I did a double-take when the Optoma HD28DSE arrived. My first thought was: “It looks the same as before, did they send the right projector?”
When we tested their previous GT1080 model some time ago, I thought of it as an instantaneous multimedia party favor and a nod to their venerable “GameTime” namesake. It was a pretty good pick at the time being travel-friendly, image quality that wasn’t too fuzzy out of the box, and generally easy to live with. So knowing all of this why should anybody choose the HD28DSE? Is it really that much of an upgrade?
First off, it looks nearly identical to the GT1080 and HD26 in that it’s draped in white gloss, has a rectangular shape, and a wraparound grated appearance that accentuates the vent inlets and outlet for circulation. The top is where you’ll find a simple control panel at the base and dials near the front, only now there’s the ability for manual zoom to finally compensate for the lack of a real short throw lens. The connectivity also remains with two HDMI ports (one includes MHL), mini-USB, audio output, 3D-sync output (for RF active-shutter glasses), 12V trigger, and a newly added USB port (5V powered). Admittedly, the HD28DSE tries to gear itself towards Blu-ray players and home theater builds.
The carryover exterior doesn’t bother us much because they actually brought small improvements to the package, but the acoustics and remote are still unflattering throwbacks. I’m not even kidding when I say that the clicker Optoma supplied has been woefully antiquated long before this review, and yet, here it is again with only a few logical buttons and source selection options that don’t even exist on the HD28DSE. Despite my criticism of the 10-watt speaker it does fare adequately when you regulate it to small rooms, otherwise get some external PC speakers or dedicated surround sound. Optoma even left out that awesome carrying bag we’ve grown fond of, either they assume you have a backpack of your own or they frown upon you taking this over a friend’s house.
So what’s the big deal? Well, the HD28DSE’s advertised claim to fame is the use of DarbeeVision technology, an optional processing sub-feature that increases specific contrast and detail definition/separation attributes beyond the maximum resolution; this technology is largely present in enthusiast-grade products such as Oppo Blu-ray players and expensive Wolf Cinema video scalers. In a nutshell these picture enhancement that can be activated at will with varying degrees 0% to 120%, similar to other frame interpolation options like Epson’s Super Resolution seen in their PowerLite 3600e Projector.
Optoma has it pre-enabled at 80% and we instantly noticed some unintended consequences that actually made the picture look more distracting than attractive – things initially didn’t look right to us. At higher settings (70% and above) noise-like artifacts can appear, making things look artificial and overprocessed for standard film and TV shows. The method is far from perfect here but things can be improved a bit by turning it down to moderate levels or simply leaving it off entirely. We found adjusting DarbeeVision down to 50% yielded an acceptable compromise of additional detail without overdriving the picture, and games which typically embrace visual abundance like Forza Motorsport 6 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain got the proper notch we were hoping for.
We also suspected and confirmed that most of the regular options have migrated over from the GT1080 as well, which should immediately equate to an engaging image before the augmentations. Surely enough, the brightness of 3000 lumens and contrast details are generally controlled for broad shades than delicate gradients into blacks, and hues are plentiful but should be adjusted to correct its preference to cooler tints. Of course we still recommend that you disable BrilliantColor aids and at the very least experiment with the supplied presets to start off (Cinema, Reference, Game, Vivid, Bright, and User – or custom). Purists will definitely want to turn off Dynamic Black and reduce the level of exaggerated tweaks for brightness uniformity, and then start fiddling around with things for an almost natural picture; for Optoma entertainment projectors as a whole, this is almost a perquisite step for videophiles.
For the niceties, input lag does drag behind the GT1080 at 55ms (milliseconds) which is higher than expected regardless of DarbeeVision. We were expecting the HD28DSE to match its cousin in numbers but this is the consistent average we got, an unusual difference that lean a little towards movies than all-out gaming display. DLP-Link Stereoscopic 3D works excellently and will automatically kick in with compatible material, however, you’ll still need to pony up on the eyewear yourself.
With the Optoma HD28DSE DLP Projector the inclusion of Darbee Visual Presence technology is paved with good intentions. But the results are a bit too abrasive in quality for discerning videophiles, although the improvements in clarity and sharpness are noticeably better after dialing everything back for desirable effect. Even without the enhancements or any serious configuration time, the HD28DSE works magnificently as an entertainment DLP, if only just shy of being a real standout among the scores of committed home theater projectors.