Epson BrightLink 485Wi WXGA 3LCD Projector
Projector Central Highly Recommended Award

Highly Recommended Award

Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.

  • Performance
  • 5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$2,099 MSRP Discontinued

The top of the line model in Epson's third generation of ultra short-throw interactive projectors, the Epson BrightLink 485Wi, makes Epson's earlier models look like design prototypes. This new generation projector is more compact, less physically imposing in a tabletop mount, and more practical for room to room portability on a cart.

The 485Wi adds some slick new features too. Most notably, it automatically calibrates the pen and projector, and it extends its interactive whiteboard features beyond computers to include image sources like DVD players, document cameras, and iOS devices.

Like Epson's earlier models, the 485Wi is LCD-based, which means it can't show the rainbow artifacts that are always a concern for DLP projectors. And unlike most DLP interactive projectors, it maintains its full 3100 lumen brightness even when you turn on the interactive feature.

Beyond that, the 485Wi offers 1280x800 resolution, near excellent data image quality, and better video quality than most data projectors. It costs more than some of its competition, at $2,199 street price, or $1,699 with an education discount. However, it comes with some extras that help justify the price, including two interactive pens rather than one, and your choice of either a tabletop mount or wall mount.

Strong Points

Ultra short throw. As with any ultra short throw projector, the ability to throw a big image from a short distance is one of the 485Wi's key attractions. In my tests, using a 92" diagonal image at the native 16:10 aspect ratio, I measured the throw distance at just 10 inches from the front of the projector, or 21 inches from the back, where the image actually comes from. This is consistent with Epson's projection distance chart, which ranges from a 60" image at 2.5" from the front of the projector to a 100" image at 12.2".

Comes with everything you need. Most interactive projectors come with one interactive pen, an annotation program, and a driver that will let the pen work as a mouse as well as with any annotation program. The 485Wi adds your choice of a table mount or wall mount plus a second pen, so there's nothing else to buy.

Interactivity with full Brightness. Unlike most DLP interactive projectors, the 485Wi doesn't have an interactive mode that lowers the projector brightness. It's always ready for interactive use, even at its highest brightness level.

Automatic calibration. The interactive technology in the 485Wi needs calibration between the pen and the projector any time you move the projector or adjust image size or resolution. Unlike most projectors that need calibration, however, the process is fully automatic when you change resolution, and nearly as automatic when you move the projector or adjust the digital zoom. You only have to press two buttons on the remote and wait about 10 seconds. The projector puts an image on the screen, analyzes it, and calibrates itself. This makes setup nearly as easy as not needing calibration at all, and it helps make the 485Wi that much more suitable for room to room portability on a cart.

Use two pens at once. In addition to coming with two pens, the 485Wi lets you work with both at once. Two presenters, or a teacher and student, can both interact with the screen simultaneously, each adding notations to a different part of the screen.

Interact with anything mode. One of the 485Wi's more unusual touches is that it extends interactivity to image sources besides computers. A built-in annotation mode in firmware lets you mark up images from sources ranging from Blu-ray players to iOS devices. You can even freeze the image in a movie to mark up a single frame. The player will keep going, though, so when you unfreeze the image, you'll skip over everything that was played in the meantime.

Easy to handle pen. The interactive pens for the 485Wi are thinner than the pens that come with most DLP interactive projectors. This will be particularly useful in a classroom, where children with small hands may have trouble handling a thicker pen.

Near excellent data image quality. The 485Wi's data image quality is excellent or close to it, depending on which preset you use. Red was a little on the orange side with the Photo preset, for example, and color balance was a little off with the brightest preset, with the brightest shades of gray showing a yellowish tint. However, all colors were nicely saturated and vibrant in all preset modes, and color balance was excellent using most presets, with various shades of gray suitably neutral. Text in small font sizes wasn't as crisp as it could be, but it was easily readable at sizes as small as 7 points.

Better than par video quality. Video quality for the 485Wi is good for a data projector, which makes it watchable for a full length movie, but not something you'd mistake as coming from a home theater projector. Colors were a little dull, as expected for a low contrast ratio. However, the 485Wi did a much better job than most data projectors with shadow detail, it resisted posterizing scenes that most data projectors have trouble with, and because it's LCD-based it also has the advantage of never showing rainbow artifacts.

Can use for an interactive tabletop. The 485Wi handles vertical mounting for tabletop applications much more elegantly than Epson's earlier models. There's no tabletop mode to set, and Epson says there's no decrease in lamp life. The fan noise is rated at 35dB in Normal mode, which is loud enough so it could be an issue if you're sitting next to it. Eco mode, however, is a far quieter 28 dB, and the lower brightness makes Eco mode much more useful for a tabletop size image in any case.

Good audio quality. Very much on the plus side, the 485Wi offers a 16-watt mono speaker with reasonably good audio quality and high enough volume to easily fill a mid size conference room or classroom. For larger rooms, you can connect an external sound system to the stereo audio output.

Test Results and Connectivity

Bright image and wide brightness range. The projector fully lived up to its 3100 lumen rating on our tests. The measured 3122 lumens is easily bright enough for the 92" diagonal image we used for testing to stand up to the typical ambient light in a conference room or classroom. For smaller screen sizes and lower lighting conditions, six other presets offer a choice of color correction settings and brightness levels that range as low as 1639 lumens. For still more flexibility, Eco mode lowers brightness by nearly 45%, to 1739 lumens for the brightest preset. It also raises the rated lamp life from 3000 to 4000 hours.

Good brightness uniformity. Brightness uniformity for the 485Wi came out to a moderately good 76% in our tests. However, the brightest and dimmest areas are far enough apart, and the change is gradual enough, so the difference is barely noticeable on a solid white screen. Break up the image with graphics and text, and it's impossible to see.

Good connectivity. The 485Wi's connection panel offers all the connectors you're likely to need, including an HDMI port for a computer or video source; two VGA ports for computers or component video, a VGA pass-through port, and both S-video and composite video ports. Audio ports include one stereo miniplug input paired with each VGA connector, a single stereo phono plug input paired with the composite and S-video connectors, a miniplug jack for a microphone, and a stereo miniplug output.

In addition, there's a USB B port for connecting to a computer for the interactive feature and for controlling the mouse from the projector's remote; a USB A port for a document camera, for reading files from a USB memory key, or for sending the image over the USB port; an RS-232 control port for a computer or third party controller; and a LAN port for data as well as for controlling the projector over a network.

Limitations

Have to touch the screen to interact. The 485Wi's interactive pens use a switch on the front that you have to press against the screen for the pen to tell the projector where it is. This limits you to screens with a hard backing, and it means you have to stand near the screen to interact. It also means that if you move the projector from room to room, instead of the more likely choice of permanently mounting it overhead or on a table, you have to either stay with a small image size, or you have to walk around the cart to reach the entire screen.

No 3D. With 3D becoming common in DLP data projectors, the lack of 3D in the 485Wi is worth mention. This shouldn't matter in most cases, but if you want to use 3D content in the near future, the 485Wi won't serve your needs.

Conclusion

The 485Wi offers more than enough in its core features to make it a strong contender, with a bright image, near excellent to excellent data image quality, better than par video for a data projector, 1280x800 native resolution, and a suitably short throw for an ultra short throw projector. Beyond that, it gets added points for the good quality audio with a usefully high volume, as well as for welcome conveniences that include automatic calibration and the ability to work in tabletop orientation, work with two pens at once, and annotate images from any image source.

The only real limitation for the 485Wi is that you can't use it for 3D. But keep in mind that current 3D data projectors are all DLP-based, which means they don't have the 485Wi's advantage of a guaranteed lack of rainbow artifacts. Ultimately, the 485Wi qualifies as one of the more impressive representatives of the ultra short throw interactive category, and one that -- unless you need 3D -- should wind up on your short list.

5-Star Ratings: Performance: 5 Features: 5 Ease of Use: 5 Value: 4.5

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson BrightLink 485Wi projector page.

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