Optoma HD50 Projector
Our last look at an Optoma projector revealed an impressive quality-price ratio. It was an excellent piece of kit at a price that was impossible to ignore. There were very few minor caveats for what still is a home budget priced projector.
The HD50 is a little more expensive - you won't get much change from £1,000 - but that extra outlay gets you something that you'd otherwise have to spend more than double to match. Smaller, quieter and sleeker than its cheaper counterpart, the HD50 offers even sharper lines, brighter colours and darker blacks.
This is still top-end of the budget projector price range, but it really is strong competition for its mid-range rivals.
Unlike the gunmetal grey of the HD36, the HD50 is pristine matte white - when mounted it is far less conspicuous against predominantly light walls and white ceilings. It's also lighter and smaller so mounting on the ceiling offers little worry of an unwelcome and costly bump on the head! The adjustable focal length means that you can achieve around a 100 inch display at a distance of around 10-12 foot. This isn't the widest throw we've seen but does provide a nice square, geometrically correct footprint unlike some of the cheaper, short throw projectors which suffer from a slight fisheye in their output.
In terms of picture, the clarity is excellent with the high contrast ratio giving us beautifully deep blacks that compete well with our LED 1080P day-to-day television. Similarly the colours offer plenty of beautiful depth and the high ANSI rating means that even in less than ideal lighting conditions the picture pops of the screen. We've been able to use the HD50 during the day and while the picture is a little bit washed out it doesn't lose anything in the way of vibrance or clarity.
Much like the HD36, this is a DLP projector and therefore is susceptible to a rainbow effect. However, also as with its cheaper sibling, the six-segment colour wheel means that this effect is minimised and during our extensive tests with all kinds of material we've yet to have any obvious manifestation of this issue. It certainly doesn't suffer to the extent that cheaper three-segment projectors do.
Connectivity is good too - two HDMI sockets alongside VGA, Component and Composite video inputs. Unfortunately there is NO audio out and no built in speaker. We'd have liked the former at the very least to make connectivity straightforward to as many people as possible. Unlike the HD36, you couldn't easily carry this projector to a friends house without some thought to connectivity at the other end. Our solution is a 6x2 HDMI matrix with break out audio connections to connect audio to a soundbar and all of our devices to both the television and projector.
In terms of functionality, there are all the usual controls you'd expect. The projector can be mounted upside down on a ceiling or placed on a desk. It has a decent range of vertical keystone correction (in general you want to avoid using this as it can slightly degrade the picture quality) and there is also a small degree of vertical lens movement that helps with mounting and positioning options.
You have full control over brightness, contrast and sharpness and there are also a number of post-processing functions available if you want to use them - including pure motion, which creates a high frame rate feel from standard frame rate content. We hate that wherever we see it and its the first thing we disable on televisions when testing them out. However, some like it and the Optoma implementation is at the better end of the scale. You can also display both versions side-by-side to see the difference.
What we DO like is the 'pure colour' functionality that makes things pop that just a little bit more. Again it's a taste thing that you're likely to either love or hate.
We've done a little gaming on the HD50, but there is slightly more latency that we get from a TV or dedicated gaming projector and this adds to a slight sense of detatchment and in one case some motion sickness! That said, an extended session of Elite: Dangerous with a 100-inch screen was enough to almost make this writer feel as though he was piloting a spacecraft for real!
The only other tiny negative was the fan noise - for the most part this was usually drowned out whatever we were watching however it was noticeable during quiet scenes. This is something common to all projectors though.
In all, the HD50 is a beautifully made piece of hardware that performed near faultlessly for us and as a result comes highly recommended.