Thanks to a high-output laser light engine, an integrated zoom lens, and a built-in Android computer, Optoma’s 7,500-lumen ProScene ZU720T squeezes a lot of projector into an inexpensive package. At $4,999, it might be today’s best bargain for lighting up a house of worship, large conference room or small auditorium.
- Built-in Android computer
- Integrated zoom lens combined with high-output, 7,500 lumen laser light engine
- No WiFi or Bluetooth option
On the surface, Optoma's ProScene ZU720T looks like many other mid-market business and education projectors, but under its black skin it has a fully functional Android computer as if it were transplanted from a tablet or phone. This allows the projector to not only connect with nearby laptops and use its own apps but also display websites with a built-in browser. It takes a little getting used to—and having a keyboard helps—but it is a big step forward for business and education projectors.
With the ability to put more than 7,500 lumens on-screen, the ZU720T offers a low-maintenance lifestyle as well as a lot of brightness and features for its $5,000 price tag. The WUXGA (1920x1200) projector is unusual in its brightness class for having an integrated, non-detachable lens, a design decision that saves cost but limits its ultimate flexibility and may take it out of contention for some installations. Still, its unusually wide 1.8x zoom should accommodate a wide range of scenarios in a projector with a relatively compact footprint that's offered at a substantial discount to other similarly bright models, while its laser light engine and advanced cooling system add up to low maintenance costs. In fact, assuming the lens works for you, the ZU720T's only major missing is the lack of an optional Wi-Fi solution or Bluetooth to make connecting a little easier. For many users, its wired networking should be more than enough.
In other words, the ProScene ZU720T can not only light up a conference room, lecture hall or auditorium screen, but with its Android computer, it can let you leave the laptop behind.
By building the ProScene ZU720T projector around a capable Android computer, Optoma engineers have created a self-sufficient business and education projector. Along with never needing a replacement lamp, the projector can play videos, connect to the web, and use a select group of apps without a computer in sight.
The center of attention is the projector's home page where you can jump to any of its included apps, go to its Settings page, or pick an input source. It can lift common files off a flash drive and display images, audio, and videos as well as Acrobat and some Office files. I was pleased to find that the ZU720T's built-in web browser worked well with cnn.com, Amazon Web services, and the University of Colorado's PhET interactive science and math simulations.
The ZU720T also has a trick up its sleeve with Optoma's TapCast Pro software that allows the projector to connect with a laptop, phone or tablet to mirror its screen. There are TapCast apps for Android, iOS, Chromebooks, PCs and Macs that can show photos, documents, videos and even a live view through the device's camera.
By using the Desktop function, the projector's output can be sent to the phone for controlling the pointer or even annotating the screen. The projector's Remote function is a gem that let me aim the on-screen pointer by rotating and tilting the phone or tablet. I found it perfect for pointing out a cell on a spreadsheet or highlighting a portion of a virtual dissection.
While the ZU720T is a big step forward for meetings and classroom interaction, I suggest not using its onscreen keypad. It's much easier to plug in a USB keyboard with touchpad to ease navigation and make quick work of typing URLs and passwords (though Optoma warns that the projector doesn't always respond to every single key on every USB keyboard). Personally, I would have liked to see Bluetooth wireless included in the projector so that I could have connected a wireless keyboard. Still, the ZU720T's Android abilities make it among the most versatile and flexible projectors on the market.
Based on Optoma's DuraCore laser design, the projector will neither have a blown lamp nor need a replacement, saving potential embarrassment and thousands of dollars over its life. Optoma rates the light engine to last 20,000 hours of use or more than 15 years of running for 8 hours a day, 200 days a year. That can be extended to 30,000 hours if you reduce the brightness manually by 50 percent.
The light travels through a simplified path compared to some other laser projectors. The laser's blue output goes through a phosphor wheel to convert the beam into green and yellow light and then uses a four-segment color wheel to isolate the red, green, blue and yellow components. These beams are bounced off a 0.67-inch Digital Light Processing (DLP) imaging chip to deliver a WUXGA video stream with 16:10 aspect ratio. The projector is rated to deliver the full Rec.709 spectrum of colors that HDTV display makers use as their gold standard.
Under the skin, the ZU720T uses an advanced heat pipe design that helps cool its more sensitive components. By combining copper rods with a radiator to disperse the heat, the ZU720T's thermal design runs cooler, quieter and allows for 24/7 operation.
The projector's optical and imaging components are sealed and carry an IP5X dust intrusion rating. Aimed at houses of worship, large conference rooms, mid-sized lecture halls and auditoriums, the ZU720T is more than bright enough to project bright and vibrant images with the room lights on and the shades up on a sunny day. With over 7,500 lumens of light on tap, Optoma rates its contrast at 2,000:1 but with its Dynamic Black feature active that can be boosted to as high as 1,000,000:1.
Projecting infographics, spreadsheets, digital curriculum and websites are its métier. Still, the ZU720T does passably well at rendering photo-realistic scenes and flesh tones in its sRGB mode, although, as it found in most projectors, this greater color accuracy comes at the cost of considerable brightness.
As noted, the ZU720T's affixed lens means you can't swap lenses to suit the room or special applications, though its fairly long 1.8x optical zoom gives it a lot of flexibility. Zoom and focus are manual and the projector has a throw ratio of between 2.5:1 and 1.4:1 to help frame the image on the screen. Optical lens shift, ±55% vertical and ±25% horizontal, is motorized. As an example, the ZU720T's lens will throw a 150-inch diagonal image from anywhere between15 feet, 3 inches to 27 feet, 5 inches from the screen. To see the range of throw distances for your desired screen size, you can visit ProjectorCentral's Optoma ZU720T Throw Distance Calculator.
On the downside, the ZU720T's pair of control rings around the lens for manual focus and zoom are a little too close for comfort. I found myself either drawn to the wrong one or accidentally touching the lens. Of course, the likelihood with a projector like this is that it will be permanently installed, which minimizes the number of times you'll be dealing with these.
With a good array of ports, the ZU720T can connect with a variety of sources at school or work. In addition to HDMI ports version 1.4a (for HD inputs) and HDMI 2.0 (with HDCP 2.2, for 4K sources), it has an HDMI-out connector for sending video to another projector or display. An HDBaseT input is on board for running long distance input/control signals via Cat cable. The projector may lack composite and component video inputs, but it has an old-school VGA port for when it's needed.
While it lacks Wi-Fi, the ZU720T has a gigabit wired networking port that should satisfy many users. You can take control of the ZU720T via its LAN connection, RS-232 serial port, or HDBaseT. It works with Crestron, Extron and PJLink control systems.
There's a USB Type B port for diagnosing problems and updating the projector's firmware; it can also get firmware updates via its networking port. Two powered Type A ports are on hand and suitable for plugging in a flash drive to display your quarterly sales projections or connecting a keyboard to help quickly navigate to a series of competitor websites.
The projector supports 3D programming and has an input and output for the synchronization circuit. You still have to suffer the usual indignity of wearing the glasses to split the right and left image fields, though. In a big room, the projector's pair of 10-watt speakers will likely need to be augmented with an external sound system. It has a 3.5 mm audio-out jack to facilitate outboard gear, and a 3.5 mm input should it be needed for a non-HDMI source like an older computer connected with the VGA port.
Finally, the ZU720T has both a 12-volt trigger output for opening and closing a powered screen and the ability to use a utility cable with 3.5 mm plugs to extend the remote control's range. The included remote has a nice laser pointer but because it is used for multiple models, it has several buttons that don't correspond to the ZU720T's features that you'll need to learn to ignore. It's powered by a pair of AAA batteries, had a range of about 30 feet, and its keys are backlit in blue. On top of the powerful Home key, the device has Source selection, Volume-up and -down and a picture freeze. My favorite quickly became the ability to play two live sources at once with PIP (Picture in Picture) and PBP (Picture by Picture). There are eight different formats to choose.
The ZU720T's control panel is thoughtfully placed in the back, away from the projector's exhaust (which is on the left side of the projector as you face its lens). There's a power switch, buttons for the Menu, Enter, and Exit as well as a familiar four-way navigation. The projector has three LEDs that show if it's plugged in, powered up or overheating.
Should any issues surface, the ZU720T is covered by a three-year warranty with a first-year advanced replacement plan. The laser light engine is guaranteed for 5 years or 12,000 hours of use, whichever comes first.
Measuring 19.0 x 6.9 x 15.2-inches and weighing in at 28 pounds, the ZU720T is too big and heavy to be considered portable but still relatively compact for its brightness and lighter than most direct competitors that weight more even without a lens. Still, plan on having two bodies on hand to set it up. Chances are that it will be installed in a projection room, ceiling-mounted or placed in a wall nook. To keep its cool, the ZU720T requires 20 inches of clearance all around.
In addition to four adjustable legs, the ZU720T has seven attachment points underneath for use with mounting hardware. It worked with generic hardware but Optoma's BM-9004U mounting hardware, for $175, allows adjustments of roll, pitch and yaw. There's an optional pipe for extending the projector downward that adds $100.
Because it uses a laser and not a traditional lamp, the ZU720T can project at any angle, including straight down for an event's welcome message or up for ceiling scenery. When the shape of the room conspires against having a centered projector, the ZU720T can pull or push the image's four corners into a rectangle. There's also up to 30 degrees of horizontal and vertical keystone correction available. Like most projectors, using the vertical keystone correction comes at the cost of some brightness. With the ZU720T angled up 15 degrees, brightness was lowered by 13 percent. To make sure that everything is square during setup, the ZU720T has three grid test patterns as well as a full field white image.
Finally, the ZU720T punches above its weight class with the ability to warp images and edge-blend. This can help when projecting an image onto a curved surface or when combining the output of several projectors.
The ZU720T is a fast starter, taking just 22 seconds to project its home screen. It took 10 seconds to shut down its fan when turned off. It's fast enough to turn the projector on and off before and after use without slowing a school or office down. The projector can be wired to a wall switch to turn it on or off, or can be set to automatically fire up when it senses an active video input.
With five display modes—Bright, Presentation, Cinema, sRBG and Dicom Sim—it can project a variety of material. A full suite of image adjustments are available to customize the presets or create your own user-defined display mode, including the basics (Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Color, Tint) and advanced controls such as Gamma, Color Temp, RGB Gain/Bias, and a Color Matching color management system for RGBCMY Hue, Saturation, and Gain. In addition to a Texas Instruments' Brilliant Color setting (to adjust the white brightness and color brightness balance), the projector has both Extreme Black and Dynamic Black options for raising the contrast ratio for things like projecting spreadsheets or text-based documents. An HDR Picture Mode setting can be used to adjust the image for different 4K HDR content, which the projector displays at its native WUXGA resolution.
No screen? The ZU720T can be projected onto a painted wall with the ability to compensate for a blackboard as well as a yellow, green, blue, pink or gray wall.
Using the ZU720T's Bright mode, the projector delivered 7,890 lumens, 5% over its 7,500 ANSI lumen spec. On the other hand, the ZU720T's Bright output had an overwhelming blue cast to it. It should be fine for graphics, digital curriculum and web pages but makes flesh tones appear washed out.
The projector's Presentation mode provided a more neutral image but dropped output to 7,010 lumens. Its Cinema mode added warmth to the images and delivered 4,450 lumens, while the sRGB setting provided the best image quality and color balance for photo-based material but at the cost of lowering the brightness to 3,190 lumens, less than half of the projector's peak output. Finally, the Dicom Sim setting is meant for medical scans but did a good job with black text on a white background, such as in spreadsheet data; it put a punchy 7,420 lumens on the screen.
Happily, the projector paints a consistent picture across the screen. Brightness uniformity was 91 percent and the image showed no visible hotspots or dead zones.
With the projector set to its Bright mode, it used 504.3 watts and consumed 1.1 watts at idle. If it's used for 8 hours a day for 200 days a year, the ZU720T will cost roughly $106 a year, assuming you pay the national average of 13 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity.
The ZU720T doesn't have a traditional eco mode that reduces the projector's brightness and power use, but you can manually reduce its Brightness setting to lower its output and power use. Its Eco standby mode reduced the draw to 0.5 watt.
Thanks to advanced thermal design, the ZU720T's exhaust never got above 107.5 degrees Fahrenheit. That's lower than some projectors that deliver half as much light. When being used, its cooling fan was among the quietest I've seen (or heard). In casual measurements in my room (with a noise floor of 34.7 dBA) the fan noise measured 39.1dBA from 36-inches away. Optoma rates the projector at 31dB in its sound-proof testing room.
Optoma takes a big step forward with the ProScene ZU720T projector for businesses, schools and houses of worship. In addition to a low-maintenance laser light engine, the DLP projector's built-in Android computer can wirelessly mirror screens, display files off a flash drive and directly project websites. In other words, it is one of the most self-contained and accommodating projectors on the market, allowing meeting participants or teachers to leave the notebook behind.
What's more, the ZU720T delivers these features at remarkably low cost for a laser projector that blasts 7,500 lumens or more of sharp and vibrant images, even with the lights on and window shades up. Assuming its 1.8x zoom works for your installation, Optoma's decision to include an integrated, non-detachable lens can literally save thousands of dollars over competitive models. At this writing, ProjectorCentral's extensive Find a Projector search engine shows that, among WUXGA laser projectors in the 7,000-to-8,000 lumen brightness class, the next nearest competitor to the ZU720T's $4,999 price costs $6,788 before the expense of a lens. Most are well north of $7,000 while also requiring the purchase of a separate lens.
As good and useful as the ZU720T is, it's not perfect. The projector lacks a Wi-Fi option, which may inhibit ease of learning or sharing without the addition of a wireless presentation system if the projector is not hardwired to the same network used by participants. But even at its highly attractive price, the ZU720T sacrifices little else most users will want or ever need. It is not only a bargain projector, but a top choice for conference rooms, classrooms, and houses of worship.
Brightness. Despite its price tag, the Optoma ZU720T really pumps out the light. Its Bright mode topped out at 7,890 lumens, about 5% above Optoma's spec.
Optoma ZU720TANSI Lumens & Power Use
|PICTURE MODE||OUTPUT||POWER USE|
|Bright||7,890 lumens||504.3 watts|
|Presentation||7,010 lumens||433.0 watts|
|Cinema||4,450 lumens||433.0 watts|
|sRBG||3,190 lumens||380.3 watts|
|Dicom Sim||7,420 lumens||498.1 watts|
Color Brightness. As expected, the ZU720T's use of single-chip (DLP) imaging technology and its sequential rendering of colors resulted in a low color brightness measurement. While a white image produced 7,890 lumens in Bright picture mode, the combined color brightness measurement, with the Brilliant Color setting at its default of 10, added up to 3,800 lumens.
Zoom Lens Light Loss (from widest to maximum zoom): 37.1%
Brightness Uniformity: 91.3%
Fan Noise. With its highly engineered cooling design, the projector's exhaust never got above 107.5 degrees Fahrenheit. With the sound measuring gear 36-inches from the projector's exhaust fan, the ZU720T registered 39.1dBA of fan noise. The room's background noise level was 34.7dBA.
- HDMI 1.4a
- HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2
- HDMI out
- Computer RGB in (15-pin D-Sub)
- RS-232 Serial Port
- USB X 2 (Type A, 5-volt at 1.5 amps)
- USB (Type B for firmware upgrade)
- Wired LAN (RJ-45)
- HDBaseT video input (audio/video and control)
- Audio in (3.5 mm)
- Audio out (3.5mm)
- 3-D synchronization signal input
- 3-D synchronization signal output
- Remote Control extension (3.5mm)
- 12v trigger
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma ZU720T projector page.