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Optoma H31 Features & Favorites


We get asked fairly regularly to review more budget-minded products for our readers. In particular, everyone seems fascinated by the influx of lower-priced front projection systems that are competing for a large financial portion of the home theater display market. These front projection systems promise large viewing screens with an almost unbeatable price point. Compare, for example, a 92" front projection DLP system vs. a DLP-based rear projection unit and you are talking a potential savings of over 60-70%! It doesn't take a Nobel Lauriat to figure out where the bargain is. Sure there are trade-offs, mostly in terms of ambient light management and viewing distance, but if you can overcome these obstacles then you are looking at a tremendous opportunity.

DLP Projector Strengths

The strengths of the DLP format, at least in its current iterations, include good black levels, phenomenal color saturation, great lamp life (for the format) and full digital readiness with HDCP-compatible HD M I or DVI being readily available on most contemporary models. The format has an easier time with black levels than typical LCD-based systems due to the way the D M D (digital micromirror device) is able to turn away from the lamp and deny light to the screen. Recent advances have produced HD2+ technology (dubbed DarkChip2) which reduced the gap between mirrors, removed the dimple where each mirror is attached to its post, and provided a light-absorbing coating on the back of the micromirrors which together allows for better contrast ratios and black levels. In fact, this new technology is supposed to offer a 20-25% improvement in overall contrast ratio - with the most gain being in the more difficult-to-achieve black levels. Couple this with a 6-segment color wheel spinning at 7200RP M (4x) you have a nice projector that gets the job done with a minimum of compromises.

Features and Favorites

The Optoma H31 has a host of excellent features and functions that makes it a tremendously configurable entry-level home theater projector as well as an adaptable one. Here are a few of my particular favorites that stood out on initial use and inspection:

  • 5 Calibration Modes per Input
    Each of five modes, selectable by the User, are able to be calibrated for each input. This means that you could choose to setup up different settings for Day and Night viewing in addition to a special setup for, say, daytime sporting events that require the maximum brightness and color saturation at the expense of contrast. You could also set up a fourth mode for black and white movies, with a color temperature approaching 5500K for a more realistic presentation. The fifth mode - pure gravy. And this is per each input!
  • DarkChip2 Technology
    The ability for this projector to reproduce deep black levels was impressive for a digital display. We were able to get decent real-world contrast ratios out of the H31 as well as produce compelling scene details on darker theatrical scenes.
  • Fully Backlit Remote Control
    With only a few minor suggestions, this could be the greatest projector remote in existence. While you will probably not use it very often, unless you are unfortunate enough not to have a great universal remote control, the wireless remote that accompanies the Optoma projector is as ergonomic as it is attractive.

We'll expand on these features later, but Optoma's attention to detail (down to a convenient carry-bag that comes with the H31) makes this system a very compelling argument in the face of the choices one has in entry-level front projectors.