The last time I used a projector it was to mirror a screen onto a wall for a presentation. It was fairly small, dim, and less impressive than you’d expect. I remember getting inspiration and trying to hook it up to my laptop in off time to try and get a big screen TV experience from iPlayer and being less than impressed with the result.
Fast forward 10 years to 2016 and things have come a long way. Projectors range from the almost pocketable that work in the dark from a few feet to the huge and stationary that can almost rival a cinema in the right circumstances.
The HD36 falls somewhere in between these two extremes. Technically it’s portable and you could pack it in hand luggage (just!) but you’d more usually have it in just one or possibly two places.
So what does it offer under the hood? The first two things that catch your attention are how bright it is, even in daylight and how surprisingly sharp the image is. After unpacking my review unit I had to spend quite a while rearranging furniture to find a proper place for it to live. It needs at least a three or four meter throw dead on to a white wall and my small office wasn’t the best for it. With a rearrangement the living room soon resembled a cinema and at my daughters request Batman was soon near life size on our wall.
We experimented and soon discovered we were limited in the size of the screen not by the HD36’s lamp but by the fact that to get the bigger screens you need up to a 10 metre throw – not easy to find in the average suburban household. The zoom and focus are simple to use but while you can adjust the perspective slightly you need to be near dead on to the wall to avoid a skewed keystone perspective.
So what can you project? The HD36 has several modes and claims to support gaming as well as 3d. Normal TV is straightforward – plug in almost any HDMI source and once it’s found the right resolution it will just work. Gaming is almost as simple – to get best results you need to switch modes which reduces – if not quite stopping – tearing making the result comparable with a mid-range gaming monitor if much larger than the average. Use of the 3d requires both a correct input source and active shutter glasses like these but if you like 3D it’s good quality and again the size makes it impressive.
As an extra the HD36 has a 30 Watt speaker built in that gives you the opportunity to setup without a built in speaker system. I was a little disappointed in its quality particularly at high volumes and it does have the problem that the sound always seems separate from the pictures but it’s a good value add and give you much more flexibility.
Price:£729 (£608 exc Vat)
Included in the box: AC power cord, remote control, 2 x AA Batteries, quick state guide.
Paid Extras: Active Sync 3D glasses, 3d transmitter.
Retailer: Costco +:
Optoma is a multinational that specializes in projectors and the audio accompaniments for business, educational, professional and home system. Most of their systems use DLP technology licensed from Texas Instruments which is resistant to degradation over time.
They have a number of environmental policies, including recylability of the products, packaging and perhaps most importantly energy efficiency.
Certification: Green Mark (minimal toxic chemicals in construction)
Projectors are a high energy way of showing content – turn the HD36 on and it almost immediately starts up its fans as it’s bright light’s generate heat and this makes a fair amount of noise.
I ran the HD36 for an hour streaming video from Youtube and at the end of that time it was making 35dB consistent fan noise. If you are very sensitive to noise a projector is unlikely to be ideal for you.
The HD36’s controls are large and easy to click and most are reproduced both on the IR remote and on top of the unit. Adjusting the angle is done by twisting the three feet which is not the most straightforward system but is very solid and stable when you’re done.
One final thing – by its very nature the HD36 has an extremely bright light which can change very quickly – if you get migraines or seizures induced by strobes then this is not for you.
A projector is not often the cheapest way to get a mid size screen but when you start getting to the largest it can produce it begins to be come sensible. We had the HD36 setup with a 82″ screen (although it goes much larger). The most economic even vaguely similarly sized screen I could find was almost £1000 for a flat panel 65″ screen.
The model lines up very well with other projectors in terms of cost – neither the most expensive or the cheapest and is notable for its flexibility.
Product dimensions: 38 x 28 x 16 cm
Item Weight: 4.5kg
Angle adjustment: Plus or minus 40 degrees
Colour: Black / grey
Connectors In: HDMI 1.4a with 3D, DVI-D, VGA x2, S-Video, Composite, 3.5mm Audio in, RCA Audio in.
Connectors Out: 3.5mm Audio out, VGA Out, RS232, 3D Sync
Other connectors: USB A Power socket (for chromecast or equivlient)
Projection size: 0.76 – 7.67m (30″ – 300″) Diagonal 16:9
Projection distance: 1.2m – 10m
3D Support: Yes.
Resolution: 1080p 1920 x 1080
Aspect ratio: 16:9 Native, 4:3 compatable
Brightness 3000 Lumens
Contrast 30,000 – 1
Lamp life: 2500 – 4000 hours depending on mode
Speaker wattage: 30Watts
Lens: F/2.42~2.98; f=20.77~31.173mm, 1.5x Manual Zoom
Full manufacturer specs here
The HD36 is a projector but like a does not produce any content itself – it needs a media source. We tried it with a range of systems from direct connection to a PC, a Sky box, Tivo, DVD player, Xbox One, PS4, Chromecast and Fire Stick and it worked well for all of them once it had adjusted its resolution.
The second requirement is a large, smooth and preferably white wall or screen to project onto. We tried it on multiple surfaces and the most important factor seems to be how flat and smooth the wall is. You can use off white and less than smooth surfaces but you get significant degradation in the quality of your result. It’s also necessary to get the HD36 situated as close to dead on to the wall as possible.
The Optoma HD36 sells itself as a projector with great quality and a brighter lamp than you’d think possible. It delivers good color and brightness and is flexible enough to work in both darkened and lit rooms and the built in speaker adds more abilities although you’d probably want a separate speaker system in a permanent setup.
If you’re looking to outfit a media or gaming room and have the space the HD36 is nicely designed and impressive system and gives you more options and flexibility than the alternatives. Recommended.
The review is based on the Optoma HD36 kindly provided by Optoma
Click to read more about our eco icons and access icons used in this review. This article was first published on the 27th April 2016.