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Themescene HD80 review

The diminutive HD80 offers a killer blend of high resolution and high value, packing a lot of pixels for not much cash

Although two grand is a fair chunk of money by anyone’s standards, it’s actually a bargain when the cash in question buys you a ThemeScene HD80 projector. For £2000, this 1920x1080p Full HD design is remarkable value: you simply cannot find another DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector for this sort of money that offers similarly high resolution.

True, we’ve pointed out enough times that resolution alone doesn’t guarantee a good picture, but the HD80 has what it takes in other areas, too. It’s small, quiet, and largely bang on the money in spec terms.

For example, it’s equipped with a seven-segment colour wheel for adding richness and purity to colours, and while it might not pack buzzword features like BrilliantColor image processing or HQV video processing, it’s still more than adequately furnished with image-processing tech. You’ll also find a decent array of inputs, including twin HDMI 1.3a-compatible inputs suitable for 1080p video sent at 24 frames-per-second.

Permanent install required

Downsides are easy to explain. Unlike some price rivals, there’s no vertical lens shift, so this projector works best if you can permanently install it on a shelf or from the ceiling. If your plan is to plonk it down on a coffee table for occasional use, you might want to think again: setting up an even, rectangular projected image takes a bit of time.

You’ll also find that the HD80’s brightness levels aren’t that high: it really needs to be used in a properly darkened room to deliver the best results. That also influences the maximum image size on offer: the ThemeScene will theoretically project up to a 300in image, as will most projectors, but for optimum levels of brightness, about 108in (3.5m) is your max. If you want to view a larger picture – unlikely, but possible – you might want to think again: the similarly priced InFocus IN81 supports images of up to 4.5m wide, for example.

Sharp pictures

But those small caveats aside, we’ve no complaints. For what you’re paying, this is a terrific projector: its images are colourful, sharp and full of contrast, with real insight into darker scenes. It relays blacks well, ensures that skin tones are natural rather than artificially tinted, and even deals with rapid motion-shifts with confidence.

True, the upscaling is more ‘OK’ than ‘oh-wow’: feed the HD80 with DVD signals, and you can find some instability to edges and some shimmer to backgrounds, unless you’re using a good-quality upscaling player. But throw in proper hi-def, whether from disc, game or broadcaster, and you’ll be very, very happy indeed.


Stuff Says…

Score: 5/5