ViewSonic PLED-W800 review

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Pros
  • Bright for an ultra-portable projector
  • Good colour and sharpness
  • Built-in file reader
Cons
  • Uneven lighting
  • Runs very noisily with the brightness high
  • No built-in Wi-Fi

Key Features: Ultra-portable design; DLP system; LED lighting with 30,000-hour lamp life; Movie and PC modes; Built-in Powerpoint, Word, Excel, PDF file reader.

What is the ViewSonic PLED-W800?

The ViewSonic PLED-W800 is, according to ViewSonic, that rarest of projector beasts: a highly practical, ultra-portable model that also sports enough picture quality and flexibility to support both business presentations and home entertainment use. All for the not wholly unreasonable sum – if it delivers on its promise – of £495/$742.

Design and Features

The PLED-W800 certainly lives up to the portable part of its billing. Its petite form measures in at just 175 x 138 x 51.5mm high – similar to a typical hardback book. It wears its petiteness nicely too, with its matt black finish, boldly recessed lens housing and attractive glossy ‘diamond’ embellishment on its upper edge, which houses the ViewSonic logo in one half and some control buttons on the other.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

Handily, though, you don’t have to use these buttons to control the W800. Unlike some portable projectors this one ships with a remote control. This lacks any button backlighting, which is a pity, but it is at least a reasonable size, unlike those fiddly credit card-style remotes some projector manufacturers are so fond of.

The W800’s connectivity is respectable for a model of its type. There’s a D-Sub PC port, a USB port, a single HDMI input, an SD card slot and two 3.5mm ports, one an audio output and one an AV input. The HDMI is compatible with the MHL mobile phone connectivity protocol, while the USB and SD card inputs prove capable of handling an impressive quantity of file formats without the need for an intermediary PC. These include PDFs, Word docs, Excel files and Powerpoint presentations.

The projector’s file navigation system is a bit awkward initially, but you get the hang of it in the end.

Also supported via USB and SD are video formats including AVI, MP4 and even the MKV container with its high definition capability. Plus you can simply hook up a Blu-ray/DVD player or TV set top box to the HDMI input if you want to use its home entertainment talents. Impressively for its money the W800 even supports wireless HDMI dongles, like Google Chromecast.

The only pity where connectivity is concerned is that there’s no built-in Wi-Fi support. If you want to send files to the projector wirelessly you’ll need to cough up for an optional USB dongle. However, it’s important to add that the W800 sports a reasonably handsome 2GB of built-in memory, so you might be able to fit all the material you need for a specific meeting directly into the projector’s memory.

The W800 further supports its plug and play multi-purpose credentials by carrying a built in audio system. Inevitably considering how small the projector is this audio system won’t exactly make your ears bleed – its output is rated at just 4W, delivered via two 2W speakers. But we have heard startlingly small amounts of audio power go much further than you would expect before, so we’ll reserve judgment for now.

Turning to the W800’s picture technology, it’s a DLP system illuminated by LED lamps – as is usually the case with such small projectors. Its LED lamps are rated at a huge 30,000 hours – essentially the lifespan of the projector, meaning you’ll never have to worry about the cost and hassle of replacing any bulbs like you do with normal LCD projectors.

The W800’s optics claim a brightness of 800 ANSI Lumens (high for a portable LED design), while its contrast ratio is claimed to be a startling – and doubtless hugely optimistic in real-world conditions – 120,000:1. With figures like this it’s no surprise ViewSonic claims the W800 can double up as either a business or entertainment projector.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

The unusually high brightness claims for the W800 lead ViewSonic to suggest that it can deliver images up to 100in across. In reality we’d say things start to look a bit dim when you get past around 70 inches, but even this is a very good result for an ultra-portable projector.

The one slight fly in the specification ointment is the W800’s native resolution of 1280 x 800. While this is decent in simple resolution terms, it works out to a 16:10 aspect ratio rather than the 16:9 aspect ratio used by today’s video sources. However, the W800 does at least provide the option to preserve the 16:9 ratio of video sources, placing small bars above and below the picture, rather than just automatically stretching 16:9 pictures vertically to suit the 16:10 pixel ratio, as happens with less thoughtful 16:10 projectors.

Set up

The W800 isn’t exactly overburdened with physical set up aids. There’s no optical zoom and no vertical image shifting, for instance – though there is a screw point on the projector’s bottom edge for attaching an optional tripod mount.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

There is, though, a simple (and rather imprecise) inset wheel for adjusting focus, and the projector’s built-in automatic keystone adjustment option (where the projector digitally manipulates the picture to correct potential angled edges) works better than most. Though as ever, if you can position the projector so that it doesn’t need to use keystone correction you’ll enjoy slightly crisper images.

The onscreen menus contain quite a few useful adjustments. There is, for instance, a digital zoom capable of zooming up to 2.25x the original image size (though you should always handle such digital zooms with care, as they invariably lead to image quality degradation). There’s also a series of image presets that include a Movie mode as well as the more typical Dynamic and PC settings, plus DLP’s BrilliantColour technology for boosting colour saturations.

If you’re really into tinkering you can even adjust the saturation, tone, gamma and colour temperature settings on top of the more expected brightness, contrast and sharpness adjustments.

The single most important advice we’d give regarding set up would be that if you’re using the projector for gaming or movie watching you should employ a pretty high brightness setting – as much as two thirds of the maximum brightness range, in fact. This is based on an assumption that you’ll want a pretty big image size of at least 60 inches, for which any lower brightness setting simply proves inadequate, even if you’re projecting onto a reflective screen rather than a wall.

Picture Quality

The W800’s pictures are a mixed bag, overall – which is a pity, for at its best it looks very good.

Starting with the good news, the W800 is capable of pumping out a striking amount of brightness for such a compact unit. With the brightness increased along the lines suggested in the set up section the projector can comfortably support images up to 70-inches across without them starting to look dull. In fact, even at that size images are just about watchable even with a little ambient light in the room, which is handy for both presentations and casual home entertainment environments.

Its brightness doesn’t come, either, at the expense of all the image’s contrast. Sure, the W800 doesn’t get close to the black level response achieved by half-decent full sized home entertainment projectors, but the infusion of greyness into dark areas is at least not as aggressive and distracting as it often is on bright portable projectors. Though there is a rider to this that we’ll cover in the ‘bad news’ section soon.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

We were also pleasantly surprised by the W800’s colour handling. Unusually it’s flexible enough to suit the different needs of PC and video sources, especially impressing with the quite balanced, nuanced and natural look of the tones it delivers with video content.

The W800 does better than expected, too, at converting full HD video to its slightly lower resolution native pixel count, ensuring that images still look crisp and ‘HD’ – even when there’s motion in the frame. PC sources look sharp enough to enable you to read reasonably small text without having to squint or strain your eyes, too. Though you may need to faff around with the rather fiddly focus ring quite a bit before you get the focus bang on.

The main problem with the W800 is the consistency of its light. Infuriatingly the brightness delivered to your screen or wall isn’t even from one edge of the image to the other. Instead there are clearly delineated brightness/differentials in different areas of the picture, which prove painfully distracting during dark scenes.

To be fair, the problem is far less obvious if there’s ambient light in the room, or if what you’re watching is extremely bright. Which means it’s going to be less of an issue when you’re using the projector in a presentations environment than it is if you’re using it for gaming or watching a film. It certainly damages the projector’s claims to be as adept for home entertainment as it is for business, though, as well as suggesting that the something in the optical array – possibly the very small lens – isn’t of the highest quality.

Also irritating is the appearance above the main image area of a clear strip of light leakage. You may be able to lose this in a dark screen border if you’re not projecting onto a wall, but otherwise it’s a continual slightly distracting reminder that the PLED-W800’s lens arrangement isn’t all it might have been.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

There’s occasionally a little interference from DLP’s rainbow effect too, where stripes of red, green and blue can flit over very bright image areas or around your peripheral vision. However, we wouldn’t say this occurs frequently or potently enough to be a major problem, and it’s actually less of an issue than might have been expected from such a relatively bright portable projector.

One final problem with the PLED-W800 is that by the time you’ve ramped up its brightness to a point where dark scenes contain enough detail and brightness to be watchable, the projector’s cooling fans begin to run really aggressively. In this situation the fans cause more noise than you would have thought possible from such a small box. This isn’t a great thing for either movie or presentation use.

Sound Quality

If you’re able to filter out the fan noise, the W800 sounds much better than you would expect from an audio spec of just 2 x 2W. The sound is clear, projects a decent distance from the projector’s body (slightly disguising, at least, the problem you always get with built-in projector speakers where the audio doesn’t sound like it’s coming from where the pictures are), and even gets reasonably loud without distorting.

There isn’t much bass around, of course, and there isn’t enough power for the soundstage to swell when asked to handle an action scene. But it’s still a cut above the sound we’ve heard from any other ultra-portable projector – notwithstanding the fact that the sound is always underpinned by the whirring of the fans when you’re using the sort of brightness setting you’re likely to want to use.

Other things to consider

The W800 we tested appeared prone to slightly losing its focus during lengthy running sessions – perhaps as a result of the changing temperatures inside its small body. Though you’ll probably only feel the need to intervene with the fiddly focus ring if you’re dealing with presentations that use quite small text.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

Anyone thinking of using the W800 as a means of enjoying big-screen gaming, meanwhile, will be pleased to learn that we measured it as suffering barely 10ms of input lag. This is an outstanding result (many projectors by comparison take around 30-40ms to render their images) that should do no serious damage to your gaming abilities. It’s just a pity that as with movie viewing, the projector’s uneven lighting can stand between you and full immersion in a gaming world.

One other point to add is that if you’re content to watch a relatively small image from the W800 – 30-40 inches, perhaps – you won’t need to set the brightness so high to enjoy a punchy image and so won’t have to put up with nearly as much running noise.

Should I buy a ViewSonic PLED-W800?

If you’re in the market for an ultra-portable projector that’s mostly or exclusively going to be for business use, then the PLED-W800 is definitely worth considering. Its document parsing and multimedia file compatibility is impressive, its built-in hard drive is a boon, and it’s much brighter than most of the small DLP/LED projectors on the market.

It’s also great that you don’t need to worry about changing its lamps, and its picture quality is in most ways good for such an affordable model.

ViewSonic PLED-W800

It’s just a shame that the brightness levels you need for a really enjoyable, reasonably large picture – especially with films or games – are inevitably accompanied by distracting amounts of fan noise, and that the W800’s optical system can’t deliver light consistency right across the image frame.

Verdict

In some areas – colour and sharpness, in particular – the W800 sets new standards for the ultra-portable projector market. It’s a good looking, well-built, feature-packed little device too, which means it also looks decent value. However, inconsistencies with its light output and some pretty excessive running noise mean that it’s not ultimately as satisfying an all-rounder as we’d hoped.

Scores In Detail

Design : 8/10
Features : 8/10
Image Quality : 7/10
Value : 8/10

(trustedreviews.com)

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