Introduction and features
An entry-level, occasional entertainment projector like the Optoma HD28DSE needs three things; a low price, a really simple set-up, and picture quality eons better than that old data projector from work you used to use. The HD28DSE has two of those things.
Its chief feature is undoubtedly the Darbee Visual Presence technology that’s designed to extract extraordinary levels of detail, depth, lighting and object separation. Also including BrilliantColour image presets, the HD28DSE’s 3,000 ANSI Lumens lamp means it can be used in anything but the brightest of daylight. Now that’s pretty versatile.
Design and specs
A single-chip DLP projector with a Full HD resolution, the HD28DSE comes in a bright white chassis with a bulge over the lamp that serves to accentuate it. It’s nothing special to look at, but at 315x114x223mm and 2.5kg in weight it’s easy to pick-up and put away one-handed. That’s important on an occasional-use projector like the HD28DSE, and so are plenty of ins and outs. Instead of the the suspiciously data connections that some ‘entertainment’ projectors offer, the HD28DSE’s ins and outs are firmly home cinema. A couple of HDMI slots (one of which can take an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku Streaming Stick, Google Chromecast or a direct hook-up to a phone or tablet), a 3.5mm audio output, a 3D sync slot, 12V trigger and a mini-USB is all there is.
All are accessed via a side-panel, which is unusual on any projector, but nonetheless welcome. Also available as add-ons are Optoma’s WHD200 Wireless HDMI System and the Optoma HDCast Pro streaming dongle. As that audio output might suggest, the HD28DSE boasts a built-in speaker, though at 10W don’t expect to pack away the 5.1 sound system just yet. Perhaps most impressively, the HD28DSE’s lamp is rated to last for a stunning 8,000 hours. Wow. Less wow is that while the HD28DSE can technically handle 3D, though there are no 3D specs included. Is that a crying shame or an easy way to save £100 or so? That will depend on your feelings towards the third dimension in film.
Although initial set-up isn’t the easiest – with 1.1 optical zoom and no lens shift levers included – almost everyone will need to resort to digital keystone correction to get a straight image. To get an 80-inch image in my test room, the HD28DSE had to be placed between 2.4-2.8m – hardly any wriggle-room. If that’s a shame, so is the out-of-the-box picture quality. The Darbee Visual Presence video processing onboard is working hard on The Hobbit Blu-ray test disc, though its most powerful picture preset overcooks the image. With the amusingly named Full Pop (strongest) mode engaged, colours are too aggressive with dark areas of the image suffering from ‘black hole’ syndrome where nothing is visible within. Graphics also suffer from echoes on this mode.
However, the level of Full HD detail is stunning. I mean, truly awesome – this is the most detailed budget projector I’ve ever seen. Switch to the less in-yer-face Hi-Def mode and balance is restored, with excellent skin tones and colour gradations. That detail remains, and without a whiff of motion blur either. The third mode is Game, and the exact intensity of all three modes can be set up to 100. As well as the HD28DSE throwing a hissy-fit for a few seconds too long after changing the video source (the colours go mental!), I did notice some rainbow effects while watching the HD28DSE. This is when some people – like me, but not necessarily you – see flashes of red, green and blue in the picture as they’re projected sequentially onto the screen. It is a single-chip DLP, after all.
Although the cost is average contrast, it’s also worth deactivating the Dynamic Black feature if, like me, you don’t want to see the image visibly change in brightness. The projector otherwise permanently monitors, and reacts to, the ever-changing video content. Aside from those two issues, the HD28DSE is an accomplished movie-machine – and that’s surely largely down to Darbee Visual Presence.
A budget DLP projector with Darbee Visual Presence? Where do I sign? For it’s $799 (£699, AUS$1,334) ticket price the Optoma HD28DSE ought to be one of the best-looking, most affordable home cinema beamers going. Except it’s just not the full package. It’s highly detailed, relatively quiet and pretty versatile too. But it can be a pain to setup, making it a poor choice for a projector that you’re going to have to pack up after you’ve made with the cinema fun.
The detail. Forget 4K; the HD28DSE is all about getting the very best out of Full HD, and for a very reasonably price. By adding that detail within a nicely balanced image, DarbeeVision Visual Presence on the HD28DSE gives it a real leg-up on the competition. It’s also a wise decision not to include a pair of 3D specs in the box since that would take the price up closer to rival projectors and, even more crucially, 50-inch+ TVs. The built-in speaker adds versatility when watching TV or gaming, though the HD28DSE isn’t a noisy projector on its own; I measured its output at 60 decibels. While it’s a little on the small side, the backlit remote control is another welcome feature; all blackout-bound beamers should have one.
If projector manufacturers really want to crack the domestic market, both horizontal and vertical lens shift levers should be first on their list. The HD28DSE has neither, and it lacks a decent optical zoom, too. All of which makes this the placement and set-up of this DLP projector a pain; forget whipping it out to put on a coffee table (it really needs to be carefully set-up permanently in a spare room).
The onscreen menus and general user interface are rather basic, too; it’s surely time to try something new on projectors. The appearance of rainbow effect is perhaps more forgivable since I’ve seen this on every single-chip DLP projector I’ve tested. My eyes are sensitive to the red, green and blue flashes (most frequently seen when scanning across an image), but yours may not be. The speaker manages zero bass, so don’t consider using it with content with music.
For eight times the price of the HD28DSE it’s possible to get a 4K projector from Sony and Epson, and while Optoma is not competing with those behemoths, this budget beamer nevertheless gets close on detail. Its picture is not perfect, and the projector itself lacks any kind of versatility during set-up, but the inclusion of a 10W speaker, backlit remote and the most detail Full HD yet seen on an entry-level projector make the HD28DSE easily worth an audition.