Highly Recommended Award
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The Casio EcoLite XJ-V1 is the newest hybrid laser/LED projector from the company, which has a long history with hybrid technology. The first projector in their new Core series, the EcoLite XJ-V1 is a low-cost projector for business or classroom use, incorporating the main features of Casio's full line of hybrid projectors in a more budget-friendly package. Producing up to 2,700 lumens at XGA resolution, the XJ-V1 is a sturdy, capable projector. The MSRP of $899 is already reasonable, but street prices around $699 make the XJ-V1 an excellent value.
Note: This review is based on a pre-production sample of the XJ-V1, which is due to be released in May of this year. As such, some details of the product may change between the time of this review and the full commercial release of the projector.
Whether installed in the boardroom or the classroom, a projector needs to be bright and easy to use. The XJ-V1 is both. The projector produces a bright, sparkling image that springs to life in seconds and comes to full brightness instantly thanks to the hybrid LED/laser light engine powering the image.
The picture itself is bright and sharp, with clean, crisply-defined edges and text that's easy to read. The projector isn't widescreen, and therefore isn't the best choice for wide-aspect content, but it's a great option for the venerable Powerpoint presentation, text document, or simple data graphics. The XJ-V1 has a number of image modes, each tailored to a different type of content, plus an "Eco Off" mode for maximum brightness. We found the image modes different enough to all be useful, and the Eco Off mode is good for those times when ambient light is unavoidable and image shadow detail and color fidelity are less important than sheer visibility.
In a fixed installation, you probably won't have cause to use the projector's keystone correction system, but it's possible you'll need it when the projector is on a rolling cart or other portable use cases. Though there is some small unavoidable level of image degradation, keystone correction is clean, and text remains easy to read even after scaling. We would try to avoid keystone correction with, for example, a complex spreadsheet, but it should be fine for Powerpoint or image-heavy content.
Quick startup. Whether in the boardroom or the classroom, time is important. Lamp-based projectors need to warm up for a few minutes before they're ready to use, which costs you time. The XJ-V1 starts in seconds and comes to full brightness right away, so the meeting can finish faster and everyone can get back to work. In the classroom, it means you don't have to warm up the projector and lose the use of your whiteboard while you wait. This is thanks to the XJ-V1's hybrid light engine, which produces light using light emitting diodes and lasers, not traditional high-pressure lamps.
Laser/LED hybrid. Let's talk about that hybrid engine for a moment. If you're in a classroom and the projector's lamp goes out, that's usually the end of the lesson - because by the time someone can bring a replacement projector, class is over. Hybrid projectors make sense in these situations, where downtime means more than a simple delay. Were that not the case, though, a projector like the XJ-V1 would still make sense, as it offers similar light output and resolution to several lamp-based projectors in the same price range. Those other projectors might have features missing from the XJ-V1, such as Wi-Fi or USB projection, but the XJ-V1 has the advantage of lower maintenance and less downtime.
This doesn't mean that hybrid projectors are maintenance-free, of course. All projectors will eventually fail, if driven hard enough. But lamps are the most frequent maintenance item on projectors that use them, and they require either keeping costly inventory items on hand or suffering downtime while those parts are ordered. Neither is ideal for organizations with tight budgets. And the XJ-V1 comes with a three-year warranty on the projector and a five-year warranty on the light source, so in the event the projector does fail, it will result in downtime but not a costly repair bill.
Connectivity. These days, there are two main connections for video: HDMI for sources with digital outputs, and VGA for sources without. The XJ-V1 has one of each port on its rear connection panel, which means it can connect with just about any computer or video source made in the last ten years. There are also a pair of 1/8" audio jacks for audio input and output, allowing you to pass audio out to a speaker system (the projector has no onboard speaker). The audio out jack will also pass audio from an HDMI source, when needed.
Warranty. A three-year warranty is about the best you'll find on a projector at any price, but it's especially good on an inexpensive model like the XJ-V1. What's more, the light source is warrantied for five years or 10,000 hours. This is the first time we've seen such an extensive warranty on a light source, and Casio deserves credit for standing behind their product in such a strong way.
Fan noise. While the XJ-V1 isn't quiet, especially in Eco Off/Bright mode, it's also not as loud as we were expecting. In the past, we've heard some seriously noisy hybrid projectors, and the small ones tend to be louder, so it's a point in the XJ-V1's favor that it is quieter than average.
Light output. The XJ-V1 is rated to produce up to 2,700 ANSI lumens. In our testing, the projector's brightest mode (Eco Off Bright) measured just north of 1900 lumens at the factory settings. These settings are slightly conservative, and are intended to maintain some semblance of image balance even in the projector's blow-out brightness mode. For those seeking extra brightness, increasing Contrast can boost light output by several hundred lumens at the expense of highlight detail. So if your material uses a pure white background without any important detail in it, feel free to crank it up.
Switching to Eco Off Normal resulted in a reduction of both light output and fan noise, measuring 1591 lumens. This is a good utility mode for the projector, giving it a more balanced image with less of a green push without sacrificing much in the way of lumen output to get there. The other image modes are inaccessible until you switch the projector to Eco On, which presents you with a number of new settings. You can move the Eco setting between 1 and 5 using a cute leaf diagram; more leaves equals less power drawn and fewer lumens produced. Using Eco 5 will reduce light output by 40% compared to Eco 1.
The following table lists ANSI lumen outputs for each mode using both Eco 1 and Eco 5 modes:
Color. In the projector's brightest modes, it prioritizes light output over color fidelity. This can make some images, especially those with both solid color fields and strong highlights, appear washed-out or dull. If you plan to display images where color accuracy is important, consider switching the projector to Theater or Graphic mode first. These modes reduce light output somewhat, but produce more accurate color and stronger shadow detail for an overall more pleasant experience with this type of content.
Sharpness and Detail. The XJ-V1 isn't a high-resolution projector, so if you're accustomed to high-definition screens it can seem a little pixelated and blocky at close viewing distances. But it does an excellent job of keeping the image sharp from edge to edge, while there's little in the way of edge enhancement artifacts to detract from what detail is present. The projector also does an admirable job of compressing higher-resolution content to fit its native XGA pixel matrix, so if you need to watch a movie in your classroom and this is the projector that's available, you'll still have a very watchable picture despite the scaling and comparatively low resolution.
Limited zoom. The XJ-V1 has a small zoom range of 1.1:1, meaning it can display an 80" diagonal picture from 8' 3" to 9' 1". That's not a lot of wiggle room, but then again the XJ-V1 isn't designed for those applications where wiggle room is usually necessary. You'll usually find this projector installed permanently on the ceiling of a boardroom or small meeting room, or perhaps placed on a cart and wheeled between classrooms. In the former case, the permanent installation means zoom won't be used; in the latter, you can zoom with the wheels on the cart rather than the slider on the projector. And as it happens, the projector's throw ratio (1.44-1.77) is such that it can replace many of the most popular XGA projectors of the last few years without moving the ceiling mount or replacing the screen. These are important factors to consider when budgets are tight.
4:3. Today's displays are overwhelmingly widescreen, but a few applications do still call for the standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Those include Powerpoint presentations, still one of the most common uses of projectors in business and education. If you need a presentation projector, there's nothing wrong with 4:3.
No onboard control panel. There are only two buttons on the projector: one controls the power, while the other switches inputs. That's it. In other words, you should take care not to misplace the projector's remote, because there's no way to access the menu or change the settings without it.
The Casio XJ-V1 is a great little projector. It combines the low maintenance of a hybrid light engine with the affordable price point of an entry-level XGA projector to create a product that's perfect for boardrooms, classrooms, meeting rooms, and anywhere you need a bright image on a tight budget. It lacks some of the fancy features found in upmarket projectors, so anyone who needs centralized monitoring via network or PC-free projection should look to one of Casio's other offerings in the Slim or Signature lines. But if all you need is a bright picture that won't break the bank, plus the assurance that it will keep working for years and years to come, the XJ-V1 is a good way to get it.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Casio XJ-V1 projector page.