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Casio XJ-A250 Mobile Projector Review

Performance
2.5
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
Mobile Presentation
Casio XJ-A250 Projector Casio XJ-A250
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Street Price: n/a
Contrast:1,800:1
Lumens:3000
Weight: 5.0 lbs
Resolution:1280x800
Aspect Ratio:16:10
Technology:DLP
Lens:2x powered
Lens Shift:No
Lamp Life:20,000 Hrs
20,000 (eco)
Lamp Cost:n/a
Warranty:3 year
Connectors:  Composite, VGA In, HDMI, RS232
Video Formats:  480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 576i, 576p
Casio XJ-A250 merchants
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Casio XJ-A250 Mobile Projector

Allan Abbott, March 8, 2011
ProjectorCentral.com

There are quite a few bright, portable 1280x800 projectors already on the market, so does it make sense for Casio to jump in the pond with their new XJ-A250 for $1,400? It may when its revolutionary hybrid Laser/LED light source is anticipated to last 20,000 hours, thereby eliminating the cost of replacement lamps. In addition, features not found on many mobile projectors, such as a powered 2:1 optical zoom/focus and auto keystone adjustment, make the package even more interesting. The XJ-A250's case is super slim for easy transport in a laptop case or briefcase. It starts in a few seconds and stops instantly with no cool down required, so it is convenient for presenters on the go. On first glance, it looks like a pretty good contender in its class.

There are matters for concern, however. Our sample unit missed its brightness spec of 3,000 lumens by a large margin, settling in at about 1850 lumens after a fifteen minute warm up. Also, color balance is well below average for this class of product, and picture control adjustments are incapable of bringing color balance into a normal range. So if you typically have presentation material that requires accurate color display, this is not the projector to use.

Overview

Design: Casio has packed a lot of projector into a very small case. Standing just 1.7" in height, the XJ-A250 is one of the lowest profile projectors on the market. That translates into a lot of convenience for those carrying it on the road. Just slip it into your briefcase or even some of the roomier laptop bags and head for your presentation. If you need it, a form-fitting bag that holds the projector and cables is supplied.

Image Throw Angle: The centerline of the lens is 9" above the bottom of the image for a 100" image at a 16:10 aspect ratio. That means if you put it on a conference table, you will need to tilt the projector upward by extending the front elevator foot. The projector can be adjusted further by unscrewing either rear foot to correct any horizontal leveling issues.

Auto/Manual Keystone Correction: Since many users will be routinely tilting the projector upward to get the image high enough on the wall, they will enjoy the auto keystone correction feature which senses the angle of the projector and automatically squares up the picture without any need to fuss with keystone controls. The XJ-A250 can auto adjust the image from 0° to +30° vertical (where the top of the image is wider than the bottom). However, if you need to handle ±30° vertical correction, you can use manual keystone control.

Connections: One HDMI port. One 15-pin Dsub VGA port for either RGB or component video signals. One RS-232C control port. One 3.5mm mini-jack for either audio input or composite video. Casio supplies a special composite video cable that has three RCA connectors on one end and a 3-way mini plug at the other for the mini jack.

Preset modes: The XJ-A250 offers four projection modes (Standard, Graphic, Theater, and Game) as well as a blackboard setting. However, these modes are only available when the unit is in eco mode, so they do not function when the projector is at its brightest. Each has its own color bias and brightness suitable for its particular environment. There is no user memory for storing your favorite image adjustments, but each mode retains your adjustments until changed. Color temperature presets consist of Normal, Cool, and Warm settings, which have relatively limited impact on color balance. User adjustments to red, green, and blue can only be made in Normal mode.

On-Screen Menus: Nine on-screen menus may seem like a lot, but they are straightforward with minimal layering. Navigation is easy, but the menu cannot be moved from the center of the image when making picture adjustments, so seeing their effect is difficult.

Remote Control: The remote for the XJ-A250 is well laid out with high contrast icons and lettering that is easy to read even in a dimly lit room. A built-in pointer can be moved with the directional keys, and three direct function keys control brightness, Eco mode, and aspect ratio.

Advantages

Throw Distance Flexibility: The XJ-A250'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 16:10 image, you can place the projector anywhere from just under 8 feet to almost 16 feet from the screen. The zoom movement is very smooth and hitting your mark is easy.

Though the 2x zoom can be handy, at the maximum telephoto setting light output is reduced by 21% compared to its brightness potential at maximum wide angle. This is relatively little light loss compared to most 2x zoom lenses. However, since the projector already falls short of its lumen spec, using the telephoto end of the zoom may cause a further curtailing of light that is not desirable (see Brightness and Uniformity).

Illumination System Life: Lamp life for mobile projectors is generally in the 3,000-4,000 hour range in normal mode, but the XJ-A250's laser/LED light source is billed as having a prospective life of 20,000 hours. That would let you give a 4-hour presentation every day, five days a week, for about 20 years. If you plan to use your projector extensively, this can save you the cost of replacement lamps.

Powered Focus: Unlike most mobile projectors, the XJ-A250 has a powered focus ring. Just touch one of the two focus buttons on the remote, and your image will focus in seconds. The control operates smoothly, and overshoot is minimal.

Brightness uniformity. Brightness uniformity was much better than average at just over 87% with the center of the image slightly brighter than the perimeter.

Quick start/stop: Casio's new illumination system does not require the usual warm-up and cool-down times of traditional high-pressure lamps. On applying power, the XJ-A250 is up to full brightness in less than 10 seconds, and when it is time to shut down, you can pack up the projector immediately after you hit the power switch.

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.

Maintenance: Like most DLP projectors, the XJ-A250 has no air filter, but an occasional cleaning of the air intake vents with a small vacuum cleaner is recommended.

Limitations

Brightness and Uniformity: Our sample XJ-A250 missed its brightness rating of 3,000 lumens by a wide margin. The highest brightness we could achieve was in Eco Off mode set to Bright and Color Balance set to Normal. Still, the reading was only 1,850 lumens after 15 minutes of warm up time. Immediately after power-on, the lumen reading was as high as 2200, but there was a 16% drop in brightness within the first 15 minutes of operation. Typically, projectors with UHP lamps get incrementally brighter as they warm up to a stable operating temperature, but this one dims down somewhat.

Unlike most projectors, the XJ-A250 has three brightness settings: Eco Off, Eco, and Save. However, the Theater, Game, and other preset modes can only be selected in Eco or Save mode, not when the XJ-A250 is at its brightest. In Eco mode, the Standard preset put up 1,300 lumens, Theater and Graphics both delivered 970 lumens, and Game mode came in at 1,035 lumens. With Eco Off mode, you can choose between two brightness levels (Normal and Bright), but remember that presets are not available at these settings. Save mode dropped brightness levels by 33% from Eco mode (to 880 lumens), and fan noise all but disappeared.

Light Loss after Keystone. All projectors lose some light and resolution when keystone adjustments are used to square up an image, simply because a portion of the imaging chip is turned off to create the effect. If you plan to use this projector in a mobile fashion and place it on a conference table, tilting it up and using the auto keystone will be the normal mode of operation. When uptilted and keystone corrected, the unit loses about 20% of the light it would otherwise deliver. In other words, the 1850 lumens one gets in its brightest mode drops to about 1500.

Image Quality: Data images from the XJ-A250 were sharp from edge to edge, but their color saturation was low and the images looked a little flat. Reducing brightness and raising contrast helped, but the images still lacked the pop one sees on competing models.

Saturation, tint, and sharpness adjustments were only available for composite video. Adjusting image color for signals other than composite video required using the RGB Color Balance sub-menu, and the impact on the image was subtle at best.

Another distraction most noticeable on computer data images was a green bias on the right edge of the image. This was prominent when the lens was set to wide angle, but disappeared when the lens was zoomed to its maximum telephoto position.

Rainbow Artifacts: Though it lacks a traditional color wheel, the XJ-A250 still sequences RGB colors onto its DLP chip from the laser/LED combo, and in certain motion video sequences, rainbow artifacts similar to those from traditional color wheels may be noticeable.

Fan noise: Small physical packages require high-speed fans for full brightness as there is a lot of heat to evacuate from the chassis. The XJ-A250 has three illumination modes and a different fan speed for each one. Save mode is reasonably quiet. In Eco mode, the middle setting, fan noise is more obvious but acceptable in a presentation/conference room setting. With Eco Off you get the brightest picture, but it revs up the fans dramatically. The resulting noise may make hearing the presenter difficult if you are seated anywhere near the projector.

Audio Quality: The XJ-A250 has a single 1-watt speaker, so hearing audio content may be compromised in noisy environments. This is more noticeable when operating in Eco Off mode when fan noise is at its maximum. That said, the audio clarity is good with no buzz or rattle except in the highest 10% of the volume range.

Conclusion

The Casio XJ-A250 delivers a unique set of benefits and limitations. It's super slim profile certainly makes it convenient to pack, and a 20,000 hour light source eliminates the concern about lamp replacement cost. The long 2x zoom lens affords some set up convenience that is missing on most mobile projectors. Many will buy it for these three benefits alone.

However, people who buy 3000 lumen projectors usually do so because they need or want 3000 lumens of firepower. And while it is not unusual to find projectors that don't quite meet their lumen specs, this one falls farther short than most, even at its peak settings. But most users will want to opt for one of the eco modes to reduce fan noise. They will also want to uptilt the unit and keystone correct to get the image high enough on the wall. With these adjustments, it is difficult to get anywhere near 2000 lumens from this model, much less the rated 3000.

Not only does the XJ-Z250 fall short in lumen power but in color balance as well. This projector might best be described as functional for presentation use when the subject matter does not demand accurate color.

The XJ-A250 offers you a trade-off...increased convenience and a 20,000 hour light source in exchange for lower lumen output than advertised, and image quality that is adequate to the task, but not among the best. Each buyer will determine whether that trade-off is worth it.



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(05/23/19 - 03:54 AM PST)
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