|Introduction and Specifications|
|There are consumer projectors of nearly every shape and size and for a myriad of purposes. From big, feature-rich monsters ideal for large home theaters to tiny pico projectors (which can now be found in some smartphones), there are projectors available now that let users display photos or video for a small audience almost anywhere.
In the middle of the market there is a wide swathe of options. One of the target demographics is business travelers who need to make presentations on the road. Those folks need something that’s compact and lightweight, can connect to a variety of media sources in a pinch, and project an image bright enough to be seen in rooms with lots of ambient light. And that’s what ViewSonic is looking to deliver with the palm-sized PLED-W200 we'll be showing you here.
With a native resolution of 1280x800 (WXGA), the projector promises 720p HD widescreen viewing, and it’s 3D-ready thanks to TI DLP Link technology. (All you need is a pair of DLP Link-compatible 3D glasses to take advantage.)
The PLED-W200 offers brightness of 250 lumens, a 2000:1 contrast ratio, and the lamp is rated for more than 20,000 hours. ViewSonic pegs the projector for a throw distance of 2.0-6.5 feet (which, as it turns out, is awfully modest of them) with a throw ratio of 1.16:1 and a display size ranging from 24 to 80 inches. The fixed zoom/manual focus lens benefits from auto vertical keystone correction of +/- 40 degrees.
I/O ports are limited to those afforded by the aforementioned CEA adapter as well as a mini B USB port to display content from PCs and other compatible devices. (Note, however, that a USB cable is not included.) However, the PLED-W200 boasts an SDHC card slot so users can take advantage of PC-less viewing as well, which is a huge boon for travelers. The slot can handle cards up to 32GB and supports Microsoft Office programs including PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, as well as PDFs, photos, and video.
Although they’re not exactly powerful (and don’t offer very enjoyable sound), the two 2W speakers integrated into the device do allow users to play audio directly through the projector itself as well.
ViewSonic offers a 3-year limited warranty that includes parts, labor, and LED light source, in addition to one free year of its Express Exchange service.
|A Closer Look|
|One of the most attractive features of the PLED-W200 is its size; the little projector is small (and light) enough to fit comfortably in a briefcase, backpack, laptop case, or just about any other means of conveyance, and it also doesn’t take up much space on a desk or tabletop. It sports a two-tone metallic gray and glossy black color scheme, and ViewSonic hid the exhaust vents by extending the grill design all the way around the middle of the device.
There are actually vents on the front, rear, one side, and bottom of the PLED-W200; in fact, the only sections that don’t have one are the top and the side that contains the CEA adapter port, mini B USB port, and SDHC card slot. The rear also has the power adapter connector.
On the bottom of the device are two rubber feet with a third foot (located under and just to the side of the lens) that adjusts to alter the viewing angle. There are plenty of controls on the top of the projector, including the manual focus control that is conveniently large enough for anyone to find and adjust in the dark, as well as power and temp indicator lights; up and down directional keys for the menu; and Power, Menu, and Enter buttons.
While the on-device controls are well-placed, it’s a bit awkward to use them; because the PLED-W200 is so light, the force of pressing a button will usually move the device slightly and force the user to readjust its positioning.
The menu is straightforward enough, with seven tabs: Source, Picture, Video/Audio, Setting, Option, Information, and Language. The Picture tab lets users toggle through several different color preset color modes, including two user-defined presets, adjust keystone settings, and select an aspect ratio. You can adjust things like frequency, tracking, and speaker volume under Video/Audio, and under Settings you can toggle between projection types (such as front table or ceiling-mounted), power settings, and other minor details. The Options tab lets you change the background color when the screen is blank, set a password, use digital zoom, and more.
|Setup and Testing|
|The ViewSonic PLED-W200 requires very little in the way of setup. It took 9 seconds to start up and 28.5 seconds to display our computer desktop (connected via a VGA cable), and we found the timing to be the same with an SD card inserted. Using a USB connection requires the extra step of enabling the USB display, but otherwise the projector automatically located its given input sources quickly.
Before we evaluated anything, we let the PLED-W200 start up and idle for 30 minutes. Connected to a laptop running at the projector’s native resolution of 1280x800, we positioned the unit 5 feet from the wall, which gave us a diagonal measurement of 5’3” with a 16:10 aspect ratio.
Note that although ViewSonic rated the PLED-W200’s total throw distance at 2-6.5 feet, we found that to be an overly modest. We were able to get a clear, focused image at a throw distance of just 15 inches, and even projecting across a twenty-five foot room with the lights on, we could still clearly read text.
Once the projector had ample time to warm up, we used DisplayMate’s suite of tests to calibrate brightness, contrast, and black and white levels. In order to most accurately simulate the real-world environments in which one would typically use the PLED-W200, we ran the setup and data tests in a room with most of the lights on and then switched the lights off when we ran video.
The ViewSonic PLED-W200 delivers a relatively bright, crisp image that is particularly generous to text--which is ideal for the projector’s primary purpose of providing a solid option for business presentations. However, DisplayMate revealed that there was a noticeable color inconsistency across the displayed image; on the left side there’s a greenish tint compared to a more reddish tint on the right. Additionally, there was some blurring and distortion at the top edges of the image, and some pixelation was visible from under 5 feet away.
In a brightly lit room, the projector doesn’t put out quite enough brightness for video; if one were to show some short clips during a presentation, the PLED-W200 would offer acceptable performance, but you wouldn’t want to watch a movie on it. That said, in a dark room with the color option switched to the Movie preset, watching a film was mostly a pleasant experience. The color richness and balance were acceptable, and the black levels, while not superb, were deep enough that we weren’t distracted by them during very dark scenes. The image’s sharpness left something to be desired, though.
In terms of temperature, we used an infrared thermometer to check the top and bottom of the projector after it had been running for an hour. There were definitely hot and cold spots, but the average of multiple readings from different areas of the unit showed that the PLED-W200 was at 40.43 degrees C on top and a much cooler 34.13 degrees C on the bottom.
Silent this projector is not, but it’s only about as noisy as a typical desktop computer. Due to the relatively small fans used in the projector, the sound it emits is much higher-pitched than a big tower’s fans, so it is audible in most circumstances, but we would not consider loud my any means. (Incidentally, we found that if we muted the projector’s audio, that removed one of the higher-pitched whines.)
|Summary and Conclusion|
|Summary: There’s plenty to like about the ViewSonic PLED-W200. For the purposes of displaying text or showing business presentations, the projector offers a large, bright, mostly crisp image with more than adequate contrast, even in relatively bright rooms. It’s eminently portable at just under a pound and about 5 inches square by 1.3 inches deep, yet the projector offers a satisfactory array of connectivity options. On the downside, the brightness level doesn’t translate especially well to movie-watching, and there are some issues of blur and color consistency that impact the quality of the projected image.
Some of the hardware we test here at HH is over the top and may offer extreme performance, but the ViewSonic PLED-W200 is not one of those products. To be sure, there are some features that the PLED-W200 lacks, such as the ability to display directly from wireless devices, or perhaps some better specifications such as higher brightness and a wider contrast ratio, but ViewSonic had to strike a balance to keep the price down and ensure optimal portability. (If you can’t live without those additional specs and features, opt for the PLED-W200’s big brother, the PLED-W500.)
If we can be a little pragmatic for a moment, though, consider that the PLED-W200 does offer everything that a business traveler will actually need, from performance to portability. Further, although the selection of ports isn’t overly impressive, the PLED-W200 does offer a decent variety of options, including the SD card slot that allows for PC-less operation.
ViewSonic lists the PLED-W200 at $540, which puts it right in line with its main competition. You can easily drop upwards of $1,000 on a portable projector or pay very little for one that’s basically junk. That $500-ish price point seems to be the sweet spot of the market currently, and it's exactly where the PLED-W200 falls. Please note, however, that street prices for the PLED-W200 can be somewhat lower, so do some shopping first before plunking down your hard earned cash.
Although you should look elsewhere for a projector for your home theater, we found the PLED-W200 to be more than adequate for what a traveling professional needs, some color inconsistency and a touch of edge blurriness notwithstanding.