer doesn't mince its words about this HD20, which will also be available in stores, claiming that its huge projected image will make even the largest TVs seem small--ambitious!


If the body of this projector seems familiar to you, that's because it's already been seen in the manufacturer's 'Pro' range.  It's identical to the one found on the EX612, for instance, a projector designed for workplace meetings.  It's a perfectly understandable way to economize when it comes to producing projectors for different markets.

But there's good and bad news.  Let's start with the positives: the energy consumption while the HD20 on standby is just 0.4 W, it has a backlit remote control and is very compact. And the bad news?  It's quite loud at 29.5 dB, has a mediocre zoom and no lens-shift.  Compared to LCD projectors or its big brother the HD82, it's larger but has fewer features.

Image Quality

Full HD and not very expensive: does this combination automatically lead to a poor quality image?  That would an over-simplified way of looking at thinks.  In theory, lowering the price automatically implies removing certain expensive video featyres such as a dynamic iris.  And when we looked at it in practice, we did notice light leaks with colored areas in different parts of the frame: green at the bottom left and red at the top right.

Once we configured the projector, we measured black levels of 0.63 cd/m², but the default setting leaves it at 1.81 cd/m², which produces a particularly washed-out result, although this effect is less noticeable after you've set the HD20 up properly.

At last we have an honest ANSI contrast ratio from a manufacturer!  Rather than claiming outrageous five figure specs, Optoma puts its cards on the table and says that its projector has a contrast ratio of 500:1.  That's much more realistic than what some manufacturers claim, and we confirmed it in our lab. 

This measurement doesn't involve just comparing white against black, but measuring the level of a small black area in an entirely white frame and then vice versa, which limits the impact of the dynamic iris (which isn't actually included on this model).  When there are entirely black frames, the iris can close entirely to prevent any light escaping at all, which creates very dark blacks.  In practice, though, this feature is of limited utility, as it's much better to be able to create authentic black areas, rather than an entirely black frame.

The noise levels in video are acceptable.  There is still some noise, but it's well-handled and doesn't affect the quality of the rest of the image.   Unfortunately, the noise reduction system (which you can turn on using the menus) didn't really convince us.  Even at its maximum setting, we found its effects were absolutely invisible.  By default, the sharpness is set at 7, and we don't recommend you increase it any further.

Bright light levels are well-handled.  Even in the brightest areas of the frame, light areas don't look too burned out.

Upscaling and 1080p

The sample 1080p upscaling image doesn't exactly heap glory on the HD20.  This is perhaps its biggest weakness, with upscaled video looking considerably less sharp than it does on some of the HD20's Full HD competitors.  In our test card, the result is lines that are less sharp and colored squares that aren't perfectly contained.  Upscaling SD images is satisfactory but nothing more.  The blurring effect used to compensate for upscaling obviously removes some details, so you'd be better off leaving this task to a video source that's better suited to it.

If you look very closely or are particularly sensitive, you might notice rainbow effects.

Optoma HD20
  • Inexpensive replacement bulbs
  • Compact form
  • Backlit remote control
  • Honest technical specs
  • Decent price for a 1080p model
  • Default settings
  • Loud while in use
  • No dynamic iris
  • Lacks sharpness in 1080p
  • Could do better at upscaling DVDs
  • Choosing the HD20 means you'll have to compromise on some aspects of the hardware and the overall result. It's best-suited to occasional Home Cinema users, rather than dedicated fans, or as a compliment to a TV.