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Aside from a couple of interesting little diversions in the shape of its ultra-cheap GameTime projectors, Optoma has been a bit quiet lately. Certainly we haven't seen anything really significant on the quality home cinema front from them for what feels like an age. But that's changing - in emphatic style - today, with the arrival in our blacked out test rooms of Optoma's Themescene HD82.
This, as its name suggests, is the long-awaited follow-up to the eminently likeable HD80, reviewed towards the end of 2007. And a run-down of its specifications soon reveals that Optoma certainly hasn't spent the time between the HD80 and HD82 sitting on its hands.
For starters, the HD82 has undergone a complete design revamp, with likeable results. Out go the cutesy but rather overcooked curves and white but flimsy finish of the HD80; in for the HD82 comes a gorgeous black finish, a much larger and immensely heavy chassis, and curves that feel like an organic extension of the projector's innards rather than the doodling of some drunken artist. In short, where the HD80 looked and to some extent felt like a bit of a toy, the HD82 looks and feels like every inch the serious home cinema machine.
This impression merely grows once you start to explore why the bodywork has changed so much. For it turns out that nearly a third of the HD82's depth is effectively a huge baffle, designed to reduce running noise. And this baffle effect works superbly well, making the HD82 run with only a fraction of the noise heard from its predecessor. In fact, it's one of the quietest DLP projectors I've ever come across, particularly if you run it in low lamp mode.
Sticking with the issue of running noise, it also struck me that the customary noise made by the cooling fans was joined by only a little extra whine from the colour wheel that's inevitably found inside any single-chip DLP projector. Optoma claims to have put considerable effort into introducing acoustic dampening into the HD82's construction, using steel in places where it would previously have just used lighter but less absorbent aluminium. Its efforts appear to have paid off handsomely.
The colour wheel I just mentioned is a six segment affair, based around the RGBRGB configuration. Some rival projectors now use RGBCMY six-segment colour wheels, which can generally deliver brighter images. But experience suggests that these sorts of colour wheels also tend to generate considerably more evidence of DLP's rainbow effect problem, where stripes of pure colour appear over bright parts of the image.
This situation seems entirely borne out by the HD82. During my testing period, the only time I noticed the rainbow effect from the RGBRGB wheel was if I flicked my eyes deliberately left and right while something extremely bright was being shown - such as white text credits on a black background. Frankly, under normal circumstances, anyone daft enough to deliberately flick their eyes left and right while watching a film deserves everything they get!
So far as I'm concerned, the HD82's level of suppression of the rainbow effect is unprecedented on a £3k DLP projector. And, for me, this removal of an artefact, which really can distract you from what you're watching, is a hundred times more important than any amount of extra brightness, especially if you've got the projector installed in a properly blacked-out room.