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Optoma HD33: The lowest-priced 1080p 3D front projector

Consumer Reports News: August 16, 2011 10:38 AM

Apparently, Optoma doesn't think big-screen 3D has to come with an equally big price: Its newest 1080p 3D front projector costs only $1,500, the lowest price we've ever seen for a 1080p 3D model.

For those willing to pay a bit more for higher performance, the company is also introducing two step-up 1080p 3D projectors—the HD3300 ($2,000) and HD8300 ($4,500). All are DLP-based models that will be available later this month.

The company has also developed new RF (radio frequency) 3D glasses, which unlike models that sync using infrared (IR) technology, don't require line-of-sight operation with the transmitter.

Optoma has been pushing the front-projector price boundaries for several years. And while we've seen several lower-priced 720p front projectors, Optoma's new HD33 is the first 1080p 3D model we've seen below $2,000.

The company says the HD33, which works with both 2D and 3D sources such as Blu-ray players and cable/satellite set-top boxes, includes several newly developed technologies, including PureMotion3D, frame interpolation processing designed to reduce judder, and PureDepth, which dynamically optimizes image brightness. The projector also has a new color-processing system that's designed to improve colors, black levels, and contrast, the company says.

The HD33 supports all the HDMI 1.4a mandatory 3D formats, including side-by-side and top-bottom. And you can manually output these formats via the HDMI or VGA connections for those 3D sources that don't have HDMI 1.4a, such as older cable/satellite set-top boxes and game consoles like the Microsoft Xbox. The projector has two HDMI 1.4a outputs, one VGA port, and a VESA 3D port; component video, composite video, and RS-232 connections; and a 12-volt trigger for automatically turning components on and off.

The projector, which comes with an RF emitter but no 3D glasses, can be paired to Optoma's new 3D-RF glasses, which the company claims can help improve brightness as well as eliminate the line-of-sight requirements of IR-based glasses. But it also will work with other RF glasses, as well as with DLP Link-based active shutter glasses. Optoma gave no price for the 3D-RF glasses, which are rechargeable, but we've seen some current models (with a transmitter) online for $75 to $100 each.

For those willing to spend a bit more, the $2,000 HD3300 claims a slightly higher light output and a higher contrast ratio—plus ISFccc controls for custom calibration—but also has many of the same features as the HD33. The $4,500 HD8300 is a flagship model with more-advanced interpolation processing (PureMotion4D), plus a lens shift to allow for greater placement flexibility.

If you're considering a 3D or other front projector, remember that you'll also have to buy a projection screen, generally $400 to $1,200 depending on size, plus a sound system. If it's a 3D model, you'll also need a 3D source (such as a 3D Blu-ray player or 3D-capable set-top box or game console) and 3D glasses.

All projectors use fairly expensive bulbs (typically $300 or more) that need to be replaced after around 2,000 to 3,000 hours of use. And since they perform best in a very dark environment, front projectors are best suited for watching movies or special events, like a big game or concert; they aren't the best choice for use as an everyday TV.

James K. Willcox

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