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Product Review

Optoma H79 Single-Chip 16:9 DLP Digital Projector

Part I

November, 2005

Steve Smallcombe and Sumit Chawla



Display Technology: DarkChip3 0.79-inch 12-
   degree DLP(tm) from Texas Instruments
● Connections: DVI (HDCP) x 1, Component
    Video x 1, S-Video x 1, Composite Video x 1,
    RS-232 x 1

Resolution: 720p native (1,280 x 720)
● Brightness; 1,000 ANSI Lumens
● Contrast Ratio: 4,500 Full On/Off
● Projection Lens:
f = 28.3 - 38.2 mm, f/2.4
● Keystone Correction: Digital
● Lens Shift: Vertical Only
● Dimensions: 5.3" H x 16.9" x 12" D
● Weight: 16.5 Pounds

● MSRP: $5,999 USA (Available from





The H79 is the flagship product in Optoma's Custom Series of home theater projectors, and features the DarkChip3(tm) DLP chip and an 8-segment color wheel, thus assuring state-of-the-art performance.

The H79 also has a power focus and zoom, a light shield designed to minimize stray light from the projector reaching the screen, and ultra-quiet operation with a noise level specification of 22 dB with the Brightmode off. The H79 is certainly the quietest projector I have experienced, even in the Bright mode where the noise level is specified at 23 dB. Other significant specifications include: 1000 ANSI lumens brightness and a contrast ratio of 4500:1.

The power zoom range is 1.6 to 2.16:1 meaning that the H79 has a relatively short throw ratio, i.e., it is designed to be placed about the seating area, not on the back wall. The H79 has manual vertical lens shift (very handy) but not horizontal lens shift, so you will need to place the lens of the projector carefully in the center of the screen.

In fact, with its short throw ratio, the H79 makes a very good replacement for my Sony 11HT, another projector with a relatively short throw ratio, that I have owned for a number of years now, and used as a reference projector for reviews. I have seen and reviewed many fine projectors during that time, but none that really convinced me it was time to spend my money on a new projector. The fact that I could place the H79 in the same general location on the ceiling as my 11HT, plus the ultra quiet operation and excellent picture quality convinced me that now was the time to upgrade. The picture of the H79 above is of the review unit mounted on my (Steve Smallcombe) ceiling using Optoma's Bering ceiling mount. The review's co-author (Sumit Chawla) also purchased an H79 after seeing the performance of the review unit.

Inputs and Connectivity

The H79 inputs are located on the back of the projector. The following set of inputs is provided: composite, S-Video, component (RCA/BNC), RGBHV (BNC), and DVI-I (HDCP compliant). The BNC connectors are shared, and they accept either RGB or YPbPr signals. Missing is an HDMI input which I hope Optoma will add to their next generation of projectors.

An RS-232 input is provided to interface with external control systems. The RS-232 protocol can be downloaded from the Optoma website. Two 12V relay connectors are also provided.

Remote Control/Projector panel

The H79 remote is backlit. Any time a button is pressed the buttons light up. The text on the buttons is a little small, but it is readable in the dark. The buttons are well laid out, but their spacing is a little tight. There are discrete buttons to access the different inputs. An aspect ratio selection button cycles through the different modes. The H79 has powered zoom and focus, and these can be adjusted conveniently through the remote control.

The Re-sync button deserves special mention. When using the DVI input, this button switches Video levels (the default) to PC levels. This is not mentioned in the user manual. It came to my attention in some forums, and Optoma confirmed this functionality.

A subset of the buttons found on the remote control is replicated on the projector. In addition to the buttons, there is a lens shift dial which can be used to shift the image up or down. There is a power switch located to the side of the projector, and it is worth mentioning because the bright blue power LED located next to it is bright enough that you might want to put some tape over it. Optoma should lower its brightness or better still, allow the user to turn it off during regular operation.

Menu System

The menu system is grouped into four categories: Picture, Image, System, and Display. The Picture menu contains three presets labeled Cinema, Normal, and Vivid. Each preset contains factory optimized settings for Contrast, Brightness, Color, Hue, Sharpness, and Gamma. The default settings for each preset can be overwritten. The Color sub-menu is disabled when the DVI input is being used. The Hue sub-menu is disabled when a DVI, component, or an analog RGB input is being used.

You can control the input source-specific settings using the Image menu. Three color temperature settings are provided in order of increasing (cooler/bluer) color temperature.

Unlike several projectors where the color gain (contrast) and bias (brightness) controls are buried in a service menu, the H79 provides them in the user menu. I wish that more projector manufacturers would make these controls accessible through their user visible menu system. The color temperature options and the gain/bias settings are somewhat tied together. To calibrate the projector to the D65 standard, one must pick a color temperature setting, say 2, and then use the gain and bias settings to converge on the established chromaticity coordinates. The color temperature settings are relative rather than absolute, so there is no way to obtain a desired color temperature for the three different options. It would have been nicer to have gain/bias controls for each color temperature setting.

A White Peaking option is provided, and it adjusts the peak brightness by changing the color wheel's operating parameters. There is an Image mode sub-menu with three factory presets: Film, Video, and TV. The manual does not say what these settings really do other than that they have been "optimized for various types of images". According to Optoma these three presets are pre-defined gammas from TI that are applied on the DMD side. When you combine these with the five gamma options that Optoma provides (these are applied on the scaler) in the Picture menu, you get a total of fifteen gamma combinations. Finally there is a Signal sub-menu where the horizontal/vertical position can be adjusted along with some timing controls. This sub-menu is only enabled for analog RGB and YPbPr input sources.

Both the Picture and Image menus have a Reset option which can be used to return either the current menu's settings or all the menu settings to their factory defaults.

The System menu is where the language used for the menus can be selected. Bulb usage can be viewed in the Bulb sub-menu, which is a reminder for when the bulb has aged 1500 hours.

The following sub-menus specify what the projector does when no active input is detected: Source Lock (do not cycle through all the inputs if the signal is not detected), Auto Shutdown (time interval after a signal is not detected to shutdown the projector), and Blanking (display a black or blue screen where there is no signal). The Bright Mode sub-menu is where one can increase the lamp brightness. Finally one can specify the color space (Auto, RGB, or YPbPr) to use for the current input.

The Display menu contains all the installation- specific controls. Vertical/horizontal keystone correction can be performed, but it is best left unused. Front/rear or ceiling/table installation can be specified for the projector. A digital zoom control is available if you wish to magnify the image. The Format button specifies the default aspect ratio to use. The options available include: Native, 16:9, Letterbox, and Window (for 4:3 material).

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2005 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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