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Epson EX3212 Conference Projector Review

Highly Recommended Projector
Performance
5
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
Education
Epson EX3212 Projector Epson EX3212
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3000:1 Contrast Ratio
2800 Lumens
Street Price: n/a
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Epson EX3212
Conference Room Projector

Marc Davidson, April 2, 2013
ProjectorCentral.com

Depending on what you're looking for, you can think of the Epson EX3212 as either an inexpensive basic projector or as a much brighter, slightly heavier, alternative to the growing list of LED-based sub-three pound portable projectors. It weighs only about two pounds more than the heavier models in the LED crowd, but it's bright enough, at 2800 lumens, to make their 500-lumen images look dim. It's also widely available for $399.99, which means it costs less too.

Built around an LCD engine, the EX3212 offers a native resolution of only 800x600, which makes it a poor choice for showing images that put a lot of information on screen at once, like big spreadsheets or complex blueprints. However, it's well suited for showing simpler images, like a small spreadsheet or bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation. And within the limits of its resolution it offers excellent data image quality and above par video. As an inexpensive basic projector, in short, it gets the most important features right, and as a light weight portable, it's a tempting alternative to LED-based models.

Strong Points

Excellent data image quality. The EX3212 did particularly well with data image quality in my tests. Colors were bright, vibrant, and well saturated in all preset modes, and color balance was good, with suitably neutral grays at all levels from black to white. More important for data images, the projector holds details well, with both black text on white and white text on black crisp and highly readable at sizes as small as 7 points. Also worth mention is that the autosync worked unusually well. Even images that tend to cause pixel jitter were as rock solid with an analog connection as with a digital connection.

Above par video quality. Video quality for the EX3212 is no match for a home theater projector, but it's eminently watchable, which is more than many data projectors can manage. It also helps that as an LCD projector, the EX3212 is guaranteed not to show rainbow-artifacts.

The 800x600 native resolution obviously limits the ability to show HD video with full 720p or 1080p detail, but the projector handled skin tones reasonably well; it showed very little noise in areas like a large section of the sky; and it did a good job with shadow detail, even in scenes that most data projectors have trouble with. I saw some mild posterization in clips that tend to cause the problem, but even that was far less than I'm used to seeing with most data projectors.

Reasonably portable. Measuring 3.0" x 11.6" x 9.0" (HWD) and weighing in at 5.1 pounds, the EX3212 is small and light enough to serve as a regular traveling companion. It also comes with a soft carrying case, complete with a shoulder strap.

Long lamp life. Even at full power, the EX3212 offers a longer than typical claimed lamp life, at 4,000 hours. In Eco mode it increases by 25%, to 5000 hours. Replacements are $199 direct, which isn't a notably low cost, but is lower than with many projectors.

Test Results and Connectivity

Bright image with wide brightness range. As with most Epson projectors, the EX3212 came in at roughly its claimed brightness on our tests, at a measured 2882 lumens, or 103% of the 2800 lumen rating. That's easily bright enough for the 98" diagonal image I used in testing to stand up to the ambient light in a typical classroom or conference room. As a point of reference, using SMPTE recommendations, it's suitable for roughly a 230" image in theater dark lighting.

For smaller screen sizes or lower ambient light levels, you can lower the brightness by using one of six other presets, which I measured at 1581 to 2396 lumens. You can also switch to Eco mode, which drops brightness by about 22%, to 2250 lumens in the brightest mode. Keep in mind too that because the EX3212 is an LCD projector, it offers the same brightness for color lumens as for white, which means that a color image -- whether a graphic, a photo, or a scene in a movie -- will be just as bright as a text document with a white background.

Excellent brightness uniformity. The EX3212 also does a good job of maintaining uniform brightness across the screen, with a measured brightness uniformity of 85%. Just as important, the brightest and dimmest areas are far enough apart, with the shading between them changing gradually enough, so I couldn't see any difference in brightness on a solid white screen.

Acceptable connectivity. Not surprisingly, considering the price and small size, the EX3212 offers relatively few connectors on the back panel. However the list includes most, if not all, of what you're likely to need.

  • 1 HDMI
  • 1 VGA IN (for RGB or component)
  • 1 S-video
  • 1 RCA composite
  • 1 USB A (for directly reading files from USB key)
  • 1 USB B (settable for controlling the projector from the computer or for mouse control from the remote plus direct USB display and audio.)
  • 1 RCA stereo IN

Limitations

No optical zoom. Although the EX3212 offers digital zoom, it doesn't offer an optical zoom. The digital zoom lets you adjust the image size without moving the projector, which can be handy for setting up quickly. However, if you use anything other than the equivalent of the widest angle setting, the projector has to scale the image, which can introduce artifacts in the form of unwanted patterns added to fills with closely spaced lines or dots. This may or may not be an issue, depending on the images you're showing.

No 3D. Given that most DLP projectors today include at least limited 3D support, it's worth noting that the EX3212 doesn't. If you need 3D, or think you might need it in the near future, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Low volume audio. The EX3212's audio system delivers reasonably good quality, but not much volume. At about 3 feet from the speaker, I was able to make out almost all the words in quietly spoken dialog that's unintelligible with many projectors. However, the 2-watt mono speaker is barely loud enough for a small conference room. If you need audio, you'll probably need an external sound system.

Epson rates the fan noise in Normal mode at 37dB, which is loud enough from 3 feet that if you're sensitive to fan noise, you'll probably consider it bothersome. In Eco mode it's significantly quieter, with a 29dB rating.

Conclusion

For anyone who needs an inexpensive projector, the Epson EX3212 offers a lot to like, starting with its excellent data image quality, above par video quality, and bright image. Only slightly less important are the wide range of brightness levels, a long lamp life, and the low price.

It helps too that it doesn't have any serious weaknesses. The back panel may not have all the connectors you'd like, for example, but it has all the ports you're likely to need. Similarly, a zoom lens would be a welcome addition for easier setup, but not having one is a minor issue at worst. You may consider the 800x600 native resolution or the lack of 3D a reason to rule the projector out, but that's because it's the wrong tool for the job, not because it doesn't do the job it's meant for well.

Whether you're looking for a low-cost projector for a conference room or classroom, or a brighter alternative to 500-lumen LED projectors for portable use,the Epson EX3212 a strong contender. For either role, it's a highly attractive choice. Compared with portable LED projectors in particular, its low price and substantially brighter picture make it an outstanding value.

(05/25/19 - 10:08 AM PST)
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