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Optoma HD30 review: Full-HD 3D projector that offers fine value for money

The Optoma HD30 is a sub-£1k 1080p home-entertainment projector that delivers an astonishing picture for the price. It’s not without quirks however. See also Group test: what's the best projector?

Design-wise, the projector is more front room than boardroom. The gloss white cabinet with silver-grey trim is swish enough for coffee table use, and if you want to ceiling mount, its compact dimensions will not draw overmuch attention.

Out of the packing box, setup is straightforward. The projector offers both horizontal and vertical image shift options to best align it with a free space on your wall, plus vertical keystone correction should you need it.

With a throw of 3.3-4.3 m, you’ll get a large 100- to 120-inch diagonal image. A quick tweak on the manual-focus ring and you’re all done; if you need to navigate the menus, they’re relatively intuitive.

Connections include two HDMI inputs, composite video, PC VGA and analogue audio. There’s also VGA out/monitor loop-through and RS232 control.

Single-chip DLP projectors typically cast analytically crisp images which somehow seem surgically sharper than rival LCD projectors – and the HD30 doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

Dynamic range is quoted with a punchy 25,000:1 contrast ratio. In real life it did show convincing blacks with plenty of shadow detail. The projector employs a DarkChip3 DLP device beneath its bonnet, which is a familiar budget component.

Colour performance is candy-rich, thanks to TI’s BrilliantColor processing. This boosts primary hues and looks great with garish games and animation. Deep reds though, a challenge for LCD projectors which veer toward orange, have a pleasingly bloody hue. If it’s all too lurid, there are a fair number of RGB calibration options which should make it possible to tailor images to taste.

Presets have most content types ticked – Cinema, Reference, Photo, Bright and User. There’s no high frame-rate interpolation on offer, but panning judder is negligible, so 1080/24 Blu-rays look extremely filmic.

Not only does the HD30 suit moody movies, it also looks sensational with the latet games consoles. The amount of detail to be seen in Killzone Shadow Fall on the PS4 is positively mesmerising.

What’s particularly impressive though is the lack of overt rainbow fringing in the HD30’s picture. Created by DLP’s colour wheel, this multi-coloured flashing artefact can be particularly irritating to those sensitive to it; however here it seemed virtually non-existent. This gives the projector a definite edge over key DLP rival, the BenQ W1300.

Brightness is rated at 1600 ANSI lumen. While you can get away with gaming and TV viewing in partial ambient light, the HD30 is at its most contrasty and enjoyable in full-blackout conditions. Optoma offers a higher brightness variant of the HD30, dubbed the HD-25LV, which glares out at 3200 ANSI lumen if you really need a light cannon for social gatherings, gaming parties etc.
The HD30 is 3D-capable and ships with two pairs of Active Shutter 3D glasses. A sync emitter (provided) has to be plugged into the projector for these to work. The stereoscopic performance of the HD30 can be considered immersive, with tangible image depth and few obvious crosstalk artefacts.

It’s not all gravy though. This Optoma can prove exasperating in daily use. Slow to respond, it will routinely display an egg-timer graphic when asked to do something. Just swapping inputs causes the projector to ponder the meaning of life before it locks onto an input.

As you might expect of a multimedia projector, there’s a sound system built-in, but it frankly makes for uncomfortable listening. The provision of SRS Wow audio processing doesn’t help matters. The latter elevates dialogue but if anything makes the projector even more sonically fatiguing.

The HD30 is relatively quiet in use though. The lamp-conserving Eco mode lowers fan noise to around 26dB. Lamp life in this configuration is listed at 6000 hours. 

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