Most really, really cheap – as in, under £700 – projectors are designed for a life of Powerpoint presentations or school classrooms, and are often terrible at playing films.
Inevitably, then, the home cinema buff in us wasn’t expecting much from Optoma’s £550 GameTime GT-7000 – especially as the GameTime bit of its name immediately suggests an exclusive console game focus.
But a few movies down the line, we’ve actually come away from the GT-7000 feeling quietly impressed.
Breaking the sound barrier
The GT-7000 is remarkably small for a fully functioning DLP projector; not quite pocket-sized, but certainly a doddle to stuff into the small rucksack Optoma provides in the box.
That’s just the start of its portability, too. Uniquely, it also ships with a separate set of 2.1 speakers, finished in the same colour as the projector and tiny enough to share the same rucksack.
The provision of these iPod-esque speakers is significant because it immediately solves the problem you usually get with portable projectors of how to conjure up audio to accompany the pictures you’re projecting onto a friend’s living room wall.
Some portable projectors have speakers built into their bodies, but this leaves the sound considerably dislocated from the pictures. So being able to put the GT-7000’s external speakers right under the picture, or at least somewhere near it, is an exceptionally elegant solution.
As well as offering an unusually thoughtful package, the GT-7000 has some surprisingly impressive specifications up its sleeve. It’s got an HD-Ready resolution of 1280x720, for starters – by no means a given at the GT-7000’s price level.
Plus it boasts a contrast ratio of 4000:1 that makes the contrast ratio figures of any similarly affordable rival look pathetic by comparison.
Its connections thankfully include an HDMI, alongside the anticipated component video and D-Sub PC inputs. And it’s pleasant to set up, too, thanks to such unexpected bonuses such as a fair amount of optical zoom, Texas Instruments’ BrilliantColour processor for boosting colour vibrancy, various Degamma settings, and even a degree of colour management.
Games are not the only fruit
Despite its apparent mere gaming ambitions, the GT-7000 is actually surprisingly effective with films too. The main reason for this is that it is far more capable of producing a believable black colour than any similarly cheap machine, so that dark movie scenes look credible and dynamic.
The GT-7000 also makes the most of its HD Ready resolution, reproducing Blu-ray films and HD console/PC games with terrific sharpness and detail. Its colours are vibrant yet mostly believable as well, and its high native resolution ensures that colour blends are likeably subtle.
While the GT-7000 definitely comes to life with HD, especially an HD game, it isn’t by any means the disaster with standard definition sources we’d anticipated.
We’ve seen sharper standard def pictures from costlier projectors, certainly, but for the money the GT-7000’s relative freedom from noise and colour tone glitches makes its standard def performance more than good enough.
Inevitably, though, the GT-7000 isn’t perfect. Its pictures aren’t particularly bright, for starters. Also, we detected the ‘rainbow effect’: flashes of red, green and blue stripes over really bright image elements caused by the single-chip DLP technology’s colour wheel system.
If you’re forced to site the projector near your seating position, meanwhile, you might be distracted during quiet game or movie moments by the hefty amount of fan-cooling noise the GT-7000 churns out. We were a little disconcerted, too, by how hot the GT-7000 still gets despite the noisy fans.
Sound worth a pound
Our last moan about the GT-7000 is that its speaker system is really pretty feeble. There’s precious little bass, nowhere near enough volume to produce a sound comparable in size to the king-sized pictures on show, and finally lots of distortion tends to set in when the going gets tough.
Probably the best thing we can say about the GT-7000’s audio is that it’s better than nothing. Just.