Optoma EW330 WXGA DLP Projector
  • Performance
  • 4
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value

So imagine for a moment that you're a traveling presenter, moving from city to city and making your pitch. Whether flying or driving, you probably want to travel light. The Optoma EW330 is a 2.5-pound, 2200-lumen WXGA projector that's dead simple to use and displays a bold, striking data picture. It combines the features of a much larger projector, such as an HDMI port and a laser pointer, with the portability of the sub-3 pound projectors. And the EW330 does not even require an external power transformer, as do many micro-portables. With street prices around $890, it is not the most affordable projector on the block, but its unique combination of features and performance make it a valuable tool for those who travel.

Advantages

Great data picture. The big question for any portable projector like the EW330 is "how does the picture look?" We ran the projector through its paces with some common presentation material: a Powerpoint presentation complete with images and transitions and medium-sized text, a spreadsheet with charts and graphs and plenty of data, a text document, a video clip, and some photos. Powerpoint looked fantastic, especially when there was color involved. Text documents and spreadsheets were sharp and clear, though text smaller than 10-point tended to get muddled. Photos looked bold, with plenty of shadow detail and a very three-dimensional appearance, though color needs some fine-tuning for optimal display. After adjustment, color looks natural and life-like. The EW330 produces a sharp, bright, clear picture with bold, vivid colors, ideal for the sort of bright environment in which one would typically use it.

Bright picture. For such a tiny projector, the EW330 packs a serious punch. Rated at 2200 lumens, our test sample measured 1976 lumens in its brightest mode, using high lamp mode and the lamp's widest angle setting. For the traveling presenter, this kind of light output equals freedom--freedom from having to worry about your presentation environment and the amount of ambient light in the room.

If your presentation environment doesn't require quite so much light, the EW330's other image modes will serve you well. The next step down from Bright mode is Presentation, which features higher contrast and more saturated colors. It measured 1442 lumens on our test sample. Movie mode, with more defined mid-tones and a warmer white balance, measured 949 lumens. And sRGB mode, which had the best balanced picture of any mode, measured 571 lumens. Any mode can also have its output reduced by 24% by using low lamp mode, which can help split the difference between some of the higher output image modes.

 

Highly portable. The EW330 is a micro-portable projector with a unique twist. Usually, these tiny portables reduce size and weight by moving the power transformer from the projector's case to a separate brick. So while the projector might weigh two pounds, there's an extra pound and a half of power transformer that needs to come along as well. At best, this is inconvenient; at worst, it is deceptive.

The EW330 isn't like this. There's no power brick to lug; the projector uses a standard IEC power cable just like most other pieces of home theater equipment. These cables are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and extremely lightweight, so you won't find your travel bag packed with a bunch of projector-related clutter. In fact, the EW330's small travel case can easily hold the remote, power cable, and a signal cable of your choosing (VGA or HDMI). External dimensions of the case are 9.5" x 8" x 4" when fully loaded--add a laptop and you have everything you need. The EW330 fits inside your carry-on luggage, rather than replacing your carry-on luggage.

Connectivity. The EW330 is tiny, sure, but it does not compromise on connections. The connection panel is decked out with VGA, HDMI, s-video, composite, and a mini-USB port for control of your computer's mouse. There are no breakout cables to pack, no adapters to worry about, and no expensive cable replacements when something is lost or broken.

Placement flexibility. The EW330 has a 1.1:1 zoom lens, so you can adjust total image size by about 10%. This allows you to put a 100" 16:10 image on screen from 11' 3" to 12' 4", which isn't a lot of leeway. The throw angle offset is roughly 28%, meaning the bottom edge of the image will appear 28% of the image's height above the centerline of the lens. In practical terms, a 100" diagonal 16:10 image will have an offset of 15". This is a good middle ground, high enough to compensate for a low conference table. Unfortunately the projector does not have a quick-adjust front foot, so any height adjustments will have to be made by turning the foot manually. When you are trying to set up a presentation as quickly as possible, this sort of delay can be aggravating.

Low cost of ownership. With no filter to clean and an estimated 5,000 hour lamp life, the EW330's maintenance schedule is about as easy as it gets. When the lamp does go out, replacements are available for less than $250. In other words, assuming that the lamp runs for its full specified lifespan, the EW330 will cost you a nickel per hour to operate.

Quiet operation. During use, the EW330 produces remarkably little audible noise for such a small, bright machine. When it is first turned on, the fan is little more than a whisper, especially if you are not seated directly in front of the exhaust vent. The downside is that, as the projector heats up, the fan will occasionally kick into high gear, creating more audible noise at unpredictable intervals. Our test sample ran for about 15 minutes before the fan kicked up, but we also test at 3,000 feet of elevation, so your results will likely be different from ours.

Video quality. Let's make this clear right out of the gate: the EW330 is not a video projector. It has a 2x speed color wheel with a substantial white segment, so highlights appear brighter than everything else and shadow detail can seem washed out in comparison. But for that traveling presenter who wants to watch a movie in his off-time, the EW330 will do an admirable job for what it is. There were no real problems with video playback, but the EW330 is not a projector we would recommend specifically for video, either.

 

Limitations

Pincushion distortion. The EW330 shows signs of "pincushion" distortion, when the sides of the image bow inwards towards the center. It's subtle, and in cases where you have a screen to project on, you might not even see it. But if you are just putting the picture on a wall or the image's edges are clearly visible, it's easy to spot. This has the greatest effect when you are displaying something with a lot of strong vertical or horizontal lines, such as a spreadsheet. If you're using the EW330 to display Powerpoint presentations, video, photos, or text documents, chances are good that you won't notice any distortion.

2x speed color wheel. This is only a concern if you want to watch a significant amount of video, but since the EW330 is technically an HD projector, someone will try it. The projector's 2x-speed, five-segment color wheel will cause rainbows for those sensitive to them, especially with fast-moving content where bright highlights move quickly across a dark background. If you are doing mobile presentation, you have no way of knowing how your audience reacts to 2x-speed color wheels, since the audience is different every time. If your presentation involves a lot of video that fits these criteria, you may want to take this into consideration before making a purchase.

Conclusion

The Optoma EW330 is a presenter's new best friend. Its tiny form factor and light weight make it a great travel companion for someone on-the-go, and it is among the brightest small WXGA projectors available. The EW330 uses industry standard connectors, so you can use any cable you like and not have to worry about expensive replacements in the future. There's no power brick to lug around, no adapter cables, and no hassle. When it comes to image quality, the projector is a solid performer, putting up a bright picture with very good contrast and color. It is, in short, a very well-constructed mobile presentation projector.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma EW330 projector page.

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