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Optoma ThemeScene HD20 DLP Projector

Yes, yes, I know. By reviewing the HD20 today, I've now looked at three projectors in a row, without a TV in sight. Apologies if this has aggravated anyone. But honestly, as I noted in my previous review of Sony's VPL-HW15, there are simply so many hot projectors coming out this month that if I don't clear my decks of a few now, I'll end up doing six, seven, eight, maybe even 10 in a row at some point before Christmas.

Also, I'm bound to say that if the quality of some of the models I've seen recently is anything to go by, if you're not currently thinking of buying a projector, maybe you should!

Anyway, with a solemn promise that the next review I do will definitely be a telly, let's get down to business with Optoma's HD20.

It takes all of one nanosecond to uncover its main appeal. For with an inc VAT price of just £899.95, it really is extraordinarily cheap for what promises to be a genuine home cinema (as opposed to PC data) projector. A glance at its spec sheet reveals that it even sports a Full HD DLP chipset, for heaven's sake.

This doesn't make it the first Full HD projector to break the £1,000 price barrier (Vivitek did the same thing only last week with its H1080FD). But I can tell you now that the HD20 is easily the best.
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Not that this is particularly obvious from the HD20's exterior, mind you. For while the design is reasonably cute in its gloss white finish and perky curved front end, the build quality reeks of plastic, and a large grille sat right next to the lens leaks a really quite alarming amount of light. Light which, of course, is thus not making it through to the lens and screen, and which is instead polluting the darkness of your room, potentially reducing the picture's contrast.

That's not my only bone of contention with the HD20's bodywork either. For you don't have to be sat especially close to it to notice that its cooling fans and DLP colour wheel really make a heck of a racket if you've got the lamp's 'Bright' output option selected.

Thankfully, turning the Bright lamp option off reduces the running noise considerably, leaving just a high-pitched whirr that's not too hard to live with. Though I should add that the level of brightness lost when you don't have the lamp running at maximum is quite considerable; to the point where it probably won't be a realistic option if there's any degree of ambient light around in the room you're using the HD20 in.

As well as letting a lot of light out, moreover, the grille next to the lens pumps out a serious amount of heat. I guess this shouldn't become too much of an issue if you've got the projector sat on a coffee table in front of you, but if you've got it positioned somewhere close behind you, you're likely to get slowly cooked. Especially, again, if you prefer to use the Bright lamp mode.

And still I'm not done grumbling about the HD20's design. For I was also disappointed to find no optical image shift to help get the image correctly positioned on my screen, and precious little flexibility when it comes to angling the projector. This could force people who want to position the projector behind their seating position to adopt the venerable and really rather rubbish 'propping the projector's rear end up on magazines' technique, with the onboard image-distorting Keystone correction then having to be used to get the edges of the image straight.

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