DLP Fixed-Installation Projector
October 22, 2009
The Mitsubishi WD3300U is a mid-sized, high-powered projector for large presentation environments. It is loaded with features, including interchangeable lenses, great placement flexibility and powered adjustments, a sealed color wheel, 3-year warranty, and more connections than you can shake a stick at. The WD3300U is flexible, capable, and easy to use. Street prices around $3700 make this one an exceptionally good value.
Placement flexibility. With four possible lenses, you can place the WD3300U more or less wherever you'd like. The standard lens, which is the one you'll get unless you purchase an alternate, will throw a 100 diagonal image from 12' 4" to 16' 11". If that's too far for you, the Short Throw Zoom lens will display the same size image from 8' 8" to 12' 8". Too close? Try the Long Throw Zoom lens (14' to 19' 4") or Tele Zoom Lens (19' 4" to 31'). The observant reader will notice that all of these projection distances overlap, so you can display a 100" diagonal image anywhere from 8' 8" to 31' by simply picking the appropriate lens. Alternate lenses sell for roughly $2700, however, so they are not cheap.
The WD3300U also has powered lens shift, allowing the image to be moved 33% of the image's height in either vertical direction, and 12% of the image's width left or right. While this is not the most extensive lens shift we have encountered, it is good to see this feature appear on DLP projectors despite its limited range.
1280x800. There is a reason why 1280x800 is one of our favorite resolutions for data projectors. It has the ability to display 1024x768, 1280x768, 1280x800 and 1280x720 signals without scaling, which makes it one of the most flexible resolutions available. In a lecture hall, where the projector will be used by many different instructors showing different types of media, this flexibility is invaluable.
Sealed color wheel. Over the course of the last few years, you may have seen the phrase "sealed light engine" pop up in DLP product literature. As it turns out, this means that the DLP chip itself is sealed, but not the rest of the imaging components. The WD3300U is distinctive in that it has a "virtually sealed" color wheel, which can help reduce dust problems down the line, especially if you are operating the projector in a dustier than average environment.
Great connectivity. The WD3300U has a veritable cornucopia of video connections. While a complete list is provided in the Specifications section, highlights include DVI-D, HDMI, and VGA, as well as 5-BNC connections for any equipment that still uses that connection. There are five discrete audio connections, not including audio over HDMI. There is a VGA monitor out port. There is also an RJ45 networking connection, so you (or your organization's A/V or IT departments) can monitor the projector from afar. The only connection missing from the WD3300U is a plumbing hook-up for the kitchen sink.
10W speaker. The onboard ten-watt speaker is certainly loud enough to be heard in all corners of a medium-sized lecture hall, provided the audience isn't trying to talk over it. The sound quality is a little tinny, as is to be expected with an onboard monaural speaker. However, if the room does not have its own dedicated sound system it is a passable alternative.
Quiet operation. If you've dealt with fixed-installation projectors in the past, you're probably used to them sounding something like a busy runway at an Air Force base. The WD3300U has an improved cooling flow, which not only keeps the projector as cool as earlier designs, but also reduces audible noise. The result is a bright fixed-installation projector that puts out only a modest amount of audible noise, equivalent to that of some home theater projectors.
Reduced lamp degradation. If you've owned a projector before, you already know that a lamp does not have a constant light output until it dies; rather, lumen output drops during the life of the lamp, typically dropping to half that of a fresh lamp by end of life. When a filter-free projector is installed in a dusty environment, dust particles can melt or burn when coming into contact with the lamp, and the residue fuses to the lamp's surface. As this residue builds up, lumen degradation can be accelerated.
Mitsubishi's new cooling system is designed to reduce the possibility of dust coming into contact with the lamp, while still providing the low maintenance benefits of filter-free operation. The objective is to ensure that the user gets the maximum amount of light from the lamp that is possible throughout its life. We do not have a way to test this feature, but it is noteworthy that Mitsubishi has taken steps to neutralize a problem that some believe is a downside to filter-free projector design.
In other lamp-related news, the WD3300's lamp is rated for 4,000 hours of use in eco-mode before it needs to be changed. What's more, the lamp changes from the side, meaning it's possible to swap the old lamp for a new one without dismounting the projector from the ceiling. When you are responsible for several dozens (or even several hundreds) of projectors spread across a campus or corporate facility, this simplified lamp change procedure means less man-hours spent on maintenance.
Warranty. The WD3300U comes standard with a three-year warranty, covering parts and labor. What's more, though, is that the WD3300U comes with a one year or 500-hour warranty on the lamp, which is an added guard against early lamp blowouts. This is about as close to a "bumper to bumper" warranty as it gets in the projector industry.
Lumen output. The WD3300U has an official lumen rating of 4,000 ANSI lumens. Our test sample measured a maximum of 2,750 lumens when the zoom lens was set at wide angle. Using low lamp mode will drop light output by 21% in whichever mode you are using. And, since the WD3300U has a moderate zoom lens on it, it loses some light output when using the telephoto end of that zoom. With the standard 1.35:1 zoom lens is set to telephoto instead of wide angle, output drops to 2170 lumens in high lamp mode and 1,715 lumens in low lamp mode. This is still a lot of light, and enough for a small- to medium-sized lecture hall if the lights are dimmed, but those planning to use the WD3300U on very large screens or in rooms with lots of ambient light should perhaps consider different lenses or alternate methods of light control.
Brightness uniformity. Brightness uniformity on the WD3300U is about average. On our test unit, brightness uniformity measured about 76% - the right side of the image was brighter than the left side. This was noticeable even while the lens shift was pushed towards the right-hand side, which would normally cause the left side to appear brighter as it's closer to the center of the light path.
The WD3300U is an extremely capable, highly flexible fixed installation projector that is ideal for use in a small lecture hall or large conference room. For an organization looking for a way to standardize, the WD3300U is an excellent choice - its array of connection options and versatile lensing make it a compelling solution for a wide variety of applications.
This is not to say the WD3300U does not have limitations. The projector is not quite as bright as it should be based on the spec, and brightness uniformity could be better. However, the allure is in the projector's other features. Nowhere else can you find a widescreen projector with interchangeable lenses, powered zoom, focus, and lens shift, wired networking, and 2,700 lumens of real light output for around $3700 street price. If you do not need those features, you can find a less expensive alternative. However, if the WD3300U offers the combination of features you need, it is the best value on the block.