Optoma is a name you’ve likely heard of if you’ve ever researched or pondered buying a projector, they have a relatively storied history and make some of the best projectors on the market, whether you’re looking for home theatre projectors, education, portable ones or just bog standard TV replacements, let’s see how the DARBEE special edition of the HD28 fares.
Disclosure: Optoma sent us this HD28DSE to review for a period of 2 weeks. The Projector was used in place of our previous one and was used just as one would use a standard television. Although they provided the projector, no money crossed hands and Optoma have no control over the editorial outcome of this review.
Speeds and Feeds
- Native 1080p DLP projector
- 3000 ANSI Lumens
- 30,000:1 Contrast ratio
- 8000/6000/4000 hours lamp life (Dynamic mode, Eco mode, Bright mode)
- 1.1x Manual Zoom
- 1.48-1.62:1 Throw ratio
- Single 10w integrated speaker
- 2x HDMI 1.4b ports
For more specifications, check out this product page from Optoma regarding the HD28DSE
There isn’t really a way to get around the fact that if you’re coming from a relatively recent TV, the HD28DSE seems kinda huge and ungainly. It’s 2.5kg and 315 x 224 x 114mm (Width,Depth, Height). Once it’s up on a shelf at the back of a room or mounted to the ceiling, it’s not too bad, but compared to the slim, rather lightweight TVs we’ve seen over the last half decade or more, this glossy white behemoth is quite noticeable. I would have much preferred a matte black version too or at the very least, a glossy black version.
Aside from the physical dimensions and the weight, the HD28DSE somehow manages to feel sturdy and also somewhat hollow. I know it’s not, I can both feel the weight and see the internals through the multitude of air vents to cool the thing, but it sometimes feels a little insubstantial. But once again, once the HD28DSE is set up, you’re unlikely to touch it unless you need to
upgrade, so it feeling a little underwhelming is less of an issue here than with something you’d constantly be handling.
The ports situation on the HD28DSE is quite good, especially coming from the projector I was. Not only is there an HDMI port, there are 2 of them, one of which is capable of MHL, or Mobile High-Definition Link, which allows you to plug compatible smartphones into it whilst also charging it – pretty neat. But among the multitude of smartphones on my desk, not a single one supports MHL, a little bit of a bummer.
There is, of course, a 3.5mm audio jack for plugging into a much more sophisticated sound system, or maybe just a sound bar. The mono speaker on the HD28DSE is actually rather impressive, though. For testing purposes I decided to review the HD28DSE with only it’s internal speaker, because that’s how most people watch TVs, and I think It’s important to think of this as a TV replacement, meaning most people won’t think to plug in an extra speaker for better sound. Luckily for me, Optoma managed to put a pretty great one in here.
There is a USB Type-A Port that manages to provide 5v at 0.9a, suitable for powering things like a Chromecast but not something more power hungry like the Amazon FireTV stick. Having the Type-A port is very nice to have, whilst I didn’t plug any media drives directly into it (it hadn’t crossed my mind since my media drives were plugged into my Raspberry Pi, which was connected to the projector) I assume that plugging the drives directly in wouldn’t work as the port is marked as having power output and there is no mention of data.
The Remote Optoma provide is, well, okay. It’s not bad by any means, but it is just a little plain, chintzy and this neon blue backlighting is straight out of the early 2000’s, butt does its job and it does it really quite well. Everything is labeled clearly and switching between inputs is nice and simple with the onscreen UI. Although you’re not really ever meant to see it is well designed enough that it doesn’t make you want to poke your eyes out Oedipus-style (unlike my old projector, which seems to take inspiration from DOS and the command line).
How about we get on to how the image looks and how it performs as a TV replacement, In a word? Fantastic. So good in fact that I really am quite sad to give this one back to Optoma and have to go back to my old projector. The HD28DSE Is bright enough to be seen during the day, with no extra brightness adjustments, this is it’s out of box settings. Colours looked great and it was certainly viewable in my office with two 3×8 feet windows letting light shine on the projection screen at the height of midday with my curtains open.
Sure, closing the curtains, turning the lights off and everything does improve the image quality, but that’s the same with a TV. The more external light you remove, the better the picture looks. This used to be a problem with projectors and still is on my usual one (which is about a decade old) where they are simply not bright enough to be used during the day with ambient lighting, but that is not the case with the HD28DSE. Whether I was catching up on the ‘Flash’ (season 3 is awesome so far) re-watching ‘House’ on Netflix, or watching a film from my Raspberry Pi media center, the HD28DSE handled it with ease.
One of the things that didn’t jump out at me until I turned it off in the settings was the DARBEE image processing. Usually, I turn off any and all image processing, which either shoot up the sharpening or shoot up the motion to compensate for a subpar source file, but I don’t know what Voodoo is going on here, the DARBEE processing seems like magic. Even little things such as the lightning bolt on the Flash’s (seriously, watch Season 3) emblem just looks crisper. The only way I can describe DARBEE is almost like it is upscaling the 1080p source file to 4k UHD or something along those lines. I don’t know what it is doing to the media I watch, but damn, I like it.
So the experience? It’s pretty awesome. I actually had a strange issue when I first took it out of the box and set it up, I couldn’t get the image small enough. My old projector was set up just under 3m from the projector screen and made an image in the range of about 85”. From the same distance, the HD28DSE, even when zoomed out all the way, was spilling over the edges of my canvas. Luckily there is some software in the on-screen menu to map out the corners of your projection screen, which really helped. It is very strange that a problem for this projector was that the screen couldn’t go small enough, a nice problem to have, eh?
As I said earlier, despite coming from a projector myself, I was hoping to review this from the perspective of someone upgrading from a TV so any and all chances I got, I invited family into my office to watch films and TV during the day and at night and get them to tell me their experiences. Every single one of them loved it, and all of them are sad this is going back. Despite the office being one of only 3 rooms in the house that can actually have a projector (no other rooms have large enough walls opposite where the beds go) they all wanted it for their rooms.
The HD28DSE just feels like a really large TV, and I think that is one of the best compliments I can give it, because previously if you were considering a projector you had to make sure that you could adequately control the light in the room. You basically had to buy external sound, and you’d either have only one HDMI device, or you got really used to having an HDMI switcher, or, in my case have a non-HDMI capable projector, so you go from DVI to HDMI. However because that doesn’t carry audio, you have to choose what you plug in carefully so you can extract the audio from the device instead of it traveling over HDMI because, once again, DVI doesn’t do audio. These are all things that you’d usually have to think of when considering a projector, not anymore.
Could the image be brighter? Sure there are models with 3200 lumens, 3500 lumens, and I think I spotted a projector on Optoma’s site that clocks in at about 11000 lumens (this one), but unlike older projectors, there was never a time when the HD28DSE and its 3000 Lumens felt too dim. Could it have more ports? Sure it could. 2 HDMI ports is on the low side for a TV. If you have a set-top box and a gaming console then you’re done. No Blu-Ray player (though consoles are Blu-Ray players these days) there is no Scart connector, so there are no legacy ports, but really HDMI switchers are less of a pain and less expensive than they used to be. Would 4 or 5 HDMI ports be better? Hell yeah, but it isn’t necessary for a great experience.
All in all, Optoma have made a cracking home projector here and one that feels like it could just be used to replace a TV on a whim one day when you were going to replace your slowly dying older model. It’s got a great picture, it’s nice and bright, easy to use, is quiet enough for the most part and as I said, it just works. It really feels like a portal to the director’s world. Watching ‘Star Wars’ on this was enchanting, seeing the ‘Flash’ zoom around Central City and seeing The Green Arrow drop bodies in Star City on this thing just felt awesome, and if I had better luck with gaining a partner, I’m sure they’d love to snuggle up on a couch one day and watch a favourite film of theirs on this, because it is just that encapsulating.
Optoma, if you’re reading this, good job with the HD28DSE. I don’t know what voodoo DARBEE is, but I do know that I am really sad to go back to my old projector.
- Viewable even in bright light
- Surprisingly good built in speaker
- nice array of ports
- DARBEE image processing is no joke
- nice on-screen UI
- £740 is a lot to swallow, even if you think of it as a 100+
- only 2 HDMI ports is a tad limiting
- Glossy white, do I need to say more