The Optoma's relatively low 854x480 pixel count means some screen-door effect can be seen at close distances. It's not noticeable, at least for me, from 16' away from the screen, where I normally sit. That's more than four picture heights away from a 72" wide 16:9 screen, and I'd recommend trying to maintain a full four-picture-height distance to keep the pixel structure invisible from your viewing position. The low pixel count also means that it's a relatively easy task for the H31 to process legacy NTSC video and DVD widescreen video without vertical scaling. Comcast digital cable HD fare (most of it 720p) looked fine via component- video inputs, but the H31 seems intentionally designed for DVD, especially when you examine its deinterlacing performance.
Using Arcam's FMJ DV29 DVD player (admittedly overkill at $3k, fully twice the Optoma's retail price) as a source in Video Editor Shane Buettner's system, first via HDMI/DVI breakout, then via component video, gave us eye-popping insight into how good this little projector really is. With known video-based deinterlacing torture tests the Arcam was only so-so. The red-and-white stripes on the waving American flag showed considerable— I would say "objectionable"— amounts of jaggies and stair-stepping using the Arcam's progressive output. Putting the Arcam into interlaced mode and letting the Optoma do the deinterlacing was a whole different story: not a hint of artifacts with even the most torturous of the video-based torture tests. The flag waved just as it might when seen in real life with the naked eye. "Astounding . . . absolutely superb," Shane muttered, "Especially at this price and allegedly without one of the marquee-brand deinterlacers." The Optoma's ability to lock onto moving objects with minimal artifacts was very impressive.
Something else was wrong with the flag, however. Its red stripes weren't nearly as rich as they should have been. I had noticed from my first experiments with the H31 that red always seemed a tad off. Rain Man [MGM] didn't look nearly as warm as I had remembered, and ABC's hit show Desperate Housewives looked some-what anemic compared to my Panasonic plasma monitor. All was revealed with color bars. The Optoma's yellow is slightly ochre, its blue slightly aqua, but neither to such an extent that they significantly affect the overall color balance. Its red, however, looks decidedly orange. The opening production number in Moulin Rouge [20th Century Fox] is predominantly red—the set's lighting is reddish, Jim Broadbent's face is ruddy, and his jacket is crimson. With the H31, it's orange. Old Glory looks more like faded glory.
Color accuracy, however, isn't likely to be a deal-breaker for most folks shopping for a projector in this price range. I wasn't bothered during the review period by color separation artifacts or "rainbows," although every time we sat down to watch something together my wife Robyn complained of feeling a headache coming on after about 30 minutes of viewing. I never felt any ill effects. I'm not the world's most sensitive guy, but I have felt queasy a couple of times after watching films on much more expensive DLP projectors. Potential buyers of DLP projectors need to be aware that they may have unpleasant reactions to color-wheel colors. Make sure your dealer has a reasonable return policy.
With the Optoma H31, all you need for home theater is a DVD player, a screen (a blank wall might be fine), and a decent audio system. It's small enough to tuck away on a bookshelf or in a closet when not in use, light enough to take anywhere, and easy to set up once you get familiar with it. Most movie fans—as opposed to nitpicking perfectionists—would be delighted with this projector. With brightness and contrast properly adjusted, it can dazzle, showing excellent blacks and revealing details in the shadows. Widely distributed, the H31 has a rather elastic price tag. Comparing prices on some of the many dealer sites linked to Optoma's Web site, I found one selling the H31 with a screen for $1089. At its suggested list price, it's a pretty serious bargain. Massively discounted, it's an absolute steal.