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The Acer H5370BD is a new 720p projector for home theater and living room use, and at $549 it is attracting no small amount of attention.
This low-priced home video projector doesn't pack a lot of features, but it does produce a solid, enjoyable image at a bargain-basement price. It is quite possibly the ideal first projector for someone new to the big screen experience, as its price is lower than even many televisions. While its 720p resolution means it is not a true full-HD experience, it has great picture quality for the money, and from a pure bang-for-the-buck perspective it's difficult to pass up.
The Viewing Experience
The H5370BD is small, portable, and very bright, with a modest onboard speaker and no appreciable upward throw angle. That combination of features makes it a good candidate for table placement. It would also fit well in a ceiling mount, especially paired with a small extension tube, but ceiling mounts add expense to what is otherwise a very affordable projector.
Firing up the H5370BD for the first time, the projector produces an intensely bright image in the default Standard mode. However, the other preprogrammed image modes give the H5370BD a lot of flexibility when it comes to light output, and decreasing lumens for home theater use is easy. While Standard mode is a good choice for a living room's ambient light, the projector's Movie mode is particularly well suited to dark theater use -- doubly so if BrilliantColor is turned off. That's not a small accomplishment for a projector that costs half as much as some other inexpensive home theater projectors.
The H5370BD is a 3D projector, capable of displaying 3D content from HDMI 1.4 compatible sources such as Blu-ray discs and satellite/cable set-top boxes. It is not "full HD 3D" because the projector itself has a native chip resolution of 1280x720 rather than 1920x1080. That said, it is the least expensive way to get HDMI 1.4 3D projection into the home so far. The H5370BD uses DLP Link, so 3D glasses are inexpensive and widely available. And while the H5370BD doesn't produce cutting-edge 3D, it does make an expensive technology much more affordable.
Great 2D picture. A projector as inexpensive as the H5370BD has no right to look as good as it does. The 2D picture from this tiny projector is bright and sharp, with good shadow detail, solid black level, and well-saturated color. With BrilliantColor disabled, the picture has excellent balance and realism for home theater, while the brighter modes use BrilliantColor to boost light output for projection in ambient light situations. All in all, it's a great picture, especially for the price.
3D capable. The H5370BD breaks another price barrier for 3D, and may be the least expensive 3D projector available at this time. HDMI 1.4 3D signals from Blu-ray players, cable boxes, or satellite receivers are decoded and displayed using DLP Link technology, which requires no infrared emitter and uses widely-available, inexpensive DLP Link glasses.
Long lamp life. Long-life lamps are becoming more common these days, and the old 2,000-hour standard lamp life is on its way out. The H5370BD promises 5,000 hours of operation at full power or 6,000 hours of operation in Eco-mode, which is a very long time indeed. If you watch one two-hour movie per day every day with the lamp at full power, it would be six years before you'd have to buy a new lamp.
Onboard sound. A two-watt speaker provides onboard sound for the H5370BD. This makes the projector functional as a portable product for home entertainment. While the speaker is relatively small and low-powered, having any sound is better than no sound at all. The onboard speaker has a tinny character common in small speakers, but does not suffer significant degradation unless volume is pushed beyond 75% of maximum. [BAN2]
Light output. The H5370BD is rated at 2500 ANSI lumens, and the maximum recorded from our test sample was a respectable 2127 lumens in the projector's brightest mode, Bright. Bright mode has a noticeable color bias towards green, so it's most useful when ambient light is a serious problem and you just want to make sure people can see the image.
Standard mode, which is the projector's default, produced 1569 lumens on our test unit. Standard mode's contrast and color are much improved compared to Bright mode, but light output is decreased by 27% as a result. Standard mode is the go-to for living room and home entertainment use, as its high output will still help combat ambient light without the ugly green color cast of Bright mode.
Movie mode, at 1358 lumens, is not terribly dissimilar from Standard mode until you disengage BrilliantColor. Turning off BrilliantColor improves image balance by reducing the brightness of highlights. It also makes colors appear more fully saturated and improves gamma (since 100% white is no longer being made unnaturally bright). This reduces light output to 675 lumens, however, so it is best used in a light-controlled room.
In any preset image mode, light output can be further reduced by switching to Eco lamp, which drops output by 17% and increases lamp life by 1,000 hours. For more fine-tuned control in modes where BrilliantColor is enabled, you can also adjust the projector's White Peaking control to raise or lower the brightness of highlights.
Contrast. The H5370BD displays some mild compression of the image's dynamic range. Shadows are sometimes crushed in the very low end but this is somewhat typical in home entertainment projectors, where ambient light more often than not wipes out shadow detail in a significant portion of the image. Black level is comparable to other home video projectors released this year; it is good enough that the H5370BD can multi-purpose as a home theater projector, but not nearly as good as dedicated home theater projectors that are much more expensive.
Color. The H5370BD has excellent color for a home entertainment projector. Standard mode as preset at the factory produces a smooth, consistent 7000K grayscale with no major flaws, even in the shadows. This makes Standard a good choice for living room use, especially since ambient light tends to be yellowish (especially when it comes from incandescent bulbs or compact fluorescents meant to mimic such).
Movie mode is both less consistent and less accurate than Standard mode; it measures about 7200K and has more variation than Standard's smooth, even grayscale.
Switching off BrilliantColor starts to ameliorate the situation by increasing red and decreasing green. The net result is an average color temperature closer to 6900K with less variation. If you don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of adjusting the projector's grayscale more fully, this is the best color available without any real calibration.
With some small adjustments, though, the H5370BD's grayscale goes from "okay" to "great." By reducing blue and green and bumping red, our test unit produced a near-perfect 6580K average grayscale.
The Bias adjustments are more important than the Gain adjustments, as the Bias control is far more sensitive. In fact, leaving the Gain controls at their default 50 only alters color temperature by about 100 degrees Kelvin despite the huge adjustments made in our final calibration.
As for gamut, the H5370BD does include a color management system (CMS), but really digging into gamut is much more difficult than adjusting grayscale. Most users of the H5370BD won't bother, but luckily you don't need to. The default gamut is close enough to the Rec. 709 standard that the differences won't be visible unless you do side-by-side testing against a reference monitor.
Sharpness and clarity. A 720p projector like the H5370BD will not have quite the sharpness and clarity of a 1080p projector. All 1080p content fed to the H5370BD must first be compressed to 720p, and some detail is lost as a result. However, the end product is still much higher resolution than standard DVD and looks quite good for the money.
On the upside, the H5370BD has no noticeable inter-pixel gap (the dreaded "screen door effect"). Sitting at 1.25 to 1.5 times the screen width eliminated pixelation, and sitting at 1x the screen width was acceptable for video gaming (where pixels are more acceptable).
Rainbows. The H5370BD uses a 2X-speed RGBCMY color wheel. As a result, if you are sensitive to rainbow artifacts you are probably going to see them in spades on the H5370BD. If you aren't sure whether or not you are sensitive to DLP rainbows, here's how you can figure it out. Order the H5370BD from a vendor with a generous return policy, then pop in a Blu-ray copy of either The Dark Knight or Quantum of Solace. Both movies have bright highlights moving quickly against dark backgrounds, which tend to induce rainbows more often than other types of content. If you see flashes of color where they shouldn't be, you're seeing the rainbow effect. If you see it only occasionally it may not be worth worrying about. If you see them frequently they will drive you nuts with distraction and you will want a different projector.
Placement flexibility. The extensive lens adjustment controls found on home theater projectors are pricey, so they tend not to be found on low-cost projectors. The H5370BD has a basic 1.1:1 manual zoom lens with no lens shift. That means you'll have to be careful about mounting the projector, as there's not a lot of wiggle room to work with. This is another reason why table placement is a good choice for the H5370BD, as you can move it around easily to square it up with the screen. A ceiling mount requires precision and care.
Locked presets. Like many inexpensive projectors, the H5370BD's pre-calibrated image modes are locked to the factory settings. If you make any significant adjustments, the projector kicks you over to the single "User" memory setting. The same goes for color temperature. If you want to fine-tune grayscale tracking, you'll have to use the User CT setting as the defaults (unhelpfully named CT1, CT2, and CT3) are not adjustable. This also means that you cannot have a "Day" setting and a "Night" setting, for example, which would be useful on a projector meant for occasional ambient light use.
Quirky HDMI pairing. Several times over the course of our testing, our H5370BD would simply refuse to recognize our Blu-ray player or other HDMI device. When this happened, the projector's Re-Sync button did not do anything, and we instead had to power cycle both the projector and the HDMI source device until they recognized each other once again. This may not occur with all HDMI devices, but there's no way to tell until you test them and find out for yourself. The glitch occurred most often when switching inputs after the projector had already been running for some time, rather than on a cold start.
Fan cycling. Occasionally, the H5370BD's fan will kick into high gear and start making much more noise. While the normal fan noise is quite low and drowned out by the projector's small speaker, the high-power fan is much louder. Our test room was maintained at 75 degrees Fahrenheit (which, for Las Vegas in the summertime, is quite cool) throughout the test, and fan cycling tended to occur after the projector had been running for an hour or two, indicating that the problem is likely heat-related. This quirk will be most noticeable if you use the H5370BD in a long-run application such as video gaming or television viewing.
Acer H5370BD vs Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD
The H5370BD isn't the only 720p home video projector we've got in house right now. The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD, reviewed last month, is a WXGA home video projector with HDMI 3D capability that sells for $799. The two projectors are more alike than they are different, in that they are both sub-1080p home entertainment projectors with 3D capability, but the differences are significant in their own right.
Resolution. From a video standpoint, the H5370BD and 750HD are more or less identical. That's because 1080p content is scaled down to 1280x720 on both projectors. On the other hand, if you're interested in PC gaming, the 750HD's native 1280x800 resolution is slightly larger than the 1280x720 resolution of the H5370BD, giving you more vertical space. The 750HD's added resolution can actually be detrimental for video since the extra pixels create tiny black bars on the top and bottom of the screen when 16:9 material is being displayed.
Light output. Whereas the H5370BD produces 2127 lumens in its brightest mode and 675 lumens in color-optimized mode, the 750HD cranks out a massive 2912 lumens in bright mode and 2003 lumens in color-optimized mode. As a result, the 750HD is a stronger projector in situations where ambient light is present, or you want to push to a larger screen in a room with some ambient light. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the H5370BD can produce 560 lumens minimum while the 750HD cannot drop below 1560 lumens. This makes the H5370BD a more versatile projector for dark-room use or multi-purpose projection where time will be split evenly between theater and living room.
Contrast. The H5370BD produces a blacker black than the 750HD and has higher dynamic range. The 750HD's automatic iris, while helpful for reducing black levels, can't match the deeper native black performance of the H5370BD. On the other hand, the 750HD showed less crushing of deep shadow detail at the very low end of the brightness range.
Color. While both projectors can produce accurate color, the 750HD's higher saturation and better default calibrations make it the go-to choice for applications where rich color is a must-have. On the other hand, the H5370BD has better adjustments, with separate gain and bias controls for RGB adjustments compared to the 750HD's single-axis controls. The 750HD also lacks a color management system, though this won't matter unless you plan to adjust color gamut.
Pixelation. Both projectors down-convert 1080p content to 720p, but the H5370BD's DLP chip has a smaller inter-pixel gap as compared to the pixel structure on the 750HD's LCD panels. As a result, you can sit closer to the H5370BD without noticing any visible pixelation.
3D. While both projectors offer 3D, the mechanisms differ. The H5370BD uses DLP Link, which has the advantage of inexpensive glasses and no required emitter. On the other hand, the 750HD's radio-frequency link is less likely to lose synchronization than DLP Link, but the glasses are proprietary and cost significantly more per pair. It is easier to watch 3D for extended periods on the 750HD because it is a brighter projector and produces less flicker than the H5370BD. For extended 3D viewing, the 750HD is a stronger product.
Input lag. The H5370BD is the faster projector at an average 24ms of lag in our tests. In comparison, the 750HD measured between 40ms and 50ms of lag using the same testing methods. For gamers looking for fast response times, that can be a big difference. On the other hand, unless you already know what input lag is and why it is important, it probably will not affect you.
Rainbows. If you are sensitive to rainbow artifacts, the 750HD is the projector for you. Its three-panel LCD engine will never produce rainbows, while the 2X-speed RGBCMY wheel of the H5370BD will produce them fairly often.
Fan noise. While neither projector is whisper-quiet, the 750HD did not manifest the fan cycling issue we found on the H5370BD.
Placement flexibility. Neither projector has lens shift. The 750HD has a 1.2:1 lens, giving it a few inches of extra adjustment range over the H5370BD's 1.1:1 lens. In most instances, this won't matter, but it can be important when traveling with the projectors.
The Acer H5370BD is perhaps the least expensive way to bring 3D into your home. At $549, this 720p projector is equipped for both home video and home theater, and its highly adjustable light output makes it easy to go from the living room to the darkened theater without a second thought. It has some quirks common to inexpensive projectors, like a lack of User memory settings, the inability to adjust factory presets, and a 2X speed color wheel, but it also has solid color and a great 2D picture. A long-life lamp keeps maintenance to a minimum while inexpensive DLP Link glasses keep ancillary costs low.
The H5370BD faces stiff competition from the Epson Home Cinema 750HD, which offers a brighter image, better color saturation, and a picture free of rainbow artifacts. But the H5370BD's less visible pixelation, more adjustable light output, faster response time, and $250 lower price make it an attractive option for a first projector or a dedicated gaming machine.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Acer H5370BD projector page.