Optoma GT720


posted 6/24/2010 by Dan Keener
other articles by Dan Keener
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If you haven’t ever tried to set up a short-throw projector before, you can make yourself look pretty silly for the first few minutes while determining where to place it to get the proper throw distance for the screen. As expected, I ended up forgetting this small aspect of the GT720, and spent a few minutes wondering why the image was so large on my wall and ceiling until coming to my senses. I finally figured out that my best placement was a table-top setting about 6’ from the front of my 92” screen. I only had to move the front feet up about a quarter inch to get the image centered on the screen. I might add that the GT720 weighs a mere seven ponds, so moving or mounting this projector is a breeze.

Hooking up the connections was a breeze because there are only two HD possibilities. Your choices are the single HDMI that is built-in to the projector or the component adapter that connects to the VGA port. One of the ways Optoma has saved space and costs is to not include a dedicated component video connection on the back panel. I was skeptical at first, as every Wii and the vast majority of Xbox 360’s built from 2005-2007 only had component out for their best resolution output. Fortunately, Optoma supplied a nifty component to VGA adapter with the GT720 so you can still utilize component inputs. While I would have preferred it integrated, the adapter does help keep costs down and allow multiple HD hookup (1 HDMI) at once without using a switching box or stereo receiver. I ended up hooking up my Xbox 360 Elite via the HDMI and the Nintendo Wii into the component connection and let the PlayStation 3 sit this one out.

Because the GT720 has a native resolution of 1280 x 800, the image does not vertically fill the 16:9 screen when it reaches the edge horizontally. This wasn’t a big deal to me (it is similar to letterboxing of movies, but not to that extreme) because when the lights were dimmed, you really couldn’t tell where the image was in relation to the screen. In the image below, you can see about a 1.5” spot at the bottom of the screen that isn’t being projected on.

The projector will support 1080p through the HDMI, but it will be converted back because it cannot output that resolution. After fooling around with the various settings on both my 360 Elite and the GT720, I found that outputting at 720p from the 360 and using the “Game” display mode gave me the best overall performance. Because this was the closest “match” to the native resolution of the GT720, it just appeared to be the best image. However, after outputting the Xbox 360 in both 1080p and 720p via HDMI and letting the GT720 convert the format, it appears that 720p output had a slightly cleaner look, but not by much.

A couple of side notes on the setup of the Optoma GT720. The lens cap is this brute of a rubber piece that is kind of a pain to put back on the projector. There were several times that I thought I had it affixed, only to have it fall off again. After a few uses, I kind of got the hang of putting it back on right the first time, but there is a learning curve. Another interesting note was that I never picked up the user manual. I try to approach these reviews like the common man would, start first and ask questions later. Fortunately, the GT720’s menus were easy to understand and aside from the dysfunctional remote, easy to navigate and setup.

Video Performance
The video testing I performed on the Optoma GT720 primarily consisted of TV shows and movies from Netflix that were streamed through the Xbox 360. For the TV shows, I selected several snippets from The Office and bits and pieces of Lost: Season 5 and was not disappointed in how they looked. On The Office I was looking for the how well the detail of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton HQ looked, as well as how well the hand-off from interior to exterior shots looked. The details of the office itself and the characters were excellent and what I would expect, and when the camera went outside, it didn’t miss a beat. With Lost, the lush locations and transitions from light to dark scenes were the primary focus to see how the GT720 would perform. In both instances, the projector handled them without issue and they looked fabulous. I spent a lot of time with “He’s our You” which is the Sayid centric episode where we learn more about Sayid’s back story while he is befriended by a young Ben while stuck in cell in the 1970’s Dharma camp. The GT720 was able to show off many different locales and lots of close-ups of scruffy looking characters sporting 70’s look. Having seen the episode previously on my 56” 1080p DLP, the GT720 did a great job of showing it off just like a remembered it live without any issues.

I did a quick run through from a few parts of movies such as Up and District 9 and was as impressed as I was with the TV shows. Both movies looked excellent, with sharp graphics and no screen tear, color saturation or other blemishes. It is hard to not praise Up (or any animated film for that matter), but the brightly colored balloons and lush landscape looked exceptional. Probably better than the theater, which is the last place I swathe movie. In District 9, I went straight for the shootout scene in the bio-lab (despite the jerky camera) with the military members getting vaporized (liquefied?) leading to the eventual assault on District 9. Once again, the transition from dark to light and the frantic pace of the camera proved that the GT720 was a more than capable home theater and everyday use projector as it was a gaming projector.

Although I wasn’t able to perform as much video testing as I would have liked (stupid gaming got in the way), I was able to get in enough time on GT720 to conclude that it does a fine job of handling streaming video. I did not come across any instances that tripped up the GT720 that would lead me to believe that it will not handle video as well as it does gaming. I can see where this would easily have an HD programming source hooked up and be used to watch sitcoms, dramas, movies or live sporting events. I bet the World Cup would have looked pretty good on it….
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