Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The Optoma TX542-3D is a well-balanced projector that features a very sharp picture and great performance and warranty for the price. Well-suited for the classroom or conference room, the TX542-3D is a XGA DLP projector with up to a 5,000-hour lamp life, a filter free design and Optoma's 3-year express replacement service. An above average performer on 2D video and static presentation material, the TX542-3D is also 3D capable and supports refresh rates up to 120Hz.
Brightness: While our review sample did not perform to Optoma's specifications, it produces enough light output to be capable of performing in a variety of use settings. The TX542-3D measured a peak brightness of 1,968 ANSI-lumens or just over 70% of the 2,800 ANSI-lumen specification. Peak light output was found using Bright lamp mode and the Bright picture preset and increasing the Contrast setting to 60. Brightness uniformity was a high 82% making any differences in brightness across the screen imperceptible.
1,968 ANSI-lumens can support a 4:3 aspect ratio unity gain screen of 135 inches in diagonal with a 30 foot-lambert brightness level, bright enough for use with non-direct ambient light in the room. A 100-inch diagonal screen would result in a brightness level of almost 60 foot-lamberts, which allows the TX542-3D to be used in environments with significant amounts of ambient light.
Across different picture modes, the measured reduction between Bright and Eco was only 7-9%. Power consumption between Bright and Eco was in-line with the measured difference in light output. Measured using a Kill-A-Watt meter, the TX542-3D consumed 225 watts in normal mode and 207 watts in Eco mode or 8% less power in Eco mode.
Picture Quality: The Optoma TX542 is a solid performer with both static presentation material and video. The combination of a quality lens and a substantial contrast ratio result in a dynamic on screen image. The TX542 image is tack sharp with excellent edge-to-edge focus across the total screen width. The TX542-3D has a 1.2x zoom lens that allows the projector to be placed between 5 and 32 feet from the screen. The 1.2x zoom allows a 100-inch image to be displayed with the projector located between 10.7 and 12.8 feet from the screen. Image offset was measured at approximately 12%-15% of image height depending on the zoom setting.
I preferred viewing static presentation material with Brilliant Color at about 80-90% of the maximum setting, but found that video material had a more natural color balance with a 20-30% setting. Additionally, the best video performance was found using the Movie image preset combined with minor adjustments to Brightness and Contrast to properly maintain image detail at the near black and peak white levels. Light output in the adjusted Movie preset dropped to 946 ANSI-lumens using Bright lamp mode.
Audio Quality: The TX542-3D contains two 5-watt stereo speakers that produce surprising sound quality for a projector. A small (but noticeable) amount of bass response, actual stereo panning effects and clear dialog reproduction combine to result in audio quality well above expectations. A small amount of distortion was noticed at the peak volume level but was eliminated by dropping the level by a single click. Overall volume levels are sufficient for a classroom or conference room while external speakers are recommended for an auditorium or large boardroom.
Input panel: The TX542-3D has a full featured input panel. Video inputs include a digital HDMI connection and dual D-sub inputs that accept computer signals and component video signals. S-video and composite video inputs are also included along with a dedicated D-sub monitor pass-through output. An audio signal can be input over HDMI or via one of the three 3.5mm mini jacks dedicated to the various analog video inputs. For security purposes, the TX542-3D features a Kensington Lock port and a security bar if universal security cables are used. The TX542 also features a RJ-45 input for network capability and a mini USB connector that allows the projector's remote control to function as a computer mouse.
3D Capability: I tested the performance of the TX542-3D using the 3D Blu-ray of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs transmitted from a computer fitted with a Blu-ray drive. Once an initial setup issue was resolved, the projector was 3D functional. It reproduced 3D with good image depth, a minimal amount of ghosting and an acceptable color balance. The 3D performance of the TX542-3D is limited by its XGA resolution, which is only capable of reproducing 28% of the available Blu-ray resolution compared to the 44% that a 1280x720 3D projector is able to display. This was especially noticeable on the Cinemascope aspect ratio of 'Cloudy', which is displayed with large black bars above and below the image.
As far as 3D compatibility is concerned, this projector is limited to frame-sequential output from a computer. It will not natively display HD 3D signals from broadcast or 3D enabled Blu-ray players. While format compatibility currently limits possible 3D sources, Optoma recently announced the 3D-XL Projector Adaptor. The 3D-XL is an external box that promises to convert 3D from Blu-ray players or broadcast sources into the frame-sequential format the TX542-3D needs. The 3D-XL is expected to be released in January 2011.
Like other 3D capable DLP projectors, switching to 3D mode dropped light output compared to peak levels. However, the TX542-3D brightness in 3D mode was comparable to the 2D Movie image preset. Light output was measured at 904 ANSI-lumens or 96% of the 2D Movie light output. While this is a significant drop from peak levels, this projector has sufficient brightness to support screen size of about 70 inches in diagonal when using 3D shutter glasses and the projector's 3D mode.
Lamp life and Replacement Cost: The TX542-3D represented a great value considering the under $700 street price and a replacement lamp cost under $200. The low ownership cost is further enhanced by a long bulb life cycle: up to 5,000 hours in Eco mode and 4,000 hour in Bright mode.
Warranty: The TX542-3D features three years of Optoma's Express Replacement Service. If service is required, Optoma will immediately ship a replacement projector in the first year of the warranty. In the second and third year of the warranty, a loaner projector is immediately shipped for use while the repair is completed. This is a great feature for classroom or conference room that needs a projector up and running every day. Optoma also provides a full year of warranty on the bulb, significantly more than the 90 days that are common on many other projectors.
Rainbow Effect: I am not overly sensitive to DLP rainbow artifacts; however, I noticed an occasional rainbow when testing the TX542-3D with video material. Rainbows were most common in the brighter image modes such as Blackboard or Bright. Rainbows were minimized in the Movie image preset, but not eliminated. The TX542-3D passed the rainbow test using animation heavy PowerPoint slides - no rainbows were noticed during transitions regardless of image mode. Since this projector has a 2x color wheel rotation speed, viewers who are more sensitive to rainbows may see them more frequently than I did.
Remote Control Mouse Function: Connecting the TX542-3D to a computer using the included mini-USB cable was not a pure plug and play experience. The initial connection launched the Windows 'Found New Hardware Wizard' menu that did not complete successfully, however the remote control mouse control did function. The cursor response was extremely slow, taking over twenty seconds to navigate the width of the screen - more successful mouse implementation will speed up the cursor movement as the navigation keys are held down. The mouse keys are prominently located at the top of the remote control. I frequently confused the mouse control keys with the smaller directional key pad used for menu navigation that is located in the center of the remote. While I found the above issues a minor annoyance, they could lead to confusion if this projector is used in a non-technical setting.
Initial 3D Setup: My initial testing of the TX542-3D using a 120Hz signal from a computer with an NVIDIA graphics card caused the projector to become physically unresponsive and display a fixed 'input signal' menu on the screen. Both issues were resolved by creating a custom resolution with a negative horizontal polarity. This issue was only found with a 120Hz refresh rate; no issues with a refresh rate lower than 120Hz were identified. Considering that this issue was easily resolved with a custom resolution, it may be related to my specific computer hardware, operating system and driver configuration.
The TX542-3D offers a great value proposition by combining a low street price, long lamp life, and excellent warranties on both the projector and the lamp. It has a well-rounded input panel and impressive on-board audio performance. While my initial 3D setup had a minor complication, the TX542-3D is capable of displaying 3D content at quality levels that are impressive for this class of projector. The TX542-3D would excel in a classroom or conference room setting that places a premium on a sharp image with a pleasing picture quality that is consistent across both static and video material.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma TX542-3D projector page.