Optoma ML500 LED Projector Review
Good data image quality. The ML500 scored well for data image quality overall. It delivered fully saturated, vibrant colors in our tests along with good color balance, with suitably neutral shades of gray. I noticed a slight greenish-blue tint in some mid-tone shades, but the tint was so slight I could almost convince myself I was imagining it.
Also on the plus side is that with data images I saw very few rainbow artifacts. These artifacts are always a concern for DLP-based projectors. With the ML500 I saw them only on a single test image that makes the breakup of the white areas into red-green-blue rainbows particularly easy to see. And even with that image, the artifacts were fleeting and subtle. If you're not sensitive to seeing rainbows, you may never see them in the ML500's data images. Even if you are sensitive to them, as I am, you probably won't see them often enough to find them bothersome.
Taking a little of the shine off the image quality is an issue that suggests the ML500's native resolution isn't really 1280x800. On graphics with large areas filled with repeating patterns of closely spaced lines or dots, I saw unwanted added patterns that appeared to be scaling artifacts.
By definition, the native resolution for a DLP chip is the resolution that gives a 1-to-1 correspondence between the number of pixels in the image and the number of pixels that the display can physically produce. Scaling artifacts result from a lack of that 1-to-1 correspondence, so the projector has to add or drop pixels to fit the image to the number of pixels available on the chip.
Because Optoma could neither confirm that the chip has a different resolution nor supply another explanation for these artifacts, we tried contacting Texas Instruments. TI hasn't been able to explain the artifacts in any detail either, as of this writing at least, although the company insists that the chip doesn't scale the image. On the other hand, it says that the issue is likely at least partly due to the chip's architecture, which would explain why I've seen the same issue in other projectors that use the same DLP chip.
Fortunately, unless you use patterned fills rather than solid blocks of color in graphics, you won't see scaling artifacts on very many images. However, you may notice a soft focus effect that I also saw, which likely results from the need to apply anti-aliasing to counter the apparent scaling artifacts.
Here again, the saving grace is that this won't create a serious problem for most images. The soft focus shows most obviously in highly detailed line drawings and small text sizes. On the 92" diagonal 16:10 image I used for testing, I found text smaller than 9 points hard to read from any distance. For 9 points and above, it wasn't a serious issue.
Highly portable. With its 2.5 pound weight and 1.7" by 8.7" by 6.7" size (HWD), toting the ML500 around is roughly equivalent to carrying a book. To make it even easier, Optoma supplies a soft carrying case complete with a handle and a pouch large enough for the power cord, credit card size remote, and any cables, SDcards, USB memory keys you want to bring with you. Even in the case, the projector is easy to carry and small enough to put in a briefcase.
Quick and easy setup. The ML500 lets you go from unzipping the case to fully set up in well under a minute. Setup can consist of no more than putting the projector in place, pointing it at whatever you're using for a screen, plugging in the power cord, turning it on, and focusing. If you're using external memory, add a step for plugging in the memory card or USB key. If you're using a computer or video source, substitute a step for plugging in the cable.
Low running costs. As with other LED-based projectors, the ML500's light source is meant to last the entire life of the projector, with a 20,000 hour rating for the LEDs. Considering that lamps can cost $200 or more, with lifetimes as low as 2000 to 3000 hours, this represents a significant savings in running costs compared to lamp-based projectors.
Usable video image quality. The ML500's video quality is best described as usable, which is more than you can say for many data projectors. I saw some posterization (colors changing suddenly where they should change gradually) and a moderate problem handling shadow detail. However, these issues showed up only in scenes that tend to cause the problem, and the ML500 did better on both scores than many, if not most, data projectors. I didn't see the same problems in scenes that were more carefully lit.
Depending on how critical an eye you have, you may consider the quality good enough to let you watch a full-length movie, but only if you don't mind seeing rainbow artifacts.
Usable audio. The 2-watt speaker in the ML500 is necessarily limited, but it's also good enough to be a pleasant surprise. Loud enough to fill a small conference room, with quality good enough to let you make out spoken words easily, the ML500 delivers better audio than you'll find in many larger projectors.
|Review Contents:||Overview||Key Features||Test Results||Limitations and Conclusion|