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Epson VS200 Portable Projector under $450

Performance
4
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
Business
Epson VS200 Projector Epson VS200
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Street Price: n/a
Contrast:2,000:1
Lumens:2300
Weight: 5.1 lbs
Resolution:800x600
Aspect Ratio:4:3
Technology:3 LCD
Lens:1.35x powered
Lens Shift:No
Lamp Life:4,000 Hrs
5,000 (eco)
Lamp Cost:n/a
Warranty:1 year
Connectors:  S-Video, Composite, VGA In, USB
Video Formats:  480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i
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Epson VS200 Portable Projector
for under $450

Allan Abbott, February 15, 2011
ProjectorCentral.com

If you search our database with criteria set for an 800x600 LCD projector with brightness over 2,000 lumens, contrast ratio over 1500:1, price under $450, audible noise under 35dB, and lamp life over 3000 hours, only one projector fits the bill . . . Epson's new VS200. That is a pretty good set of specifications for a native mode SVGA projector, but it requires closer examination to decide if this is the projector for you.

Billed by Epson as a portable small-business projector, the $429.99 VS200 has a few competitors that beat its specifications for a lower price, but they are all DLP-based projectors. Many viewers are sensitive to DLP rainbow effects (a common occurrence in inexpensive DLP projectors). An LCD projector eliminates that limitation, and that is a big plus for the VS200. On the other hand, some competitors have optical zoom capabilities where the VS200 has only a digital zoom. Optical zoom uses the entire chip capability when changing image size, but digital zoom uses fewer pixels at the telephoto setting which lowers image resolution and brightness.

As with any projector selection, you need to match capabilities with needs. The VS200 has its niche, but you need to look carefully to be sure it fits your requirements.

Overview

Preset Modes: There are five preset modes plus two others for non-standard projection surface colors (Blackboard and Whiteboard). Each preset alters color temperature to fit its purpose, and Photo mode is especially effective for making photos look balanced and vibrant. Dynamic mode has the most green color bias, but it is also the brightest projection mode.

Brightness and Uniformity: The VS200 is rated at 2,400 ANSI lumens, and our test sample put up 2,365 lumens in Dynamic mode. Presentation mode delivered 1,765 lumens, and Theater, Photo, and sRGB all came in at 1,575 lumens. Eco mode lowered brightness by an unusually small 10% given its big effect on lamp life (from 4,000 hours in normal mode to 5,000 hours in Eco mode). In fact, running the VS200 in Eco mode might be your first choice since it is quieter, less costly, and nearly as bright as normal mode. Uniformity was 90% with virtually no discernible brightness variation.

Image Size and Position: For a 100" image, the lens centerline is 6.5" above the bottom of the image and the projector is 117" from the screen. With this much offset in a tabletop placement, you may need to raise the image by extending the VS200's front elevator foot. The VS200 also has two rear feet that unscrew to accommodate horizontal leveling. Vertical keystone correction of ±30° is provided in the Settings menu or on the projector's control panel.

Compatibility: Computer resolutions from VGA (640x480) to SXGA+ (1400x1050) are scaled to fit the VS200's 800 x 600 native resolution. Video signals from 480i to 1080i are also accommodated.

On-Screen Menus: On-screen menu layering is minimal on the VS200, but a menu positioning and/or transparency setting would be a nice addition since it is located in the middle of the displayed image. Menus are logically arranged and offer a moderate range of image settings including three color temperature choices.

Maintenance: Although most DLP projectors lack them, LCD projectors have air filters that need occasional cleaning and eventual replacement. The good news is that air filters help prevent dirt build-up on the lamp which can lower its brightness prematurely. It is quick and easy to change the air filter on the VS200 because it is mounted under a hinged cover on the top left side of the projector. The lamp is also conveniently accessed through the top of the projector, so even a ceiling mount does not require de-mounting the projector for a lamp change.

Warranty Provisions: Epson provides warranties of one year on the projector and 90 days on the lamp.

Advantages

Image Quality: You would expect that a projector promoted as a small-business projector would deliver very good data images, and the VS200 doe just that. Images are crisp and well saturated, and even with full vertical keystone correction small fonts are easy to read. Photos look natural and color balance is very good.

The pleasant surprise may be how good the video images look. Video images are very satisfying with reasonably deep blacks and good shadow detail. Color settings need minimal adjustment to achieve realistic flesh tones. The Theater setting may be a bit bright for movie viewing in a dark room, but choosing Eco will lower brightness, improve highlight depth, and reduce fan noise as well.

One reason for the VS200's video performance is its auto iris. It is unusual to find an auto iris on a projector under $500, and it pushes contrast up to 2000:1. Since the VS200 is an LCD projector, its on/off contrast is probably closer to 500:1, but an auto iris can make a noticeable difference in shadow and highlight detail. One caution: the motor noise when the auto iris is adjusting can be heard if the audio level is low, but you have the option of disabling the auto iris if it is distracting.

USB Input: For those who prefer the convenience of the smaller USB cable over a VGA cable. The VS200 offers a USB type-A connector for computer connection. A simple one-time automatic software download from the projector is all that is needed. A USB cable with a Type-A connector on one end and a Type-B on the other is needed to make this connection, but it is an extra cost accessory for the VS200.

Remote Control: The VS200's remote control is well laid out and makes it easy to navigate the on-screen menus. It offers some special function keys that are designed for presentations. For example, you can move from page to page or left/right click with the touch of a button as long as a USB connection is made to your computer. There is also a Pointer button that puts up an arrow icon that can be moved around the image using the directional buttons . . . positioning is not as fast as a handheld laser pointer, but if you forget yours or its batteries die, you have a handy alternative. There is even a User button which can display any of four projector features including information about the current source selected.

Quick Start/Stop: If you are in a hurry, Epson offers a nice touch with its Instant On/Off® feature that lets you shut down and go without waiting for the lamp to cool down. You can also power up with minimal lamp warm-up time.

Lamp Life: Very few sub-$450 projectors have normal lamp lives of more than 3,000 hours, but the VS200 stretches that to 4,000 hours. Eco mode adds another 1,000 hours, and a replacement lamp can be purchased from Epson for $199.

Auto Source Search: When you have several sources connected but cannot recall which inputs are active, the VS200 solves the problem. Unlike some inexpensive projectors that make you search for sources manually, the VS200 searches sources automatically. On power up, it searches all four inputs and selects the first active connection it finds. Pushing the Source key on the remote begins a search for and selection of the next connection detected.

Limitations

Placement Flexibility: The VS200 has no optical zoom adjustment, so placing it for a particular image size can get tricky if the room is small or crowded with tables and chairs. There is a digital zoom available, but be aware that if you use it to change image size, brightness and image resolution will be reduced. At full telephoto, image resolution is about 590x400 and brightness is reduced by about 45%. In a light-controlled room, this may not be an issue, but in a bright room, some image washout may occur.

Fan noise: Fan noise from the VS200 is about 34dB in normal mode which is a little distracting within five feet of the VS200. Fortunately, the pitch of the fan noise is moderately low, so it is not as intrusive as it might be. In addition, Eco mode is bright enough for many situations, and it reduces fan noise to 29dB which is quiet enough for those sitting close to the projector.

Audio: The VS200's single one-watt speaker will not be adequate for a large room, but it might do the trick in a small business presentation as long as background noise is low. Our test sample speaker was a bit buzzy at settings above half volume, but clarity was good up to that point.

Connections: With no digital input and only one VGA connector that serves for both computer and component video connection, you will have to use the composite video RCA connector to display video images unless you are prepared to swap cables when you change sources. Of course, you could use the USB input to the VS200, but since the USB type A-to-type B cable is not supplied with the projector, you will have to have one handy to use this alternative. Also, like most sub-$450 projectors, the VS200 has no digital input. You will have to be content with composite or component video . . . you will not be able to accommodate HDMI signals from DVD players, for example.

Conclusion

As long as you do not need to connect many sources simultaneously and ambient light can be controlled, Epson's VS200 is a good choice for those who need a solid, bright picture for under $450. For presenters on the go, the quick start/stop capability can really save time. If you are sensitive to DLP rainbow artifacts, the VS200's LCDs eliminate that problem, and the remote control's presentation features are very handy when wandering away from your computer during your presentation. The VS200 does not cover every base for the small-business presenter, but it performs well in those areas it is designed for.

(05/19/19 - 03:33 PM PST)
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