ViewSonic LS550WH 0 1 WXGA DLP Projector
Our Take

The ViewSonic LS550WH is a strong contender for conference rooms and classrooms that can use 1280x800 (WXGA) resolution and performs well with spreadsheets and graphics. However, until ViewSonic follows through on plans to address a preponderance of rainbow artifacts obvious in video and film content, it's best avoided for anything more than short clips of either.

Pros
  • RGB LED light source lasts for the life of the unit; rated at 30,000 hours in full power mode
  • Bright for an LED projector; rated at 3,000 LED and 2,000 ANSI lumens; measured at 1,607 ANSI
  • Short throw gives big images in tight spaces
  • Matching color and white brightness in Movie mode helps deliver good color accuracy, particularly for a DLP business projector
  • Full HD 3D support
Cons
  • Single HDMI port is the only input
  • The 2-watt speaker offers too low a volume to be useful
  • Showed rainbow artifacts often enough in our tests that those who see them easily may find them annoying
ViewSonic LS550WH front angle

The $699 ViewSonic LS550WH LED projector is the least expensive 1280x800 (WXGA) model in the ProjectorCentral data base at this writing that offers a solid state light source, a short throw, and a brightness rating of at least 2,000 ANSI lumens. Leave out the short throw, and it's the second least expensive, beat by only the ViewSonic LS500WH, which shares most of the same specs, except for its standard throw lens. It costs a bit more to buy than some higher brightness lamp-based competition. But having a solid state light source means never having to buy replacement lamps, which can make it less expensive in the long run.

The projector's brightness ratings of 3,000 LED lumens and 2,000 ANSI lumens may seem low for a conference room or classroom, particularly since we measured it at it 80% of the ANSI rating, or just within the acceptable ISO tolerance. But keep in mind that compared with lamps, LEDs maintain a higher percentage of their original brightness for a longer percentage of their life. So the LS550WH may well wind up being brighter for more of its lifetime than an equivalent lamp-based projector with a bit higher brightness when new. Add better than typical out-of-box color accuracy for a DLP business projector, and the LS550WH can hold its own against less expensive, brighter, lamp-based competition.

Features

ViewSonic pairs the LS550WH's RGB LED light source, rated at 30,000 hours in full power mode, with a 0.65-inch 1280x800 DLP chip. Using Eco power mode will presumably extend the LED life even further, though there's no specific rating for it.

The menus include some settings that are far more common in home projectors meant for film and video than they are for business and education models, most notably Gamma; RGB Gain and Offset; and Hue, Saturation, and Gain for each primary and secondary color.

ViewSonic LS550WH lifestyle 1

With the possible exception of gamma, few people will need to adjust any of these settings, thanks in large part to more than acceptable color accuracy for conference room or classroom use right out of the box. But they're available if you want to improve on the defaults, and they even allow a full calibration with instruments. Note that if you want to watch a movie or video, the LS550WH can accept up to 1080p input and downconvert it to 720p.

The power modes include Dynamic Black 1 and Dynamic Black 2 in addition to Normal (full power) and Eco. In home theater projectors, Dynamic Black modes would generally serve the same purpose as an auto-iris. For the LS550WH, however, their main function is to lower electricity bills by lowering the power level for darker images.

Physical setup is straightforward. The LS550WH is just 7.8 pounds and 4.5 x 11.5 x 8.7-inches (HWD), making it easy to move into place. ViewSonic specs the lens as suitable for a 60- to 300- inch diagonal 16:10 image at a range of 24.8 to 62.4 inches from the screen. (For the distance for your screen size see the ViewSonic LS550WH projection calculator.)

We measured the brightest predefined mode at 1,607 ANSI lumens, which is enough to fill a 100-inch, 1.0 gain screen in moderately bright ambient light. Movie mode, which offers the best color accuracy, came in at 937 lumens, which is still enough to light up an 85-inch, 1.2 gain screen in the same ambient light level.

ViewSonic LS550WH remote

As with most short throw models, the LS550WH doesn't offer optical zoom or lens shift. Menu settings include both auto and manual keystone and four-corner adjustment, but as with any projector, using a keystone adjustment will lower brightness and can introduce artifacts. The better choice is to position the projector so you don't need to use it.

The lens offset is designed for the horizontal centerline of the lens to line up with either the bottom of the image, if you place the projector on a flat surface below the screen, or the top of the image, if you mount it above the screen, using either a ceiling or wall mount. Note that if you use a ceiling mount, you'll probably need an extension pole to lower the mount far enough below the ceiling to avoid needing keystone correction.

The LS550WH's only connection choice for image input is a single HDMI 1.4 port, which could be an issue if you want to connect more than one source or an analog video legacy source component. There's also a LAN port, but it's strictly for control over a network. The projector offers certification for AMX, Crestron, and Extron. Note also that if you need sound in your presentations, you should plan on adding an external sound system. The 2-watt mono speaker, the same as ViewSonic provides in its PA5 and PS5 series projectors, is severely underpowered for even a small conference room or classroom. ViewSonic says most of their B2B customers connect external audio. The warranty is three years for the projector, but only one year for the light source.

Performance

The LS550WH menus offer five predefined color modes, including the aptly named Brightest, and two User modes, though you can fully define settings in all seven modes. As with many projectors, the brightest mode delivers the least accurate color. For all color images, from business graphics to photos to video clips, my preferred choice was Movie mode, which has good out-of-box color accuracy and barely misses tying for the highest color brightness of all the modes.

Brightest mode is best described as usable in situations where you need every lumen the projector can generate. In my tests, colors tended to lose brightness, as defined by a hue-saturation-brightness color model. Blue and red in graphics were too dark, yellow was a muddy brown, and light blue was so low on the brightness scale that it looked gray in some slides and bluish gray in others.

Presentation delivered only slightly better color accuracy. Reds and blues were brighter than in Brightest mode, but a light blue on one slide looked grayish, almost as if it were dirty, magenta was similarly dulled down, and I saw a slight green bias, which was enough to turn some hues of blue in graphics into turquoise in my tests.

Standard and Photo modes were similar to each other and a big step up from Presentation in color accuracy. However, blue and red were still a little too dark, and what should have been a bright yellow in one business graph was more of a dull orange bordering on tan. A close look at the yellow in isolation showed that it was the right hue and brightness. However, the perception of color can be affected by surrounding colors. And in this case, the colors surrounding the yellow were off by enough to make it look orange.

ViewSonic LS550WH top

Movie mode delivered good color accuracy by most people's standards, making it the best by far for any of the modes. In graphics slides, colors hit the right combination of brightness, saturation, and accurate hue. For photorealistic images, the improvement compared with Standard and Photo modes was more subtle, but noticeable. And along with better color accuracy, Movie mode did a better job reproducing the gradients that give closeups of rounded objects, including faces, a more three-dimensional look. More important, the color accuracy for photorealistic images was good enough that I didn't spot any obvious color errors even in images I'm thoroughly familiar with.

None of the modes held shadow detail well with default settings, but Movie did a better job than the others, and you can improve the shadow detail further by adjusting the gamma setting.

The better color accuracy for Movie mode was enough by itself to make it my preferred choice for most purposes. But there's also an argument for picking it based on the relative brightness of the five modes, which is little less straightforward than you'd assume from looking at the measurements we report.

Based on our white brightness measurements, Brightest mode was significantly brighter than any of the others, while Standard and Photo mode nearly tied for second place, and Movie and Presentation modes were similarly tied and a slightly lower level. Between the two pairs of modes, Standard and Photo were about 14% brighter, which is enough to notice at any given image size, but not by much.

The complication is that the different modes offer significant variation in color brightness, which ranged in our tests from about 50% of the white brightness in Standard and Photo modes to 100% in Movie mode. That puts the modes in a very different order for brightness of color images. Brightest was still in first place, but it's only about 6% brighter than Movie mode, which isn't enough to see a difference. Presentation, Standard, and Photo all came in at significantly lower levels.

In short, Movie mode not only delivers the best color accuracy, but strictly on the issue of brightness for color images, it's essentially tied for brightest. The combination makes it the obvious choice for color images of any kind, from business graphics to movies. And note that it's the LS550WH's only picture mode with matching color and white brightness, which is part of the reason for its good color accuracy.

That said, if your presentations consist largely of black and white documents, spreadsheets, or the like, the white brightness is what matters. For those presentations, you might prefer one of the modes that offer higher white brightness levels.

Viewing Film and Video. Although the LS550WH will accept 1080p input, its native 1280x800 resolution limits its video on screen to 720p. I tested it with several movies on Blu-ray discs and a variety of shows on Netflix, including Lincoln Lawyer.

As already mentioned, color accuracy on Movie mode was good enough that I didn't see any obvious color errors even for movies on Blu-ray discs that I'm thoroughly familiar with. As with almost any projector aimed at business use in ambient light, however, black levels, contrast, and shadow detail weren't a match for even a low-cost home theater projector.

At the default gamma setting I couldn't make out what was happening in my go to dark batcave scene in Batman v Superman. Changing gamma to 1.8 improved shadow detail significantly but robbed more brightly lit scenes of contrast. So while you might be willing to sacrifice the contrast in bright scenes for the sake of shadow detail in dark scenes, the default setting was the better choice for movies and video with mostly brightly lit scenes, as with Lincoln Lawyer or most clips you're likely to use as part of a presentation.

ViewSonic LS550WH front left

Overall, the contrast, black level, and color accuracy were easily good enough for short video or film clips in a classroom or conference room. However it's hard to recommend the LS550WH for even occasional longer movie- or TV-watching sessions as assessed with its current firmware. I saw rainbow artifacts far more often with it than typical for current generation lamp-based DLP projectors, and they were far more obvious as well. I see these artifacts easily, but odds are good that any given group in a conference room or classroom will include people who see them as easily as I do, or even more so. ViewSonic says they are addressing the preponderance of rainbows in a firmware update and that this will be reflected in the next production run.

Note that ViewSonic rates the fan noise at 30 dB for Normal mode and 26 dB for Eco mode in formal, industry standard tests in a properly sound-proofed room. Our informal tests taken near the exhaust vents measured 41 dB in Normal mode and 40 dB in Eco mode with high altitude mode off in both.

The LS550WH also offers support for Full HD 3D input. I didn't see any crosstalk in my tests, and saw only the typical level of 3D-related motion artifacts. The image is also notable for being brighter relative to the 2D image modes than typical.

Conclusion

The LS550WH's small size and light weight makes it a good candidate whether you need a projector for permanent installation or need one you can move from room to room or put away when not in use. It also offers all the usual advantages of both a short throw and a solid state light source. It will let you have a big image in a tight space, it eliminates the cost of replacement lamps, and its LEDs will maintain a higher percentage of their original brightness for more of their lifetime than a lamp would.

The test unit delivered 80% of its 2,000 ANSI lumen rating in our tests, or about 1,600 lumens in its Brightest mode. Using Movie mode, our preferred choice for almost all purposes, it delivered roughly 940 lumens for both color and white brightness, making it bright enough for an 85-inch 1.2 gain screen in moderate ambient light.

Most important, the LS550WH offered suitable sharpness for the 1280x800 resolution along with good color accuracy and contrast that translated to eye catching color for both graphics and photorealistic images. Rainbow artifacts that appeared more frequently than typical keep the LS550WH from being a good choice for long video or film sessions, at least until such time as ViewSonic addresses this concern. But at $699 it's a solid budget-conscious pick for conference rooms or classrooms that need to show text slides, graphics, and short video or film clips, and is well worth considering.

Measurements

Brightness. The LS550WH's measured ANSI lumens in Standard and Eco modes was as follows for each color mode:

ViewSonic LS550WH ANSI Lumens

Mode Normal Eco
Brightest 1,607 1,332
Presentation 949 787
Standard 1,070 887
Photo 1,075 891
Movie 937 777

Zoom Lens Light Loss: The LS550WH doesn't have a zoom lens.

Brightness Uniformity (Wide Zoom): 72%

Lowest Measured Input Lag (720p 60Hz): 33 ms

Lowest Measured Input Lag (1080p 60Hz input): 33.2 ms

Note: There is also a 3X Fast Input mode which offers a shorter input lag according to ViewSonic. However it's available for 1280x800 resolution input only.

Fan Noise. ViewSonic rates the fan noise at 30 dB for Normal mode and 26 dB for Eco mode as taken by the industry-standard test in a sound-proofed room, which averages the sound from multiple positions around the projector. In our informal real world measurement, taken in a room with a 37 db noise floor at three feet from the exhaust vents, we measured 41 dB in Normal mode and 40 dB in Eco mode. With High Altitude mode on, the measurement rose to 49 dB for Normal and 45 dB for Eco. The noise quality was sufficiently low pitch and constant that most people should find it fades into the background.

Connections

ViewSonic LS550WH connections
  • HDMI 1.4 (HDCP 1.4)
  • LAN (control only)
  • USB 2.0 Type A (for power, and service)
  • 3.5mm stereo audio in
  • 3.5mm stereo audio out
  • RS-232

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our ViewSonic LS550WH projector page.

To buy this projector, use Where to Buy online, or get a price quote by email direct from Projector Central authorized dealers using our E-Z Quote tool.

The ViewSonic LS550WH is also sold outside of the United States of America as the ViewSonic LS550WHE. Some specifications may be slightly different. Check with ViewSonic for complete specifications.

 

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