Based on a laser illumination engine with 8,200 ANSI lumens and an attached, short-throw lens, the Optoma ZU920TST excels at putting a large image on-screen from a close distance, and does so at affordable cost within its brightness class.
- Bright, short-throw projector with integrated lens
- Sealed, maintenance-free laser light source
- Backlit remote control
- Picture-In-Picture and Picture-By-Picture Modes
- Built-in blending and warping
- No integrated Wi-Fi
With a permanently attached lens, Optoma's ZU920TST installation projector gives up some flexibility that replaceable lenses afford. But if you need a surprisingly bright short throw projector, it does the trick, and at a cost savings against most projector/lens combos in the same brightness class.
Ideal for anything from presentations without shadows and digital scenery for school plays, to worship environments that lack controlled lighting, to golfing simulators and even 24/7 advertising, the ZU920TST is a one-of-a kind projector that yields WUXGA 1920x1200 resolution and a 8,200 ANSI lumen/9,800 ISO lumen rating; we measured more than 9,000 ANSI lumens from our sample. While it comes with some compromises, it offers a good range of thoughtful installation features and true maintenance-free projection with a sealed laser light engine.
Unique to the world of business and educational projectors, the ZU920TST's short throw optics, with a 0.65-0.75:1 throw ratio and minimum throw distance of just 27.6 inches, make it like no other projector in its brightness class. Its closest competitors are medium venue projectors with optional short lenses, most notably 3LCD rather than DLP models from Epson and Panasonic. Achieving the Optoma's throw range, especially if the benefits of adjustable zoom and DLP are desired, requires greater expense than the ZU920TST's all-inclusive $11,749 street price.
The ZU920TST is a follow-up to the popular Optoma ZU720T standard-throw and ZU720TST short-throw projectors, in which Optoma helped pioneer the concept of attached lenses in high-output laser models. It offers higher brightness compared with those models, which are specified at 7,500 and 7,000 ANSI lumens respectively. Optoma's ZU920T sibling comes in at the same 8,200 ANSI rating as the ZU920TST with a similar feature set, but with an attached standard zoom lens and a $7,999 street price. On the downside, the ZU920 series lacks the ZU720T series' built-in Android computer that can project Web sites and apps without a computer in sight.
Still, the ZU920TST is a screen gem that is built around Optoma's sealed DuraCore blue diode laser engine. The laser beam is sent to a phosphor wheel that creates a stream of yellow light which, along with the blue beam, travels to the projector's color wheel. This creates red, blue, green and yellow light segments that are sequentially bounced off a 0.67-inch Digital Light Processing (DLP) imaging chip and onto the projector's short throw optics.
Based on its WUXGA imaging, the ZU920TST's output has a 16:10 aspect ratio. It can use inputs of up to 4K video and display them at its native resolution; it will even recognize and tone-map 4K HDR content. Because it is lit by a laser, the ZU920TST can be run at any angle without overheating, and it is appropriate for 24/7 use in advertising installations. Optoma sees it finding ready use in short-throw digital signage, projection mapping, simulations, and immersive installations.
As was the case with the ZU720T family, heat build-up is prevented by the ZU920TST's intricate heat pipe design. Looking like a tiny sculpture, the copper tubes are visible through the intake grille and draw thermal energy away from the projector's delicate components.
The illumination components are rated to last 20,000 hours of use in the Normal Light Source mode and 30,000 hours of use in ECO mode. If you can use ECO, that's the equivalent of a little less than three-and-a-half years of always-on work or nearly 19 years of use at 8 hours a day and 200 days a year. In addition to never needing a new lamp, the optics are sealed and the ZU920TST doesn't require a dust filter and carries an IP5X dust intrusion rating. In other words, it's just about maintenance free, and well-suited for those set-and-forget installs where the projector is mounted in a hard-to-reach location.
Even at its lower 8,200 ANSI lumen specification, the ZU920TST delivers plenty of brightness to allow it to be used in a large conference room, mid-sized auditorium or lecture hall with the lights on. It's just as appropriate for specialty uses where distance between the screen and projector is at a premium, such as for golfing and flight simulators. The ZU920TST can also be used to accurately project images onto domed surfaces, such as in a church or museum.
While many short throw projectors lack an optical zoom, the ZU920TST's lens can enlarge the image by 1.15X; as mentioned its throw ratio ranges from 0.65:1 to 0.75:1. That zoom can be a big help when getting the image's position just right on the screen, as is the projector's image shift mechanism that can move the picture up or down by 55% as well as right or left by 25%. It can also correct for up to a 30-degree angle both vertically and horizontally with its keystone controls. The easiest method of squaring the image, though, is Optoma's four-corner interface to push-in or pull-out each edge individually. The zoom, focus, and lens shift are all motorized for easier installation.
Able to create a 77-inch image from 43-inches away, the ZU920TST is perfect for anything from making sure the presenter doesn't cast shadows on the projected material to showing a live stream of the choir projected behind them to displaying the fairway at Augusta onto the target screen for duffers to practice on a simulator. The projector tops out with a 50-foot image. To see if the ZU920TST works in your room, check out ProjectorCentral's Optoma ZU920TST Throw Distance Calculator.
Optoma has included an excellent selection of ports on the ZU920TST, with a pair of HDMI 2.0 video inputs that are augmented with an old-fashioned VGA computer connection. There's an HDMI-out connection for sending video to a podium or an overflow room's display, and the projector has an RJ45 HDBaseT port for playing uncompressed video from a network or sending control signals.
In addition to 3.5-millimeter jacks for audio-in and -out, the ZU920TST has an RS-232 port for remotely controlling the projector using Crestron, AMX or Extron hardware. It can also use Telnet commands. There's also a 12-volt trigger for opening or closing a powered screen, and the projector can extend the range of its handheld remote control with a 3.5mm jumper cable. Furthermore, the ZU920TST is 3D compatible and offers 3D synchronization In and Out connections for use with a DLP-Link emitter and glasses.
The projector has a pair of 10-watt speakers that sound surprisingly good for a variety of material from spoken word programming to music to movies. It gets loud enough for smaller rooms, but larger venues will require an external sound system.
The ZU920TST's networking abilities include a gigabit Ethernet port but the projector lacks the ability to connect with a building's Wi-Fi infrastructure to access content or for sharing among meeting or class participants. It does have a USB-A port that can power a device like a Chromecast module or other HDMI dongle suitable for screen mirroring or sharing.
When it's networked, you can gain access to the projector via an extensive web browser-based interface, but there's a trick to getting it connected. On its first use, I needed to log in using the projector's serial number as the password, a 17-character code that I got right on the third try. After that, I was forced to change it to something more personal.
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The web interface Information page is a cornucopia overflowing with data. It required zooming the browser out to 33 percent to take it all in. The good news is that the networking screens offer an abundance of operational information about the projector regardless of whether the connected computer is next to the projector or in another room. The parameters range from the picture mode and input signal to how many hours the projector has been used and its current temperature.
There are several opportunities to make changes remotely over the network that will brighten the mood of the organization's IT manager. For instance, the Lens Settings page let me focus, zoom and shift the image. In addition to turning the projector on or off, the LAN control can save lens settings and lock the controls.
The projector's control panel is in the back and has the basics. Both it and the ZU920TST's remote control are backlit in blue, making the projector easier to work with in the dark. That's a surprisingly unusual feature among commercial projectors. Powered by a pair of AAA batteries, the remote does the expected (On/Standby, input source and picture mode) but also let me move the image around using the shift mechanism and focus the image. It had dedicated keys for keystone correction.
The remote control had a range of 32 feet but that can be extended by using a 3.5-millimeter audio cable plugged into the remote control and projector. The Menu key, four-way arrows and an Enter key are standard fare for navigating the projector's choices. It has 12 built-in test patterns available.
The ZU920TST has a couple more tricks up its sleeve that could be a big help in an office, house of worship or school. Its Picture In Picture (PIP) and Picture By Picture (PBP) feature let me run two video streams through the ZU920TST. The bonus is that, unlike others that limit the input choices, the HDMI or VGA ports are available for either image. It's easy to swap them in the PBP format, making it good for complicated video conferencing uses.
Like the ZU720T family, the ZU920TST comes with an excellent warranty that covers the device for three years, although its illumination components are guaranteed for five years or 12,000 hours of use. The company will ship a replacement for next day delivery in the event of a failure.
Far from being a small projector, the Optoma ZU920TST measures 5.7 x 14.8 x 18.9 inches and weighs a hefty 31 pounds. Still, it's compact for its weight class and relatively light. The projector ships with a lens cap, something that others leave out. This can protect its optics when being moved or stored.
While the ZU920TST can be aimed at any angle, even straight down or used in portrait mode, it requires about 20-inches of clearance on all sides to allow cooling air in. At its corners are adjustable feet for leveling and tilting the projector. There are four threaded attachment points underneath. The company doesn't sell a mounting bracket for the projector, but it worked fine with the generic hardware I have.
As is the case with some other short-throw projectors with such a tight throw ratio, the ZU920TST's focus is ultimately a compromise between the upper and lower portions of the screen; it's difficult to get the image universally crisp from top to bottom. But with a little fiddling with the remote's focus buttons or hands-on with the lens, reasonably sharp focus can be arrived at. The integrated test patterns helped a lot here to get to the focus optimized.
Its lens shift and ability to correct for an incline of up to 30 degrees helped with installing it. However, as with all projectors, using keystone results in a loss of brightness, and in this case an angle of 15 degrees caused the projector to lose 49% of its brightness. Fortunately, the generous lens shift will likely eliminate the need for keystone in many installations and help preserve the projector's firepower.
The ZU920TST has a low latency mode potentially useful for gaming and simulation. Switching it from the Normal to the "2D Ultra" setting reduces input lag with 1080p/60 signals from 59.4 milliseconds to a respectable 19.9 ms, though as with many game modes, the projector's geometry correction and keystone features were made inactive (despite my still being able to adjust their settings in the menu). The ZU920TST can also work with HDR material to optimize the resulting video stream. This is more for movies and YouTube videos than for displaying educational material, spreadsheets and presentations. Still, it's nice to have it for movie night at church or a school film festival.
The ZU920TST has pin-cushioning control and a built-in image processor that can warp and edge-blend the image, helping make quick work of setting up a projector array. It even has small cutouts at each corner that correspond to the size and position of the projector's feet so that three ZU920TSTs can be stacked without the hassle and expense of a hardware rack.
Unlike some other laser projectors, the ZU920TST is on the slow side to get started, taking 29.6 seconds to project an image. Give it another few minutes for its laser to warm up and get to full brightness. It took 20.5 seconds to shut itself down and turn off its cooling fan. The projector can be turned on and off with a wall switch connected to an AC outlet.
Its five picture modes are keyed to different content, but the emphasis here is on displaying bright graphics, Web sites and educational material. There're also modes for blending and a user defined setting. The appropriately named Bright mode put out the most light, measured at 9,008 ANSI lumens, but does so with images dominated by a yellowish green hue. Still, that's nearly 10 percent above its 8,200 ANSI lumen spec. Even with a color balance that's far from flattering, that's more than enough to leave the lights on and the shades up for most work.
Presentation looks a little better and delivered an impressive 8,065 ANSI lumens, but still projects a stark image most suitable for spreadsheets and graphics in a bright room. It won't fare well with naturalistic photography, artwork or movies.
Meanwhile, the projector's Cinema mode warmed things up significantly for all types of photorealistic content. It will do well for most uses but at the cost of reducing brightness to 5,647 ANSI lumens. That should be suitable and improve the experience for a darkened auditorium.
The projector lacks a specifically named Rec.709 picture setting, but the ZU920TST's sRGB mode is close and the best compromise between outright brightness and color fidelity. It looked warm, but overly so, and had realistic, although not vivid, colors. It measured 6,614 ANSI lumens. The DICOM Sim mode is for viewing (though not officially diagnosing) medical scans, making the ZU920TST a good choice or a nursing school or hospital's auditorium. Its light output was 7,348 ANSI lumens.
Though it's not recommended, if there's no screen available, the ZU920TST can be adapted for use with a painted wall. In addition to a setting for a blackboard, there are choices for projecting onto walls painted light yellow, light green, light blue, pink, and gray.
As is the case with its competitors, the ZU920TST has a power-saving Eco mode. It reduced the output by 51 percent with a peak brightness level of 4,354 ANSI lumens. Overall, the projector had a very solid 89.6 percent brightness uniformity rating, with the lower right corner measuring 8% dimmer compared to its center reading.
Using the Bright mode, the ZU920TST used 471.0 watts, an amazing 7 percent less than the 504.3 watts than the ZU720T consumed in our test. By contrast, the ZU720T delivered 7,890 ANSI lumens, 12 percent less than the ZU920TST. The ZU920TST used 4.2 watts of power at idle. If it's running for 8 hours a day and 200 days a year and your organization pays the national average of 14 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity, the ZU920TST could cost about $110 a year. That's about what the ZU720T cost to operate.
The ZU920TST's outer case, as measured from the temperature coming off its exhaust vent, never got over 94 degrees Fahrenheit, but to get there it's cooling system ended up working a bit harder and it was a little louder than the ZU720T model. The ZU920TST hit a peak of 41.4dBA measured 36 inches from the projector in a room with a background level of 34.0dBA. By contrast, Optoma's testing using the industry standard averaged measurement in a sound-proof room rates the ZU920TST at a maximum of 38dB, which drops to 36dB in Eco mode.
If you're looking for an affordable, self-contained short-throw projector that can create a large bright image from up close, Optoma's ZU920TST is a strong contender. It costs a bit more than some competitors out of the box, but it's integrated and unusually tight short-throw lens more than makes up for the extra cost of purchasing a similarly equipped short-throw lens. With it's 8,200 specified and 9,008 measured ANSI lumens, it delivers a huge amount of light in a relatively compact chassis, and comes loaded with all the installation features you'd want including motorized lens functions, generous vertical and horizontal lens shift, and even a built-in image processor to facilitate blending or warping for multi-projector setups. It does a lot at a close distance for a school, business, or house of worship, and might even help you with your swing as an uber-bright projector option for a golf simulator.
Brightness. The Optoma ZU920TST puts a lot of light onto the screen from close up. It's spec'd for 8,200 ANSI lumens and registered a peak of 9,008 ANSI lumens in its Bright mode in our measurements. The Presentation mode reduced this to 8,065 ANSI lumens while the Cinema and sRGB settings delivered 5,647 and 6,614 ANSI lumens, respectively. Using the projector's DICOM Sim mode yielded 7,348 ANSI lumens.
Switching from the Normal to ECO Light Source mode reduces brightness by 51%. The projector also has a Custom Light Source mode that allows adjustment between 30% and 100%, and a Constant Brightness mode that attempts to keep the projector at its calibrated brightness level as the light source ages.
Optoma ZU920TST ANSI Lumens
Zoom Lens Light Loss (from widest to maximum zoom): 4.9%
Brightness Uniformity: 89.6%
Fan Noise. The elaborate copper heat sink on the ZU920TST worked well, keeping its heat budget under control. The cooling fan helped but raised the projector's noise level to 41.4dBA, versus a background reading of 34.0dBA, as measured three feet from the exhaust vent. Optoma rates the projector at a maximum of 38 dB in Normal Light Source mode, using the standard measurement technique that averages noise around the projector in a sound-proof room. That drops to 36 dB in Eco mode.
Input Lag. The ZU920TST has a low latency mode potentially useful for gaming and simulation. Switching the Latency Adjustment in the Input Setup menu from the Normal to the "2D Ultra" setting reduces input lag with 1080p/60 signals from 59.4 milliseconds to 19.9 ms. The projector's geometry correction and keystone features are rendered inactive (though their settings are not grayed out in the menu).
- HDMI 2.0 (x2)
- Computer RGB in (15-pin D-Sub)
- HDMI video out
- RS-232 Serial Port
- USB (Type A, 5-volt at 1.5 amps)
- 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 and output
- Remote Control extension (3.5mm)
- 12v trigger
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma ZU920TST projector page.