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We don’t mind admitting that we’re pretty excited by Optoma’s ThemeScene HD73. Why? Because it uses a DarkChip3 DLP chipset – a relatively recent, high-specification 1,280 x 768 affair that usually only appears on projectors costing several hundreds of pounds more than the HD73.
Compared with the Texas Instruments DC2 chipset usually favoured at this level of the market, DC3 offers significant benefits when it comes to black level response and motion reproduction – so much so that we’re really hoping it might set new standards for its price, even outperforming the DC2-furnished Planar PD7010.
But our hopes stutter a touch as we lift the HD73 out of its box. For while its glossy white finish looks quite swish, the build quality feels rather flimsy, especially when it comes to the plastic zoom/focus wheels around the lens. Hmm. Hopefully this exterior flimsiness isn’t representative of the quality of the innards.
Thankfully our confidence is largely restored by the HD73’s remarkable claim of a 6000:1 contrast ratio – easily the highest figure seen on a DLP projector at this price point, and one which promises truly cinematic black levels. What’s more, this being a DLP projector, the high contrast ratio figure does not depend on reducing the picture’s brightness during dark scenes as happens with most LCD projectors.
More good-on-paper news comes from the discovery of no less than three picture processing systems designed to make images look better. Faroudja’s DCDi gets the ball rolling with its sophisticated de-interlacing system reducing the usual jagged look to curved contours. Then there are two systems derived from Texas Instruments: TrueVivid and BrilliantColour. As their names suggest, these are out to boost colour tone and saturation – though you should note that the version of BrilliantColour is ‘software only’; and you won’t find an advanced colour wheel ‘hardware’ component here like on one or two much more expensive projectors.
HD fans, meanwhile, will be chuffed to learn that the HD73 can handle 1080p signals delivered via either of its two digital inputs, one HDMI and one DVI. While we’re on the subject, other video inputs include component video, composite video, and S-Video, with the only disappointment being the lack of a dedicated D-Sub PC feed. You can get computer images into the HD73, but only by using the DVI and thus halving your digital video options.