Christie LWU501i: High Resolution
October 30, 2012
High Resolution for fine detail or multiple windows. With its 1920x1200 resolution, the LWU501i can show fine detail in complex data images or handle multiple windows of less detailed images, like text documents. Divide the screen into four 960x600 windows, and each one will deliver a higher resolution than SVGA's 800x600. Connect to a video source, and the projector can show a 1080p image without scaling.
The high resolution also lets you take good advantage of the picture-by-picture mode with two images sources. For my tests, I used VGA and HDMI input together without problems. Even better, you can use most combinations of inputs, although you can't use two HDMI sources together, and you can't use LAN or USB sources.
Excellent data image quality. The Christie LWU501i delivered excellent data image quality on my tests. Colors were vibrant and fully saturated in all preset modes, text was crisp and easily readable at sizes as small as 7 points, and I saw little to no pixel jitter with a VGA connection even on images that tend to cause jitter.
I saw a slight issue with color balance in some preset modes, with minor tints in some shades of gray, but the key word here is minor. Most people won't consider it a problem, and those who do can simply use a different preset.
One potential problem I ran into was that the projector didn't work properly with an HDMI connection to a computer at resolutions higher than 1600x1200. However, this may be due to the particular graphics card in the computer. Christie says it hasn't seen this problem, and in my video tests the projector worked swimmingly with an HDMI connection to a Blu-ray player at 1920x1080.
Better than par video quality. The LWU501i's video quality is good enough for comfortable viewing of a full length movie, which is more than you can say for many data projectors. Colors have the relatively dull look that goes with a low contrast ratio, and I saw some minor to moderate noise in large unbroken areas, but there were no other issues worth mention. The projector handled shadow detail and skin tones well, it avoided posterization in clips that most data projectors have trouble with, and because it's LCD-based, you don't have to worry about the rainbow artifacts that are common with DLP projectors.
Medical imaging. The LWU501i offers a DICOM SIM preset, named for the DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) standard for displaying medical information like x-rays. Christie warns that the projector is not fully DICOM compliant, which means it shouldn't be used for medical diagnosis. However the mode has obvious potential for medical presentations and educational use.
Zoom lens standard, with a choice of lenses. The standard lens for the LWU501i offers a 2x zoom, which gives you significant flexibility in how far you can put the projector from the screen for any given image size. For the 92" diagonal image I used for most of my testing, for example, the calculated distance ranges from 9.9 to 19.7 feet, and the measured distance with the full widescreen (maximum zoom) came out to 9.5 feet, well within the plus or minus 5% variation for any given lens.
Christie also offers a choice of four other lenses for $1,350 to $2,295 list each. Between them, they widen the range for a 92" diagonal image to 5.5 to 52.8 feet. Christie rates each of the lenses for a screen size of 30" to 600" diagonally. However, at 30" the image will be blindingly bright in most lighting conditions, and at 600" it will be far too dim for comfortable viewing. A more realistic maximum size with no ambient light would be roughly 325".
Tools for easy setup. The LWU501i offers several other conveniences to help make setup easy, including vertical and horizontal lens shift to give you some flexibility for positioning the projector -- left, right, up, and down -- relative to the screen. I measured the vertical shift at about 42% of the screen height up or down from the center position and the horizontal shift at a less significant, but still welcome, 10% left or right from the center.
In most cases, the lens shift should let you avoid the need for digital keystone adjustments, which can introduce artifacts on some images. If you have to adjust keystone, however, you can adjust each corner separately, an approach that makes it impressively easy to turn the image into a true rectangle.
Also highly welcome is the motorized control for zoom, focus, and lens shift, with buttons on the remote to control the settings.