Highly Recommended Award
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Canon has just announced the LE-5W, a 1280x800 resolution, 500-lumen portable projector for the home entertainment and portable presentation markets. It features an LED light source expected to last 20,000 hours. The "W/B" simply defines the chassis color as white or black, so we will use "LE-5" to refer to the projector. List price is $799, but street prices have appeared in the $699-749 range.
The Canon LE-5 weighs in at 3.5 pounds with a footprint about the size of a piece of copier paper. With such a small volume, exhausting heat requires a small high-speed fan, so noise is a little distracting for those seated near the front of the projector. But the LE-5's dual 2.5-watt speakers can raise volume to a level where fan noise is less of a distraction. Engaging the Eco setting for illumination also reduces fan noise dramatically with a small reduction in brightness, so there are two ways to overcome this limitation.
A nice improvement has been made in the LE-5's menu system. In a departure from the norm, there are two separate menus. One is a Home menu for selecting plug in sources such as the SD card or the USB connections along with a Settings sub-menu that offers initial choices such as auto or manual keystone and display orientation. The other Presentation menu is for more frequent adjustments like contrast, brightness, and illumination mode. This reduces menu clutter and layering for everyday use. While you can make source selections for PC, HDMI, and video connections from dedicated buttons on the remote, you have to enter the Home menu to select other inputs like SD cards or thumb drives.
Another improvement is the switching speed of the LEDs themselves. Many inexpensive LED projectors using DLP chips exhibit more rainbow artifacts than bulb-illuminated designs because of the slow switching speed of their LEDs. Make no mistake, the LE-5 still has some rainbow artifacts in certain high contrast scenes, but they are far less detectable than most other LED designs.
The Viewing Experience
The Canon LE-5 is packed in its own travel pouch and sets up quickly up out of the box. Connectors are clearly marked, and the unit warms up in less than five seconds and shuts down immediately with no cooling period required. Like most small projectors, the LE-5 has no zoom lens so it has to be placed at a singular distance for a particular image size. Focusing is accomplished with a knurled ring, but the focus uniformity leaves something to be desired. When the center of the image is in focus, the corners of the image tend to be slightly fuzzy. This is no problem for video presentations, but PC material like spreadsheets might be an issue if small fonts (less than 10 pt.) are displayed.
As you might guess from the preceding, the LE-5 is a better video than data projector. In fact, it is an excellent video projector with saturated, well-balanced colors and a slightly soft look that mimics a theater presentation. Advancements in color accuracy have been slow in coming in the small LED projector class, but Canon has made a nice improvement in that category. With a 3,000:1 contrast ratio, shadows and highlights are rendered nicely, and flesh tones are excellent in User mode where color temperature can be adjusted. The preset modes are not quite on the money for viewing video material, and the best video images are achieved in User mode at the Low color temperature setting with brightness and contrast slightly elevated. At these settings, the video image is impressive.
The LE-5 really does fit both the portable and home entertainment markets well. It is light and small enough to satisfy road warriors, and its input versatility (everything from HDMI to game consoles and SD cards) makes it a popular choice for family gatherings. At 500 lumens, it is not the first choice for brightly lit rooms, but where ambient light can be controlled, it is a winner.
Presets. The LE-5 has four preset modes: Presentation, Standard, sRGB, and Movie whose characteristics change based on the nature of the projected material. These presets are not particularly well configured, but there is also one User mode where adjustments for contrast, brightness, and color temperature may be made. If composite video is projected, saturation, tint, and sharpness may also be adjusted. Best video images are achieved in User mode using sRGB as a reference setting.
Connectivity. This is a strong suit for the LE-5. In addition to PC, HDMI, and composite video inputs, it also has USB Type A and B connectors as well as an SD card slot. This connector complement handles thumb drives
USB Functionality. The LE-5 offers two USB functions that can make cabling between a computer and the projector simpler and that can transfer files to the LE5's internal 1.5GB memory. In USB streaming mode (Windows only), the computer's screen image can be displayed by the projector via a USB cable rather than the bulkier VGA cable. File transfers from Macs or PC can also be accommodated for computer-free projection. File transfer software is included.
Multimedia Inputs. From the Home menu, you can select a variety of sources: internal memory, USB streaming, and SD card. In each environment, you can select the mode of playback for photos (JPG, JPEG, and BMP), music (OGG, AAC, and WAV), video (MPEG, MOV, and seven other formats), and documents (Microsoft Office, PDF, and text files).
Maintenance. Like most DLP projectors, there are no air filters to be replaced, but it is recommended that the intake and exhaust ports be vacuumed occasionally to remove and dust or lint that might collect near the DLP chip. Lamp replacement is through the top of the projector, so ceiling mounts present no problem.
Heat Exhaust. Heat is exhausted evenly from three sides of the EL5-W, so no one seated near the projector is subject to a blast of hot air.
Lamp Life. Normal mode LED life is rated at 20,000 hours, so even at a usage rate of five hours per day, the LEDs should still function for nearly 11 years. But like other LED projectors, if the LEDs fail, the entire projector must be returned to an authorized service center for repair or replacement.
Warranty.The LE-5 offers a three-year warranty on the projector and 120 days on the illumination system.
Maintenance.Like most DLP projectors, there are no air filters to be replaced, but it is recommended that the intake and exhaust ports be vacuumed occasionally to remove and dust or lint that might collect near the DLP chip. Lamp replacement is through the top of the projector, so ceiling mounts present no problem.
3D Support. The LE-5 is 3D ready and is compatible with TI's DLP Link system in a 120Hz frame sequential format. Blu-Ray formats are not supported, and the required 3D active electronic shutter glasses are not included with the projector.
Brightness and Uniformity. The LE-5 exceeded its brightness specification in Presentation mode with a measured value of 565 lumens. The other presets yielded: Standard - 400 lumens, sRGB - 360 lumens, and Movie - 320 lumens. Eco mode lowered brightness by about 20%, and uniformity measured a very high 93%.
Image Size and Offset. Projecting a 100" diagonal image requires a projection distance of 8'2" from the screen. The centerline of the lens is a few inches below the bottom of the image at those distances, so tabletop mounting works well. In well-lit conference rooms, it is advisable to limit the image to less than a 60" diagonal to avoid image washout.
Color Brightness. Unlike lamp-illuminated DLP projectors, the LE-5 has no color wheel and no Brilliant Color option. Still, it loses about 40% of its brightness when switched to sRGB mode, so be aware that for highest color accuracy, there is a brightness penalty to be paid.
Fan NoiseIn normal illumination mode, fan noise is high enough to be distracting to those seated within five feet of the projector. Since Eco mode has a small impact on brightness, it is recommended as a means of lowering fan noise to an acceptable level for nearby audience members.
Focus. On our test model, focus was not uniform across the image with corners slightly blurry when the center of image was in focus.
Presets. Presets need higher brightness and contrast settings and better color balance to improve viewing enjoyment, but the User mode allows for the image adjustment necessary to get an excellent image.
The Canon LE-5 is a big step forward in light, inexpensive LED projectors. At less than $800, it fits many budgets, and its video performance is excellent for such a small projector. Even its 5-watt audio output is unusually high for its class although its fan noise can be a distraction. For home and portable environments where ambient light can be controlled, the Canon LE-5 is a solid performer, particularly when projecting video images. It richly deserves our highest value rating.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Canon LE-5W WH projector page.