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Hands-on Gear Review

Optoma HD26 Review

Price:   $1,900 List | $799.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Good image quality, full HD
Cons:  Weak zoom, can be expensive if not on sale
Bottom line:  Reasonable image quality and a fairly quiet fan, can function well in a home theater setting, but there are better options out there
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Optoma

Our Verdict

The HD26 is a souped up version of the Optoma HD141X with a lamp that is reported to be brighter and produce a better contrast ratio. We did find it to produce better image quality than its sibling, but it still fell short of the top models. It is slightly brighter than other high definition models, but still not well suited for projecting in ambient light situations. The HD26 has a very high list price, but is often available for much much cheaper. If you find a good sale it can be a fairly inexpensive high definition home theater option. Otherwise there are other home theater models that offer much better value.

New Version Update - November 2016
The Optoma HD26 has been updated. Keep reading to find out more.


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Excellent image quality and a whisper quiet fan, a fantastic home theater option
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Solid image quality and a decently quiet fan, a good home theater option
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Top Pick Award
Perfect business presentations, particularly if you want something that you can travel with
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$600
Great for projecting HD images in a lit room, if you can get over the fan noise
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Reasonable image quality and a fairly quiet fan, can function well in a home theater setting, but there are better options out there
57
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Best Buy Award
Perfect portable option for presentations where high resolution is not a priority
51
$1,200
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47
$340
Lacks portability of other bright, low resolution models
47
$360
Good if you value portability and brightness over image quality

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter


Last Updated:
Tuesday
October 25, 2016

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The HD26 vs. The new HD27


While the HD26 is still widely available, Optoma recently released its apparent successor, the HD27. All of the major specifications are identical between these two models, with the only minor difference being that the HD27 has a maximum projected image size of 305.3" compared to the HD26's 300". The HD27 Also adds an eco mode that claims to extend the lamp life 1500 hours, though in our experience eco modes tend to diminish picture quality. The major difference is the form factor. The HD27 (pictured below, right) adopts a slightly lighter, more compact body, eschewing the curves of the HD26 (pictured below, left). After an in depth review of the HD27's specifications, we believe these two products will perform very similarly.

 

Performance Comparison


The graph below shows how the Optoma HD26 fared in our testing (in blue) compared to the other models we bought and tested.


Below we expound upon the HD26's specific performance in each of our individual tests.

Image Quality


The HD26 earned a image quality score of 6 in our testing. This made it the best of the rest, falling just behind the top scorers that received 7's and 8's, but well ahead of the low score of 3. In our testing the black levels of the HD26 proved to be quite good. This made scenes of all brightness levels have good depth and vibrancy. The HD26 lost points due to its issues with the color red. It tended to imbue many scenes with a slight red tint. This made the colors in some scenes look odd, and made faces look flushed. After watching this for a while your brain tends to adjust and correct for the oversaturation of red. However, that tint was always clear and present in our side by side comparisons. This is what excluded the HD26 from the top rung of scores. The 1080p resolution made everything sharp and crisp, and easily produced high quality text and graphics.

The HD26 added a red tint to most scenes. in this image it is apparent on the solar panels in the lower right and the capsule body in the upper left.
The HD26 added a red tint to most scenes. in this image it is apparent on the solar panels in the lower right and the capsule body in the upper left.

Ease of Use


As they share the same body and remote control, ease of use is identical on the HD26 and the HD141X. Both received an average score of 6 on our ease of use testing, a metric that saw tightly packed scores ranging only from 5 to 7. At 5.5 pounds the HD26 can be carried around, but it's not the most portable of models. The HD26 has three legs that are all adjustable via a screw mechanism. The threads on the screws are relatively small, so you need to do a lot of turning to to get the legs to extend at all. The focus and zoom knobs aren't the most durable feeling, but they have a smooth action and can easily be adjusted in small increments. You have to access the knobs through narrow channels, forcing one fingered operation. The zoom is somewhat lackluster at 1.1X, which lends less flexibility than many other models.

The HD26 &#40;left&#41; shares the same front leg as its little brother  the HD141X &#40;right&#41;. It takes a lot of unscrewing to get it to your desired height.
The HD26 (left) shares the same front leg as its little brother, the HD141X (right). It takes a lot of unscrewing to get it to your desired height.

The HD26's remote is well designed and easy to use. A dedicated keystone correction button makes it easy to adjust the vertical keystone setting. Dedicated buttons for each input also make it easy to switch between your blu ray and gaming console. The buttons on the remote are all backlit with a bright blue light. We found the light to be a bit harsh for a dark home theater. Though this probably isn't an issue as you'll mostly be using your blu ray remote rather than the projector remote during movie marathons.

Brightness


We measured the HD26's brightness at 1818 lumens. This was well short of the manufacturer's claim of 3200 lumens. In case you're keeping score, that the biggest disparity we encountered between the manufacturer's claim and our own measurement. This earned the HD26 a score of 5 in our brightness test, just above the bottom score of 4 but well behind the top score of 9. This brightness allowed the HD26 to perform decently in a presentation setting, but it certainly wasn't great. White areas in text pages looked slightly blue when projected in a bright room, and the colors in graphs looked slightly faded.

The HD26 produced decent whites when in a well lit room  but was nowhere close to the PJD7720HD.
The HD26 produced decent whites when in a well lit room, but was nowhere close to the PJD7720HD.

Fan Noise


The HD26 received a 5 in our fan noise testing. This made it the median in a metric that had scores between 2 and 9. The fan is noticeable when it accelerates, but is not terribly annoying. Most people probably wouldn't notice it, but if you're especially sensitive to sound you'll want to upgrade to the BenQ HT2050.

Value


The HD26 lists for $1900, which is astronomically high and there is no way you should pay that much money for this projector. However, at the time of this writing many retailers are selling the HD26 for nearly a third the cost. At this price the HD26 is a decent value considering its 1080p resolution and respectable image quality. However, for less than $100 more you can get better image quality and a slightly quieter fan in the Epson Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 2040. If you don't mind a louder fan the ViewSonic PJD7720 offers better image quality and brightness for more than $100 less.


Conclusion


The HD26 offers reasonable image quality and high definition resolution at a reasonable street price. However, there are other options out there that outperform the HD26 as a budget HD model.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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Unbiased.