Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
Mitsubishi is getting into the large venue market with the new 8000 series, a line of dual-lamp, interchangeable-lens projectors for 24/7 operation on the biggest of big screens. The first one to cross our desk is the WD8200U, a single-chip DLP WXGA projector that can put out over 6,500 lumens - or run for 8,000 hours at a stretch with zero down time. With plenty of options for lensing and a whole pile of installation-friendly features, the WD8200U is a perfect projector for lecture halls, megachurches, museum installations, or large photography clubs.
Image quality. The WD8200U has a sharp, clear, crisp image with very good color for its class of projector. The image is bright, yes, but it also has well-saturated color and plenty of dynamic range. With the optional 6-segment color wheel, which we will discuss later, color improves even further. Edge-to-edge sharpness is impeccable. The projector uses a 2x-speed color wheel, which is a limiting factor when talking about video, but for a data projector it is less of a problem--rainbow artifacts tend to appear when bright highlights move across the screen at a rapid pace, a situation encountered less frequently outside of film. Whatever your data presentation needs, the WD8200U has got you covered.
Light output. The WD8200U is a big dual-lamp projector built for large installation use, so serious lumen output is expected; the spec sheet declares maximum output of 6500 lumens. As it turns out, our test unit measured a whopping 6719 lumens in Presentation mode with both lamps on and set to high power. This is the maximum possible output, and is the preferred setting for large (150" to 200" diagonal) screens with significant ambient light.
What makes the WD8200U so unique is that there are so many ways to customize the image so that it is just right for your installation. Aside from Presentation, the WD8200U has a number of other presets that make the projected image more suitable for specific applications. First up is Standard, which has a higher color temperature (more blue) and higher color saturation than Presentation; it measured 4172 lumens with both lamps on high power. Standard is a good mode to use for Powerpoint presentation or just rooms with some degree of light control, as the increased color saturation can at times be more important than the brightest possible picture. Theater measured 3872, gave the image a warmer cast (lower color temperature), and improved black level and dynamic range. The final preset, sRGB, gave by far the best color and contrast of the bunch, though lumen output dropped to 3187. Both Theater and sRGB are well suited to film, video, and photo use. Color is more accurate than it is in other presets, while the contrast improvement gives your content more depth and three-dimensionality.
Most of the WD8200U's lumen range comes not from image presets but from lamp configuration. The readings listed come from having both lamps burning at full power, which will always give the highest reading in any given image mode. Using both lamps in low power mode drops output by 23% and increases lamp life to 4,000 hours, up from 2,000 hours in high lamp mode. You can also use a single lamp at a time, which cuts lumen output by a predictable 50%. One lamp in low power drops output 63% from maximum; in other words, Presentation would measure 2483 lumens using this setting. This also extends lamp life to 8,000 hours, the projector's maximum. As you can see, no matter your ambient light or screen size requirements, the WD8200U probably has a setting that will give you the correct amount of light output for your screen.
Longevity features. The WD8200U is designed as a true 24/7 projector, able to run for days, weeks, or months at a stretch. Indeed, using one lamp in low power mode would allow for 8,000 continuous hours of operation, or 333 straight days--about eleven months, all told. As such, it has several special features that are designed to deliver maximum longevity with minimum maintenance required.
Automatic lamp switching. The key to the WD8200U's constant-on system is automatic lamp switching. Many large venue projectors offer some variant of this technology, which alternates downtime to maximize lamp life. If you use one lamp at a time, this is simple enough; the projector starts the second lamp, then shuts off the first. Things get tricky when you use both lamps at the same time, though. In this case, the WD8200U will shut down one lamp at a time for an hour each day, allowing it to cool down and thereby extending life. Other options include a weekly shutdown schedule or a custom schedule, where the user specifies how often (and for how long) each lamp is allowed to cool down. The user may also customize single-lamp mode, so you can decide when you want the switching to occur.
Perpetual filter. The WD8200U is not the first projector to include an auto filter; it has become a desirable feature in projectors built for dusty or smoky environments. However, Mitsubishi brings the auto filter to the next level. The WD8200U's filter is not only automatic, but self-cleaning and perpetual as well. The filter material goes in a loop; at one point on the loop is a cleaning brush and a dust catch compartment. When the filter gets dirty, it rotates a clean section into place, which sends the dirty section past the cleaning apparatus and dumps any dust into the compartment. Periodically, one must remove the filter and empty the bin, but the filter itself never needs to be replaced. What's more, the user has the ability to set the frequency of the self-cleaning cycles, allowing you to adjust for your environment. Think of it as a vacuum with a removable dust canister instead of a bag--you do have to empty it, but you don't have to replace it. The projector will even remind you when it's time to clean it out.
Noise and heat exhaust. While it is seriously bright, the WD8200U is quieter than you might imagine. Large venue projectors sometimes sound like jet engines. But the WD8200U is different. Heat pipe technology helps efficiently funnel heat away from the critical components of the projector, which lessens the need for a powerful exhaust fan. This all boils down to a quieter projector; the official noise rating is only 36dB with both lamps at full power.
360-degree cooling. While it is not widely known, most projectors are meant to be used in a relatively small number of positions. All projectors can be used either right-side up or upside-down, but other angles may impact the efficiency of cooling and shorten operational life. The WD8200U has a customizable cooling option that allows the projector to be used at any angle or position. From the menu, the user can set the projector's current mounting angle and the internal fans will optimize for the new configuration. This helps keep lamp life at its peak without restricting operator choices.
Curved surface capability. Most of the time, projectors and curved surfaces go together like oil and water. A curved surface is often ideal for a very large screen, as it focuses light back towards the audience at the edges rather than reflecting it off into space. The WD8200U has a compensation function to allow it to be used with a curved screen without losing any of the projected image--in essence, it is a very fancy, very specific form of keystone correction. While this is certainly a helpful tool, it cannot help with the inability to focus on more than one area of the screen at a time, so the center will still be focused while the edges are softened.
Edge blending. Pretend, for a moment, that you require the largest possible image, larger and brighter even than the WD8200U can provide. In this case, look to the Edge Blending feature, which helps the user create a "video wall" installation with up to nine WD8200Us. Guide lines are created to assist in alignment, while the edges of the image are dimmed precisely to create uniform brightness across the whole image. While you will still need an external video processor that can handle some serious bandwidth, the projector itself is ready to go.
1280x800 Resolution. 1280x800 is a flexible, adaptable resolution that is in many ways a perfect fit for data presentation in large venues. For one, it can handle several common data resolutions natively--XGA, 1280x768, and 1280x800, just to name the easy ones. It can also natively display 1280x720 HD video. When you've got a whole slew of presenters with their own content, having the ability to display several common formats in native resolution is a plus.
Placement flexibility. The WD8200U, even fresh out of the box, has some serious placement flexibility. The stock lens is a 1.35:1 powered zoom/focus model with powered H/V lens shift. It can project a 150" diagonal 16:10 image from a distance of 18'8" to 25'6". Lens shift can take the image up or down inside a 1.8 picture height range, meaning the image can be placed almost completely above or below the lens centerline. Horizontal shift is more limited, with a total range of 17% of the image's width in either direction.
But the WD8200U does not stop there. The projector has interchangeable lenses designed to fit any installation, if you're willing to pay to make it work. Here is a small listing of their prices and capabilities:
|Lens||150" image range||MSRP|
|Fixed Rear Projection||8'||$2,695|
|Short Throw Zoom||13' - 19'||$2,795|
|Standard Lens||18'8" - 25'6"||---|
|Long Throw Zoom||21' - 29'||$2,495|
|Tele Zoom||29' - 47'||$3,095|
As you can see, a 150" diagonal image can be hit from almost any distance between 13 and 47 feet depending on which lens you use. There's also the fixed-distance short-throw lens, meant for rear projection installations, that can hit the 150" diagonal from only 8 feet.
Interchangeable color wheels. The WD8200U ships with a five-segment, two-speed color wheel; the segments are Red, Green, Blue, White, and Yellow. This color wheel is designed for someone who needs brightness, first and foremost, without sacrificing too much in the way of color performance. But some venues, such as museum visitor center auditoriums, will prefer more accurate color. In this situation, the WD8200U has an interchangeable color wheel, which is something we have not seen before. The user can swap the 5-segment RGBWY wheel for a 6-segment RGBCMY wheel, which even before calibration delivers much more accurate color. There is a loss of lumen output associated with this; we measured a drop of 23% when switching from one wheel to the other, on account of the removal of the white segment. But color performance gets a big boost. The color gamut is instantly improved, and with a little bit of calibration the WD8200U would have no trouble hitting the 6500K temperature standard. The optional RGBCMY wheel retails for $589 direct from Mitsubishi.
Connectivity. No matter what connection your source device requires, the WD8200U probably has a port for it. The connection panel includes Composite, S-Video, twin VGA inputs, DVI-D, HDMI, a D-Sub remote port compatible with the Crestron RoomView system, RS232C in and out, and an RJ45 LAN port. The plethora of ports is perfect for a high-performance projector like the WD8200U, especially when one considers that it will likely be ceiling mounted and tucked out of the way; in other words, one cannot simply unplug one device and plug in the next as one could on a mobile projector. The projector also includes a detachable cable cover to keep things neat and tidy.
Super Resolution. Normally found on home theater projectors, Super Resolution is a technology that selectively enhances detail in certain areas of an image without causing obvious edge enhancement artifacts. Whereas simply turning up the sharpness on a projector might result in ugly white ringing around lines and edges, Super Resolution can bring out detail in the picture without the ugly lines. Super Resolution runs on a scale of 0 to 5, with the default being 0. Overdriving the control can still result in edge enhancement artifacts, but our test sample did not exhibit any signs of these unless pushed above 4.
Three-year warranty. With a projector as large and costly as the WD8200U, you'll want to protect your investment. Lucky for you, Mitsubishi includes a three-year or 10,000 hour warranty on the projector (10,000 hours is over a year, FYI) plus one year or 500 hours on the lamp. During the warranty period, Mitsubishi includes Express Replacement Assistance, a service that helps to get you back up and running again as soon as possible.
Normally, we have more than a few things to nitpick about any given projector, but the designers at Mitsubishi put a lot of thought and consideration into the WD8200U. It is reasonably priced, fully-featured, and incorporates the little details that don't make it on to a spec sheet--such simple things as reversible labels for the connection panel so they can be read more easily when the projector is ceiling mounted. It is exceptionally well thought-out. So it is difficult to find much in the way of limitations to discuss. The two that come to mind are these....
Operations costs. Lamps become less bright as they age and lamp life specifications are estimates rather than guarantees. There's no way to know if two lamps are both going to reach their expected lifespans or fail early. If a lamp happens to fail early on a dual-lamp projector, you have a couple options. You can replace just the one lamp, but if you have been using the projector for a while, the other lamp may be dimmer than the new lamp. There might be a shift in color temperature as well. This is not a concern if you are running both lamps at once, but if you have the projector operating in relay mode it might produce an unevenness in the image. To avoid this, you need to replace both lamps.
The WD8200U uses a high-performance lamp, and replacements cost $549 direct from Mitsubishi. To replace both will cost over $1000. Now, that is a small percentage of the overall cost of the projector, and part of the cost of maintaining a projector in continuous operation. But it is a factor to consider when planning the installation. The WD8200U has one of the most comprehensive lamp warranties in the industry, but no lamp warranty covers the whole anticipated life of the lamp.
Other than this, overall maintenance costs on the WD8200 are low due to the perpetual air filter, which never needs to be replaced.
Lens shift. Having powered lens shift is a definite advantage, but the range leaves something to be desired. The vertical shift range is not great enough to allow you to flush-mount the projector on the ceiling; a drop tube may be required in most installations. A drop tube which suspends the unit in mid-air may not be aesthetically ideal in some rooms.
The WD8200U is a feature-rich, high-performance fixed-installation projector from Mitsubishi. It is one of the relatively few projectors purpose-built for 24/7 operation, and indeed its continuous operation modes are some of the best available. It has all of the features one would expect from a big fixed-install projector, from interchangeable lenses to a rolling dust filter to an included cable cover. But it also includes some new features, such as side-changing lamps, 360-degree cooling, heat pipe technology, an interchangeable color wheel, and a perpetual filter that never needs to be replaced. The lamp relay mode never requires a shutdown during normal operation. Filter cleaning can be customized. The list goes on.
The WD8200U is a projector that includes just about everything, and then includes the ability to customize just about everything. It is, in short, the large venue projector for all occasions and installations. While the $14,999 MSRP seems awfully high, street prices below $7,500 are not uncommon--that's 50% below MSRP, for those keeping track at home. And, in our opinion, the WD8200U is worth it--it is a great, seriously capable projector. Because of its exceptional capabilities and overall quality, it earns our Editor's Choice Award.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Mitsubishi WD8200U projector page.