ViewSonic PLED-W800 review
California-based ViewSonic has specialised in display equipment since the late 1980s. Three years ago it was one of the pioneers of a new line of miniature projectors using LED illumination, but its remarkable PLED-W500 disappeared from the market within a year. But now two next-generation products, the PLED-W800 and the PLED-W600 have reappeared to fill the gap. Here's our PLED-W800 review.
ViewSonic PLED-W800 review: why 800 lumens is bright enough
The product names of these two very similar projectors are based on their ANSI ratings in lumens, and we tested out the brighter of the two. The PLED-W800's mere 800 lumens looks dim on paper, in comparison with the typical 2,000+ lumens claimed by comparable "hot lamp" projectors. But LED illumination seems to work from a different rule-book, and in practice delivers a very much brighter screen than its specs suggest.
There's some real science behind this. LED dispenses with the spinning wheel of colour filters that a hot lamp DLP projector typically uses, instead firing three banks of primary colours in rapid succession, around 40 times faster than a wheel can spin, so that much more of the emitted light ends up on the screen. On top of this there's the so-called "Helmholtz-Kohlrausch Effect" that defines how saturated colours appear much brighter to the human eye than mechanical measurements would predict.
ViewSonic PLED-W800 review: features and specifications
The net result is a small device capable of delivering an 80in screen from a distances of about 8ft that is easily bright enough for a PowerPoint presentation in broad daylight. It's not full HD - the native WXGA resolution delivers 800 lines of 1280 pixels per line, which neatly fits the 1280x720 'HD Ready' specification with a few lines to spare. The projector will accept 1080p HD, downscaling accordingly.
Briefcase-friendly - the projector together with its power adapter, mains lead and associated connection cables easily fits into the A4-sized neoprene pouch provided - like its PLED-W500 predecessor, the new version is primarily aimed at presentation for the business traveller. In this sort of use case you won't even need a laptop, because the MHL (multimedia high-speed link) enabled HDMI connector lets you to drive the presentation from your phone.
If you want to dispense with the wiring, for about another £49 (inc VAT) you can add an optional PJ-WPD-200 wireless USB dongle, enabling a cable-free connection up to a distance of around 900ft. In conjunction with client software provided with the dongle you can run a presentation from a Mac or Windows machine, or directly from an Android or Apple phone. The Miracast protocol is also supported for direct screen mirroring.
In fact you don't even need a phone, as the PLED-W800 can deliver a photo, document or even movie presentation direct from a memory stick or SD card. It isn't easy to grasp from the limited documentation how to make the built-in Office Viewer work, but once you've got the hang of it setting it up is a breeze. The software can handle simple PowerPoint (including PPTX) presentations; you use the cursor arrows on the remote control to move between slides. The Viewer can also display PDFs and DOCX files, too. The projector's WVGA resolution isn't great for small fonts, but there's a digital zoom on the remote control for homing in on detail.
We successfully tested direct from a USB stick JPEG, TIFF, BMP images. We also found that movies in AVI and MKV format played directly from a memory stick.
ViewSonic PLED-W800 review: image quality
For movie viewing you'll need to draw the curtains and switch the projector into Movie mode, which subdues the colours to a more natural tone. Alternatively you might use Viewsonic's proprietary ViewMatch mode, which claims to adjust lamp brightness to keep the colours accurately saturated.
You won't be seeing the highest of hi-def, and I did detect a tendency for the focus to drift after viewing for a while, but these shortcomings are no barrier to very acceptable movie enjoyment. The projector has its own built in "SonicMode dual integrated 2W speaker system" but the sound quality from such a small device is inevitably scratchy. Happily you can shut this off by plugging a stereo 3.5mm audio jack into the socket at the rear to extract the sound into headphones or an external hi-fi unit.
Netflix offerings, delivered into the PLED-W800 from a Roku Streaming Stick via a Yamaha RX-V6777 AV receiver produced eminently watchable home cinema quality on a 100in diagonal screen thrown across about 10ft onto a plain whitish wall. As part of the size/price compromise Viewsonic has dispensed with lens shift and optical zoom, so positioning the projector is critical. Helpfully there's a standard photography quarter-inch screw fitting in its base, making it easy to mount on a camera tripod. If the projector is tilted upwards or downwards with respect to the screen automatic keystoning kicks in to straighten out the picture.
Aimed primarily at the business travel and education markets, this highly portable, cool-running piece of kit doubles as a convincing home entertainment projector. ViewSonic claims the LED illumination has an expected life of 30,000 hours, so with no expensive lamps to replace the official ViewSonic price of £499 makes this an enticing option.