Highly Recommended Award
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If you are one of the millions of happy Nintendo Wii owners, how would you like to take your game to the next level? The Optoma GameTime GT360 is a projector you won't want to miss. The GT360 is meant to be paired with Nintendo's Wii system, and it proves to be a very good match indeed. With a bright and dynamic image and street prices under $600, it is an affordable way to bring your video gaming experience to the big screen. Its 800x600 resolution is more than enough for the console. And its short-throw lens is ideal for the Wii's dynamic play mechanics, compared to the more sedentary sort of use one might see on other consoles.
Image quality. What the GT360 brings to the table is the big screen experience. Since the Wii is a standard-definition console, there's no read need to go out and buy a new video system - it will work perfectly with your current television. But when you're playing a party game on a 30" television, something gets lost in the translation. If you've ever played four-player split screen on a regular television, you'll know what I'm talking about. Each player is relegated to a tiny corner of the screen, and then everyone is forced to sit back far enough to accommodate the others. Quite frankly, this isn't fun. The GT360 solves this problem by putting a big, bright, beautiful picture on your wall, which is a vastly more enjoyable experience when you have some friends over to play games. Everyone can see what's happening, and the big picture experience makes the games feel more immersive.
Light output. Many people like to play video games with some ambient light in the room, either so they can see their controller or so they can see their friends. The GT360, rated at 2500 lumens, is perfect for this sort of use. Our test unit measured 2193 lumens in its brightest mode. This is more than enough to light up a 100" 4:3 screen, even with significant room lighting. Heck, if you have the room for it, there's no reason not to go for a 120" or 150" diagonal screen. Just remember that you'll need to stand further back as screen size increases, as getting between the projector and the screen will cast a shadow.
We're going to talk about this a little bit later, but here's a note on placement. For a 100" diagonal screen, the projector needs six feet of space from lens to screen. So, if you're in a small 10' x 10' room, a 100" screen is about as big as you can get and still have room to stand behind the projector. You can of course stand off to the sides, but the Wii's controller requires line-of-sight contact with the sensor bar, so extreme off-angles won't work very well.
If you don't play video games with the lights on, or simply don't want a picture that's quite so bright, you have several options to reduce the projector's light output. Game mode measured 1767 lumens with the lamp at full power. Cinema mode, which has a warmer color balance and more open mid tones, measured 1121 lumens. And dropping the lamp into eco-mode reduced lumen output in all modes by 10%.
There's also the matter of BrilliantColor. As on many DLP projectors, BrilliantColor on the GT360 boosts highlights without affecting the rest of the image. By default, it is set quite high - Bright and Game modes are both set to 10, the maximum. If you wish to further reduce lumen output, a single step reduction in BrilliantColor can reduce light output by, on average, 8%. However, if you are concerned about the overall balance of the picture, don't be. We tested the GT360 extensively with several different Wii games, and we never felt that the BrilliantColor highlight boost had an adverse effect on picture quality. Some people won't care for it though, and it can be disabled if desired.
Contrast. The GT360 is rated at 3000:1 on/off contrast, which is ample for use in ambient light conditions. Unfortunately, this contrast spec does not say anything about how the picture looks in real world conditions. On the GT360, highlights are brilliant without being blown out, and shadow detail is rendered with good definition. Even using a fairly dark game, such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the GT360 never had any trouble when it came to separating shadow details. For projection in a room with some lights on, this is ideal.
Sharpness and clarity. The GT360 has a native resolution of 800x600, also known as SVGA. The Wii has a maximum output resolution of either 640x480 progressive or 854x480 progressive, selectable via menu. This makes the GT360 a perfect fit for the Wii. It can upscale the Wii's signal to 800x600 in order to use the full power of the projector's display, or it can display the signal natively in a one-to-one pixel match for the sharpest possible image. However, the GT360's upconversion of 480p to 800x600 is skillfully done, with no detectable softness, so most users will probably want to opt for the upscaled mode of operation.
DLP technology. DLP is a good choice for an inexpensive console gaming projector, and here's why. Many inexpensive LCD projectors can have issues with image persistence. Sometimes when a static image is displayed on an LCD projector screen for a long time, it remains there as a "ghost" image even after the picture has been changed. Eventually these ghost images go away, but this phenomenon does not occur at all on DLP projectors. Many video games have static visual elements on the screen, such as menus or health meters or the score. These might have a tendency to persist as ghost images on an LCD projector, but they won't on a DLP projector.
Stereo Speakers. The GT360 has a pair of five-watt speakers, giving it true stereo sound. It is also capable of serious volume. During our testing, we never felt the need to go beyond volume marker 3 (out of 10) to get a good, loud, immersive sound out of the projector. Above volume marker 8, there was some tinny, distorted-sounding artifacts, but below this mark the speakers sound great.
Connectivity. The connection panel on the GT360 is simple - a VGA port, s-video, composite, RCA stereo audio, and a 1/8" audio output. The Wii uses either composite or YPbPr component video, the latter of which can be connected to the VGA port through a simple adapter, and RCA stereo audio. While a 3-RCA component video input would have been handy, it also may have increased cost while reducing flexibility. The dual purpose VGA port allows the GT360 to be used for data projection as well.
Portability. The GT360 weighs less than seven pounds, including power cable and VGA to component adapter. Instead of a traditional carrying case, Optoma includes a backpack with room for the projector and plenty of extra space. We were able to pack the entire Wii system - the system itself, all required cables, several controllers, and games - inside the backpack, though it was a bit of a tight fit. With the onboard speakers, this makes the GameTime a complete mobile video game display system and a great choice for parties. The only downside is that the backpack has prominent Optoma and GameTime branding on it, so leaving it unattended is not advisable.
Cost of ownership. The GT360 is an inexpensive projector to begin with at less than $600. The projector has no filter to clean or replace. Lamps are estimated to last from 3,000 hours in bright mode to 5,000 hours in eco-mode, and replacements cost only $199. Let's put this into perspective: in eco-mode, drop a nickel in a jar for every hour you use the projector, and by the time the lamp goes out you'll have more than enough to pay for the replacement lamp.
Silent operation. The engineers at Optoma have designed a 2500-lumen projector that produces no more than a whisper during operation. Even in its brightest mode, the audible noise from the GT360 was little more than a low, persistent sound, with none of the high-pitched whine sometimes associated with exhaust fans. Since this projector is designed to be set on a coffee table, its silent operation is a significant advantage.
Video delay. Gamers sometimes get up in arms about video delay, which is when the video on screen is slowed down in processing. In a game where timing is a factor, you can see how this would be a problem: you see that you need to jump, so you press jump. Except your character is actually already over the edge, and you die. It's frustrating. Well, the GT360 has no video delay to speak of. You press the button, the character jumps. Gamers can rest easy.
Video performance. While the GT360 is an excellent companion for the Nintendo Wii, it is less suitable for use as a video projector. The default settings emphasize color and brightness, which is perfect for a console like the Wii, but it makes video look over-saturated and out of balance. The 800x600 resolution becomes a limitation when displaying HD video content, and BrilliantColor can make some scenes appear blown out. So keep in mind that this projector was never intended to display high definition video. Don't be surprised when it cannot compare to home theater projectors.
Placement flexibility. The GT360's relatively short-throw lens can display a 100" diagonal image from 6' 1". The projector has no zoom, so the only way to adjust the projected image's size is to move the projector closer to or farther from the screen. While the short-throw lens will suit many users of the Wii console, no one lensing arrangement will make every consumer happy, so make sure this projector's throw distance will work for you before making a purchase.
2x-speed color wheel. The GT360 has a 2x-speed color wheel, so those sensitive to the rainbow effect will likely see it here. I am moderately sensitive to the artifact, in that I see it when there are bright highlights moving across a dark background. Some people are far more sensitive and can see it at all times, almost without regard to the content on screen. Personally, I did not witness many rainbows when using the GT360 with the Wii console, but this may be a function of the games I was testing--there were few absolute highlights, and since the field of view changes with the player, your focus stays in the middle of the screen for the most part. With film content, where the eye is free to rove across the picture, I saw many more rainbows. Your experience may be different than mine, and you should feel free to drop a note in our Comments mailbox with your thoughts on the matter.
The GT360 is a projector that is designed to do one thing, and do it well. It is crafted as a companion product for the Nintendo Wii console, which is currently the most popular console system on the market. The Wii has sold 70 million units since its launch and continues to set sales records even today, nearly four years after its release.
In our view, Optoma's attempt to create a companion projector for the Wii is a resounding success. Nearly every aspect of the GT360 is perfectly tailored to the Wii system, and the two work together splendidly. It produces a bright, dynamic picture with good color saturation and sharpness. It is highly portable, and operation is nearly silent even in its brightest mode. The total cost of ownership is incredibly low. While it is not a multi-purpose projector and video performance is nothing exceptional, it excels at its intended application. If the idea of Wii gaming on the big screen appeals to you, the GT360 is an excellent option at a rock bottom price.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma GameTime GT360 projector page.