Casio A146 XGA DLP Projector
  • Performance
  • 4
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$1,199 MSRP Discontinued

Casio is back with the latest version of their Slim series projectors that incorporate a hybrid laser/LED illumination system. The Model XJ-A146 is rated at 2,500 lumens with a native resolution of 1024x768, and it comes in a sleek case that has a modest footprint (11.7" x 8.3") and a height of only 1.7". Color balance is improved over previous models, but fan noise is still high in its brightest mode, so audience distraction is still an issue when room conditions demand a bright image.

The XJ-A146 is designed for mobile presenters who face a variety of projection environments. The unusual 2:1 zoom lens allows for a wide range of placement options, and the included software and wireless connection hardware make the XJ-A146 a solid performer when it is inconvenient to drag computers and cables along on a presentation. It is shipped with a carrying case that has a roomy external pouch, and its very fast on/off times make it quick to set up and shut down when pressed for time.

The Viewing Experience

Unlike mercury lamp projectors, the XJ-A146 uses a combination of laser and LED to produce red, blue, and green illumination of the DLP chip. When you switch the projector on, there is about a ten-second delay while the zoom lens adjusts to your last setting, and then a fully lit image appears without the usual gradual increase in brightness. In previous models, there was a noticeable shading of red and green on the left and right sides of the image, respectively. However, the XJ-A146 has a barely detectable red/green shading which has no impact on video performance and little on data images.

Like its predecessors, the XJ-A146 exhibits a 10% decrease in brightness during its initial fifteen minutes of use. However, once the brightness level stabilizes, it comes close to its rating with 2,110 lumens at its brightest setting. Data images are sharp and noise free, but they lack color saturation. Since saturation control is only available for composite video, the only option is to fiddle with color balance controls, and they have only minor impact on saturation.

Video images are good although the 1,800:1 contrast rating makes it problematic to render distinct highlight and shadow detail. Like data images, video lacks saturation although flesh tones are well balanced. The XJ-A146's one-watt speaker is adequate for a small audience if operating in Eco mode, but in Normal or Bright mode, fan noise is a distraction for those seated within six feet of the projector.

 

Key Features

Powered Zoom and Focus: Like its sister Slim series projectors, the XJ-A146 has a very convenient and effective powered zoom and focus. Control is via the remote which has two zoom and focus buttons. The controls work smoothly, there is little overshoot, and fine focus is easy to achieve.

Placement Flexibility: The XJ-A146's powered 2:1 zoom gives you a lot of projection distance variation for a particular image size. For example, to project a 100" diagonal image in a 4:3 format, you can place the projector anywhere between 9'3" and 18'6" from the screen. Though rapid, the zoom movement is very smooth and hitting your mark is easy. At full telephoto, however, brightness is reduced by almost 30% which is a loss the XJ-A146 can ill afford (see Brightness and Uniformity).

On-Screen Menus: OSD menu navigation is intuitive on the XJ-A146, and there is minimal layering. Eleven on-screen menus may seem like a lot, but they are laid out simply and logically arranged. However, the menu cannot be moved from the center of the image when making adjustments, so it is difficult to see the overall effect of the image adjustments.

Remote Control: The remote for the XJ-A146 is full-size and fits comfortably in the hand. It has high contrast icons and lettering that is easy to read even in a dimly lit room. Navigation buttons are conveniently placed in the upper half of the remote, and there are direct access buttons for functions such as brightness, Eco, aspect ratio, and keystone correction.

Image Position: The centerline of the lens is even with the bottom of the image, so you may need to angle the projector upward by extending its front elevator foot, and keystone correction of ±30° is available. The projector can be tilted by unscrewing either rear foot to correct any horizontal leveling issues.

Connectivity: The XJ-A146 has the usual complement of inputs including a VGA connector for computer or component video input, HDMI, a USB connector for memory sticks, and a composite video input.

More impressive are its wireless capabilities. In particular, the XJ-A146 comes with an internal plug-in LAN module which allows the use of Mobi-Show . . . projection of data from smartphones, iPads, and Microsoft Windows mobile devices. There are included software routines that convert PowerPoint files and format movie content.

Warranty Provisions: Casio offers a 3-year warranty on the projector and a 3-year or 6,000-hour warranty on the laser/LCD illumination system.

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Performance

Brightness and Uniformity: After a 15-minute warm-up, at its brightest setting (Bright with Eco off), the XJ-A146 puts up 2,110 lumens which is about 15% shy of its specification but a little better than previous Slim series models. The Normal setting reduces brightness to 1,580 lumens, and once Eco (Manual) mode is turned on, the Presets deliver the following lumen levels: Standard - 1,420, Graphics and Theater - 1,040, Blackboard - 860, and Game - 1,090. Note that if you want to use Presets (and, by definition, Eco (Manual) mode), you have already reduced brightness by 33% from the brightest level.

Brightness uniformity registered 80% with no obvious hot spots and the center of the image slightly brighter than the periphery.

Audio Quality: Though the XJ-A146 is provided with only a 1-watt mono speaker, it does a good job of delivering buzz- and rattle-free sound. In other than Eco mode, fan noise can drown out the speaker for those seated close to the projector, but otherwise, it is up to the task.

Limitations

Presets: If the XJ-A146's five preset modes (Standard, Graphics, Theater, Blackboard, and Game) do not give you the look you are after, your adjustment options are very limited. Tint, saturation, and sharpness settings are only available for composite video. For other content, you can try making RGB adjustments in the Color Balance portion of the Image Adjustment 1 menu, but the effects are subtle at best.

In addition, while you can select the Presets with illumination set to Eco, you cannot do so for the Normal or Bright settings. With the illumination system cranked up, you will have to live with the default color settings.

Brightness Control: Like its predecessors, the XJ-A146 has an odd selection of brightness settings. With the Eco setting at On (Manual), brightness drops about 33% from the Bright setting. At the Eco (Auto) setting, brightness drops roughly another 33% but adjusts slightly depending on ambient light. Finally, the Presets each vary brightness within both Eco settings. The bottom line is that brightness drops to as little as 45% of full brightness depending on the Eco setting. This is not all bad in dark rooms, but high ambient light can pretty much eliminate the Eco setting as an option leaving you with very limited image adjustments.

Rainbow Artifacts: The XJ-A146 lacks a traditional color wheel, but it still sequences RGB colors onto its DLP chip from its laser/LCD combination. In certain motion video sequences, rainbow artifacts similar to those from traditional color wheels may be noticeable.

Fan noise: The XJ-A146 is relatively quiet in both Eco modes (Manual and Auto), but if you need maximum brightness and turn Eco mode off, you will find that fan noise increases noticeably. Beyond six feet, it is not too distracting, but in a small room or with close seating arrangements, fan noise may be an issue.

Illumination System: Should the illumination system fail, it is not a matter of buying a replacement and installing it. The complexity of the Laser/LED combination mandates that the entire projector be returned to an authorized Casio repair facility. We have no information on the cost of this repair if you are beyond the warranty period nor how long such a repair would take.

Conclusion

Casio's Slim XJ-A146 is an improvement over its predecessors as the Laser/LED illumination is better color balanced. Its wireless operation is very handy for mobile presenters, and it sets up and tears down rapidly if you are pressed for time. That said, it is impossible to get more than about 1,400 lumens on the screen if you need to use the Preset image controls. Except for composite video, image color adjustments are less than fully effective. At a street price of $1,149, the XJ-A146 is not inexpensive as XGA projectors go, but some of that cost may be offset by eliminating lamp replacement purchases over the life of the projector. Overall, the XJ-A146 is an intriguing product, but it still raises a few questions about value. Maybe the next iteration will dismiss those questions.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Casio XJ-A146 projector page.

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