Product Review (October 2004) - Optoma
H77 High Definition HD2+ DLP™ Front Projector

Last year, Optoma caught the attention of home theater enthusiasts with the introduction of their H76 high-definition projector, which sported the HD2 DLP chip. This year the company has introduced the H77, a higher performance version utilizing the newer HD2+ DLP chip with a 5-speed, proprietary coated DVE (Dark Video Enhancement) 8-segment color wheel that results in reduced dithering and very accurate color reproduction while minimizing or eliminating the rainbow effect seen by some viewers. The H77 was built from the ground up as a home theater projector, so the size is quite a bit larger than many of the portable units and weighs 17.4 pounds. The advantages of this chassis design includes whisper-quiet operation, power focus, power zoom, a lens shift adjustment and overall impressive build quality. Although the power focus and power zoom (optical) are only typically used once during setup, this feature makes it very easy to adjust the picture with the remote control. In addition, the Japanese-made all-glass lens produces a very sharp image on the screen. The relatively short-throw lens design accommodates a large picture in even in moderate room sizes.

Fan noise on the H77 is a mere 25 dB in the low power mode and 28 dB in the Bright Mode. The design uses baffles strategically located within the cooling tunnel to reduce air speeds and achieve ultra-quiet operation. This is especially important in smaller rooms where the projector is in close proximity to the viewers as with our setup. We can certainly confirm that fan noise is low and that this is by far the quietest projector we've had in our theater room. Even when running in the Bright Mode, which produces a higher level of fan noise, the noise level is surprisingly low. The user-replaceable 250-watt Philips UHP lamp is rated for 2000 hours in the Bright Mode and a full 3000 hours in the low power (200-watt) mode. The H77 touts an impressive contrast of 3500:1 with 900 ANSI Lumens of light output. Optoma uses a specially designed shield casing that prevents unwanted light emissions from the unit. The company also offers a Zero Dead Pixel Policy that allows consumer to return for repair the H77 under warranty in the unlikely event that any of the nearly one million pixels stops working properly.

Video Processing
The H77 uses an advanced front-end chip that features 10-bit high-precision video A/D converters, a multi-format 3D digital comb video decoder and a 3rd generation motion-adaptive 3:2 deinterlacing engine. Once the video is processed, a Pixelworks 465 chip is used to scale the video to the native 1280x720 (720p) format. The Native format mode bypasses the internal scaler so the user can map a 720p source 1:1 to the native resolution of the display. For most of our testing, we preferred using an outboard DVDO iScan HD video processor/scaler, which allowed us to connect all of our video sources to the processor and then send a single DVI signal to the H77.

Setup
We mounted the H77 from an elevated platform in line with the top of the screen that does not invert the projector. Four fully adjustable feet support the unit and allow for optimal positioning when using a shelf or table. Using the vertical lens shift control, we were able to move the image downward without creating any geometric errors. The lens shift can move the image 100% above or below the center of the lens for increased installation flexibility. The image was projected onto our reference 100-inch Stewart FireHawk 16:9 filmscreen from a distance of about 13 feet. Image focus and zoom are fully motorized making it easy to adjust the focus to near perfection.
Geometry looked great, allowing us to slightly overscan on the screen. The black VeLux material on the Stewart Luxus frame absorbed the slight overscan, resulting in a perfect looking 16:9 image. The H77 has both horizontal and vertical keystone adjustments, yet we try to avoid using them as this tends to affect image quality. The power zoom and power focus really make it easy to accurately adjust the picture as the user can stand right next to the screen while using the remote control. Four standard mounting positions (Front/Rear Desktop or Front/Rear Ceiling) are available. The H77 also has IR detectors on both the front and back of the H77 chassis to improve the remote control sensitivity.

The user can easily control how video is displayed on the H77 using the aspect ratio menu. We preferred using the native mode whenever possible so that we could achieve a 1:1 pixel mapping when feeding the projector a 720p signal. Our outboard iScan HD video processor converted and scaled all of our 480i and 480p video sources to 720p to match the H77's native resolution. We spent a considerable amount of time having the Samsung SIR-T165 set-top box drive the H77 through our iScan HD video processor. The Samsung has the capability to provide us with a DVI signal from terrestrial high-definition broadcasts or from our FireWire™ (iLink™) connection to our D-Theater VCR. With this setup we can play our D-VHS tapes and digitally link them to the H77. Long DVI cables can often be a problem, so we installed a Gefen HDTV Extender to extend our DVI signals to over 50 feet using a pair of CAT-5 cables. Without it, we did encounter periodic dropouts when using our Bravo D2 DVI-enabled DVD player. Our test configuration seemed to work fine with an AudioQuest 20m DV-1 DVI cable, so much depends on the source, cable and receiver. The 100-foot analog cable (HQVGA) used with our Home Theater PC (HTPC) came from DirectConnect.

The H77 has an IEC input power socket next to the main power switch on the right side of the unit. Two small LEDs are used for Lamp and Temp status. These indicators provide status to the user in the event of a lamp failure or over-temperature condition. The momentary power switch is used to turn on the projector as an alternative to the IR remote. Once powered-on, the momentary button emits a bright blue light from the side of the chassis. This indicator stays on the entire time the unit is powered-up. Once the unit is commanded to shut down, this indicator flashes until the lamp is cool enough to stop the fan, at which time the indicator goes off. Cool air is drawn from the bottom of the unit through the user-replaceable filter and exits the left side of the chassis. All video cables are located on the back of the unit. A tethered lens cover on the H77 is included to keep dust and scratches off the optics when not in use.

Aspect Ratios
The H77 has four aspect ratio control modes. We preferred using the Native format mode because it completely bypasses the internal scaler for true 1:1 pixel mapping. This mode is ideal when an outboard scaler is used and set to output 720p to match the display's native resolution. However, some content may contain "garbage" in the borders that requires the user to switch to the 16:9 mode. The 16:9 mode is intended for source material that is "16:9 enhanced" or "enhanced for widescreen TVs" such as most of today's DVDs. The 4:3 mode places the video content in the center of the 16:9 screen leaving black bars on the sides of the image. This will preserve the proper aspect ratio of 4:3 content on this 16:9 native display. Since this is a DLP product there is no need to worry about uneven screen wear. The Letterbox mode is intended for those DVDs that come in a letterbox format. Unfortunately some of the early DVDs assumed users had a 4:3 display and conveniently displayed the image with the proper aspect ratio (top and bottom bars). This created a problem when the same material is shown on a 16:9 display or projector such as the H77. The Letterbox mode expands the image to fill the screen, but the downside to this format is that the vertical resolution is decreased. This is why all respectable DVDs are now "16:9 enhanced" or "Enhanced for Widescreen TVs", which is the same.

Remote
The backlit IR remote control has all the functions needed to operate the H77 projector.
The blue-colored backlight illuminates the buttons making it easy to see in the dark. Dedicated buttons are provided for commonly used controls such as Brightness, Contrast, Hue and Format located on the left side. The Format button selects from Native, Window (4:3), 16:9 or Letterbox. The right side of the remote has Freeze, Re-Sync, Zoom and Menu/Exit buttons. The middle two buttons control the horizontal and vertical keystone corrections. The lower center buttons are used for navigation as well as the power zoom and power focus controls. The remaining lower five buttons select from the video inputs and include Composite, S-Video, BNC, DVI and RCA. The projector automatically searches for a valid format and upon detecting one, will display the input, resolution and frame rate of the incoming signal.

Menus
There are four main menus on the H77 (Picture, Image, System and Display). The Picture menu has controls for Mode (Cinema/Normal/Vivid), Contrast, Brightness, Color, Hue, Sharpness, Gamma and Reset. The Image menu controls White Peaking, Color Temp (1/2/3), Image Mode (Film/Video/TV), Advanced Adjustment (Individual RGB Contrast/RGB Brightness), Signal (Horizontal/Vertical/Frequency/Phase) and Reset (Current/All). The System menu includes Language, Bulb (Lamp Hours/Lamp Remaining/Lamp Reset), Source Lock, Auto Shutdown, Blanking (Blue/Black), Bright Mode and Color Space (Auto/RGB/YUV). Finally, the Display menu controls Projection (Front Desktop/Front Ceiling/Rear Desktop/Rear Ceiling), Format (Native/Window/16:9/Letterbox), Vertical Shift, Horizontal Keystone, Vertical Keystone and Digital Zoom. The setting for each of the items can also be commanded through the RS232 interface. Advanced setups may benefit from this.

Color Tracking
We calibrated the inputs using a Sencore VP403 HDTV video generator running in the native 720p mode. We set the black level using the PLUGE pattern and checked the stair step levels to ensure we had properly adjusted the display. The HiLoTrk pattern on the VP403 is a great way to verify that white levels are not crushed. Using the Color Temp menu settings on the H77, we selected the lowest setting "1" and measured the out-of-the-box color accuracy. Our review unit was brand new, so we waited a little while until we accumulated 50 or so hours. Using our Sencore CP5000 All-Display Color Analyzer, we measured the color temperature in 10 IRE increments starting with the 20 IRE level. The pre-calibrated color temperature was very good and tracked 6500°K pretty well across all measured IRE levels with a small drop in our 70 IRE measurement. Using the Advanced Adjustment menu controls we adjusted the RGB Contrast and Brightness settings to fine tune the color tracking. The result was a color temperature that deviated about 500°K from the ideal 6500°K.

Display Primaries
The primary colors produced by the Optoma H77 were measured from our 100" Stewart FireHawk filmscreen using the GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Spectrophotometer along with the Milori ColorFacts software. The CIE chart shows where the ideal primaries are located with the smaller three points joined by the darker lines. The measured primary colors are indicated by the red, green and blue markers connected together with the white triangle. Only colors inside the triangle can be produced by the projector. This is one of the most accurate set of colors that we have measured out of the box on any projector. Notice that the red and green primaries are almost perfect with the blue shifted slightly inward from the ideal position. Even so, the primary colors were near perfect per our measurements. We believe that the color accuracy measured had much to do with the superb colors the H77 produces on the screen. Flesh tones looked extremely natural on this projector with colors that jumped out of the screen.

We actually preferred running the H77 with the Bright Mode ON as this made it easier to achieve the SMPTE recommended 12fL of light output for digital cinema on our Stewart FireHawk, while still fully tracking close to 6500K at all IRE levels. The calibrated picture on the H77 looked absolutely beautiful on our 100" screen. While many have recommended going to a lower gain screen (1.3x for the FireHawk), we have been quite satisfied with the performance of this material especially when some ambient light enters the room.

Interfaces
The rear panel of the H77 has both analog and digital video interfaces for the unit. DVI with HDCP is supported along with 5-BNC connections for RGB or Component video. Three RCA connectors accommodate an additional set of component inputs. Composite and s-video input that are compatible with NTSC, PAL and SECAM standards are also provided. Since our projector was located far from our sources, we primarily used the DVI interface for most of our testing. Also included are two 12-volt trigger relays for screen control and an RS232 port that is used to update the firmware as well as command the projector remotely. The H77 can interface with PCs or Macs and is fully compatible with VESA standards as high as UXGA (1,600 x 1,200).

Performance
Although the Optoma advertises a 3500:1 contrast ratio, it must be understood that this is an absolute maximum in most cases. This is one reason why there are so many differences between HD2+ manufacturers in the industry. Once calibrated, the H77 produced a full on/off contrast ratio well over 2000:1 with a black level near 0.007fL and a full screen brightness of over 14fL in high power mode. We were able to get a higher contrast ratio measurement, but not while calibrated to 6500K.

We started out with high definition content from our D-VHS tape collection. Our HD-Net collection includes recordings of War in Afghanistan, Over Ireland and Bikini Destinations in 1080i played on our JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS VCR. The picture was reference quality on the Optoma H77 with accurate skin tones and excellent color saturation. D-Theater movies were a real treat to watch on this projector. We viewed The Fast and the Furious and Evolution and were very impressed with the shadow detail we saw with the projector. Next we watched X-Men2 also on the D-Theater format, but this time in full DTS 5.1 Digital Surround using our Marantz MV8300 VCR. The sound from these new DTS capable D-Theater tapes are outstanding and really add to the presentation of the high-quality video. Dark scenes with bright lights and defocused backgrounds did reveal some false-contouring under certain conditions, but it was rare and never really distracted us from the overall impressive picture quality on the H77.

We sampled some over-the-air content that included The Tonight Show and Las Vegas. With picture quality like this it's hard to believe some high definition content is actually free. Sure you have to put up with periodic macro-blocking and other compression artifacts from the broadcasters, but the overall quality is excellent. All of our over-the-air testing was sourced from our Samsung SIR-T165 set-top box with the DVI interface. The advantage of using the DVI interface is that there is no need to ever convert the signal to the analog domain. This results in minimum video noise and maximum resolution. Some prerecorded material was played from our HTPC fitted with a MIT MDP-100 ATSC tuner card. This particular card requires has analog outputs which accounts for the softer looking image due to the long cable length to the projector. However, it was still great to see compared to DVD resolution.

We tested the composite and s-video inputs using our Sony DVP-NS900V. We looped the introduction scene in Star Trek's Insurrection, which happens to be a torture test for Y/C separators and deinterlacers. We encountered some cross-color artifacts with the composite input, so would not recommend using this input unless absolutely necessary. The s-video input showed better performance with increased resolution and no color artifacts. Both of these interfaces exhibited excellent deinterlacing performance even though the resolution was somewhat limited. Interlaced video was sourced from our Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/SACD player to the analog component inputs on the H77. This required the projector to perform the deinterlacing as well as scaling. We were very impressed with the performance of the built-in deinterlacer and scaler. Challenging material was handled well by the video processing. Progressive DVD video (480p) came from our Faroudja-based Kenwood DV-5900M Sovereign changer. The scaled DVD picture was excellent on the H77 even with the deinterlacing external to the projector.

Using our Sencore VP403, we generated 720p analog signals to the RGB and component video inputs using a 6-foot test cable. Both interfaces had excellent performance and were able to resolve alternating vertical bars that represented a 74.175 MHz pixel clock. The Frequency and Phase adjustments provided a way to optimize the sampling time of the incoming video signal within the H77 to create a perfect 1:1 pixel mapping on the screen.

Summary
The Optoma H77 is a remarkable projector capable of producing a beautiful high-definition picture with wonderful colors, excellent blacks and ultra-quiet operation. The color accuracy was amazing on this unit, especially when using the DVI interface. The front-end video processing did an excellent job deinterlacing and the scaler from Pixelworks produced a beautiful 720p image from a variety of sources. The H77 offers a wide selection of video inputs including DVI with HDCP. This is especially important as protected content increases in the future. The power focus and power zoom are nice features and when combined with the high quality optics of the H77, the sharpest image can be acheived. While the competition is heavy in the HD2+ projector market, consumers quickly focus on the winners and it appears that the H77 has made it to the finals.

- Kevin Nakano





Review System

Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD A/V Processor
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: Samsung SIR-T165 Terrestrial HDTV Receiver with DVI
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer

D-VHS VCR #1: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
D-VHS VCR #2: Marantz MV8300 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
DVI Extender: Gefen HDTV Extender
HDMI Cables: Accel Corporation HDMI Adapter and Cables
Power Conditioning: Panamax MAX® 5510 ACRegenerator
Video Generator: Sencore VP403 SDTV/HDTV Video Pattern Generator
Color Analyzer #1: Sencore CP5000 ISF Certified All-Display Color Analyzer
Color Analyzer #2: ColorFacts with GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Colorphotometer


Review - At a Glance


Optoma H77 High Definition HD2+ DLP™ Front Projector

Display

HD-2+ 0.79-inch 12-degree DLPTM from Texas Instruments

Native Resolution

720p native (1,280 x 720)

Maximum Resolution

UXGA (1,600 x 1,200) compression

Brightness (Typical)

900 lumens

Contrast Ratio
(Full On/ Full Off)

3500:1

Weight

17.4 pounds (7.9 kg)

Dimensions (W x H x D)

16.9 x 5.3 x 12.0 inches (430 x 135 x 305 mm)

Operational Noise

23 dB in standard mode

Lamp Life (typical)

3000 hours in standard mode

Lamp Type

250-watt Philips UHP lamp in standard mode

Aspect Ratio

16:9 widescreen native, 5:4 & 4:3 compatible

Input Connections

One DVI-I (DVI/HDCP, Analog RGB, Component, HDTV)
One BNC RGBHV Input
One YcbCr/YpbPr x 1
One 3-RCA for composite video input
One S-Video input

Output Connections

Two 12+ volt screen trigger outputs
Two IR receivers (front and rear)
One RS-232 output

Computer Compatibility

IBM PC and compatibles, Macintosh, iMac, VESA standards

Video Compatibility

NTSC: M, 4.43 MHz
PAL: B, D, G, H, I, M, N
SECAM: B, D, G, K, K1, L
EDTV (480p), SDTV (480i), HDTV (720p, 1080i)

Throw Ratio

1.6 – 2.16:1 Distance/Width

Keystone Correction

4-way vertical and horizontal

Lens Shift

Enables image to be displayed 100% above or below the center of the lens

Screen Size (diagonal)

21 to 282 inches (.53 to 7.16 mm)

Projection Distance

3.28 to 32.8 feet (1.0 to 10 meters)

Projection Lens

f = 28.3 – 38.2 mm, F / 2.4, power focus projection, 1.35 x power zoom lens

Horizontal Scan Rate

31.5 to 100 kHz

Vertical Refresh Rate

43 to 85 Hz

Operation Temperature

23 - 95°F (-5 - 35°C), 80% humidity

Power Supply

Universal AC 90 - 264 volts, 50 - 60Hz

Uniformity

95%

Warranty

Two year, parts and labor, 90 day lamp warranty

Standard Accessories

AC power cord
Wireless remote control and batteries
Composite Video Cable
S-Video Cable
RS232 Cable
Lens Cap
Printed manual and CD
User’s guide (multi-language)

Optional Accessories

Universal touch screen remote
RS-232 cable
Ceiling mount kit



Source: Manufacture supplied
Model Number: H77
MSRP: $8,999
Weight: 17.4 pounds (7.9 kgs)
Dimensions (W x H x D): 16.9 x 12.0 x 5.3 inches (430 x 305 x 135 mm)
Warranty: Two years Limited Parts and Labor; 90 Days on Lamps

250W Philips UHP Replacement Lamp
Part Number: SP.L1301.001
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

Email: sales@optoma.com
HT Website: www.optomahometheater.com
Company Website: www.optomausa.com

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