At one time, the requirements for meeting room and classroom projectors were often similar – a native 4:3 aspect ratio, XGA resolution (if the budget will stretch) and as many lumens as you can get. Today, for much the same price, end-users have the option of greater resolution, with 1080p Full HD an increasingly common offering, native 16:9 aspect ratio, and impressive brightness for the price.
The vast majority of projector sales to the corporate sector fall into the traditional XGA category, but there is a growing range of applications for which 1080p resolution is more appropriate. To make the point this review compares two models from the ViewSonic range, priced within £150 of each other and both significantly brighter than average.
The ViewSonic Pro8600 XGA (1024 x 768) DLP projector offers 6000 lumens of brightness, allowing us to conduct our tests in daylight and blackout blinds left open. BrilliantColor’s 5-segment colour (RGBWY) wheel is said to provide greater colour accuracy than standard DLP projectors with a 4-segment colour wheel. We had no difficulty in matching reference colour samples in the presentation materials used in our tests.
Our test programme used a variety of commonly used office and education materials and applications through the VGA, HDMI and USB interfaces, using a Lenovo laptop, Sharp Blu-Ray / DVD player and USB stick. Even with the limitations of the XGA resolution the spreadsheet material was clearly legible. Only when the type size was really cranked up using the manual zoom did the ‘jaggies’ appear on the characters.
Video material on DVD played back as well as you would expect with XGA, with shadow detail not bad at all, courtesy of the 15,000:1 contrast ratio. The only source that gave us concern was the USB option. Playback depends on the Ruby SDK Image Viewer which we failed to get working properly in the time available, but other reviewers have commented that the only file format that seems to work with the software is JPEG.
Overall, the is a projector that we would imagine many corporate users and teachers would like to have installed. The level of brightness allows end-users to use the projector in almost any lighting conditions. Set-up is easy: we used our Sahara projection trolley and had no problems achieving perfect positioning with the digital keystone adjustment feature.
For more advanced installation, the RJ-45 connection makes remote control of multiple projectors across a wired LAN network possible, as well as allowing messaging or bulletins throughout any corporate or educational facility. For table top installations, the fan noise from the unit might be distracting but for those needing audio for their presentations won’t be disappointed by the built-in loudspeaker.
Connectivity options include composite video input, component video inputs, s-video and HDMI. Two computers can be hooked-up via VGA, while there’s a monitor out, a 12v trigger out and a RS-232 control port. RS-232 is integrated into the Crestron RoomView network management system. ViewSonic sells a wireless dongle if you want to activate the wireless networking option. Finally, Pro8600 is supplied with DLP Link technology and styled 3D Ready. To use this option you will need ViewSonic’s PGD-250 3D active shutter glasses, 3D content and a 3D-enabled video card.
Our conclusion on the ViewSonic Pro8600 is that it deals with the essentials very well. Yes, there are bells and whistles that could be added, but, bearing in mind where and how this projector might be used, the fact that this 6000 lumen unit is available at around £1500 is surely the outstanding point.
Full HD – who needs it?
In fact, the value offered by the ViewSonic Pro8600 would make it an obvious choice, were it not for the fact that the company also offers the exceptionally bright, 1080p Full HD Pro8250HD at a similar price point. The ViewSonic Pro8520HD combines Full HD resolution, and with 5000 ANSI lumens of brightness and an 8000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. When buying in quantity, even a price difference of 10% is significant, and so who can make a business case for Full HD?
As we conducted the review, a number of applications and user groups were put forward – design, engineering, architecture and fashion were obvious examples. But looking at the sales history of the Pro8250HD, the unit has been adopted by a number of other organisation types. These include banking and financial services (where the emphasis is on image quality), but also the police for viewing fingerprints and other evidence.
Where the Pro8520HD also scores is in any application with a strong video element. Connectivity options include 2 x HDMI, component, composite and S-video. Additionally the unit features USB type A, type B and mini-B for direct projection of media from a PC. The onboard audio provision was a little disappointing on our sample, when compared with the Pro8600 (this is usually the point where the manufacturer tells the audio components are identical), but if this projector is to be installed in an office it will probably be paired with external audio.
Like its sister projector, the Pro8250HD is wired LAN enabled, with the option of wireless via a ViewSonic WPD-100 dongle. The unit can be monitored through the integrated Crestron e-Control system and RoomView Express management software. Time prevented us from trying the plug-and-play, USB connection and the PC-less slideshow feature, but please see the comments above about a similar facility on the Pro 8600.
The outstanding feature of both of the Pro6000 and Pro8250HD models from ViewSonic is the brightness (ratings of 6000 and 5000 ANSI lumens respectively) they bring to rest of the features on offer. If you are tasked to provide projectors for any establishment where there is any significant issue of ambient light ingress into a meeting space you should consider these ViewSonic models. At the price, they are both good value and have the potential to deliver a great Return On Investment when you factor in the occasions when less specified units simply are not up the job. While quite at home permanently installed and equally capable as portable units. In portable applications, you can never be quite sure about operating conditions. By going for the brighter option you cut the risk at an affordable price.