I'm looking forward to your review. I am also still using an LT240K that I would like to upgrade!
I wonder if this projector will improve contrast, brightness and black level, or is it just a resolution upgrade (over the 240K). Also, how is the noise level?
Well, I guess I am not the only one who skipped a few generations of projectors. I started out with a CRT projector in 1995, which I lived with happily for 9 years, and then upgraded to the NEC LT240K in 2004. That was a very nice projector for its price ($2000-2400) at the time. It was a business model with 1024x768 resolution, 2000 lumens (not ansi) and 2000:1 contrast (also not ansi). When you adjusted for better color in home theater, removing the white segment of the color wheel, it dropped the lumens by half. It still looked pretty bright. I have a room with lots of ambient light during the day (only three walls, can't really control it). I dalite high-power screen helped a lot.
So I have now upgraded to a 1080p Optoma HD20, which cost half what I paid for the NEC and is an astounding upgrade. I can't believe I was considering paying $500 for a new bulb for the NEC! After seeing the new picture my wife was high-fiving me--and she is not that particular or interested in A/V things, preferring generally to watch a small screen in the bedroom. To the author of the above quote--order one of these right away, you won't regret it! The NEC can make a nice spare, with its nice carrying case.
I'll detail some of my thoughts, from having spent a couple evenings with the HD20. I am comparing it necessarily to my previous projector, so I should say that over the years the NEC seemed to get dimmer and more wash-out looking. I went through three bulbs. I don't think they really lasted the 2-3000 hours they said they should. I found them dimming by 1000 hours. I also found the color wheel would start to get grime on it. I would swab the color wheel, but could only reach the side closest to the bulb (without disassembling the whole projector, which I never did). In recent months I found the picture difficult to watch, with very poor blacks, lots of light leakage, mediocre colors. I know a new bulb would have made lots of difference--it had nearly 2000 hours on it--but I also know that last time I upgraded the bulb its effect was not what I had hoped.
With that context, plugging in the Optoma and firing it up was a relevation. I set it up with a very light room, the curtains open, sun shining in right onto the screen, and yet the picture looked fabulous. I was never able to get a bright high-contrast picture like that with the NEC even when new. This screen is very watchable at pretty much any light level. Of course it is even better in a very dark room, but the brightness overall is great. Although I have a high-power screen, I don't feel a need to sit in the sweet spot--I can sit off to the side (as I am now). I also have an old 1.0 gain screen and shined it on that--still very bright. I think the brightness is great on any screen.
I have had bright mode off mostly, although when there is a lot of light in the room it provides a useful additional punch. A very nice feature is that you can change this from a button on the remote. The NEC required navigating setup menus to change this.
I found the calibration pretty good out of the box. I used the DVE disc, and found brightness and contrast settings to be very close to ideal. I switched to cinema mode, changed color temperature to medium (it defaults to warm). The color level starts out at 70--I adjusted that down to about 55 from the DVE calibration.
All these picture settings are good and easy enough to use. However I seem to find that they are always going back to defaults. I am not sure I just haven't been able to figure out how to save them, or that I am using different modes and each mode has different settings. I am hoping to resolve this, as it is so far my main complaint. The NEC was a more professional unit, with 4 different custom user setups, and it never forgot any settings you gave it. This unit doesn't seem to have anything like that. It's not a big deal to me--I don't mind checking settings before serious viewing. If others use it, they won't mess with settings and also won't probably care about PQ like I do. I also throw lots of different things at it--computer display, photographs, PS3, HD and SD TV. They tend to need different settings to look their best.
I am fortunate to also have a 1080p Samsung 23" monitor hooked up to my computer, with the computer feeding both devices. The monitor is calibrated using a Huey calibration device, which doesn't work on a projected image. I can compare the calibrated image on the monitor vs. the HD20 projected image. They are looking very close. The NEC image was so far off it was terrible. The monitor really showed up what it was missing. This includes color accuracy, color saturation, brightness, and black level details especially. The HD20 is very close to the Samsung in all those areas. However the HD20 image overall looks much, much better. Projected images have such a nice smooth look. The Samsung tends to need a lot of sharpening to keep text sharp, and has a lot of ringing artifacts when watching DVDs. DVDs look much better on the Optoma.
Blu-ray discs look amazing--I am now sold on Blu-ray! The PQ is better than any projected image I have ever seen (except maybe in a imax or a theater with dlp projection). The difference from DVD is very significant, and the sound just blows me away (I have a nice sound system).
Back to the original posters questions:
Yes, resolution is much better. If you were using the NEC at 16:9, you were getting 1024x576 pixels. I calculate the HD20 at 3.5x as many pixels--nearly double in both vertical and horizontal. This is huge. You have to get within about 6 inches of the screen to see pixels. I already talked about the brightness. Black levels are far improved--black detail is much much better. I used to have to really boost the black levels on the NEC or all black detail would be lost. Contrast is much better. I think the darkchip2 makes a big difference.
Also, we used to see rainbows (RBE) on the NEC. I sort of taught myself to see them, then taught myself not to see them, and moved on. My wife says she still notices them on the NEC. She cannot notice them at all on the HD20, and this was a big plus to her. She hadn't mentioned them in years, though--they hadn't bothered her that much. No guests who saw the NEC ever mentioned them. In any case, a much better color wheel. Eliminating the white segment is good also.
I have been playing blu-ray from a PS3, DVDs and HD satellite via component input (which I used with the NEC) and quality is great. I can see no improvement switching to HDMI, and the HDMI is a lot more slow and ugly when switching inputs. I have spoken with some local home theater installer friends, who advise to stick with component over HDMI if you already have your stuff wired that way. I think it bumps the Blu-ray down to 1080i instead of 1080p, but I cannot see a difference in picture quality. I guess that means the HD20 does a decent job of deinterlacing the signal.
Regarding physical positioning, I found I did not have to modify the distance of the projector to the screen from the NEC setup (it also had about a 1.5 throw ratio). The NEC is a 4:3 projector, but most material I watched used only part of the screen with 16:9. I plan to update the screen at some point. The only issue I ran into was with vertical offset. I have the projector mounted under a custom coffee table, on a shelf about six inches off the floor. The short vertical offset (about nine inches, for my 80 inch wide screen) was less than for the NEC. Also, since the bottom of the 16:9 screen is now lower than it was by anoth 6-8 inches (the NEC would center vertically on the 4:3 screen) I was off by a foot or more on projector height. I raised it six inches, but to go more would have required putting the projector on top of the table which I prefer not to do (more noise, more distraction, less table space).
I decided to experiment with the keystone and vertical image shift. I found I could tip the projector and compensate with keystone, as well as a bit of image shift, and get the screen position I wanted without any evident picture quality loss. To test, I used a computer image with lots of fine text in all areas of the screen, and could not see any blurring or issues with the text in any area of the screen. I would conclude from this that those that are worried about screen offset might find that the built-in functions can give them a reasonable solution.
Overall this is not as professional a system as the NEC--no carrying case, no presets, missing some features such as wireless and internet connection (which I never used). But for great picture quality with all sources--it completely blows away the NEC. There is simply no comparison. And I am comparing to how the NEC was when new (as I remember). It always had a bit of a green shift.
Watching movies on this thing is a great, exciting experience.