Short Throw Projector
December 1, 2010
Mitsubishi may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of short-throw DLP projectors, but their new EW230U-ST could change that. With native resolution of 1280 x 800 (WXGA) and plenty of brightness (even more than the 2,500 ANSI lumens specified), the 6-pound EW230U-ST puts up a big, bright image as close as 1.8 feet from the screen. Although the list price is $1,995, you can find it at street prices just under $1,000 which puts the EW230U-ST in the middle of the price range for this class of projector.
The beauty of this projector is not so much its short-throw nature as its video performance. As you would expect, it does reduce the probability of casting shadows on the screen as you walk around the room, but its competitive edge really shows when you crank up a DVD or embed video in your presentation. Right out of the box, you will see a terrific video image . . . color-balanced, vivid, and with flesh tones that are right on the money. Like many short-throw projectors, the brightness uniformity is down in the 65% range, but you will never notice it when projecting video. Data projections are excellent, too, but its video performance is what sets the EW230U-ST apart.
Image Size and Position: For a 100" image, the lens centerline is only 3" below the bottom of the image. Since the projector will be about 40" from the screen for this image size, you may have to tilt the projector upward to get the image high enough for easy viewing at the rear of the room. In this case, there is about ±30° of electronic vertical keystone correction available. The projector can be inclined by a front elevator foot, and an adjustable screw-in right rear foot solves any horizontal leveling issues.
Network Connections and Management: Crestron's RoomView control and monitoring system is compatible with the EW230U-ST and is implemented via a built-in D-sub 9 connector. It can remotely monitor projector status such as lamp condition and internal temperature and alert maintenance personnel to possible problems. An RJ-45 network connection is also provided to make Web connection easy.
Security: The EW230U-ST complements the Crestron RoomView monitoring capability of its RS-232 connection with both a Kensington lock and a retractable locking bar to help ensure that the projector stays put.
User Settings: In User mode, you can fine-tune the displayed image by adjusting contrast, brightness, saturation, tint, and color temperature (four settings). If you are looking for the best possible screen image, you may want to try the EW230U-ST Color Management menu where you can make fine adjustments to all six colors produced by the light engine (red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, and white). Casual users may shy away from such detailed adjustments, but they can enhance the viewing experience if judiciously applied. If you want to take the time to get the best image possible, then the User mode offers you the tools to do it.
Compatibility: Computer sources ranging from VGA to UXGA (1600 x 1200) are accommodated, and the EW230U-ST handles video from 480p to 1080p in both 50 and 60Hz formats.
3-D Compatibility: Like many DLP projectors, the EW230U-st is 3D ready via TI's DLP Link™ technology using active shutter glasses and a computer source outputting a 120 Hz frame-sequential 3D signal. That the EW230U-ST is 3D ready does not mean it is compatible with all 3D sources on the market, so if you plan to use the 3D option, ask your dealer about compatibility issues before you make a purchase.
Preset modes: The EW230U-ST offers four display modes for different conditions. Brightest mode is used in high ambient light rooms where brightness is the key. Presentation mode offers better color balance when room light can be controlled, and Theater mode optimizes video viewing with best color rendition. There are also five settings to compensate for projection surface colors other than white (light yellow, pink, light green, blue, and blackboard).
Fan noise: Even though the fan is a little noisy (29 dB even in Eco mode), the noise is in the mid-frequency range and will not provide any significant distraction. Even the usual whine of the color wheel motor is nicely suppressed.
Audio Quality: The 2-watt speaker puts out enough volume for a small or medium size room, and it is buzz- and hiss-free over its entire range.
Lamp Life: In normal mode, the lamp is rated for 3,000 hours, but you can boost that to 4,000 hours in Eco mode and achieve quieter operation in the process.
Image Quality: Every now and then, an inexpensive projector steps up with image quality that gets our attention. The EW230U-ST is such a projector, and both data and video quality are equally impressive. Data images are vivid and crisp with even small fonts easily readable. Photos looked saturated and well defined, especially in Normal mode.
However, it was the video performance that showed how superior the EW230U-ST really is. With no adjustments from factory settings, movie material looked outstanding with good black levels and very detailed highlights. Flesh tones were right on the money, and the entire color spectrum was well balanced. Movie viewing was a distinct pleasure.
Brightness: If you present in high ambient light rooms or you make data presentations where bright images are needed to make back row viewing easier, you will really appreciate that the EW230U-ST puts a lot of light on the screen. In fact, it exceeded its 2,500-lumen specification by a healthy margin . . . 2,920 lumens in User 1 mode with brightness set at maximum. Even the other modes were brighter than many projectors in its class: Presentation and Theater both checked in at 1,775 lumens, and Normal mode delivered 1,610 lumens. That is plenty of light for bright rooms, and you may want to use Eco mode in darkened rooms to avoid eyestrain. The Eco setting lowers brightness by about 17% in all modes.
Connections: The EW230U-ST has every input mode you are likely to encounter. There are two computer inputs, either of which doubles as a component video input. There are separate inputs for composite video and S-video, and there is an HDMI digital input as well. An audio input and output and a separate monitor loop through complete the connector array.
On-Screen Menus: The EW230U-ST's on-screen menus are simple to understand, and minimal layering makes navigation simple. Menus can be positioned in five locations around the image, and they are small enough not to obscure the image while you make adjustments.
Dual User Memory: Many projectors offer a User memory setting so you can store your favorite settings and get back to them easily if another user has changed anything. Mitsubishi goes the competition one better with two User memories. So, a colleague can have his/her own favorite settings stored, too, and that means less set-up time when the projector changes hands.
Digital Input: Unlike many competitors it its class, the EW230U-ST sports a digital input so you can connect HDMI signals you may have from your computers or DVD players. Just be aware that, like most projectors, the EW230U-ST disables saturation, tint, and sharpness adjustments for HDMI signals.
Warranty Provisions: Mitsubishi offers a 3-year warranty on the projector which is longer than most in its class. In addition, it generously warrants the lamp for one-year or 500 hours of usage, whichever occurs first. A replacement lamp is available from dealers for about $200.
Maintenance: the EW230U-ST in peak condition takes little more than an occasional vacuuming of the air intake grills. Its DLP design requires no air filters, so that expense and inconvenience is eliminated. Also, the lamp is accessed from the top of the projector, so even with a ceiling mount, lamp replacement is very easy.
Color Wheel Rainbows: You may know that DLP projectors can produce RGB stripes intermittently when viewing fast moving video scenes or content with high contrast. The EW230U-ST exhibited the rainbow effect in our tests, and if this is a problem for you or your audience, you might try before you buy to see if it is going to be a problem.
Placement Flexibility: Like its short-throw competitors, the EW230U-ST has a focus ring, but it does not have a zoom lens. This means that there is a direct and unchangeable relationship between image size and projection distance. If you want a 100" diagonal image, there is only one projection distance that will provide it (i.e., 41"), and if there is something preventing placement of the EW230U-ST at that distance from the screen, you will have to live with a smaller or larger image.
Remote Control: There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the EW230U-ST remote . . . it is laid out well and fits well in the hand. The issue is that it is small and could easily be forgotten in someone's pocket. So, if you cannot find the remote control as you start your presentation, check with the previous presenter.
Brightness Uniformity: Most short-throw projectors have relatively low brightness uniformity, and the EW-230U-ST is no exception. While you will not notice it in video presentations, you may see a brightness gradient in static presentations (e.g., photos, PowerPoint) when there is a lot of white or dark area in the image. In the case of our test unit, the right side of the image was darker than the right side.
If you need the close-up benefits of a short-throw projector and especially if video is a major part of your presentations, then you should put the Mitsubishi EW230U-ST on your short list. It is bright, light, and handles a wide variety of inputs. It does have some placement flexibility limitations, but that is typical of short-throw projectors. With its superior performance and relatively low cost, the EW230U-ST justly deserves our highest rating.