Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The Optoma PRO350W is a new WXGA DLP projector for business, and it has a lot to offer. Its versatile 1280x800 (WXGA) resolution is always a great choice for display from laptops, desktops, and video sources. 2800 lumens of brightness give it the power to light up even very large screens, or allow you to leave the lights on without detracting from your presentation. It is also 3D Ready, though 3D display is limited to 1280x720. If 3D is something your business requires or is thinking about implementing down the line, the PRO350W is an affordable way to get started. If you have no need for 3D, it is still a great projector for your conference room, classroom, or home computer setup. With street prices around $750 and low recurring maintenance costs, it is a lot of performance for not a lot of money.
Lumen output. The PRO350W, specified at 2800 ANSI lumens, is a bright projector. In its brightest mode, conveniently called Bright, our test unit measured 2747 lumens. This is 98% of the projector's specified lumen output, and is enough to light up a large screen in ambient light. With the lights dimmed, the PRO350W has the power to illuminate a 150" diagonal screen easily. With room lighting turned up it will still go to 120". Low lamp mode reduces lumen output by 18%, which brings Bright mode down to 2258 lumens.
When you don't need the extreme brightness of Bright mode, you can improve color and contrast by selecting another image mode. Presentation mode improves contrast and color saturation and is a great choice for Powerpoint slideshows with lots of graphics. It produced 1815 lumens on our test unit. Movie mode has the best color of the bunch and measured 1535 lumens.
Contrast. The PRO350W has a 3000:1 contrast rating, which is typical for an inexpensive DLP projector. In a typical business or classroom environment, ambient light wreaks havoc on black levels. As a result, deep black levels are not expected, required, or especially helpful on a business projector such as the PRO350W. Despite this, the PRO350W can still be calibrated so that black levels are good enough for the casual display of photography in a darkened room or the occasional movie.
Color. As is true of all projectors, the brightest image modes have the least accurate color. Bright mode in particular has a greenish tint to it, and color saturation is low. Much better is Presentation mode, which gives a clear and appreciative increase in saturation and removes much of the green tint. This will be the mode of choice for most people using Powerpoint presentations or data graphics, since it offers over 1800 lumens while maintaining some semblance of color accuracy. Other modes, like Movie, further emphasize color saturation and contrast at the expense of lumen output.
3D. The PRO350W is a 3D Ready projector, so it will display 3D content from a compatible source. This content can be viewed through a pair of LCD shutter glasses compatible with DLP Link. While the PRO350W is a 1280x800 projector, it can only display 3D content up to 1280x720, which it displays at 120 frames per second, which equates to 60 frames per second per eye.
Right now, the majority of 3D sources are powerful computers, and content is scarce. Blu-ray 3D is on its way, but it does not appear that the PRO350W will be compatible with the Blu-ray 3D video standard.
Placement flexibility. The PRO350W has a 1.1x manual zoom lens and no lens shift, which is typical of inexpensive DLP projectors. As a result, it needs to be placed carefully to fill a given screen size. It has a throw angle offset of 22%, meaning the bottom edge of the image appears 22% of the image's height above the centerline of the lens. In practical terms, this would raise a 100" diagonal 16:10 image by twelve inches. For many users this will be just about right. The projector can be placed either on a conference room table or ceiling mounted. In either case, assuming a normal conference room with standard ceilings, the built-in offset will put the image on the wall just about where one would want it.
Signal loss with very long cables. We have a set of long HDMI cables which we use to test signal transmission and reception. When using a 50' cable, the PRO350W occasionally "sputtered" as it lost and reacquired the video signal. This happened very quickly, so it appeared to be nothing more than a flash of static, but it was distracting and completely unpredictable.
Most projectors take the signal from our sources through the 50' cable without any problem. We found no signal loss on the PRO350W using cables 30' or less. So this is only a concern for those who need to run cable a very long distance. But if you do plan on permanently installing the PRO350W in a ceiling mount, test your cables with the projector before installing them (always a good idea anyway). If you need to use a very long run of HDMI cable, you may need to use two shorter cables and installing a signal repeater between the two. This will ensure that the signal does not drop out.
Color wheel. The PRO350W has a 2x-speed, 6-segment color wheel, with red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, and white segments. For presentation use, this is fine - still images viewed at a distance do not normally cause people to see rainbow artifacts. We are not sure how 3D video will look with the 2x-speed color wheel.
Remote. The PRO350W uses a remote that is fairly typical for a business projector. It is small and crowded, with most of the clutter coming from the two directional pads. One of these pads is for mouse control, which is normally a nice feature. However, there is no USB port, so there is no way to allow the PRO350W to take control of the computer's mouse. Thus the "page up" and "page down" buttons on the remote have no functional use.
The second directional pad is for menu navigation, though it is not immediately obvious which one is which. Below that are buttons for keystone correction, volume control of the onboard two-watt speaker, and then a lot of buttons in no particular order, numbered one through nine. These buttons control Brightness (though there is no corresponding button for Contrast), bring up the Menu, control the digital zoom, select HDMI as a source, freeze the image on screen, enable A/V mute, select S-Video, VGA, or composite. As you can probably tell, the layout of the remote is a little confusing. A number of times, we found ourselves accidentally switching sources or muting the picture when we meant to bring up the menu. While the PRO350W is an inexpensive projector, the remote is still a disappointment.
3D Brightness. If you do happen to use this unit in 3D, note that 3D always causes a drop in lumen output. The PRO350W produces 2747 lumens in Bright mode, but once you turn on 3D mode, lumen output drops to 850. This is the maximum lumen output possible in 3D mode, since no matter what mode you are using, the PRO350W ignores your settings after making the switch. To compensate, you may want to reduce the size of the image or turn the room lighting down.
The Optoma PRO350W is a small, powerful, versatile presentation projector that's great for the display of text documents, Powerpoint presentations, graphics, or even video. Its pre-calibrated picture modes optimize brightness, which is great for use in high ambient light. A little fine-tuning gets you a dynamic, vibrant picture that's very good for movies. 720p 3D support adds a bit of future-proofing and allows for the use of 3D PC games, if you have a computer powerful enough to handle them. All in all, the PRO350W presents a great value for those who want a bright widescreen projector that's good for more than just standard presentation.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma PRO350W projector page.