Laser/LED Portable Projector
August 1, 2012
Brightness and Uniformity: After a 15-minute warm-up, at its brightest setting (Bright with Eco off), the XJ-A146 puts up 2,110 lumens which is about 15% shy of its specification but a little better than previous Slim series models. The Normal setting reduces brightness to 1,580 lumens, and once Eco (Manual) mode is turned on, the Presets deliver the following lumen levels: Standard - 1,420, Graphics and Theater - 1,040, Blackboard - 860, and Game - 1,090. Note that if you want to use Presets (and, by definition, Eco (Manual) mode), you have already reduced brightness by 33% from the brightest level.
Brightness uniformity registered 80% with no obvious hot spots and the center of the image slightly brighter than the periphery.
Audio Quality: Though the XJ-A146 is provided with only a 1-watt mono speaker, it does a good job of delivering buzz- and rattle-free sound. In other than Eco mode, fan noise can drown out the speaker for those seated close to the projector, but otherwise, it is up to the task.
Presets: If the XJ-A146's five preset modes (Standard, Graphics, Theater, Blackboard, and Game) do not give you the look you are after, your adjustment options are very limited. Tint, saturation, and sharpness settings are only available for composite video. For other content, you can try making RGB adjustments in the Color Balance portion of the Image Adjustment 1 menu, but the effects are subtle at best.
In addition, while you can select the Presets with illumination set to Eco, you cannot do so for the Normal or Bright settings. With the illumination system cranked up, you will have to live with the default color settings.
Brightness Control: Like its predecessors, the XJ-A146 has an odd selection of brightness settings. With the Eco setting at On (Manual), brightness drops about 33% from the Bright setting. At the Eco (Auto) setting, brightness drops roughly another 33% but adjusts slightly depending on ambient light. Finally, the Presets each vary brightness within both Eco settings.
The bottom line is that brightness drops to as little as 45% of full brightness depending on the Eco setting. This is not all bad in dark rooms, but high ambient light can pretty much eliminate the Eco setting as an option leaving you with very limited image adjustments.
Rainbow Artifacts: The XJ-A146 lacks a traditional color wheel, but it still sequences RGB colors onto its DLP chip from its laser/LCD combination. In certain motion video sequences, rainbow artifacts similar to those from traditional color wheels may be noticeable.
Fan noise: The XJ-A146 is relatively quiet in both Eco modes (Manual and Auto), but if you need maximum brightness and turn Eco mode off, you will find that fan noise increases noticeably. Beyond six feet, it is not too distracting, but in a small room or with close seating arrangements, fan noise may be an issue.
Illumination System: Should the illumination system fail, it is not a matter of buying a replacement and installing it. The complexity of the Laser/LED combination mandates that the entire projector be returned to an authorized Casio repair facility. We have no information on the cost of this repair if you are beyond the warranty period nor how long such a repair would take.
Casio's Slim XJ-A146 is an improvement over its predecessors as the Laser/LED illumination is better color balanced. Its wireless operation is very handy for mobile presenters, and it sets up and tears down rapidly if you are pressed for time. That said, it is impossible to get more than about 1,400 lumens on the screen if you need to use the Preset image controls. Except for composite video, image color adjustments are less than fully effective. At a street price of $1,149, the XJ-A146 is not inexpensive as XGA projectors go, but some of that cost may be offset by eliminating lamp replacement purchases over the life of the projector. Overall, the XJ-A146 is an intriguing product, but it still raises a few questions about value. Maybe the next iteration will dismiss those questions.