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These days, home theater projectors are finding their ways into all kinds of places they haven't gone before. For many years, projectors absolutely had to be installed in very dark rooms, but brighter projectors and ambient light rejecting screens mean that you can put a projector just about anywhere now. But even with that restriction out of the way, most projectors do require quite a bit of space in the form of throw distance if you want a decently large picture.
Enter the Acer H6517ST. This tiny 1080p projector boasts 3,000 lumens, so you can use it in rooms with windows and ambient light. Its defining feature, though, is an ultra short throw lens that can project a 100" diagonal 16:9 picture from less than four feet of throw distance. If you've ever dreamed of putting a home theater into that tiny spare bedroom, the Acer H6517ST is definitely worth a look. Selling for less than $800, the H6517ST will fit your room and your budget.
The Viewing Experience
Firing up the H6517ST for the first time gets you a bright, vibrant picture that's bigger than you're expecting. That's because the projector's ultra short throw lens can display a huge picture from a very short throw distance. This is a huge benefit to folks with small rooms, as it means they can enjoy the prime benefit of home theater projection - really large screen sizes - without an equally really large room.
I can personally see the appeal of the H6517ST. When I got married, I was living alone in a 2,300 square foot house that was far larger than I needed. I was renting this house because of a huge 18 foot by 12 foot room that was just perfect for home theater use. Since I work with projectors, I need that kind of space, but it also meant that we had two spare bedrooms, an office, and a dining room that didn't see much use.
My situation is somewhat unique, obviously - I don't get to pick one projector and stick with it. But if home theater is a priority for you, you've probably found yourself looking at your home and evaluating it in terms of how well a projector will fit the space. The Acer H6517ST gives you a lot more flexibility when it comes time to pick a room for your theater, and might just mean more dedicated theater space instead of sticking the projector in the living room just because it's large enough.
As for the quality of the picture itself: In most ways, the H6517ST is a typical entry-level home theater projector. The picture is vibrant and crisp, with plenty of shadow detail, a reasonable black level, and out-of-the-box color that could use some fine adjustment but is at least in the ballpark. However, extreme lensing like the super short throw found on the H6517ST usually comes with some sort of trade-off. In this case, the image loses a touch of sharpness in the corners unless you have the projector set up to be dead-on square with the screen, and brightness is less uniform than a comparable projector without a short throw lens. Other than that, you sacrifice very little to get a projector that fits in small spaces.
Ultra short throw. The H6517ST is tailor-made for small rooms thanks to its ultra-short throw lens. With a throw ratio of 0.5:1, you can put up a 100" diagonal image from 3' 8" (about half of the image's 87" width). The lens is fixed focal length, so there's no zoom; you adjust picture size by moving the projector towards or away from the screen. As such, mounting should be done carefully, and this projector works best on the ceiling or a low table near the screen.
Native 1080p. The H6517ST is inexpensive, so it doesn't have a ton of fancy features. But one thing it doesn't compromise on is resolution. With the H6517ST, you get real-deal native 1920x1080 full high definition. This is ideal for Blu-ray movies and other high-quality HD sources, but even lower-resolution source material will look great scaled up to HD. High resolution is especially important on a short-throw projector, because you're probably going to be sitting closer to the screen than you would on a long-throw projector.
Bright image. The H6517ST's high light output is enough to overpower some ambient light, and that means you can use it in rooms that aren't blacked-out bat caves. However, if you're going to be using the projector in a room with windows or direct sun, it's best to pair it up with an ambient light rejecting screen. Some of these screens are made specifically to work with short throw projectors, so it pays to shop around.
Portable theater. The H6517ST weighs just over five pounds, so it's entirely possible to pack it up and take it with you. The projector comes with a soft carrying case for just this purpose. Its onboard speaker, at 2W, is a little cheesy, but it's better than nothing at all - and it'll get the job done if nothing more powerful is available.
Long lamp life. Manufacturer lamp life estimates are just that - estimated - and lots of factors influence how long a lamp actually lasts. That said, the H6517ST's lamp life estimate is 4,000 hours at full brightness and 6,000 hours in Eco mode, meaning the lamp should last a good long time. The lamp is relatively low wattage, as well, which (though this isn't definitive) seems to contribute to lamp longevity.
Connectivity. The H6517ST has two HDMI inputs, and one of those also features Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL). MHL allows you to use streaming and mobile devices such as the Roku Streaming Stick without running a separate power connection - the device draws power from the projector. Combined with the H6517ST's portability, this gives you a highly portable self-contained theater that can put a giant image on the wall from only a few feet of throw distance.
Almost silent. In small rooms, fan noise can be a big bother. Luckily the H6517ST has a very quiet fan, so even running at full power in its brightest mode the projector produces little more than a whisper of audible noise. What noise does exist is more of a low whoosh of air rather than a high electronic whine, so while you might hear the fan running, it never rises to the level of distraction.
Light output. Out of a rated 3,000 lumens, our test sample of the H6517ST measured 2,636 lumens in Bright mode with the lamp at full power. Bright mode is the projector's brightest display mode, sacrificing color accuracy and shadow detail to bring you a brighter picture with a slight green tinge. The most impressive aspects of Bright mode were the balance of the image compared to similar modes on other low-cost projectors, as well as the relative lack of fan noise. Even in this mode, the projector doesn't get loud.
The projector's other display modes are all designed for different tasks. Standard mode (1617 lumens) has a slight blue-cyan tint and better shadow detail than Bright mode, so it might be appropriate for computer graphics when the projector is serving as a monitor. Movie mode (1416 lumens) offers a warmer white balance, more accurate color, and better overall image balance for film and video use. If you can eliminate ambient light, Dark Cinema (1334 lumens) has better low-end shadow detail than Movie mode, but sacrifices light output to get it. Game mode (1660 lumens) is brighter than Standard mode, but lacks Standard's blue tint. Finally, Sports mode (1881 lumens) is a compromise between Game and Bright, giving you higher light output in exchange for less shadow detail while preserving the more accurate color of Game mode. It's ideal for those times when you want to watch the game on a really large screen, but either cannot or choose not to eliminate ambient light from the viewing area.
If none of these modes are to your liking, the H6517ST includes one User setting to customize however you like. However, unlike many other inexpensive projectors, you can also modify the factory preset modes without being shunted over to User mode, so you can set each mode to your own preferences.
All of these image modes are quite bright. If that's too much light for your application, you have two options. Eco mode reduces lamp power, cuts brightness by roughly 20%, and extends estimated lamp life. But even 80% of those image modes is quite bright, so you can also reduce white peaking or disable it entirely by turning off BrilliantColor. With BrilliantColor turned off, all image modes measure roughly 600 lumens, though they do retain their characteristic differences in color balance.
Contrast. It's difficult to build a bright projector that also has super-deep black levels. Moreover, the first casualty of ambient light is black level, so most entry-level projectors have black levels that are "good enough" but don't try to compete with more expensive projectors tailored to home theater in a darkened dedicated room. The H6517ST follows this same philosophy. Black level is so-so, giving the picture enough oomph to imbue it with a sense of three-dimensionality. The factory settings do give the picture some black crush in all modes except Dark Cinema, but you can fix that with a little bit of fine tuning. The H6517ST is built for use in ambient light, so if you do have a dedicated theater space, you're likely to notice that black level isn't as deep as it could be.
Detail and clarity. The sharpness of the H6517ST's image is heavily dependent on how meticulously the projector was mounted. If the projector is dead square to the screen, the worst you'll encounter is some slight softness at the very corners of the image, usually confined to one corner. If, however, the projector is even slightly out of square, you can expect to see two or more corners with some softness. This isn't an inherent flaw of the H6517ST as much as it is a fundamental law of the optical components involved. Other short-throw projectors have the same issues to some degree. It's just another factor to be aware of when you're picking a projector and planning your installation.
Input lag. The H6517ST measured 33 milliseconds of input lag in all image modes. That's roughly two frames of video from a 60 frame per second signal. Despite the name, Game mode does not reduce lag, so you can feel free to play games in any image mode you care to use.
Mounting options. Short throw projectors are great for small spaces, but they're finicky about where they can be placed. With the H6517ST, you can either ceiling mount the projector very carefully or place it on a table close to the screen. The former is more permanent and more professional-looking, but you'll have to run cables and install a ceiling mount. The latter is much easier, but it takes up floor space in a (presumably) small room. Obviously, rear shelf mounting isn't an option here.
Rainbows. A 2x-speed color wheel means rainbows are a possibility on the H6517ST. If you're sensitive to the DLP rainbow effect and have seen it on other 2x-speed DLP projectors, you might consider going with a projector that uses a faster color wheel. There are several options out there - some even feature short-throw lenses - though they cost slightly more than the H6517ST.
Warranty. Like many inexpensive projectors, the H6517ST comes with a one-year warranty. That's the shortest warranty commonly found on projectors. On the other hand, the H6517ST is very inexpensive for a 1080p projector, so the short warranty is part of the trade-off.
Some projectors are easy to review. The Acer H6517ST offers a simple value proposition: it is an inexpensive entry-level 1080p home theater projector for use in small rooms and confined spaces. It is bright enough for use in ambient light, cheap enough for beginners and those who aren't quite ready to take the plunge into more expensive models, and capable enough to be worthwhile for those considering a second projector for a smaller room. The H6517ST is more than capable of producing a compelling home theater picture that makes HD content look great. It is highly portable and would make a good "Game Day" projector for use at parties and barbecues. With street prices below $800, the H6517ST is a compelling projector that's perfect for that spare bedroom and a great way to get into home theater without a huge investment.
You can purchase the Acer H6517ST 3D DLP Home Theater Projector from Amazon. Purchasing the projector via this link also helps to support Projector Central -- thank you to those who do so.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Acer H6517ST projector page.