Highly Recommended Award
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If you are a dedicated road warrior looking for a small, bright, and versatile LED projector, ViewSonic's new $710 PLED-W800 may be just the ticket. It is not the smallest or lightest contender in the mini-projector market, but it is the brightest at 800 lumens, and it sports more ways than most of its competitors to make wireless presentations a breeze. Of particular interest is the optional PJ-WPD-200 wireless dongle ($123) which allows Wi-Fi connection to laptops and mobile devices with just a simple software download from a Web site or an app for iOS and Android devices. The PLED-W800's SD card slot and USB-A connector accommodate stored presentations, photos, and other data saved on remote recording devices. To top things off, the HDMI input is MHL-enabled, so along with traditional HDMI sources like DVD players, the PLED-W800 can connect both iOS and Android mobile devices via HDMI adapters available from several manufacturers.
With all its versatility comes another plus: this projector is a top-notch data projector and its video performance is excellent. Data images are crisp and detailed with no hot spots that can sometimes be seen in the mostly white backgrounds of Word and Excel documents. Photos are well saturated with good contrast, and even at full keystone correction, small fonts are easily readable. The PLED-W800's video performance is on a par with larger projectors with more sophisticated optics and electronics, and if you are relaxing in your hotel after a hard day, you won't be disappointed watching a movie projected from the PLED-W800. With a few adjustments to contrast, brightness, and color space (more details later), you will see excellent flesh tones, background detail even in dimly-lit scenes, and the audio output from dual 2-watt speakers is more than enough for a small room.
With an MSRP of $709.99 and a street price of just over $650.00, the PLED-W800 is priced about $100 over its two closest competitors, but it delivers an additional 100 lumens and it comes with a three-year warranty instead of one year. That extra warranty time can easily cover the price differential if something fails after the first year, but like all LED projectors, the PLED-W800 must be returned to a qualified service center if the LEDs fail since there is no user replaceable lamp.
Overall, the PLED-W800 is an excellent performer with broader input source options and higher brightness than its competitors. You have to pay for this versatility and increased brightness with size, weight, and a few more dollars. In our view, that is an acceptable trade-off if you need this level of performance.
Like other LED projectors, on power-up the PLED-W800 puts up an image in less than ten seconds. Unlike its nearest competitors, the PLED-W800 has both a VGA and HDMI input connectors, so two computer/video sources can be simultaneously connected. In PC mode, fan noise is quite low and composed of mid-frequencies, so it is not very distracting even with the speakers at low volume. In Brightest mode the fan speeds up and makes more noise, but it drops to whisper quiet in Movie mode. The on-screen menu is straightforward with four main menus and minimal layering. The remote control is laid out logically, and all function keys are raised and lettered clearly so it is easy to make the right selection on the first try.
VGA data takes advantage of the PLED-W800's high contrast rating (120,000:1) and good saturation. Alphanumeric characters are well focused across the entire display, and they have plenty of pop to keep audience attention. Even 8-point text is easily readable as long as the image diagonal exceeds 40 inches. The lens is a fixed focal length with no zoom capability, so you will have to reposition the PLED-W800 if you need a different image size.
Watching video is a treat. Although the HDMI image is slightly over-saturated with the Color Space control set to Auto, switching it to the YUV setting achieves an excellent level of saturation. It also improves the background detail in dark scenes. With minor tweaks to contrast and brightness, you can produce a high quality video image with lifelike flesh tones and plenty of depth. Like most DLP-based designs, rainbow artifacts can be seen by sensitive viewers in some high contrast scenes, but the PLED-W800 does a better job than most in minimizing these artifacts.
If you don't mind a cable adapter, you can connect your iOS or Android mobile device to the PLED-W800's HDMI input. For iOS devices, you will need Apple's Lightning-to-HDMI adapter. For Android devices, an HDMI adapter cable is required, but the PLED-W800's HDMI input is MHL-enabled and is compatible with most Android devices. If you purchase the Smart Office app, you can display .PDF files and several Microsoft Office files from your iOS or Android phone or tablet.
Setting up for a Wi-Fi presentation from a laptop is easy. Simply insert the optional wireless dongle into the PLED-W800's USB-A connector, select the ViewSonic wireless LAN, download a small software routine from a ViewSonic Web site, and your laptop content is displayed. It is easy to present from iOS and Android mobile devices as well. Just substitute an app for the Web-based software download, and voila . . . wireless presentation from your mobile phone or tablet.
Short-throw Lens - The PLED-W800's short-throw lens puts up a good-sized image while not far from the screen, so close quarters are not usually a problem. Throw distance ranges from 2.4 to 9.9 feet, and image size ranges from 24" to 100", respectively. This throw ratio makes it possible to get a 50" image with the projector just five feet from the screen. At that distance, screen brightness is sufficient for moderate ambient light conditions.
Connectivity - No nearby competitors offer a standard computer interface, so the PLED-W800's VGA connector is unique for this class of projector. The MHL-enabled HDMI, SD card, and USB-A connections complete the standard inputs, but ViewSonic's optional wireless dongle extends the PLED-W800's capabilities to include wireless presenting.
Speaker Options - We haven't seen this in a low-cost projector before, but the PLED-W800 offers three speaker settings: Standard, Entertainment, and Speech. Entertainment emphasizes high frequencies and Speech suppresses them, so if you have a preference for audio frequency emphasis, you have that option with the PLED-W800.
Warranty - ViewSonic warrants the PLED-W800 for three years and its LED illumination system for one year. The LEDs are rated at 30,000 hours, so their one-year warranty will expire long before they do.
Maintenance - The PLED-W800 has no air filter to change, so maintenance consists of vacuuming the side grills occasionally to avoid any dust accumulation that might impede airflow. There is no lamp to replace, and that will save some expense as long as the LEDs operate for their rated life.
Brightness and Uniformity - Our test unit fell short of its 800-lumen brightness rating with Brightest and Dynamic modes delivering 665 lumens. Other modes put up the following: PC - 590 lumens; Movie and ViewMatch - 505 lumens. Uniformity was in line with other LED projectors at 85% with no hot spots.
Image Size and Offset - The PLED-W800 is well designed for tabletop placement. The bottom of the image is at lens centerline height, and that puts the center of the image at eye level for a seated audience. While a 100" image is possible, we recommend keeping the image size near 50" to ensure comfortable viewing.
Fan Noise and Heat - Fan noise is directed out of the right front side of the PLED-W800. Except for Brightest mode, the fan noise will not disturb your presentation, and the heat exhausted is barely noticeable.
Placement Flexibility - Like all mini-projectors, the PLED-W800 has no zoom lens, so each distance from the screen produces a different image diagonal. If room setup demands that the PLED-W800 be placed a certain distance from the screen, you will have to live with the resulting image size.
Speaker Rattle - In their low- to mid-range, the dual speakers sound good, but as volume is turned up, there is an increasing level of rattle. Fortunately, with dual 2-watt speakers, full volume may not be necessary for a small room, so setting volume at mid-level or below is recommended.
Image Shimmer - In certain situations like displaying photos on a Mac with the Ken Burns effect implemented, there is a slight shimmer at high contrast edges as the photo slowly shifts position. This shimmer is not detectable for still and video presentations.
ViewSonic has expanded their line of LED-based projectors with the 800-lumen PLED-W800 and its companion product, the PLED-W600 at 600 lumens with an MSRP of $599.99. The PLED-W800 is not as light, small, or inexpensive as some of its 600- and 700-lumen competitors, but it offers higher brightness and a far wider choice of input sources with special emphasis on wireless presenting, normally a high priority for the road warrior. It probably will not be long before the 1000-lumen barrier is topped by a mini-projector, but in the meantime, the PLED-W800 is an excellent choice for both business presentations and personal entertainment.
At this writing, you can buy the Viewsonic PLED-W800 on Amazon for $682, but you can check the current price via the link.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our ViewSonic PLED-W800 projector page.