Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Millions of people know the name Viewsonic from the computer monitor they use at the office. But in addition to computer monitors, the company markets an array of data/video display products including more than a dozen models of digital projectors. Their projector product line currently ranges from the ultra-light, 2.2 pound PJ256D, to the auditorium scale, 4500
Specifications. 2000 ANSI lumens, 2000:1 contrast, native 4:3 format, 1024x768 resolution DLP chip with a 2x speed color wheel.
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i. Full NTSC / PAL / SECAM.
Lens and Throw Distance. 1.20:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal image from 10.5 feet to 12.6 feet.
Lamp Life. 2,000 hours, 4,000 hours in eco-mode.
Connection Panel. One composite video, one S-Video, one 15-pin VGA input, one 1/8" audio input.
Installation Options. Table mount, rear shelf mount, ceiling mount.
Warranty. Three years.
Feature Set and General Impressions
The PJ458D is a diminutive projector designed for the mobile presenter on an economy budget. It weighs in at 5 lbs and measures roughly 4 inches by 10 inches by 8 inches, so it is made to be carried over the shoulder without discomfort. Viewsonic includes an over-the-shoulder carrying case with the unit with 1/2" of padding around the projector as well as accessory pouches. If you don't mind having the Viewsonic logo on the front of the case, it is sturdy enough to be used effectively.
Since it is both small and inexpensive, some compromises have been made to keep cost down. For example, there is no digital zoom feature on this unit. And the connection panel is sparse, with only composite video, s-video, and VGA inputs. However, the VGA port supports both RGB and Component video signals, and can accept anything from data sources with a maximum resolution of 1280x1024 to 480-line component video on up to 1080i high definition video.
The PJ458D's menu system is simple and intuitive. Adjustments are divided into tabbed sections based on function, with image adjustments in one tab, menu and lamp adjustment in another tab, and so on. The menu does not expand into submenus beyond the original tabs, so it is easy to find all of the available options.
The remote control is a compact design that would easily fit into a shirt pocket. In addition to standard menu controls, there is an integrated
Fan noise on the PJ458D is rated at 36dB, which is a far cry from silent. However, fan noise is not as distracting as specifications would lead you to believe. Due to the low frequency of the noise, the PJ458D's 36 decibels are very easy to ignore, and very rarely distracting. Even in a small conference room it would be easy to speak without raising one's voice.
Many inexpensive data projectors have trouble with edge to edge sharpness, and this is one of the first things we check on mobile presentation units. But in this the PJ458D performs flawlessly. Provided that the projector is square with the screen, all areas of the projected image on our test unit were sharp simultaneously.
Lumen output on the Viewsonic PJ458D will vary depending on what you want to do with it. At settings tailored to presentation, specifically text presentation, our test unit measured 1516 ANSI lumens out of a rated 2000 ANSI. While these settings are suitable for text display, color performance is lackluster. When more emphasis is placed on color balance and less on lumen output, we measured 505 ANSI lumens. At these settings, the PJ458D is a very capable projector for photography display, and color balance is excellent. Finally, at settings best tailored for video, the PJ458D put out a respectable 270 ANSI lumens. Depending upon lamp output (eco mode on or off) and white peaking, lumen output can vary significantly even within these ranges.
Contrast, rated at 2000:1, is sufficient to give a data image good dynamic range and make text easy to read. Black level and shadow detail are not comparable to that found on most home theater projectors, but though it was designed for just occasional video use the PJ458D can produce a remarkably exciting video image.
The PJ458D is capable of very good color performance. On our test unit, color needed some initial fine-tuning. Starting from "Mid" color temperature, the projector was biased towards red, and green was likewise overemphasized. We brought red and green down a few notches, raised blue levels, and boosted saturation. With data material, pictures were vibrant and well saturated. When projecting video, objects seemed lifelike, and color balance was superb.
At medium screen sizes - up to about 60" diagonal - a video image from the PJ458D looks surprisingly good for such a low-cost projector. Contrast is more than sufficient for occasional video use - such as watching a movie on the weekends, or a football game on Sunday. Color is rich and vibrant. And while deinterlacing and scaling are not quite on a level with home theater projectors, they do not significantly detract from the viewing experience or offer any major flaws. Most importantly, the PJ458D has an almost noise-free video picture. While there is usually some image noise present in any digital projector's image - even home theater projectors - there is almost none present on the PJ458D. This is noteworthy in and of itself, and complements the already admirable video performance of this projector.
Viewsonic PJ458D versus Optoma EP719
We recently reviewed another compact XGA business projector in the same price bracket - the Optoma EP719 (review here). While these projectors have similar specifications, there are distinct advantages to each.
On one hand, the EP719 has better black level and overall contrast performance, and it is also capable of a brighter picture - though it cannot provide both at the same time. At 28dB audible noise, it is quieter than the PJ458D. The inclusion of a DVI-D port in addition to VGA makes it possible to connect two high-quality sources at the same time. While the EP719's remote does not include a laser pointer, it does include digital zoom, which the PJ458D lacks.
The PJ458D has a slightly longer zoom range than the EP719 (1.2:1 compared to 1.1:1) and a shorter throw distance. The PJ458D will display a 100" diagonal 4:3 image from 10.5' to 12.6', while the EP719 must sit farther back in the range of 12.9' to 14.2'. So, depending on your needs, the PJ458D's shorter throw distance may be an advantage. Lamp life in eco mode is 4,000 hours, compared to 3,000 hours on the EP719. While the EP719's DVI port adds the possibility of high quality video connections, the nearly noise-free video image of the PJ458D negates some concerns about analog to digital signal conversion, and in this regard it outperforms the EP719. As a final benefit, the PJ458D has a three year manufacturer's warranty, a full year longer than the EP719.
The PJ458D was designed for the mobile presenter on a budget, and at its current street prices it represents an excellent value. In addition, if you want a projector that's capable of serving double duty as both a presentation tool and a home entertainment machine, the PJ458D's video performance is nothing to scoff at. The virtually noise free picture is surprisingly high in quality for a product in this price range. At street prices under $1000, the PJ458D is a versatile projector that we are happy to give our highest ratings for both performance and value.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our ViewSonic PJ458D projector page.