Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Those in the market for a portable projector have several factors to consider, but the three main areas of importance are brightness, weight, and cost. To make significant gains in one area, performance in another is often sacrificed. Finding a good balance can often prove difficult.
Enter the Epson Powerlite 77c. This six pound, 2200 lumen workhorse is bright enough for use in most conference rooms, light enough to be carried around without undue discomfort, comes with a host of features, and still costs only $749.
ANSI lumens: 2200
Contrast (full on/off): 400:1
Light Engine: 1024x768, native 4:3 3LCD with a 170W lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i. NTSC/PAL/SECAM.
Data Compatibility: Computer resolutions up to UXGA (1600x1200).
Connection Panel: One VGA input, one monitor passthrough, composite video, s-video, L/R RCA audio input, and a USB port for computer control.
Lens and Throw Distance: 1.2:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal 4:3 image from 9'6" to 11'5".
Lamp Life: 3000 hours, 4000 hours in Low Brightness mode.
Warranty: Two years.
The Epson PowerLite 77c is housed in a sleek black case with an integrated sliding lens cap. Closing the lens cap during operation enables "A/V Mute" mode, which effectively places the projector in standby, ready to be reactivated quickly. Weighing in at six pounds, the 77c is easily portable.
The control panel is on the top of the case,and is unusually comprehensive. In addition to standard menu controls, there are buttons for source search, vertical keystone adjustment, volume up/down, and a button for the projector's integrated help system.
The lamp is replaced from the top, as well, allowing the lamp to be replaced without removing the projector from its ceiling mount. A dust filter is on the bottom, but it can be slid out from the front of the case, even in a ceiling mount.
The connection panel is spartan, but effective. The 77c's VGA input can handle both data and component video signals. Monitor pass-through makes it a viable choice in the education market, as well. And with a USB connection to your computer, the projector's remote can control page up/page down functionality, which comes in handy during PowerPoint slide shows.
The PowerLite 77c has a fixed throw offset, where the bottom edge of the image is 10% of the image's height below the lens centerline. Ceiling mounts may require a drop tube to avoid placing the image too high on the wall, and conference table use may necessitate tilting the projector and applying keystone correction.
A 1.2:1 manual zoom/focus lens allows for a 100" 4:3 image from 9'6" to 11'5", or a 60" diagonal image from 5'8" to 6'10". This is standard for an XGA projector of this size, and as such it offers no competitive advantage or disadvantage compared to other comparable projectors.
Since portable projectors seldom have a long zoom range or lens shift capability, the quality of a business projector's keystone correction is paramount. On the PL77c, Keystone is clean, sharp, and easy to use. Small text becomes noticeably bolded, while images are unaffected and PowerPoint slides show no noticeable degradation.
The projector's menu system is simple to understand. Tabs run up the left side of the menu, and pressing "enter" brings the user into the menu proper. Preset image modes allow for quick adjustment for nearly any environment. There is also a color temperature adjustment feature for fine-tuning the color balance on the 77c.
Image modes include Presentation, Game, Theater, Photo, and sRGB, among others. Presentation is the brightest, followed by Game, which has noticeably improved contrast and color saturation. Theater, Photo, and sRGB offer subtle differences in color and contrast, but all fall within the same brightness range.
The remote is tiny and crammed with identical buttons - a total of 18 of them. Using the remote is difficult even in the best light, so presenters may find themselves wishing for a flashlight should they need to use it in the dark.
Fan noise is pleasantly low, even in high brightness mode. The PL77c's audible fan noise does not decrease too much in Low Brightness mode, but it is easily one of the quieter portable XGA projectors we've seen thus far.
The PL77c really shines when it comes to lamp life and replacement cost. The lamp is rated for 4000 hours in Low Brightness mode, and replacements cost about $200. That means running the projector in Low Brightness mode costs the user only $0.05 per hour, assuming the lamp lasts for its full specified life. A $200 replacement lamp is also much easier to swallow than the more typical $350 to $400 lamps seen in small XGA projectors.
In its brightest mode, our test unit measured a respectable 1700 ANSI lumens, enough to light the vast majority of conference room screens. Low Brightness mode (Epson's name for Low or Eco lamp mode) dropped output to 1305 ANSI, a 23% drop. Theater and Photo modes, which as their names might imply are better suited to video and photographic content, measured approximately 1321 ANSI in High Brightness mode, and a still powerful 1013 ANSI in Low Brightness mode.
Brightness uniformity is 88% on our test unit, which is excellent. Illumination is consistent and even across the screen, and there are no visible differences between the brightest and dimmest areas of the screen.
As expected from an Epson projector, color is superb. When using photographic content, colors are vivid, accurate, and well-saturated. Subtle nuances are not lost between differing shades of the same color, and there was no evidence of gradation artifacts.
Edge to edge sharpness is perfect on our test unit. The inter-pixel gap is noticeable but subtle, and every pixel in every area of the screen has the same sharp, clear appearance. Furthermore, the screen door effect disappears completely at 1.5x the screen width, removing any possibility of distraction.
We tested some video game content on the 77c from our Xbox 360, and they looked great. Granted, the necessity of high contrast is lessened in games compared to HD media, but 400:1 is adequate to provide a compelling experience. 720p content was scaled well, though the 77c occasionally showed some minor pixelation artifacts as a result of the scaling process.
The Epson PowerLite 77c is not quite a jack of all trades, but it comes close. A Kensington Lock and monitor passthrough are must-haves for the education market. The top-removable lamp and dust filter make it a good choice for fixed installation in a large conference room. Great color makes photography presentation a joy, and it shines as a gaming projector. While it has some flaws, like a too-small remote and limited connectivity, it represents an exceptional value at current street prices of only $749.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson PowerLite 77c projector page.