Acer, the fourth-largest maker of PCs in the world, has become well-known in projector circles for building affordable home theater projectors that perform exceptionally well for the price. Their latest effort, the H6510BD, is a 1080p projector with full HD 3D capability that sells for less than $1,000.
The H6510BD has full HD 3D compatibility, making it one of the least expensive full 3D projectors on the market. As such, it is getting a lot of attention as an affordable way to bring 3D into the home. While it certainly has its issues, chief among them being color performance, for certain users the H6510BD is a good choice. Whether you need a projector for the theater or the living room, the H6510BD can hold its own.
Editor's note: We erroneously reported the BenQ W1070's color wheel speed as 4X in this article; it is 6X (3X physical wheel speed, RGBRGB segments). We apologize for the error. - Bill Livolsi
The H6510BD is a small projector clad in a square-edged white case with a small lens mounted off center. It has a 1.3:1 manual zoom/focus lens and no lens shift, so projector placement is critically important. As such, the best mounting options for the H6510BD are either a ceiling mount or a table placement. Ceiling mounts have the advantage of being up and out of the way, and with the H6510BD's white case the projector can disappear into the ceiling. On the other hand, a table placement requires no additional hardware and has the advantage of being portable. With a projector as small as the H6510BD, bringing it along to friends' houses isn't out of the question. As a bonus, it does have a small 2W speaker.
The H6510BD's 1.3:1 lens can project a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 8' 5" to 10' 10", or a 120" diagonal image from 10' to 13'. The projector has a mild throw offset of roughly 7%, meaning that the bottom edge of the projected image will appear 7% of the image's height above the centerline of the lens. On a 100" diagonal image, that would be about four inches. If you do plan to use a ceiling mount, that mild offset might require you to use an extension tube to bring the projector down low enough to hit your screen.
Once we got the projector set up properly, we connected a Blu-ray player over HDMI and fired it up. Preset image modes on the H6510BD are almost uniformly bright, ranging from 2524 lumens on the high end to 1336 lumens on the low end. Low lamp mode can reduce output by 26%, bringing output down to 988 lumens on the low side, but that's still quite a bit of light. While that much light has some beneficial applications - namely living room use and 3D projection - it can be too much light if you plan to use the projector in a dark room. In those cases, you can disable BrilliantColor to reduce light output by about half.
As far as actual image quality goes, the H6510BD needs some adjustment before it's suitable for use in a home theater environment, though the default calibrations are just fine for living room use. The H6510 is really ideal for a living room environment -- both because of its high brightness and its middling black level, putting it on par with other home video projectors. The projector does do a respectable job of differentiating shadow detail. And, contrary to our usual advice, we ended up getting better, more consistent results for both color and gamma with BrilliantColor on.
Image quality. Acer's home theater projectors have always been alluring specifically because they outperform users' expectations for the price. And for $799, it's hard to find fault with the H6510BD. The H6510BD is a bright projector with solid shadow detail and color that, while it needs work out of the box, can be calibrated to a reasonable approximation of 6500K without too much work. The picture is sharp and clear, and detail from high-definition sources comes through cleanly.
Bright picture. The H6510BD can crank out up to 2524 lumens in its brightest image mode, called Bright. What Bright mode lacks in color fidelity and contrast it makes up in sheet lumen power. But the H6510BD has other modes, like Standard and Movie, which still produce north of 1300 lumens after calibration to 6500K. That makes the H6510BD a wonderful projector for living rooms where light control is not perfect, or very large screens in a more traditional dark-room theater environment.
Full HD 3D. At $799, the H6510BD is one of the least expensive ways to show 3D movies and television. It lacks a lot of the fancy bells and whistles you find on more expensive 3D projectors, like frame interpolation and super-fast refresh rates. It uses DLP Link for synchronization rather than infra-red or radio-frequency sync. It does not come with any 3D glasses, though DLP Link glasses are fairly common and often inexpensive. The H6510BD also lacks a VESA port, meaning you cannot connect the projector to external 3D accessories such as emitters or switching polarizing panels. All of that said, though, it's a full HD 3D projector for $799, something which is unique in today's market.
Quiet fan. Often, small bright projectors are quite loud. While the H6510 isn't whisper-quiet, its fan noise is a low rush of air rather than a loud blast or a high whine. It is easy to ignore, especially if you are seated more than a couple of feet from the projector.
Long life lamp. The H6510BD's estimated lamp life is 4,000 hours in full power mode and 7,000 hours in Eco mode. This is impressively high for any projector. There is no guarantee that any lamp will last its entire specified life, but the manufacturer's estimation is the closest thing to real data that exists on a projector this new.
Light output. The Acer H6510BD is bright. At its brightest, in fact, our test sample measured 2524 ANSI lumens with the lamp at full power. Even eco-lamp mode, with its extended lamp life, puts out 1856 lumens in Bright mode -- 74% of full power output. Bright mode's color is undersaturated and pushes blue/green, while black level suffers, but Bright mode can be useful in a room with high ambient light where those factors matter less than pure output.
Standard mode, which has a more balanced image than Bright mode, produces 1844 lumens with the lamp at full power. Standard mode's black level and shadow detail are better than Bright mode, while color shows less of a blue push though green is still overdriven.
By default, Movie mode is the projector's best film and video mode. At 1336 lumens with the lamp at full power, Movie mode has the best default white balance of any mode, though it is still several hundred degrees off from 6500K. Our final calibration for film and video used Movie mode as a starting point and measured almost exactly 1300 lumens post-calibration. In a darkened theater, that is more than enough to drive even the largest screens up to 140" diagonal and above. But the H6510BD really shines in a room with some ambient light, where that extra lumen output can help defeat ambient light and still produce a bright, satisfying picture.
While none of the pre-calibrated image modes are appropriate for large screens, you can also reduce light output by 52% by disabling BrilliantColor in the projector's Advanced menu. If you have a small screen and a light-controlled room, this can help bring the projector's brightness in line with your needs.
Contrast. The H6510BD's black level is deep enough to create a satisfying picture. However, this does not mean that it is the equal of projectors many times more expensive, which benefit from better internal light control, auto iris systems, and higher-contrast chips. Black level is comparable to other entry-level 1080p projectors. Shadow detail is well-defined, and deep shadows in the very low range are still rendered cleanly.
Color. The H6510BD has three preset color temperature settings: CT1, CT2, and CT3. CT2, which is the default in Movie mode, is the most accurate of the three, but red is still under-emphasized while green is pushed. Folks who don't mind fine-tuning their projectors will want to switch to User mode and make adjustments from there.
On our test sample, the following settings produced a grayscale of roughly 6500K:
Color gamut is another story. The H6510BD's color gamut needs work in order to bring it in line with the Rec.709 standard. Unfortunately, the H6510BD's color management system uses very coarse adjustments and it can be difficult to make small adjustments.
On the subject of BrilliantColor, it is usually a good idea to disable BrilliantColor to get the most natural, most balanced image possible. However, it is difficult to calibrate the projector to 6500K across the board with BrilliantColor disabled, so some users will opt to leave it enabled.
Color. While grayscale on the H6510BD can be calibrated to near 6500K, the projector still has some color problems. First and foremost, the projector's color gamut is nowhere near the Rec.709 recommendation. This means that while the relative levels of red, green, and blue in an image may be balanced correctly, the projector has a different idea of what constitutes, for example, "green" than the source material does. Color gamut is notoriously difficult to calibrate without the proper equipment, and it is important that low-cost projectors have accurate gamuts whenever possible as most buyers of the H6510BD will not want to spend the money or time to calibrate the projector properly.
What's more, the H6510BD has low color brightness. Color brightness or Color Light Output (sometimes abbreviated CLO) is a measure of a display's ability to produce colored light. The standard addresses the problem of a projector producing much more white light than colored light, which is helpful in certain circumstances but can be actively harmful in others. Our test unit measured color light output at only 47% of white light output when BrilliantColor is enabled. Disabling BrilliantColor reduces white light output such that white light output (WLO) and CLO are equal, but as you might imagine that kills most of the H6510BD's white light lumens.
You should care about color light output for a few reasons. First of all, a large imbalance between WLO and CLO causes the image to look unbalanced and changes your perception of color. Next to a super-bright white, color tends to look dull, dreary, and undersaturated. When you're trying to produce a well-balanced cinema image, the brightness differential can be detrimental.
No VESA port. Some DLP Link projectors have the ability to switch to IR sync by using an external emitter. Since the H6510BD lacks a VESA port, you're locked into DLP Link for the life of the projector. It also makes it difficult, if not impossible, to connect 3D accessories, as they tend to use the VESA standard. Then again, few of the H6510BD's competitors include a VESA port, either.
Color wheel. With a six-segment RGBCMY color wheel spinning at 7200RPM, the H6510BD has a 2X-speed color wheel. This means those sensitive to rainbows will see them in droves. As there are other projectors around this price range with faster color wheels, the H6510BD could be a poor choice for anyone with a known sensitivity to color separation artifacts.
3D flicker. The Acer H6510BD runs at a 96Hz refresh rate, which is low for a 3D projector. This means that users sensitive to 3D flicker will tend to see more of it on the H6510BD than on a projector with a higher refresh rate. If you plan to watch a lot of 3D content, this could be an important criterion for your decision.
No customization of image presets. The H6510BD has a number of pre-calibrated image modes, but those modes cannot be altered. Instead, when you select an image mode and make an adjustment, the projector pushes your settings over to the User option where you can make further adjustments. As the projector only has one User memory, that means you can only save one group of settings.
This can be problematic depending on how you want to use the projector. For example, color calibrations when BrilliantColor is off are wildly different from color calibrations with BrilliantColor on. BC off looks smoother and more natural, but BC on provides much more white light output. If you use your H6510 in a dual-use capacity as both theater and living room projector, it would be helpful to retain both sets of calibrations without having to manually input them every time.
Brightness uniformity. Our test sample showed noticeable dimming in the corners of the image. The dimmest corner (top left on our projector) was only 65% as bright as the image's center. This is most evident on a solid white screen, but it can manifest when watching film and video as well. It is also possible that this was a problem only on our test sample and other samples will not display this flaw.
The Acer H6510BD's closest competitor is the BenQ W1070. Both projectors are native 1080p, DLP-based, and have full 3D compatibility. Both have dual HDMI ports, 1.3:1 manual zoom lenses, and long-life lamps. So what sets these two projectors apart?
Image quality. Despite similar specifications, the images from the H6510BD and W1070 are very different in their character. Both projectors produce similar amounts of light and have similar black levels, but the W1070 produces a smoother, more balanced, more natural-looking image than the H6510BD. Color is more accurate and better saturated on the W1070. In images with strong highlights, the W1070 does not have the screaming-bright whites of the H6510BD, which makes it look more like reality. If video quality is a primary concern, the W1070 has several distinct advantages.
3D. The W1070 has a qualitative advantage when it comes to 3D. While the H6510BD is brighter by far, the W1070 has the advantage of a faster refresh rate. By refreshing at 144 Hz to the H6510BD's 96 Hz, the W1070 shows less flicker and a smoother overall picture. Neither projector has a crosstalk problem, largely due to the fact that DLP Link is not especially prone to crosstalk.
Brightness. Both projectors' calibrated modes measure somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300 lumens. The H6510BD has a brighter maximum output, at 2524 to the W1070's 1554, so users looking for a living-room projector might want to take that into consideration.
Contrast. The W1070 and H6510BD have similar black levels, and both render shadow detail well, so contrast is effectively a tie.
Color. The W1070 has a distinct advantage when it comes to color. Not only does the projector's better saturated, more accurate color give it a clear advantage in HD content, but it also has more accurate color straight out of the box for users who don't want to fiddle around in the menus. Both projectors can be calibrated to 6500K grayscale, but the W1070's more accurate gamma and better saturation give it an edge even so.
Rainbows. The W1070's 6x-speed RGBRGB wheel shows significantly fewer rainbows than the H6510BD's 2x-speed RGBCMY wheel. If you are sensitive to rainbows, that's worth considering.
Features. The W1070 has a small amount of vertical lens shift while the H6510BD has none. On the other hand, the H6510BD has 2D to 3D conversion while the W1070 does not. The H6510BD's lamp life is slightly longer, while its fan is quieter.
The Acer H6510BD may be the most affordable full 3D projector available today. At $799, it delivers an attractive image that's great for high-definition films and video in either a darkened theater or a living room.
While the W1070 has advantages over the H6510BD in several important areas, it also costs about 20% more than the H6510BD. Neither projector comes with 3D glasses, but both use inexpensive DLP Link eyewear rather than a proprietary solution. These days, especially when working with entry-level projectors, that $200 gap can be important to some people. As always, it is up to the user to determine whether the additional image quality is worth the extra money.