Hands-on Review: Optoma HD33 DLP 3D Home Theater Projector

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The Optoma HD33 offers entry-level features, but a picture quality much larger than its price.


Dec. 13, 2011 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

While I’m largely neutral when it comes to excitement over 3D; I’m neither for nor against it. I was pretty impressed when I first learned of the price-rebel Optoma coming out with a $1,500 3D home theater projector, the HD33.

I like 3D well enough, but prefer it in a theater rather than in my living room. Even on a 55-inch TV, 3D just isn’t something to go out of my way for. That changes a lot when you’re viewing it on a 100-inch screen. Home theater projectors under $2K have been around for a couple of years, and some of those projectors perform very well, but a 3D projector at this price is something to take notice of.

So when the Optoma HD33 showed up, I opened up the box with a mix of anticipation and caution. How good could it be at this price?

First off, the HD33 is a single-chip DLP projector with a 6x color wheel and 1.2x zoom lens. It sports conservative but sufficient specifications for a budget-priced home theater projector. The limited zoom and lack of lens shift means you need to be extra careful when you make your mounting calculations. With 1,800 ANSI lumen light output, the Optoma puts out enough glow to use in partially lit rooms, but it’s best suited for a completely dark room if you want to get the most punch out of it. On the other hand, the similarly priced Panasonic PT-AR100U boasts 2,800 lumens, but that’s not a 3D projector. The light output issue is actually more important for a 3D projector than a 2D because the 3D glasses will reduce the amount of light that reaches your eye. That said, the HD33 does have light to spare. If you’re viewing this in a dark room, you can safely set the lamp to the standard setting without worrying about sacrificing anything (this will depend on the screen gain and size).

The Optoma lists a contrast ratio of 4,000:1, which again is conservative when viewed next to similarly-priced 2D models. It also doesn’t include an iris feature which many projectors offer to improve contrast.

On the back you get two HDMI inputs, one set of component, S-video and composite video. There’s also a 12-volt trigger, VGA, RS-232 and a port for the 3D RF emitter.

The setup menu allows a fair amount of customization, but most users won’t find that the projector needs a whole lot of tweaking. Out of the box the Cinema mode looks best. Further adjustments will depend largely on the type of screen you’re using. Gain and bias in red, blue, and green can be adjusted, but there are no adjustments for gamma. The projector does include some of its own picture improvement features. PureDetail is an edge enhancement feature; PureColor can deepen the picture’s colors; and PureMotion is for removing motion artifacts.

Within the projector’s 3D menu you get the option to use either DLP-link or VESA. VESA refers to the included RF emitter in the projector box and theoretically should be more reliable than DLP link which bounces a signal off the screen. There’s really no reason to switch to DLP link because, as noted, the projector comes with a VESA RF emitter (but no glasses). The active shutter glasses you can buy from Optoma for around $100 are not too bulky or uncomfortable, but you won’t want to be seen outside with them on.

When viewing 3D, you must connect the VESA RF emitter first. Once you plug it in, LED lights on the pod light up to tell you when it’s synced with your glasses. A sticky pad comes with the emitter so you can attach it to the ceiling or onto the projector itself.

Both 2D and 3D video looked great, especially so when you consider the price. Viewed in a dark room (my basement) the projector delivered plenty of light and produced an image that really popped on the screen. Colors were extremely vibrant—maybe a bit oversaturated, but most people would probably prefer that to muted colors. Blacks also looked good, though in some scenes black areas could have been blacker, but the projector holds its own well in this price category. I also saw some image noise in large blank areas such as blue skies. Being a DLP, some people may notice a rainbow effect, but the 6x color wheel made that issue almost nonexistent for me.

The most impressive things about this projector is 3D. Screen size makes a huge difference in the 3D experience, and a projector system is the best way to watch 3D at home. While the 3D on this unit looked good with minimal crosstalk, it’s the size that makes the picture. I’ve seen some flat panel TVs that deliver a more pronounced 3D effect, but a picture the size of a wall improves the impact of any 3D.

Overall, the Optoma HD33 is a solid performer and delivers good value in its price range. Some people who have trouble with single-chip DLP might want to spend some time looking at one in a showroom before making a decision, but if that’s not a problem for you, this projector is a great entry-point for big-home theater and will be ready when more 3D content starts becoming available.

Optoma HD33
$1,499
1080p resolution
Contrast Ratio 4,000:1
Brightness 1,800
6x Color Wheel
Zoom 1.2x
RF 3D Emitter (included)
3D glasses not included
More Information here.



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