The Optoma HD28HDR gives away its claim to fame right in its pithy name: HDR. Unlike most economical projectors, it works together with high dynamic range video. With higher-end TVs HDR makes a major difference in image quality, but with projectors it’s a different story: Projectors lack the HDR-friendly hardware like OLED and full-array local dimming that may make HDR sources on TVs shine. This Optoma is pretty bright but its HDR compatibility doesn’t make it massively much better than the non-HDR competition.

Basic specs
Native resolution: 1,920×1,080
HDR-compatible: Yes
4K-compatible: Yes
3D-compatible: Yes
Lumens spec: 3,600
Zoom: Manual (1.1)
Lens shift: No
Lamp life (Normal mode): 6,000 hours
The HD28HDR can accept and display 4K sources but unlike the higher-end Optoma UHD60, it isn’t a genuine 4K projector. Among the HD28HDR’s HDMI inputs is HDMI 2.0 and will accept a 3,840×2,160 60Hz (4K) signal, however the most that’s ever displayed on screen is 1,920×1,080 (1080p). When you send this projector 4K, it’s discovered on screen as such, but you’re still only seeing HD.

Read more: TV resolution confusion: 1080p, 2K, UHD, 4K, 8K, and what each of them mean

Why allow 4K input but only display 1080p on-screen, you may ask? Technically you might have 1080p and even 720p resolution signals with HDR, but most streaming services and devices lump 4K and HDR together. The HD28HDR offers a cheaper way to get high dynamic range because it doesn’t have to use a 4K DLP chip.

If you are still into 3D, that’s here too, though no glasses are on the market on Optoma’s site. You will have to get some good third-party models from Amazon.

Optoma claims 3,600 lumens of brightness, and I measured around 1,500. It’s normal for a projector to measure less than its claimed numbers. For projectors of the price, this is a good result and creates an extremely bright image, albeit slightly dimmer compared to the Epson HC2150 and BenQ HT2050A.

As is normal with DLP projectors in this cost range, there is absolutely no lens shift. The BenQ is probably the few sub-$1,000 DLP projectors that does, as the Epson, an LCD projector, does aswell. The Optoma’s zoom range is quite limited, even by affordable projector standards. Both of these things mean the HD28HDR has limited placement options in comparison to projectors with a more substantial zoom range and/or lens shift, just like the BenQ and Epson.

Lamp life, in the standard mode, is a claimed 6,000 hours. In Eco mode this jumps up to an extraordinary 10,000 hours, though at a price of 30% of the brightness. Turning on the Dynamic Black feature expands this completely to 15,000 hours, or around a decade at 4 hours a day. In this mode the lamp brightness decreases with dark scenes. The fan speed varies with it, though this is not as noticeable much like the HD28HDR’s cheaper brother, the HD146X ($549 at Amazon).

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Connectivity and convenience
HDMI inputs: 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x HDMI 1.4
PC input: No
USB port: 1 (1.5A power)
Audio input and output: 3.5mm audio tracks out
Digital audio tracks output: No
LAN port: No
12v trigger: No
RS-232 remote port: No
Remote: Backlit
There are two HDMI inputs on the HD28HDR. One is HDMI 1.4, which covers you for just about any standard HD sources, or older 4K sources up to 30 Hz, you intend to connect. The other is HDMI 2.0 and will handle 4K sources. In an average home entertainment setup, where all of the sources tell you a receiver, there is no have to run two HDMI cables. HDMI 2.0 is backward compatible, which means that your HD sources will continue to work fine upon this input.

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The only other connection, apart from the 3.5mm audio tracks output, is USB. This perseverence a streaming stick such as a Roku or Amazon Fire ($50 at Amazon). There is absolutely no internal speaker, however.

The remote’s backlight is brighter than some projectors I’ve reviewed. Having a design shared across multiple Optoma projectors, there are input buttons here that are not on the HD28HDR itself.

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Picture quality comparisons
Overall the Optoma HD28HDR is slightly much better than the cheaper HD146X, because of its prowess with HDR, but I didn’t like its picture around the BenQ’s. The Epson, meanwhile scored the same in image quality as the HD28HDR but also for different reasons.

As usual, I linked these projectors to a Monoprice 1×4 distribution amplifier that gave each one the same source, and compared everything on a 102-inch 1.0-gain screen.

The Epson is an effective projector, specifically for viewers who dislike DLP’s rainbow effect. Its performance lags somewhat behind the BenQ, therefore i finished up looking at it significantly less than others. The face-off gets narrowed down by one.

That leaves us three DLP-based units. Externally the HD146X appears like a virtual twin to the HD28HDR. The casing is glossy black rather than glossy white, but is evidently the same design otherwise. Inside is a different story, however, resulting in different performance. The BenQ is constantly our benchmark, since it includes a great contrast ratio for the purchase price and fairly accurate colors.

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When viewing standard HD video, aka not HDR, I saw hardly any difference between your HD28HDR and the HD146X. I believe a lot of people, viewing the images created by both on a single screen, would assume these were the same projector. Perhaps with a few settings moved one tick in a single direction or another. As the 28HDR has a slightly higher contrast ratio, it isn’t particularly noticeable. Their color accuracy, such as for example it is, is comparable as well.

The BenQ does look much better than both Optomas, though not as much as the numbers suggest. Its contrast ratio is practically 3 times greater than the HD28HDR, which adds a lttle bit more depth to the image. It looks just a little less washed out. Having said that, it isn’t as big a notable difference as you’d expect. More noticeable will be the BenQ’s richer, more accurate colors, especially green. The HD28HDR includes a fairly muted green, and it’s really particularly noticeable when side-by-side with something with an increase of accurate colors. On the BenQ, The Incredible Hulk looks a lttle bit more incredible, if you will.

Considering that the BenQ is merely slightly more costly, while also being quieter, with an improved zoom and the as lens shift, it appears such as a slam dunk winner over the HD28HDR. However…

The HDR wild card
The above setup put all of the projectors on a single level playing field, showing the actual same content on all. To check HDR I linked another streaming adhere to the 28HDR and left others linked to the same SDR source. This setup i want to play the HDR version of a movie on the 28HDR and the SDR version on the other projectors. It took some fiddling, but I could get the sync between the several feeds close enough that it wasn’t annoying.

At this point I have to have a step back and make clear something about HDR. You can read more about any of it in What’s HDR for TVs, and just why should you care? and just why you mustn’t expect great HDR from a projector, however the short version is, budget projectors, even those as bright as the HD28HDR, are unable to reproduce HDR like modern TVs can. They have neither the light output, the dynamic range, nor the colors for wide color gamut content. So they must remap the HDR signal in ways so that it looks acceptable, without completely ignoring the excess HDR info.

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A projector that is in a position to read and readjust HDR content could, theoretically, look much better than a projector that can’t. It will not look as effective as a TV which has actual HDR-friendly performance but feeding it “better” content could yet lead to a far more compelling image. I believe you can view where I am going with this.

Without other changes apart from an HDR version of the signal, the HD28HDR looks noticeably much better than the HD146X, and eventually ends up giving the BenQ a run because of its money. How is this possible? Well, the dissimilarities remain subtle, but again, viewing them side-by-side reveals them.

The brightness, dynamic range, and colors of the projector haven’t changed, it’s the way the content will be able to better use that same performance. Think about it such as a professional driver on offer a racetrack in your vehicle. You’ll have a blast clocking in an enjoyable experience, but regardless of how you did, Lewis Hamilton can get an improved amount of time in the same car.

With Thor: Ragnarok, such dissimilarities are simple to choose, given the lavish sets and broad fantastical colors. There is greater detail in bright objects, like clouds. Exactly what is a flat white on, say, the BenQ, has detail/texture plus some color on the HD28HDR. Brighter colors are more saturated. As the black bars above and below the screen reveal that the BenQ includes a lower black level, and by extension, an improved contrast ratio, the image itself looks a lot more similar than you’d expect. As the issue with a weak green remains, other colors, especially brighter ones, look better and richer on the HD28HDR.

Conclusion: HDR-ish
This is an account of two projectors, trapped inside same small case. Fed standard SDR content, the HD28HDR’s fairly average contrast ratio and colors are fine, nonetheless they don’t make it stick out. Fed HDR content, it’s a different story. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in the event that you will. As the HD28HDR can’t do practically as much with HDR content as a far more capable projector, it isn’t doing nothing, as they say. It’s doing the very best using what it has — and looking better for this. Punching above its weight and looking quite good.

That said… the difference continues to be fairly slight. With HDR content, I’d put the HD28HDR very slightly above the BenQ HT2050A, though they have completely different strengths and weaknesses. With SDR content, that’s, almost all what you will be watching, the BenQ looks better. Not really a large amount, but enough. The BenQ, using its greater zoom range and lens shift, may also fit better in a lot more homes compared to the HD28HDR. So I’d lean that method for most people, however the HD28HDR is a good alternative, particularly if you watch predominantly HDR content.