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HD81 Overview Basic Setup


The HD81 is not just a projector. It combines an excellent optical display system with an advanced external video processor that handles, among other things a host of inputs from composite all the way up to HDMI and RGBHV/component. What’s more, each input can be independently calibrated and the system has the capabilities to truly optimize each input source for best performance. When you buy this projector, you essentially get a ~$3000 video processor/scaler for free that includes a 3-input HDMI switcher and enough analogue inputs to satisfy any videoholic I’ve ever met.

I don’t want to turn this into a Gennum VXP review, but when I met with the Gennum reps at CEDIA this year in Denver I was blown away by the quality of both their new and legacy processors. Developed entirely for the HD-realm (and of course more than able to handle the tasks of standard definition work) these chipsets are incredibly advanced. Walking away, I knew I had to line up some products that utilized this technology to see if it stood up under rigorous independent testing. This is the first Gennum-based product we’ve received so far.

Overview of the Technology

In discussing the HD81, you are really talking about a lot of high-end tech put together into a cutting-edge package. For the most part the exciting features reside in the processor, though the projector display itself contains the latest 1080p technology from DLP and a robust optical system (though it lacks a lens shift function):

  • Gennum VXP-based Video Processing (FineEdge, Fidelity Engine and TruMotionHD)
    VXP is Gennum’s acronym for “Video eXcellence Processing” This system utilizes the GF9351 chipset and provides an incredible amount of features that includes: full 10-bit video processing, directional interpolation algorithms (jaggie reduction), pixel-based motion adaptive deinterlacing (2:2 and 2:3 pull-down) with bad edit detection, and noise reduction on both SD and HD content.
  • 1080p and Almost Limitless Format Support
    The panel has a native resolution of 1920x1080 and does NOT utilize wobulation or any pixel doubling tricks. The DMD chip is the new .95” model with DarkChip3 technology. It has the most dense fill factor of anything DLP currently offers for home theater. The optical system includes a 6x (180Hz) 7-segment (RGB, RGB, White) color wheel that will alleviate a lot of the potential for incidental rainbow effects.
  • Inputs Galore
    There are so many inputs on the HD81’s external video processor that it’s likely you’ll not require anything more to connect all of your current and legacy devices to this unit. I was personally able to dedicate inputs for an Xbox, Scientific Atlanta 8300HD DVR, VidaBox Lux HTPC, Denon DVD-3930CI DVD player, Velodyne SMS-1, and a couple other test DVD players. There is even an HDMI loop-through for connecting an AV receiver (giving you a ton more inputs if yours provides HDMI upconversion).

Basic Setup and Installation

The HD81 is a bit difficult in that it has a large (~27%) vertical screen offset (it needs to be mounted relatively high above the screen for ceiling installations) and requires a longish throw distance. One of the great aspects of 1080p is that – with all those densely-packed pixels – you should be able to sit very close to a large screen. While the Optoma HD81 could easily support a 1.0 viewing ratio (sitting as far away from the screen as it is wide), the limited zoom on the lens insists that this projector be mounted very far behind the seated position. Take a look at the throw chart:

Throw Chart for Distancing the Projector from a 16:9 Projection Screen*

Screen Size
Diagonal (inches)

Size (Inches)

Distance (Feet)























































You can perhaps see that to hit your target screen size (and this projector is certainly bright enough to go to a larger sized screen) you’re going to have to have a fairly long room. I would have liked to have seen a bit more zoom on this lens, or at least the option to order a shorter throw lens for rooms that capitalizes on width and not depth. With the $9,999 retail price tag of this projector, Optoma is betting that this device will make its way primarily into dedicated theater rooms with a long throw or double row of seats. In my reference room I wasn’t able to hit my 100-inch Stewart StudioTek 130 at full size from the fixed mounting position and had to back the unit up against the back wall on my portable projector stand.

We utilized HDMI cables (from DVIGear) for the majority of our testing and also utilized component video cables (courtesy of Blue Jeans Cable). Our reference source player was the Denon DVD-3930CI which was able to output 1080p as well as 480i via HDMI – and the Optoma correctly handled and identified both formats with no problems.

All of our primary evaluations were done using the Film mode excepting times when we played with settings and gamma to tweak the projector and find out its capabilities and flexibility.


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Recent Forum Posts:

djarvik posts on June 19, 2007 12:25
The price wend down big time on Optoma HD81

Check this out:


and $300 rebate.

BMXTRIX posts on November 28, 2006 15:03
You will never get HD quality from anything less than 720 formatted material. The HD minimum spec is 720 pixel resolution in the vertical axis. Depending on the scaler involved, you can get very close. In other words, you must provide HD material to a HD display to get a “TRUE” HD picture.
That's not true - stand far enough away from ANY display and it'll look HD.

The non-marketing version of what defines an image as high definition is that when you add one more line of resolution to the image, it doesn't appear to be one bit sharper. So - a 20" display, from 20 feet away, may not look any better to someone with 20/20 vision whether it is fed the VHS version of King Kong or the HD-DVD version.

But, marketing has warped that idea so that people overly tie the 720p (or better) resolution with the exclusive meaning of HDTV.

HDTV is about image size, image quality, display quality, seating distance, and room conditions, as well as some other factors I may have missed. Simply sending 720p HD source material to a compatible display may give a defined version of HD, but doesn't promise the best possible image.
AVRat posts on November 28, 2006 14:53
You will never get HD quality from anything less than 720 formatted material. The HD minimum spec is 720 pixel resolution in the vertical axis. Depending on the scaler involved, you can get very close. In other words, you must provide HD material to a HD display to get a “TRUE” HD picture.
BMXTRIX posts on November 28, 2006 14:51
No - you get HD quality from HD and ONLY HD.

Everything else is a cleaned up version - the best possible version really - of the lower quality format.

In order (pretty much) standard analog cable and VHS are about the worst original video sources. Digital cable and satellite (DirecTV/Dish) are next. Then DVD comes into the mix as the best non-HDTV source available.

Finally, we get HDTV from cable, satellite, and Blu-ray/HD-DVD disc formats.

So, what happens when you run a VHS tape through this machine? Well, you get a really big VHS image. It will look NOTHING like HDTV - but it won't necessarily look ‘bad’ or even ‘so-so’. It MORE depends on your acceptance of the quality. If you know VHS won't look great and aren't nitpicky, then it may look really really good - to you.

If you are picky, then they will look lousy.

It has been said, no less than 10 million times, that converting non-HD material, to an HD format does not make the original source material HD quality. But, this is moreso true with poor quality standard sources such as VHS tapes. This leads to a bit of not-so-typical sarcasm from our beloved Mr. DeBoer here. If he acts up again, just slap him.

I still have about 30 or 40 VHS titles - I am simply replacing them all with DVD titles at this point. In fact, I am thinking about selling or giving away my VHS collection this year. I'll try eBay first - then I'll donate them somewhere.
loose tool posts on November 28, 2006 13:14
Such a Noob

Sign me up for one of those new-fangled VHS deck thingies!! All kidding aside, you will not get HD quality pictures from your old analog video tapes.

If I get a SD-DVD player with “clean 480i” over HDMI can I get HD quality?

Sorry for the dumb questions but other threads are unclear.

:o loose tool :o
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