The HD25 is the first new home cinema projector we've tested from once-prolific manufacturer Optoma since the HD83 we reviewed in June 2012. And even that model was actually a rejig of an earlier version, rather than a brand new projector in its own right.
With this in mind, it’s perhaps surprising that the HD25 is pitched as a budget home cinema projector rather than a swanky mid-range or high-end model that might have enabled Optoma to really show off what its engineers have been busy with over the past year or two. Still, if the HD25 delivers decent image quality for its £800 price tag, then we’ll doubtless end up feeling happy enough with Optoma’s long-awaited return to the home cinema fray.
The HD25’s design is reasonably pretty, thanks to its glossy white finish, coffee table-friendly dimensions, and boldly curved front edge. However, there are also some tell-tale signs of its comparatively budget (for a projector at least) £800 price tag, including a rather plasticky finish that's especially noticeable around the lens housing. This cost-cutting theme continues with the extensive use of grilling down each of the projector’s edges, which hints at a rather basic approach to heat dispersal and potentially inefficient use of the projector’s lamp power should those grilles turn out to leak light as well as heat.
Connectivity is actually quite good for a budget projector though. The two HDMIs are the most important jacks, but some users will also appreciate the twin D-Sub PC ports. The most surprising connection, though, is a small circular jack to which you can connect a diddy 3D transmitter. Yes, that’s right: despite costing just £800, the HD25 provides active 3D, even going so far as to supply both the 3D transmitter and a pair of 3D glasses in the box.
The HD25 supports its active 3D talents, moreover, with a Full HD native pixel count of 1920 x 1080. And that’s not the only number that impresses for £800 either; also promising is the combination of a claimed 2000 Lumens of output brightness and a 20,000:1 contrast ratio achieved with the help of a so-called DynamicBlack system that adjusts the lamp output automatically in response to the image content. Furthermore Optoma also claims that this dynamic contrast system is cleverer than most as it also works to retain shadow detailing, so that the quest for a convincing black colour doesn’t result in dark picture areas looking excessively hollow and flat.
The HD25 is a DLP projector, and as with most DLP projectors these days, it’s equipped with Texas Instruments’ BrilliantColor technology for boosted colour vibrancy. Experience suggests that this colour boost can be accompanied by an alarming increase in grain though.
In keeping with most budget projectors, the HD25 sports built-in speakers. In fact, these are a cut above the norm and deliver a startlingly high 10W output using an SRS Wow HD processing engine to enhance bass, clarity and soundstage size.
Setting the HD25 up isn’t a particularly great experience. The projector only delivers a quite limited amount of optical zoom, and (in keeping, it must be said, with most sub-£1000 projectors) doesn’t provide any optical image shifting, either vertically or horizontally. Many people will thus to have to use the projector’s provided keystone adjustment to get the sides of the image straight – a process which, of course, digitally manipulates the picture, denying AV enthusiasts the pixel for pixel image quality they crave.
The focus ring around the lens is unusually robust and capable, though, which gives you pretty fine control over the sharpness of your picture. The HD25’s on-screen menus are straightforward for the most part too, and the unusual dog-bone shaped remote is boldly backlit and fairly intuitively laid out once you’ve got used to how different its functions are to those you might find on a typical TV remote.
We were excited for a moment to spot image shift and zoom tools within the on-screen menus, too. Unfortunately though, it quickly becomes apparent that these are both limited in scope and digital rather than optical in nature.
Further exploration of the menus uncovers a few useful extras including the ability to adjust the intensity of the DynamicBlack and BrilliantColour systems, along with a variety of useful content-based gamma presets. Actually, since there are no general presets beyond simple ‘User’ and ‘3D’ profiles, these gamma presets are really your only way to significantly alter the way pictures look without getting stuck into the TV’s more complex picture set-up tools – tools which include a colour management system that allows you to adjust the hue, saturation and gain of all six main video colour components.