Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with three different HD projectors made by Optoma — the HD33, the GT750E, and the Neo-i. While all produced good images (in fact, the HD33 would probably be classified as “great” and the GT750E as “really quite nice”), they are all made to cater to different segments of the projector market. None of them is the single system we would recommend as the be all and end all; each came with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
First up, the Neo-i. No one would ever suggest this projector could stack up image-wise with the big boys, it isn’t meant to. It is meant to be a good, little, portable projector, one with a dock that you can pop an iPod or an iPhone onto and have any movies (or music) you have on the Apple device play out on the projector. The Neo-i comes with built-in eight watt speakers, two HDMI ports, and a cradle for your iPod.
The projector can sit as close to a screen as eight inches and as far away as 188, producing a picture in size anywhere from a mere five inches to a cool 120. It must be noted that the only way to adjust the size of the image is to move the projector closer to or farther from the screen, it cannot be adjusted by changing a projector setting. Additionally, the projector has to be relatively centered height-wise on the screen or you will end up with a trapezoidal image (as one would expect) and there is no keystone correction on the device.
These last items are, essentially, the tradeoffs for what the projector does offer – decent sound, a pretty good image, and a fair price (Amazon currently has it for $279). If these are drawbacks you can live with, you’re going to like what you get in exchange. The Neo-i’s image may not rival an HD television, but what it does produce looks pretty good.
The DLP projector reproduces images faithfully, with a broad array of colors and good blacks. There is absolutely no noticeable ghosting or trouble with faster moving images. The definition is acceptable and there is a focus knob to fine tune things. The image is not as perfectly crisp as one might like (especially as you increase the distance between projector and screen), but, as stated above, as long you’re not expecting HD, you’re probably going to be satisfied. We do still recommend watching in dim areas if you’re trying to project a large image, but at shorter distance some light is acceptable.
The market for the Neo-i really seems to be the college student. It is probably a good choice for folks at college to hook up a videogame system to for all-night four-player gaming fests (not that we ever did such a thing back in the day). While, obviously, it works better projected onto a screen made for the purpose, the Neo-i also throws a pretty good image onto a white bed sheet, making such gaming possible (again, not that we have ever/would ever do such a thing).
Of course, perhaps you’re something of a well-to-do college student. Perhaps you’re the sort of college student who can just tweet home asking for money. Either that or you live in a suite (or frat house) with a bunch of friends and have more money to spend because it will be split more ways (or maybe you’re just an adult who likes to carry around a cool beans projector with them). In that case, there’s the GT750E, a “gaming projector,” which does full HD and even 3D. It too contains its own speakers (which sound better than the Neo-i’s — the GT750E has 10 watt stereo speakers), and even comes with a great backpack which can contain all the various cords, glasses, and other bits and pieces you’ll need. It is a 3,000 lumen projector and provides a far sharper, far more crisp, far better image. It is also bigger and heavier than the Neo-i. Not only that, but it carries a far greater price (currently Amazon has it for $782.99 and that doesn’t include all the glasses you’re going to want).
The projector can sit anywhere from roughly 1.8 to 18 feet from the screen and is capable of producing an image that varies in size from 36.3 inches to 362 inches. Plus, you can correct keystoning on it and can even vary the zoom, something we view as an essential. The device is made to be carried around to different locations and the odds that wherever you end up finding a close enough outlet or a table to sit the projector on will wind up with the projector at the exact right throw for the image are minimal. Plus, it too looks good when projected onto a nice white bed sheet (because, if you’re testing such things you might as well go all the way).
Let’s face it, we’re not all college students, we can’t all be college students, and some of us don’t even want to pretend anymore. College was great, but eventually it’s time to move on. So, maybe you’re not a college student (or a wannabe college student) at all; maybe you’re an adult looking for a great image and a projector which can do a little bit of everything… except being carried from place to place (because that’s what a college student or one of those gamers would do). Enter the HD33. The HD33 is the only one of the projectors we tested which is not meant as a portable projector, but rather as a permanent entry into a home theater system. It is an 1,800 lumen projector, contains no speaker (because if it’s part of a home theater system you’d always want it hooked up to your surround sound), and like the GT750E can project a 3D image.
Costing the most (Amazon’s price is $1,499), the HD33 has the best picture, most features, best contrast ratio (4,000:1 for this vs. 3,000:1 for the gaming projector and 2,000:1 for the Neo-i), etc. But, as stated, that goodness ain’t cheap, and again, that doesn’t include 3D glasses. The projector needs to sit anywhere from just under five feet to just under 33 feet from the screen, resulting in an image size of between 45 and 300 inches.
What then should one purchase if one is in the market for a projector? It isn’t really as easy as all that, now is it? You need to first determine who you are (college student? wannabe college student? way past college?) what you’re going to be doing with the projector. The true bottom line of what we’ve learned here is that not only does Optoma provide a wide range of choices, but that they all deliver a good (or better) image.
Spending time with the projectors has also convinced us that we desperately want to upgrade our home theater and that Optoma’s projectors are a great place to start that upgrade. The truth is that we might opt for the GT750E even for a home theater setup because it costs less, would be portable if we needed it, and produces an image with we we are quite happy. The odds that we would actually use it in a portable fashion are minimal, but it seems like a nice option to have (and one which, in this case, doesn’t cost extra). The world of DLP projectors clearly continues to expand and the prices we are seeing these days make them viable.
Please note, tech specs for all three projectors are available at Optoma’s website.