Planar is a relatively new projector manufacturer, but their products show that they have what it takes to be competitive. The Planar PR5020 is a 3000 lumen, 7 pound light cannon that sells for the attractive price of only $1299. With many features normally reserved for more expensive models, the PR5020 is a versatile and capable performer.
ANSI lumens: 3000
Contrast (full on/off): 2200:1
Light Engine: 1024x768, native 4:3 single-chip DLP with a 200W lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i. NTSC/PAL/SECAM.
Data Compatibility: Computer resolutions up to SXGA+ (1400x1050)
Connection Panel: One DVI-D, one VGA, one VGA-out/monitor passthrough, USB/RS232 ports for computer connections, composite video, s-video, stereo RCA audio input, 1/8" audio in/out, kensington lock.
Lens and Throw Distance: 1.15:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal 4:3 image from 12' to 14'
Lamp Life: 3,000 hours, 4,000 hours in eco-mode
Warranty: Three years.
The Planar PR5020 is housed in a dark matte case with a flat top and a rounded underside. It measures 11.8" wide by 9.6" deep by 3.8" tall, and weighs in at 7.3 pounds. The lens is recessed in the front of the projector and offset to the side, with a sliding lens cap built-in.
The control panel is located on the top of the projector. In addition to standard controls for power, menu, and source selection, the PR5020's menu navigation controls also adjust keystone and volume. The buttons click definitively when pressed and give good tactile response.
The connection panel, located on the rear of the projector, is extensive. Computer or video connections can be made through DVI-D, VGA, composite, and s-video. The VGA port can also process component video, with the proper adapter. A monitor pass-through allows the source signal to be sent further down the line to a standard display such as a CRT monitor. Connections to a computer can be made over either serial or USB, and allow the use of the projector's remote as a presentation device. When connected via USB, the remote's page up and page down buttons can navigate PowerPoint slideshows. A Kensington lock point serves as the icing on the cake, and coupled with the monitor-out, makes the PR5020 a contender in the education market.
The Planar PR5020 has no lens shift, so the image is always projected at a fixed angle in relation to the lens. Specifically, the bottom edge of the projected image is always level with the centerline of the lens. For conference tables, this means that the projector may need to be tilted upwards to hit the screen. For ceiling mounts it means that a drop tube may be necessary. Of course, the projector may be tilted, but that makes keystone correction necessary in order to avoid a trapezoidal image.
With a 1.15:1 manual zoom lens, placement options for the PR5020 are rather limited. The projector will display a 100" 4:3 image from 12 to 14 feet. This can limit one's mounting options and demands careful attention be paid to projector placement.
Keystone correction is manual, and allows for extensive vertical adjustment. When keystone correction is applied, text takes on a consistent bolded appearance, while images and photographs remain largely unchanged. Even at small font sizes with detailed text or spreadsheets, keystone correction does not have a negative impact on legibility.
The menu system is divided into tabs, which run along the top of the menu display at all times. In addition to the usual adjustments, the PR5020 has some unique features. Password protection allows the user to set a sequence of keystrokes which must be input to use the projector, effectively locking out unauthorized users. Digital zoom is useful for the display of fine detail, either in a complex spreadsheet or a technical diagram - or even a large photograph. Also unusual for a business projector is extensive color adjustment, allowing for the fine-tuning of Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and White.
The PR5020's two hundred watt lamp is rated for 4,000 hours of operation in Eco-mode, which comes out to 167 days of constant projection - nearly half a year. In more practical terms, the lamp should last for several years of normal operation. With replacements costing roughly $400, the PR5020 costs just ten cents per hour to operate.
There is no user-replaceable air filter on the PR5020, which cuts down on scheduled maintenance significantly. Aside from changing the lamp when it burns out, the projector need not be cleaned or unmounted. This makes it a great choice for a ceiling mount.
Our test sample produced a maximum of 2693 ANSI lumens in Boost mode, with white peaking at its maximum setting and using the "PC" gamma mode. Bringing white peaking down to 50% netted a reading of 1713 ANSI lumens, or a drop of 36%. For small rooms, this can be useful to avoid giving your audience headaches. The minimum lumen output from our test sample was obtained in Eco lamp mode, with white peaking at zero - with these settings, the PR5020 produced 622 ANSI lumens, which is reasonable for small screen sizes with no ambient light in the room.
Brightness uniformity measured roughly 70%. It was clear that the top left corner of the projected image was significantly dimmer than the center. This uneven illumination should not negatively impact performance in most situations, though it could occasionally prove distracting.
The projector displays native-resolution XGA content with no loss in detail or sharpness due to scaling or processing. Our test unit showed some imperfections in edge-to-edge sharpness - specifically, the top of the image was slightly soft when the bottom was in perfect focus, and vice-versa - but was otherwise impeccable.
The PR5020 is capable of good, solid blacks. Shadow detail in photographs and video is displayed accurately. Of course, ambient light can cripple a projector's contrast, so if the PR5020 is to be used for photographic display, it is best done in a darkened room and on a low lamp setting.
The PR5020 has excellent color. Combined with the projector's solid black level and contrast, it is suitable for photography use. Thanks in part to the seven-point color adjustment system, any imperfections can be tuned back to standard. The result is a beautiful picture, with richly saturated color.
SVGA computer signals looked a touch soft on the PR5020, due to the difficulty of stretching out an 800x600 signal to fit a 1024x768 frame. The projector performed much better when scaling larger data signals to fit, such as SXGA+. When using the PR5020 with any documents containing small text or intricate graphics, the best results will be obtained by using XGA or higher resolutions.
When using 1280x720p high-definition material via DVI-D or component video, the projector did a fine job of maintaining sharpness and detail in the source material. For content such as video games or Sunday football, the PR5020 could serve a secondary role as an occasional video projector.
The Planar PR5020 is an excellent option for many. Its Kensington lock and monitor passthrough make it a great choice for large classrooms. Its high brightness and low cost of operation make it suitable for mobile presentation use in large conference rooms. And its easy lamp replacement and lack of an air filter make it a great choice for ceiling mounting in a lecture hall. Placement flexibility is limited, but if you can work the projector into your installation, the PR5020 is a great value for the money.