The HD36 pulls off the impressive trick of managing to look simultaneously serious and fun. It’s surprisingly beefy for such an affordable machine, possessing both more height and more depth than we’d typically expect – all promising signs of quality innards, efficient venting systems and, potentially, plenty of shielding to suppress running noise.
The HD36 is impressively straightforward to get up and running. For starters it offers a very respectable 1.5x amount of optical zoom, and its manual zoom and focus ring adjustments run smoothly and offer a decent amount of finesse. Even better, it offers optical vertical image shifting via an adjustor housed under a flap on the projector’s top side.
Where picture calibration is concerned the Optoma HD36 again has plenty going on, including a noise reduction system, the Texas Instruments Brilliant Colour system for boosting colour saturations, and even a pretty fulsome colour management suite offering control over the hue, saturation and gain adjustments for the red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow colour components.
The HD36 uses its light so intelligently that you get the positives of a bright light source with few of the potential downsides.
This can be seen most clearly when watching dark scenes. For starters, the overt grey ‘wash’ over dark pictures we’ve become accustomed to seeing with very bright but affordable projectors is surprisingly restrained on the HD36, even if you’re watching in a completely blacked-out room. This is especially true of the Eco setting which still delivers ample brightness for a dark environment.
Thanks to the projector’s innate brightness, though, sitting right alongside the impressive black level response are some strong, natural colours and, best of all, quantities of shadow detail and greyscale finesse that you’d generally have to spend way more than £800 to see.
Yet more good news concerns the way the HD36 delivers really strong levels of sharpness with HD sources without over-egging the detail pudding. In other words, you get to see all the subtle texturing and image density that’s HD’s trademark without having to tolerate such issues as ringing around contrasty edges, over-emphasis of grain or obvious amounts of green dotting noise in dark areas of the sort DLP projection can sometimes create.
Colours, meanwhile, enjoy unusually high levels of pop for this level of the market. What’s more, the projector is subtle enough with its colour rendering to deliver tricky blends and skin tones without them looking stripey or patchy. And, because the projector is so good at delivering good brightness without destroying black level response, colours in dark scenes avoid that flatness and reduced naturalism usually seen with affordable high-brightness projectors.
One final key strength of the Optoma HD36’s pictures is the way they can also be adapted pretty handily to work in fairly bright room environments. This makes the projector as effective for a social afternoon watching the big match as it is for night-time movie sessions.