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Summary

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9/10

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Optoma ThemeScene HD20 DLP Projector - Optoma ThemeScene HD20

So far, it's fair to say, the HD20 hasn't exactly got on my right side. But it starts to slowly turn the corner with its connections, as I find the same two HDMI provision found on projectors costing 10 times as much, as well as the more predictable D-Sub PC jack, and component/composite video feeds. All in all, there's nothing else you could reasonably ask for on such a cut-price machine.

Turning to the HD20's other key specifications, we find Optoma quoting a startlingly (actually extremely optimistically!) high 1,700 Lumens of brightness, and a 500:1 ANSI contrast ratio.
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This contrast ratio, of course, looks very impoverished versus the 60,000:1 figure quoted with Sony's VPL-HW15. But the key point here is that the Optoma's 500:1 figure is an ANSI measurement, attained using methods likely to produce a much more realistic figure than the 'full on/full off' figures most manufacturers love to dazzle us with. Well done, Optoma, on being brave enough to give us this helpful contrast figure.

Well done, too, on somehow coaxing out of the HD20 a picture quality that's far, far less compromised than I would frankly have dreamed possible for £900.

For instance, rather than the nightmare onslaught of overcooked, unbalanced and noisy colours I'd thoroughly expected to uncover, the HD20's colour palette is actually rather good. Skin looks like skin rather than orange peel, rich reds look reasonably vibrant and seldom if ever accidentally slide over into orange or purple, and even green - a colour even some quite expensive DLP projectors struggle with - isn't the predicted over-dominant, radioactive mess.
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Dark scenes, meanwhile, are far from the mushy, grey, cloudy, detail-free zones found with so many other ultra-budget projectors. This is chiefly thanks to black levels which, while inevitably no match for costlier projectors like the InFocus IN80 or Sony VPL-HW15, are at least deep enough not to ever leave you squinting to make out what's going on in dark backgrounds.

The projector's black level response is also sufficient, in conjunction with the surprisingly rich colour palette, to make pictures look impressively punchy for this level of the market - even when the content of the image is predominantly dark.

There's one other factor contributing to the dynamism of the image, too: brightness. For while I never got anywhere near the claimed maximum light output of 1,700 Lumens during any remotely 'real world' viewing, the image nonetheless looks much brighter than the often depressingly drab, muted efforts so common in the budget arena.

Another strong area for the HD20 is its HD sharpness. Admittedly, it never achieves the startling snap of HD as witnessed on some more expensive projectors, but there's enough texture and clarity around to never leave you in any doubt that you're watching - and loving - HD as opposed to standard def footage.

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