Product Review (July 2003) - Optoma
H56 DLP™ Front Projector

Producing a large high quality image is the goal of any home theater display. The challenge is doing it on a limited budget. That's now possible with the introduction of the new Optoma H56 DLP Home Theater projector listed at a low price of $4995. The H56 is a compact design that takes advantage of the latest Texas Instruments Double Data Rate (DDR) DLP™ Technology for a bright, high contrast picture and weighs only 6.4 pounds. Even though the unit lacks a handle for true portability, it's easy to move around due to its light weight. The H56 has a native resolution of 1024 x 768 (XGA) and accepts a variety of different video inputs including composite, s-video, component and DVI (analog and digital). Full high-definition scan rates are also supported (1080i and 720p). The H56 supports both Mac and VESA scan rates up to 1280x1024 with automatic scaling. Standard 480i video is automatically deinterlaced with the built-in Silicon Image SiL504 video processor. The user-replaceable 200 Watt UHP lamp has a 2000 hour life and produces an impressive 1000 ANSI Lumens with a 2000:1 contrast ratio.

We mounted the H56 from our ceiling, which requires the projector to be upside down. There are four standard mounting positions supported (Front/Rear Desktop or Front/Rear Ceiling) with the H56. Cool air is drawn from the rear of the unit and exits the front allowing us to mount the projector close to the back wall. In addition, video cables and the power connection are located on the side and not on the back of the unit. The image was projected onto our reference 100-inch Stewart FireHawk filmscreen from a distance of about 15 feet. Image focus and zoom are fully manual and is only required during the initial setup. There is no lens shift feature, so the unit must be moved to the correct height to avoid using the keystone adjustments. If mounting options are limited, keystone adjustments can be used to correct for geometry distortions. However, we always try to avoid this to minimize any degradation to video performance. A tethered lens cover is included to keep dust and scratches off the optics when not in use.

The H56 has two screen types to choose from; 4:3 or 16:9. When using the 4:3 screen mode, the user can choose from Native, 4:3 or 16:9 display modes. The 16:9 screen mode has Native, Window, 16:9 and Letterbox display modes. We ran all of our material in the 16:9 Native mode. We had several video sources connected to our H56 review unit. The DVD player used the s-video and component inputs. We also connected a high-definition JVC D-VHS VCR to the VGA input. UltraLink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables were used for all s-video and component video connections. During the course of our review we also connected our Samsung SIR-T165 high-definition terrestrial receiver as well as a Focus Enhancements CS-2 scaler using the DVI input. A five meter Monster Cable M Series M500DVI DVI-D cable was used to interface to the DVI input on the H56. Before getting too far into the review, we tweaked the projector settings and calibrated the color tracking capabilities of the H56.

In The Lab
We generated test patterns on the H56 using a Sencore VP300 Video Signal Generator. Color readings were taken with the ColorFacts Display Calibration System, which uses the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Spectrophotometer. Using the H56 Cinema image mode and Color Temperature 1 setting, we calibrated the projector with excellent results. Initially, the video exhibited a warm look, particularly at low IRE levels, but once calibrated the picure produced an excellent image. Both the white and black levels were adjusted for optimal picture quality. Black levels were very good especially when we used it with the Stewart FireHawk reference screen.

The interfaces on the H56 include a composite and s-video input along with a standard 15-pin VGA and DVI connector. Component video as well as RGB video are supported with the VGA and DVI connectors. The DVI connection is designed to accept both analog and digital video signals. There is also a 12 volt relay trigger for motorized screen controls. The unit has no built-in speaker for presentation use, but this is not an issue for those who plan to use it with a dedicated audio system. The H56 ships with a variety of cables not normally found with most projectors we've seen. Cables for composite, s-video and D15-to-DVI are included along with a D15-to-RCA adapter (for YPrPb).

The backlit IR remote control has all the functions needed to operate the projector.
The Re-Sync button automatically synchronizes the projector to the input source. Menu selections are easy to navigate using the left, right, up, down and enter buttons. Each of the four video inputs has a dedicated button for fast and simple access. Brightness, Contrast, Color and Gamma buttons control the common functions. Zoom Picture, Image Mode and Freeze buttons are located at the bottom. The Image Mode selects from Cinema, Normal, Vivid, and two User-defined settings for full control of the picture. Total lamp hours including hours remaining are displayed under the System menu. We had absolutely no problem controlling the unit even when pointing the remote at the Stewart Filmscreen with the projector mounted above us. A full set of projector control buttons are also available on the top of the unit. This is particularly useful when the projector is used in the Front Desktop installation. Lamp and Temperature indicators are provided and give the user status of the unit during operation.

We tried a variety of material with the H56 including DVD and high-definition material. The native resolution of the H56 exceeds the best DVD resolution and is actually quite close to true high-definition. The built-in Silicon Image SIL504 deinterlacing chip is excellent and automatically works with 480i content from the composite, s-video and component video inputs. We popped in our Star Trek Insurrection DVD to see how well the deinterlacing worked on very difficult material. The image processing on 480i content was some of the best we have seen and the scaling to the native resolution of the projector resulted in a smooth and natural looking picture. We also watched scenes from Shakespeare in Love and the colors looked rich and natural with just the right amount of color saturation.

We moved on to higher quality content begining with 1080i material from our high-definition JVC D-VHS VCR. The D-VHS tape of Bikini Destinations on HDNet is a fine example of very clean video with low noise. Skin tones were amazing to watch (not to mention the beautiful models) with details down to the fine hairs on the skin. The water glistening in the sun almost looked as if you were looking out of a window. We also watched the Tonight Show in high-definition with our SIR-T165 terrestrial receiver and then HBO-HD and HDNet on DirecTV. Once again the picture was truly amazing to watch. It's a completely different experience when watching content in HD. If you haven't experienced high-definition material with a high quality projector, you really are missing out on the best home theater experience. While the H56 is not a true high-definition projector by definition, the resolution is certainly impressive for falling short of the 720p resolution.

The Optoma H56 is a great performer for the money. The compact design and excellent video processing electronics makes it a candidate for any serious home theater installation. While falling a little short of a true high-definition picture, you may be surprised just how detailed the picture can be. The H56 is capable of producing 768,432 pixels (1024x768), fairly close to the 921,600 (720p) resolution offered on many of the high-definition DLP projectors currently on the market. The result is a picture that can please most viewers for less than half the price of most high-definition projectors. If you're considering using a video projector for your home theater, we would recommend taking a serious look at the Optoma H56 given its price, performance and features. When combined with a quality screen like the Stewart FireHawk, the picture is worth every penny.
- Kevin Nakano

Review System

Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" diagonol FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Scaler: Focus Enhancements CenterStage CS-2 Scaler
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box #1: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
Set-top Box #2: RCA DTC100 HDTV/DSS Satellite Receiver
D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR<
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables
DVI Cable: Monster Cable M Series M500DVI DVI-D Cable
Power Conditioning: Panamax MAX® 5500 ACRegenerator
Video Generator: Sencore VP300 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 ISF Certified All-Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Colorphotometer with ColorFacts Software

Review - At a Glance

Optoma H56 DLP Home Theater Projector


  • 200 Watt user replaceable UHP Lamp
  • DVI-I connection for both analog and digital video connectivity
  • Automatic firmware and software upgrades


  • Display: Double Data Rate (DDR) DLP™ Technology by Texas Instruments
  • Resolution: Native XGA (1024 x 768), SXGA (1280 x 1024) compressed
  • Computer Compatibility: IBM PC, Apple Macintosh, iMac, NEC PC98 Series, Fujutsu FM Towns
  • VESA Standards, SXGA, XGA, SVGA, VGA (resizing)
  • SDTV/HDTV Video Compatibility: 480i/p, 576i/p, 720p and 1080i
  • Composite and S-video Compatibility: Full NTSC, NTSC4.43, PAL, PAL-M, PAL-N and SECAM
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Native, 16:9 Compatible
  • Contrast Ratio (Typical): 2000:1
  • Displayable Colors: 16.7Million Colors
  • Brightness (Typical): 1,000 ANSI Lumens
  • Projection Lens: F/2.44-2.69, f=28.8–34.5mm, 1:1.2 Manual Zoom and Manual Focus
  • Throw Ratio: 2.0 ~ 2.4
  • Projection Screen Size (Diagonal): 23.4" (0.594m) – 246" (6.25m)
  • Projection Distance: 3.7' (1.14m) – 32.8' (10m)
  • Horizontal Scan Rate: 15 ~ 100 kHz
  • Vertical Refresh Scan Rate: 43 ~ 120 Hz
  • Lamp Type: 200 W User Replaceable UHP Lamp
  • Lamp Life: 2,000 Hours
  • Keystone Correction: + / -16 Degrees
  • Power Supply: AC input 100-240V, 50-60 Hz
  • Power Consumption: 320 Watts
  • Operation Temperature: 0°C ~ 40°C / 32°F ~ 104°F
  • Noise Level (Typical): 32 dB in Normal Operation
  • Uniformity: 90%
  • Audio/Video Inputs: DVI Connector
  • HD15 D-Sub Connector (Component/HDTV)
  • Mini DIN Connector (S-Video)
  • RCA Composite Connector (Video)
  • Communication Port: 1 RS-232, +12V Relay (Screen Trigger)


  • Projector with lens cap
  • Power cord
  • D15 to DVI cable
  • D15 to RCA adapter for YPrPb
  • S-video cable
  • Composite video cable
  • User's manual, Quick-start Card and Warranty Card
  • User's guide CD
  • Wireless IR remote with batteries
  • Optional Accessories: Ceiling Mount Kit with cables

    Source: Manufacture supplied
    Model Number: H56
    Serial Number: O865305T0AAAA1043
    MSRP: $4,995
    Weight: 6.4 pounds (2.9 kgs)
    Size: 10.9" (277mm) x 3.3" (85mm) x 8.9" (225mm) (WxHxD)
    Warranty: Three years Limited Parts and Labor; 90 Days on Lamps

    UHP 200W Replacement Lamp
    Part Number: SP.83601.001
    MSRP: $399

    Company Information
    Optoma Technology Inc.
    550 Sycamore Drive
    Milpitas, CA 95035
    Tel: 408-383-3700
    Fax: 408-383-3701
    Toll Free: 888-289-6786

    HT Website:
    Company Website:

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