If you need an inexpensive 1280x800 data projector for a small to mid-size room, the Epson EX6220 is a strong candidate. Rated at 3000 lumens, and a bit brighter on my tests, it offers excellent data image quality and eminently watchable video, with guaranteed rainbow-free images thanks to the three-chip LCD engine.
While the brightness and image quality make the EX6220 a good fit for permanent installation or room-to-room portability, the light weight makes it a good choice as a portable too. Only about two pounds heavier than some 500-lumen LED projectors, it offers a far brighter image, effectively letting you trade weight for brightness. And given that it's widely available for $599.99, it costs less than some of its lower brightness competition.
The Viewing Experience
The EX6220 delivers nicely on image quality. As a three-chip LCD projector, it can't show rainbow artifacts, which can be an important plus for anyone who sees these artifacts easily and finds them annoying. Also, unlike most DLP projectors, it offers the same color brightness as white brightness in all predefined image modes, which means you don't have to worry about a difference between the two potentially affecting color quality and the brightness of color images.
Excellent data image quality. The EX6220 showed only minor issues for data image quality in my tests. Color balance was a touch off in every predefined image mode (Epson calls them Color Modes). Even though some shades of gray showed a slight tint compared to most other shades, however, the tint was minor enough that you're not likely to notice it in real-world use. On the plus side, and easier to see, colors in every predefined mode were suitably bright, vibrant, and nicely saturated.
More important for data images, the projector holds details well. Both black text on white and white text on black, for example, were crisp and readable at sizes as small as 7 points. With an analog (VGA) connection, I saw some barely visible pixel jitter on screens that tend to bring out that problem. However, unless you use patterned fills rather than solid blocks of color, it's unlikely you'll ever see the jitter. Even if you do, its so minor that you're unlikely to find it bothersome. You can also avoid it entirely if you need to. Using a digital (HDMI) connection, the same images were rock solid.
Above par video quality. Although the EX6220's video quality isn't in home theater territory, it's good enough to be watchable for long sessions. It's also at least arguably good enough to use as a home entertainment projector, substituting for or supplementing a TV.
The menus even offer some features that are more appropriate for home entertainment than for data images, most notably two levels of noise reduction and an auto iris for making dark scenes darker. The auto iris earns points for working quickly enough that I only rarely saw a lag as it adjusted to a change in brightness between scenes. And in a nice design touch, choosing the Theater predefined color mode turns auto iris on by default, while choosing Sports makes it unavailable. Tying the settings together makes it easier to get the right combination.
It also helps image quality that the 1280 by 800 native resolution lets the projector show HD video at 720p, although it still has to scale 1080 input down to 720. Beyond that, the projector did an acceptable job with skin tones, and I saw a minor to moderate loss of shadow detail in clips that tend to bring out that problem. In theater dark lighting, colors were a little flat, as expected for a low contrast ratio. And despite the auto-iris, blacks weren't all that black. However, neither issue was as noticeable with the lights on, which tends to both wash out black and eliminate most of the benefit of a high contrast ratio.