Optoma GT1080Darbee – Performance
Provided you stick with the Reference and Gaming picture presets, the GT1080Darbee is a remarkably strong performer for its money.
Particularly surprising is its black level performance. With the Dynamic Black feature active, pictures enjoy much deeper, more natural-looking dark scenes than you’d normally expect to see from an £800 projector.
The default picture settings can cause dark areas to look a little devoid of detail, but just nudging up the brightness a little reveals more shadow detailing and subtle dark colour information than you usually get with budget projectors.
The GT1080Darbee’s strong black level performance also helps it deliver not only a more natural colour palette than many of its rivals, but also a more flexible one that adapts subtly but effectively to the slightly different needs of gaming graphics and video.
For instance, the Game preset ups the colour saturation a little, while the Reference preset appropriately focuses more on subtle toning and balance. This means the GT1080Darbee can be considered more than just a gaming projector.
More good news comes by way of the sharpness of the GT1080Darbee’s HD pictures. Even without using the Darbee processing, it delivers some of the most detailed and clean-looking HD pictures I’ve seen from a sub-£1,000 projector – and, fortunately, this clarity isn’t affected if you have to apply keystone adjustment to the image.
There’s a touch more judder during camera pans than I’d ideally like to see, but there’s no blurring and also none of the fizzing noise over skin tones during camera pans that was once a serious issue for single-chip DLP projectors.
The GT1080Darbee also suffers only relatively little with two other common single-chip DLP issues: dotting noise in dark areas, and the ‘rainbow effect’ where stripes of red, green and blue flit over stand-out bright image elements.
I’m not saying that either of these issues has been completely vanquished; if you’re susceptible to seeing the rainbow effect, you’ll see it on occasion here. But for most viewers its appearance won’t be frequent or obvious enough to constitute a serious distraction.
The strengths I’ve pointed out so far all apply to the GT1080Darbee’s standard pictures, with its key Darbee video processing engine turned off. Clearly, if you’re going to choose this projector over Optoma’s standard GT1080e, though, you’ll likely want to use the Darbee engine. So it’s just as well that it delivers startlingly good results with two of its three settings.
The one you’ll want to stick with for film and TV viewing is Hi-Def. This does a remarkable job of making the image look sharper and more detailed, despite the fact that it’s working with exactly the same number of pixels that the projector’s non-Darbee images are using. Edges look less jagged, and the various improvements are achieved without causing common sharpness-enhancement issues such as exaggerated source noise or ringing effects around fine lines.
The Hi-Def mode also gently improves contrast – seemingly more with a focus on improving the delineation of colour shades and shadow detailing than trying to make the image dramatically more dynamic.
The Gaming Darbee setting cleverly ups the contrast expansion and perceived sharpness at the expense of a reduction in colour tone subtlety – a combination that’s pretty much ideal for game graphics.
However, the Gaming Darbee preset can cause some distracting horizontal ‘peaks’ to erupt out from the edges of objects in high-contrast images when using its default values. Hence my suggestion earlier that you reduce the ‘power’ of the Gaming Darbee mode to around 40%.
The only really negative note in the Darbee engine is the Full Pop mode. This pushes the contrast so far that it starts to make the picture look unnatural. It can cause detail crushing in dark areas, and is excessively prone to the strange horizontal peaking issue noted with the Gaming mode’s default setting.
It’s important to stress, too, that the Darbee Gaming mode increases input lag to around 33ms from the sub-20ms I measured when using the Enhanced Game setting without Darbee in play. I suspect, though, that an extra 13ms of delay will seem like a pretty fair price to pay to all but the most competitive of gamers for the picture lift the Darbee engine provides.
The GT1080Darbee’s only really significant picture flaw is some occasionally distracting brightness ‘jumps’ when you’re using the Dynamic Black feature. In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part II, as the camera tracks slowly in towards Harry as he stands in the doorway of Ollivander’s room, for instance, the Dynamic Black machinations cause at least four quite distinct brightness shifts in the image.
You can, of course, get round this by turning the Dynamic Black feature off. In reality, though, this isn’t truly an option, since deactivating Dynamic Black grossly reduces the projector’s black level performance.
If you’re thinking of relying on the GT1080Darbee’s built-in sound system, you might want to think again – at least if the projector is going into a room of any size.
Even at maximum volume it remains rather quiet, and the sound isn’t thrown any distance from the projector’s body. This means its audio is acutely detached from the on-screen action it’s meant to be accompanying.
There’s hardly any bass to speak of either, which can leave the audio sounding thin and tinny during action scenes. The best that can be said of its audio, really, is that it does a decent job of always ensuring dialogue is clear. It’s also a relief, given how quiet its sound is, that the GT1080Darbee’s cooling fan noise is fairly restrained.
Should I buy an Optoma GT1080Darbee?
With its gaming-friendly focus and Darbee processing, the GT1080Darbee is a pretty unique proposition for its price. And since both of its core attractions prove to be anything but a gimmick, it really does look like a bargain.
If you want to save £120 or so then you could consider the BenQ W1110 instead – especially since this actually delivers an input lag figure even lower than that of the GT1080Darbee. Its pictures aren’t as sharp or contrast-rich as those of the GT1080Darbee, though – especially once you’ve engaged the Optoma’s Darbee processing.
The Optoma GT1080Darbee is a great projector, combining strong gaming and movie credentials for what is, under the circumstances, a very attractive price.