SMART LightRaise 40wi Interactive Projector Shootout
SMART LightRaise 40wi
Although it earns third place in our Interactive Projector Shootout overall, the 1280x800 SMART LightRaise 40wi is the winner among the DLP projectors. In most key categories, at least one other DLP model scores better, with the Dell S320wi besting it for data image quality, for example. But the 40wi also scores second overall for interactive software support and third for video quality in best video mode, giving it the top score in both cases among the DLP models. In short, it's at least the second best DLP projector in every key category, and the best in some. It's also the only DLP projector that doesn't come in dead last in any category.
- Ranked as #1 or #2 among DLP projectors for:
- Interactive software support (#2 overall)
- Video image quality in best color mode (#3 overall)
- Data image quality (#4 overall)
- Interactive features (#3 overall)
- Brightness in interactive mode (#4 overall)
- Ease and speed of installation (#3 overall)
- Ease of maintenance (#2 overall)
- Pen doesn't have to touch screen
- No calibration needed
- 3D Ready
- Ranked as #5 overall for:
- Video image quality in the brightest mode we tested
- Audio quality
Data image quality. Although the 40wi's data image quality is good enough for most purposes, it's well short of excellent. As with all of the DLP models in the shootout, its colors were dull and dark (in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness model) in comparison to the LCD projectors. The 40wi did better on this issue than the BenQ MW860USTi, but not as well as the Dell S320wi or Dell S500wi.
Beyond the issue of color quality, the 40wi loses points on its ability to hold detail. Black text on white was easily readable at 10 points, for example, and white text on black was easily readable at 9 points. That should be sufficient in most cases, but if you need to show images with fine detail, all the other DLP models, and also the Sony VPL-SW535C, did better. I also saw some pixel jitter on images that tend to cause the problem, but it was slight enough to be noticeable only when standing at the screen. Rainbow artifacts are more obvious on the 40wi than the other DLP models except the S320wi.
Interactive features. The 40wi has the advantage of not needing calibration and not needing the pen to touch the screen, two benefits that all of the DLP projectors share. It gets a mixed score on responsiveness, with no lag when the pen isn't touching, but a tendency to lose pieces of lines drawn while touching the screen, possibly because of shadows. I found that the interactivity worked best when I was holding the pen a few inches from the screen.
Interactive software support. SMART is known for SMART Notebook, a world-class curriculum and annotation program for both office and educational use, so it's not surprising that the 40wi does well for interactive software support. It comes with drivers and with SMART Notebook for both Windows and Mac, and it fully supports Windows 8. It comes in second to the Epson 485Wi only because it needs drivers for full support in Windows.
Video image quality. We compared the video quality for the projectors in this shootout in both their brightest modes with reasonable color quality and their optimum color modes. The 40wi did much better relative to the competition with its best color mode than with its brighter mode. In the brighter mode, both its color quality and shadow detail fell between the low-scoring BenQ MW860USTi and the higher scoring Dell projectors, landing the 40wi in fifth place with relatively dull color. In the best color mode, however, it delivered the best color quality for the DLP projectors, and third place overall.
Installation and maintenance. The 40wi also scores well for installation and maintenance. Its mount is one of the easiest to assemble, and it offers a ball mount adjustment that lets you adjust roll, pitch, and yaw. However, it doesn't let you adjust the horizontal or vertical position. The lamp life is 2500 hours in Standard mode and 4000 hours in Eco mode.
Audio. The single 10-watt speaker in the 40wi delivers enough volume for a small to not-quite-mid-size room, with acceptable sound quality.
Brightness. The 40wi offers the lowest brightness rating in this shootout, at 2500 lumens, and the lowest measured brightness, at 2233 lumens in the brightest mode. It measured between 1212 to 2180 lumens with other presets. With interactive mode on, however, it maintains brightness far better than either the Dell S320wi or BenQ MW860USTi, making it brighter for interactive mode than either of them. We measured the interactive mode at 83% to 100% of non-interactive mode, depending on the preset.
One issue the 40wi shares with all of the other DLP projectors is that its color brightness is significantly lower than its white brightness, which means color images won't be as bright as with LCD projectors with similar ANSI lumen measurements. We measured it at 571 color lumens in its brightest mode.
Connections.The 40wi delivers an ample set of connection choices:
- 1 HDMI
- 2 VGA IN (for RGB or component)
- 1 S-video
- 1 RCA composite
- 1 VGA OUT (monitor loop-through)
- 1 USB B
- 1 LAN (for network control)
- 2 Stereo mini plug (each paired with one VGA IN)
- 2 RCA stereo (paired with S-Video and RCA Composite)
- 1 Microphone mini plug input
- 1 Stereo mini plug OUT
- 1 RS-232 (for external control)
The SMART LightRaise 40wi stands out among the DLP models in this shootout for its constellation of features. Other models score better in specific areas, from data image quality to brightness in interactive mode, but none do as well in as many different areas. If you need a specific capability, like the best possible data image quality, you'll want to pick the projector that handles that best. Otherwise, if you want the features you can get only with one of the DLP projectors -- including no calibration, no need for the pen to touch the screen, and support for 3D -- the LightRaise 40wi's balance of features puts it at the front of the DLP pack, and well worth the $2,199 list price or $1,699 education price, mount included.