Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
If you're shopping for a classroom or conference room projector that can handle a room up to 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 m) deep, we may have a candidate for you. A room this size needs a screen with a 10 to 12 foot diagonal (2.7 to 3 m) for data or presentation applications. You also need a projector in the range of 2000 to 2500 ANSI lumens.
If you did a search for projectors that fit this requirement, you'd come up with an ample selection of 122 projectors as of this writing. For educators and business people trying to stretch their dollars during these uncertain times, we decided to restrict our search to projectors with an (MSRP) of $2,000 or less and found 39 projectors that fit the profile.
Since we were also interested in a conference room projector with high contrast so we could enjoy some quality video, we tightened our search by using a minimum contrast ratio of 2000:1. We were now down to 22 projectors - a manageable list.
Not surprisingly, all these projectors use Texas Instruments DLPTM technology due to our high contrast requirement. Recognizing that some people are sensitive to the "rainbow effect" of DLPTM, those brief moments of color separation that a small percentage of people see when the eye transitions rapidly between light and dark areas of the image, we looked for projectors with a color wheel speed greater than the typical classroom and conference offering of 2x and we found one - the Sharp XR-20X.
So what is the "x factor"? Of the over 1000 DLP projectors that have come to market, over 80% of them use one DLP chip. This makes them
|Sharp XR-X20 Projector|
A 2x color wheel spins at 120 revolutions per second (2 x 60 Hertz = 120 Hertz) and refreshes each color once per revolution. One way to minimize the "rainbow effect" is to increase the spin rate of the color wheel. This is exactly what Sharp did with the XR-20X projector. It's color wheel spins at 180 Hertz or 3x.
The result is a projector with a reduced "rainbow effect" and improved image quality that is especially noticeable in video flesh tones due to its higher color refresh rate. If you're a home theater enthusiast, the XR-20X is not a substitute for any of the dedicated home theater products that we have recently covered. It is, however, measurably better than 2x business projectors we have seen.
With a street price of $1350, the XR-20X is an economical XGA (1024 x 768) projector that is targeted for the classroom and conference room. With a 10 foot wide screen, contrast ratio of 2000:1, and 2300 ANSI lumens at full brightness and 2000 ANSI lumens in economy mode, it is suitable for rooms with seating up to 60 feet (15 m) from the screen for PowerPoint type presentations, 45 feet for data viewing, and ideally 22 feet for video; however, any of the distances will work for video. The unit weighs in at 8.6 pounds (3.9 kg) and at full lamp brightness generates 33 dB of fan noise. In economy mode, fan noise drops to 30 dB. These noise levels are comparable to other conference/classroom projectors of this brightness.
With auto keystone correction and a simple setup guide at power up, the XR-20X makes it easy to get going quickly. Focus and zoom are manually adjusted on the barrel of the lens. The 1.15:1 zoom lens allows a 15% adjustment in image size. A quick release foot on the front of the unit sets the angle to the screen with a rear foot to either side to square the angle to the screen.
An auto vertical digital keystone correction allows automatic keystone adjustments of up to ±13°. Vertical keystone correction will correct image distortion when the vertical sides of the image are not parallel to each other. Keystone correction is accomplished by making the image rectangular by scaling part of the image. Scaling will introduce some artifacts in text and diminish some of the light output of the projector and
|Sharp XR-20X Remote Control|
The projector lamp life is rated with a half-life of 2000 hours and can be extended to 3000 hours if operated in economy mode (2000 ANSI lumens). Replacement lamps are $349 MSRP.
For meeting management the XR-20X remote control provides an AV Mute that allows you to disable audio and video to re-establish contact with your audience. A break timer of up to 60 minutes is also provided, so it is always clear when the meeting will resume.
While color temperature is key to getting an image to look "right", be aware that color temperature has a dramatic impact on light output. Moving from a high color temperature to a low color temperature can cut light output in half.
Recognizing that room light is the enemy of projectors and that low color temperatures are affected more than high color temperatures, Sharp added a feature they call Bright Boost to enhance light output by pulsing the lamp during the white (W) segment of the 4-segment (RGBW) color wheel giving the image a boost of up to 40% more light. This feature gives you a way to combat excessive room light, but at the expense of color saturation.
The XR-20X can handle 480i, 480p, 540p, 576i, 576p, 720p, 1035i, and 1080i video sources and supports a wide range of computer resolutions from 640 x 350 to 1400 x 1050. Resolutions that exceed the native resolution of the display can either be scaled to fit the display or shown in native resolution. Pan and scan is provided for native resolutions that exceed the resolution of the XR-20X. As mentioned earlier, scaled images are very good, but there is no avoiding the reduced readability that occurs when scaling a high resolution image to a lower resolution, especially when viewing small text.
The XR-20X uses a shared audio input (minijack) to support up to 2 RGB sources that also handle component video. A monitor connection allows attachment of a monitor for local viewing of the projected image. An S-Video and Video connector is provided with a shared audio input (RCA type connectors). An RS-232C connector is provided, if you wish to control the projector from a computer.
|Sharp XR-20X Connector Panel|
The XR-20X offers 5 picture modes that are optimized for the type of content you will be viewing:
- Presentation - uses a color temperature of 7500K and the highest Bright Boost setting. It is best suited for presentations that are mostly text and data and light on color relevant content.
- Standard - uses a color temperature of 7500K with a slight boost in brightness. This is essential the same as Presentation Mode, but at a lower brightness with more saturated colors. We found it useful when the presentation is dealing with a lot of graphics or color images. If you view video in this mode, you'll find the depth of color is diminished, but the content is still very good.
- Movie - uses the standard 6500K color temperature to deliver a quality image while operating the lamp in economy mode. This has several advantages. First, it reduces the light output about 15%, which quiets the fan because the lamp is running cooler making the movie experience more enjoyable. Second, economy mode extends the life of the lamp by up to 50%. If you compared the XR-20X to a dedicated home theater projector, you'd notice that the home theater projector rendered better gray scale allowing a richer and more life like image. If you compared the XR-20X to a 2x DLP projector, you'd notice the XR-20X delivered a more vibrant image with better flesh tones and color accuracy.
- Game - uses the same setup as Presentation. We would recommend using either Standard or Movie mode for games as they both deliver a more satisfying color image.
- sRGB - this setting is a fixed international standard for rendering color from RGB sources. Color controls are disabled in this mode.
If you are concerned about unauthorized projector use, you can set a keycode that must be entered before the unit can be operated. This is also a minor theft deterrent, provided the thief knows it is password protected. The XR-20X also supports a Kensington lock that allows you to attach an anti-theft cable that can secure the projector to the Sharp ceiling mount or some other object.
Although the unit has a 2W speaker, if you are doing any serious video presentations, you'll want to use the stereo mini-jack output to drive a more robust audio solution.
There is no mouse control included with the projector; however, Sharp offers an I/R receiver (model AN-MR2) that plugs into your computer and allows the remote control to sequence a slide presentation. This option is available for $99.
In order to keep the XR-20X price competitive, Sharp chose not to include any digital inputs. This is perhaps the one thing we would liked to have seen on this projector with the emerging popularity of digital connectivity. Since analog will be with us for a long time, the lack of a digital connection will not limit the utility of the XR-20X.
Sharp offers a 3 year parts and labor warranty that provides 24 hour express repair and prepaid freight both ways.
We buy projectors to put images on the wall, so image quality is our number one concern. A classroom/conference room setting is perhaps the most demanding of image quality because of the wide variety of material that is likely to be shown and the need for some room light to conduct meetings. To that end, the XR-20X with its 3x color wheel delivers better data and video than you can find on any 2x projector.
The ability to change color temperature and control light output with Bright Boost gives you the ability to optimize your content viewing for the room conditions. Sharp has also given special attention to improving reds that are frequently lacking in color wheel systems.
Projectors are designed to meet the needs of targeted markets. For the Sharp XR-20X the target markets were classrooms and conference rooms. As a price sensitive market, education is sometimes forced to trade functionality for price. Perhaps Sharp had this in mind when it decided not to include a DVI or HDMI digital connection.
However, Sharp did two things very well with the XR-20X. First, it raised the bar for business/classroom DLP projectors by moving to a 3x color wheel. This change significantly minimizes the "rainbow effect" that some users experience and makes a noticeable improvement in image quality when compared to other 2x projectors.
Second, with XGA resolution, high brightness, and a 3x color wheel, a street price of $1350 makes it a significant value. While you can find a less expensive XGA projector, you will be pressed to find one with comparable performance at this price.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sharp XR-20X projector page.