Usually when I review of projector, I have previously seen it and had hands on with it at the annual CES show in Vegas the prior January. When Optoma offered me the chance to review a 1080p home theater projector that I hadn’t seen yet, which also happened to contain full 3D technology, I jumped at the chance. I have been a bit of a home-based 3D skeptic since it was heavily pushed at the 2010 CES, but I wanted to see how far the technology had advanced and if it had overcome some of my personal objections. Cost, 3D glasses cost, IR glasses and lack of content were just a few of my concerns, but once I had the Optoma HD33
up and running, I quickly was convinced that my skepticism had been for naught.
Best Retail price
Lamp Life (Hrs)
Throw Distance (ft)3D
Native 1080p (1920x1080) 2D/3D
4000:1 (Full On/Full Off)
4000/3000 Hours (STD/Bright)
14.17” x 4.52” x 12.24”
1-Year Limited Warranty, 90-Day Lamp Warranty
HDMI 1.4a (x2), VGA, Component, RCA, RS-232, +12V Trigger, VESA 3D Port, and USB
4.92’ to 32.8’
Supports all HDMI 1.4a mandatory 3D format, side-by-side format and top and bottom format
Out of the Box
The Optoma HD33 comes packed vertically in the box, but it is about as well protected as you could want. The unit itself comes packed in five layers of protection starting with the box, then a rigid air-shell, a plastic bag, soft-foam bag and a film to protect the finish. There is also one of those bags of Desiccant that contains the material you shouldn’t eat because it keeps your electronics dry. While this may seem like overkill, it has been my observation that companies that invest a bit more effort into taking care of their product on the way to the consumer tend to deliver some of the better products.
The HD33 ships with a 3D-RF Glasses System, which includes one pair of rechargeable glasses, mini-usb cable and the RF emitter. In addition, the box also includes the power cord, composite cables, remote, batteries, lens cap, manual, warranty and quick start cards.
The Optoma HD33 is finished in a beautiful high-gloss white that is accented by silver in just the right places. This white with silver trim design gives it a refined look that does a real nice job of hiding fingerprints and dust that tend to show up on projectors that have a black finish. As for the chassis of the HD33, it has a gentle downward slope from back to front and features touch controls (the instead of the usual recessed buttons) in the shaded area on the top of the HD33 near the back panel. The zoom and focus knobs are right in line with the lens and are very unobtrusive. The sides of the HD3 are primarily slatted vents, with the heat being vented from the left hand side when looking at the projo straight on. The bottom has M4 mounting pattern and manually adjustable legs.
The back panel of the HD33 has a nice design and layout with all of the ports having some space around them. Too many times, the back panels of projos cram all of the connectors together which is an inconvenience and can complicate the install process. With the HD33 this is alleviated due to a smart design, so the two HDMI 1.4a as well as single component, VGA and composite video connections all have plenty of room between them. The power button and power indicator lights are also at the far end of the panel away from all of the connections so there is little chance of accidentally knocking anything loose while reaching around and powering the unit on. There are also connectors for power, RS-232, +12V Trigger, VESA 3D Port, USB and Kensington Lock Port.
What I really like about the HD33 design is that the projector looks clean and cool and will fit in with the décor in any room in your house. I personally could see it set up in the man cave or dedicated home theater room just as easily as the family room.
The remote for the Optoma HD33 was a little more compact than I was expecting, but it contained all of the important buttons and controls. The button layout (from top to bottom) is broken down into five distinct areas: Power, screen size, image adjustment, menu and directional keys and finally input buttons. So even though the remote is smaller, you have the capability to do anything pertinent with a single button press and can easily get into the depths of the menu to make any adjustment possible. I would like to note that you should be easily able to find the button you are looking for in the dark, as the backlighting of the remote is a brilliant blue.
Setup of the Optoma HD33 was about as simple as pulling it out of the box, adjusting the leg height and connecting the cables. In fact, I had it up and running for basic projection in fewer than three minutes, which is something I really prefer in my projectors. I may be in the minority, but I actually prefer projectors with manual zoom and focus knobs, which the HD33 utilizes. Not only does it keep the costs down (versus motorized), but it allows you to get up and running just that much faster. Of course, if I had it ceiling mounted and needed an adjustment I might feel different, but chances are I wouldn’t have to adjust it in that mounting position. I did go back and do some custom adjustments after using the HD33 for a bit, including adjusting the picture settings to match the type of content (gaming, movies, TV) that I was using. I also played a bit with the 3D setup, but it auto-recognizes when a 3D signal comes across, so there wasn’t much to do.
As for mounting, I went with a simple table-top location that is about 3.5 feet off the ground. So even though the HD33 is around 10lbs, the footprint was small enough to easily maneuver it where I need it to be. I planned to extensively use both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on this review (as opposed to one or the other), so I hooked them both into HDMI ports.
Optoma has done a nice job with the HD33 to make it very consumer friendly and easy to setup. The blend of default settings out of the box will make even the most tech-challenged person smile as it should allow them to be up and running quickly. If you are looking for simplicity, the HD33 is one of the best projectors I have come across to deliver it.
With any 3D projector or TV, the glasses can actually make or break the 3D viewing experience. With Optoma, I think they have hit on the right formula for the design and performance of their active-shutter glasses. The two pieces that set the Optoma glasses apart from others are that they utilize radio frequency (RF) technology (meaning the glasses won’t cut off if line-of-site is disrupted) and the glasses are extremely comfortable.
The glasses weigh in at less than one pound, and are touted as getting a full charge in 3.5 hours and holding it for up to 70 hours of use. I personally charged up the review pair when they came in and have not put them back on the charger since. With it now being 60 days after their initial charge and having close to 40 hours of use on them, I am confident that they meet the specifications (70 Hrs between charging) that Optoma promises.
To keep costs down and still use the RF technology, Optoma uses a little RF dongle that attaches to the projector that the glasses will automatically connect to. Up to four pairs of the BG-3DRFGLASSES can be connected at once to allow for a full group of movie watchers of gamers. The batteries can handle approximately 1,000 charges and they have and auto-shutoff feature after five minutes of inactivity.
As with any active-shutter 3D TV or projector, you do have to buy the glasses that match the unit.
Additional pairs of glasses are not cheap, but they can be picked up through Optoma or various online retailers for around $100 a pair. Considering that the projector is at or below $1,500, another $300 investment isn’t too bad to get you and three of your friends or family into the full 3D experience.
The centerpiece of any projector is how well it performs the basic task of putting a video image on a screen. In the past, I have come to expect good things from Optoma projectors in this regard and the HD33 did not let me down. I reviewed it with every video source I had access to including DirecTV satellite, Blu-ray discs and streaming internet services such as Netflix, ESPN3, NFL Sunday Ticket on the PS3 and Hulu Plus. My favorite on the HD33 by far was live sporting events. Everything I watched, whether via streaming (Sunday Ticket or ESPN3) or connected to my satellite, looked perfect. The images were clean, there wasn’t any lag, screen tear and it was very smooth. I did not see any traditional DLP issues (momentary blurring of the screen on a fast pan) and thought the picture was great.
For movie testing, I spent some time watching the Expendables on Netflix and the opening hostage scene really caught my eye. As the team is trying to rescue the hostages form pirates in the cargo hold of the freighter there is a constant shift from light to dark throughout the scene. The HD33 did an excellent job keeping up with the action as well as having no issues displaying the film as the light level changed. One of the Blu-Ray movies I tested (and I consider a reference sample) was Toy Story 3. The CGI of the film looked stunning on the HD33 and details big and small literally jumped at you. Much like the original Toy Story, small Easter eggs you may not have noticed or been able to see were visible due to the HD33s combination of 1080p performance and 92” screen. I have watched this movie in the theater, on my 56’ DLP, computers, iPad and iPods and now the HD33. I can say that the HD33 easily looked the best of all of these.
For TV testing, I spent time with various CSI episodes, Storm Chasers, The Office and Community. Every episode was as clean and pretty as you would expect. The CSI episodes stood out due to their cinematic film style and even the sitcoms looked good. However, Storm Chasers was the star here. If you haven’t seen a tornado in HD, much less in 90+ inches of HD, I highly recommend it. Even though the show is shot on location with handheld HD cameras, the HD33 was able to bring across the raw intensity of the show even more so than the 56” DLP sitting in my family room.
The Optoma HD33 is one of the best projectors I have tested to date for video playback. Regardless of the type of video I sent it, the projector did a fabulous job of putting it on the screen. For the price tag of $1,500 or less, I haven’t come across a better projector to anchor your movie or TV needs.
3D Video Performance
Game Play Tests
My kids are a bit finicky when it comes to 3D movies, primarily due to the comfort and quality of the 3D glasses and how the 3D looks in the theater. Too many times they glasses are ill-fitting (especially over frames) or they are simply uncomfortable. In the case of the Optoma HD33, not only did the 3D came to life and impress my children, but they loved wearing the glasses. Any parent that has ever tried to get a nine and five-year-old to sit still for an entire movie, let alone a movie where they have to wear 3D glasses understands that this is no small feat. However, my kids were so comfortable with the 3D image and wearing the glasses that they actually watched the 3D versions of Rio and Tangled back-to-back with nary a peep. I think it was at that point when I realized that the HD33 and its glasses were something special.
When I was finally allowed to watch the 3D, I was amazed at how well the HD33 presented the 3D movies I had on hand. I had seen Tangled in the theater not in 3D, but when I watched it on the HD33, I was blown away with how much depth and realism was added to the movie. The same went for Rio, as the movie literally popped off the screen at me. In addition, I was able to take in Tron Legacy and once again was surprised at how much the viewing experience was enhanced by the 3D. I think Sean Cahill; one of our GamingNexus reviewers said it best: “Tron Legacy was also worth the experience as the 3D was very crisp. It felt very realistic.“
For the amount of money that 3D televisions are still commanding, you won’t find a much better value for your dollar (or per inch!) than what the HD33 can deliver. As for the 3D video performance (much like we will see later in the 3D gaming review), the HD33 was more than just excellent, as it helped convert myself and a few of my GamingNexus co-workers into believers the 3D home viewing experience.
Game play reviews of the Optoma HD33 took on a new layer with the 3D capabilities the projector offers. I will touch more on 3D below, but what about just your regular old big screen gaming? I decided to hit up games on both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 for this review. I will touch on the 3D gaming in a separate section, but my impression of the HD33 as a gaming projector can be summed up by saying “Outstanding!”
I spent quite a bit of time with a couple of newer titles geared toward kids with Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures and Disney Universe. Both of these action-adventure titles looked beautiful on the screen with their bright colors and use of depth. The HD33 easily handled the action and funky physics that tend to be found in these types of games. The details were also impressive, such as wood grain of the ship and the water in the Pirates of the Caribbean level of Disney Universe.
Despite putting in time with other games, Call of Duty: Black Ops was my primary review game for the HD33, as I know it provides a challenge for any projector. I picked the campaign back up in Kowloon City (Numbers chapter) and made my way through the rooftops and dark alleys. The HD33 did an excellent job of rendering all of the action while preserving the details of the level. The mist, rain and constant light into dark conversion were handled beautifully by the projector. I was also able to catch sight of the Spetsnaz from a farther distance away due to the screen size and detail, which helped me clear the area faster. I was pleased with how well the projector handled the transition scenes from light to dark as well as when major explosions hit. The images were very crisp with zero tearing and no lag from controller to screen. I think this is testament to the Texas Instruments 1080p DLP chip and 120Hz refresh.
With over 10 projector reviews under my belt, I believe it is prudent to go back and compare the performance of older games from previous reviews against what the current hardware is giving me. So after some extended playing time with The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Red Dead Redemption, Rock Band 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, I think the Optoma HD33 has been my most favorite projector to game on so far. The advancements in technology and the amount of quality, performance and inputs for your dollar make this hard to beat for best gaming projector.
3D Game Play Tests
As a disclaimer, 3D gaming (like quality of graphics) on any projector or TV is only as good as the 3D technology the developers have infused into the game code. Having said that, the 3D enabled PlayStation 3 games that were used for review definitely had varying levels of 3D technology coded into them. You can tell developers are still feeling their way through the 3D revolution, as games we reviewed went from small impact (MLB The Show 11) to full blown awesomeness (Super Stardust HD and MotorStorm), but all titles had some sort of additional depth and enhanced gameplay.
As mentioned, the game that looked the most awesome in 3D on the Optoma HD33 was Super Stardust HD. The game just popped off the screen at you and the depth was amazing. I originally saw the game (prior to release) in Sony’s booth at the 2010 CES. At the time, I thought it looked pretty good, but that was on a 32” 3D screen in a cramped booth. You cannot imagine what it looks like in 3D on a full 92” screen, but it is simply amazing. I can only hope that as the technology continues to evolve and that developers are able to infuse the quality of 3D graphics further into the major game releases.
As for other games in 3D, MotorStorm Apocalypse was a close second and easily the best of the retail titles. As GamingNexus staffer Russell Archey put it, “Super Stardust HD reminded me of Geometry Wars and looked pretty good in 3D, but when I checked out MotorStorm Apocalypse, I was blown away by how good the 3D looked.” I personally thought the 3D effects were excellent, including how the terrain came into play. I was not as keen on MLB The Show 11, as it didn’t appear that the 3D effects altered the game that much. The depth wasn’t significantly better, and other than a fastball coming into your wheelhouse, I wasn’t overly impressed. Again, this is due to the developers infusing 3D into the code of the game and not how the projector handles it.
After spending many hours gaming in 3D, I must say that I am officially converted from a pessimist to a true-believer. The reason is the Optoma HD33, and not because it renders superb 3D images. It is due to the complete 3D experience that the HD33 offers including the image, performance and 3D glasses technology.
Miscellaneous Items of Note
• Extremely Quiet Operation
• Easy ceiling mount pattern
• Manual focus
• Ships with only one set of 3D glasses
Items utilized in the testing of the Optoma HD33 included, but not limited to:
Xbox 360 Elite, PlayStation 3, DirecTV HD, 16:9 92” Da-Lite fixed screen.
Testing was done at a throw distance of nine from a 92” 16:9 screen with a tabletop install location (approx 3.5 feet off the floor.) Seating was at a distance of nine feet from the screen.
The Optoma HD33 did a lot more than exceed my expectations for what I should expect from a projector that costs $1,499. The HD33 (and its stellar RF Glasses) actually converted me from a skeptic into a believer in 3D technology for both gaming and video. The projector offers both gamers and home theater enthusiast’s excellent performance, ease of use and all the inputs they crave rolled up in one classy little white chassis. If you are looking for a projector for any reason, including 3D capabilities, I would recommend the Optoma HD33 as a must-have.