Epson BrightLink 436Wi
Interactive WXGA Projector
April 8, 2013
Excellent data image quality. The 436Wi starts with a foundation of excellent data image quality. Colors are eye catching, vibrant, and nicely saturated in all preset modes. Color balance is also good in most modes, with suitable neutral grays at a range of levels. Some shades of gray in the two brightest modes show a slight tint, but not enough to be an issue for most people.
More important for data images, the 436Wi does a good job holding detail, with both black text on white and white text on black easily readable at sizes as small as 7 points. The projector also did a good job syncing with an analog connection, with nearly rock solid images even on screens that tend to cause pixel jitter. Switching to the HDMI port for a digital connection eliminated what little jitter there was, but there wasn't much to improve on.
Better than par video quality. Video quality for the 436Wi is eminently watchable. In my tests the projector did a good job with flesh tones and with shadow detail, and it showed only a hint of posterization in scenes that most data projectors have much more trouble with. Colors were a little dull, as is typical for a low contrast ratio. But although you won't get the full effect of breathtaking color scenes, the quality is good enough to let you watch a full length movie. It also helps that because the 436Wi is LCD-based, it's guaranteed not to show rainbow artifacts.
Interactivity with full Brightness. The 436Wi doesn't have a separate interactive mode. Simply turn the pen on, and you get interactivity without any effect on brightness.
Automatic calibration. Unlike most DLP projectors, the 436Wi needs calibration between the pen and projector. However, unlike most projectors that need calibration, it doesn't require you to touch the pen to some number of points on the screen. If you keep the projector on a cart, for example, and have to recalibrate after moving it to another room, you simply press two buttons on the remote and wait about 10 seconds. The projector will put an image on the screen, analyze it, and calibrate itself. The process is nearly as easy and as fast as not needing calibration at all.
Can use two pens. Epson says that the 436Wi can work with two pens at once, so two presenters, or a teacher and student, can each add notations simultaneously. (The projector comes with only one pen, so if you want to use this feature, you'll have to buy a second one, at $49 street.) Because Epson included only one pen with the test unit, I wasn't able to try the feature out. However, I can confirm that the dual pen support I've used with other Epson models works more smoothly than similar features in some competing projectors.
Interact with any image. One of the 436Wi's more unusual features is that it lets you interact with images from virtually any source, or none. The projector includes an annotation mode in firmware that works with any input ranging from Blu-ray players to iOS devices or simply as a whiteboard, with no input at all. You can even freeze a frame from full motion video to mark it up. Freezing the frame doesn't stop the player, however, so when you unfreeze the image, you'll pick up from where the player is, rather than from the point where you froze the image.
Easy to handle pen. Epson's interactive pens, including the one for the 436Wi, are thinner than the pens for most DLP interactive projectors. That makes them more comfortable to use, even if you have large hands, as I do. This will be particularly welcome in a classroom, where children may have trouble with a thicker pen.
Useful audio. The 436Wi's 16-watt mono speaker delivers acceptable, but not great, quality with enough volume to fill a mid to large size conference room or classroom. However, the quality is a little degraded at the highest volume. If you need stereo, better quality, or still more volume, you can connect an external sound system to the stereo output.
Big image from a short distance. Although the throw distance for short throw projectors isn't as impressive as with ultra short throw models, the 436Wi can still throw a big image from close to the screen. I ran most of my tests in the native 1280x800 resolution with a 92" diagonal image and a 37" throw distance. That's consistent with Epson's throw distance chart, which ranges from a minimum image size of 68" diagonally at 27.6" to 113" diagonally at 46.9 inches.
Long lamp life. Epson rates the lamp in the 436Wi at a longer-than typical 4000 hours, with Eco mode boosting it to 6000 hours. The replacement cost is either a hefty $299 street, or a bargain $99 with an education discount.