As dirt cheap projector vendors go, Digital Galaxy is a brand that you can find all over Amazon and eBay. The Digital Galaxy DG-757 is a widescreen home entertainment projector with a native resolution of 1280x768. It currently sells for $249, which is cheaper than most projectors of similar resolution. So lots of people want to know--is it a good deal for the money?
We brought a DG-757 in to take a look, and the answer is, well, you get what you pay for. A low-ball price means that sacrifices are made somewhere, and the quirks outweigh the perks.
Picture is watchable. The DG-757 comes out of the box with the sharpness control set to 70. That produces a truly ugly image. But you can take Sharpness control down to zero, which is where it belongs on this unit. Once you do that, the picture smooths out and becomes quite watchable. If you are accustomed to nothing but a television, the big image can be a new experience and a step up in viewing pleasure.
Compatible with HD video signals. We were surprised to find that the DG-757 was able to accept both 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 signals from our Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player. Its HDMI input allows you to connect both video and audio via a single cable, and for those who want to use the onboard speaker, that is a convenience.
Decent On-board audio. The onboard speaker is reasonably loud, although bass dynamics are missing as you would expect from a small, cheap speaker. At maximum volume it sounds tinny and distorted. But even with volume not all the way up, it will produce sound that is decent, and generally better than most other projectors in this resolution and price class. It makes a movie watchable if you don't have any external stereo or surround speaker options available.
Basic picture controls. Rudimentary picture controls allow you to adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness and color, and you can also adjust the amounts of red, green, and blue in the projector's white balance.
Input lag. The DG-757 measured 28.1 milliseconds of input lag on a 1080p/60 signal, which works out to about 1.7 frames. This is good news for gamers looking for a super-cheap display. But the projector's low light output makes it difficult to use the DG-757 on a large screen or with any significant ambient light in the room, so you may be better off sticking with a monitor.
20,000 hour LED lamp. The DG-757 boasts an LED light source, and Digital Galaxy claims a life time of 20,000 hours. LEDs are popular in part because projector lamps represent an unexpected expense that is larger than some people are comfortable with. So it's not a surprise that LED projectors are popular, especially inexpensive ones like the DG-757. But if we've learned anything from reviewing the DG-757, it's that its specifications cannot be trusted. Several of the DG-757's other specifications are radically erroneous.
Very dim picture. Digital Galaxy claims that the DG-757 will output 2800 lumens. Our test unit measured a readings indicate a maximum output of 137 lumens, or 5% of its spec. We have never seen a projector fall this short of its advertised lumen specification.
Exceptionally Poor Uniformity. The DG-757 has a major hotspot in the center of the image giving the picture a brightness uniformity of 37%, the worst we've ever seen in 15 years of projector reviews. Corners and sides of the picture are obviously dimmer than the hot spot in the center. The image appears heavily vignetted, like an old silent film or news reel.
Erroneous geometry. The DG-757's aspect ratio controls do not work properly. Movies in the 16:9 aspect ratio were expanded to fill the projector's native 1280x768 resolution, which is 15:9. As a result, characters and objects in movies appear taller than they should be. Circles are ovals stretched vertically. Despite our fiddling, we were not able to obtain a proper 16:9 aspect ratio.
Poor edge to edge focus. We were unable to get the whole image in focus at one time -- either the top or bottom of the picture was always soft. Keystone correction is applied physically, not digitally, via a knob which tilts the actual imaging elements in the projector. This exacerbates the focus problems.
Flaky audio connection. Our test unit would routinely fail to produce any audio when first turned on. Oddly enough, selecting an aspect ratio change in the menu would cause the audio to kick in. Audio would then fail to engage any time we switched Blu-ray movies or changed signal sources. But a tweak of the aspect ratio control, which does not fix the geometry problem, fixes the audio problem. This is a humorous quirk we've never seen before.
No zoom lens. This is not unusual in cheap projectors. Very few of them have zoom lenses of any more than a minimal range of 1.1x or 1.2x, so no matter what you buy in this price range, placement flexibility is limited. On this unit there is no zoom at all. The size of the picture is determined by how far you set the projector from the screen.
With all the flaws manifest in the DG-757, it is difficult to recommend even for entry-level home theater. Luckily, there are projectors very near the price of the DG-757 that are made by reputable projector manufacturers, so Digital Galaxy is not your only option.
The cheapest option would be something like the BenQ MX503. It is an XGA projector, so it is a bit lower in resolution than the DG-757, but its 2700 lumen output makes for a much brighter picture that is also higher in contrast. For casual film and video use, contrast is more important than resolution. The MX503 can be found for less than $300, so you're only out an additional fifty bucks for a lot more performance.
Alternately, if you are interested in home theater and want to start with a projector that's not too expensive, skip the Digital Galaxy DG-757 and go with the Acer H5380BD. At $399, the H5380BD is $150 more than the DG-757. But with a native resolution of 720p, it cleanly displays high-definition movies and video in the correct aspect ratio. We measured a maximum light output of over 2100 lumens in the H5380BD's brightest mode, with brightness uniformity just below 80%. Movie mode, which has more accurate color, still measured over 1200 lumens -- almost nine times as bright as the DG-757.
Acer H5380BD vs. Digital Galaxy DG-757
Note the higher brightness, better uniformity, sharper image, and superior color saturation of the H5380BD's image. Click for a larger image.
The H5380BD has a slew of adjustments that give you much more control over the image on screen, as well as a 1.1:1 zoom lens that gives you a little bit of flexibility in where you place the projector. Focus is tack-sharp across the entire image.
All in all, the Acer H5380BD is capable of performance that the Digital Galaxy DG-757 can't even dream of matching, and the incremental cost increase is more than worth it.
Part of our series on Cheap Projectors: