Light output. As a projector built for use in ambient light, the Pro8520HD is sufficiently bright for most conference rooms. "Brightest" mode, the projector's default, measured 2942 lumens on our test sample with the lamp set to full power and the projector's lens at its widest angle. Brightest mode emphasizes white light output over color and contrast, and as a result is best for monochromatic or text-based content like Word documents or spreadsheets. Standard mode, at 2656 lumens, shows an incremental improvement in contrast and color saturation but is still largely similar to Brightest mode.
Theater mode produced 1781 lumens on our projector, but contrast and color performance were much improved over the Brightest and Standard modes. Theater mode, as the name implies, is more appropriate for the display of film and video than Brightest and Standard modes.
However, when it comes to color fidelity and contrast performance, the projector's best mode is Dark Room. Not only does Dark Room mode produce 1988 lumens, making it brighter than Theater mode, but it also has the best color saturation and color brightness of any image mode. If you're going to be watching movies or looking at photographs, Dark Room is your best bet.
The final preset image mode is DICOM SIM, which measures 3896 lumens. This actually makes it the brightest mode on the projector, about 1000 lumens more than "Brightest" mode. However, it is not appropriate for all types of content due to its specific calibration, so Brightest mode still does have its own distinct application.
Any image mode can have its light output decreased by selecting ECO lamp mode from the menu. ECO reduces light output by 29% in all operating modes. This can be useful when in a darkened room or using a smaller screen, or if you use the projector at night when ambient daylight is less of a concern.
Contrast. As a data and presentation projector, contrast is much less important to the Pro8520HD than brightness. However, the projector does a respectable job with video and photography. Dynamic range is more than sufficient to bring out most shadow detail, though you do lose a bit in the deepest shadows due to the lackluster black level. If contrast is important, it helps to optimize your environment and switch to ECO lamp mode, which cuts down on the projector's brightness and makes it easier to see shadow detail in dark areas.
Color. The quality of color you get out of the Pro8520HD depends on which image mode you use. If you select Theater or Dark Room mode, you end up with color that is reasonably accurate, well saturated, and balanced well with white. If you use Brightest or Standard mode, you get a much brighter white and by comparison dull, undersaturated color. Since BrilliantColor is not configurable on this projector, your best bet is to use Dark Room or Theater mode when color matters and Brightest or Standard mode when it does not.
Sharpness and clarity. As a native 1080p projector, the Pro8520HD will look its best when given a 1080p input signal, but it will do an admirable job of converting non-native signals to 1080p as well.
Input lag. While the Pro8520HD is a business projector first and foremost, it also measured a blazing fast 10 milliseconds in our input lag testing. That gives it less than a single frame of delay in bringing content from source to screen, making it a good choice for gamers who need fast response times. In fact, 10ms is one of the fastest times we have ever measured on a projector, period.