The Vivitek D510 is an SVGA (800x600) DLP projector rated at 2600 lumens and 2300:1 contrast. It retails for a street price of roughly $480. For such an inexpensive product it has a nice set of features, including a 1.1:1 manual zoom lens, a 2-watt speaker, and an HDMI port. It is designed for mobile presentation use and it excels in this application, producing a bright, dynamic image with vibrant color and excellent clarity. It is small and light weight, at only 4.2 lbs it is easily transportable. And it keeps audible fan noise to a minimum. Sure, it's only SVGA resolution, but it'll put a bright, high-contrast picture on the wall for a very low price.
Now, common wisdom states that business projectors are for business, and home theater projectors are for home theater. While this is mostly true, some people are quite satisfied with putting a big, bright picture on the wall and don't particularly care about having perfect color accuracy, blistering contrast or all the latest bells and whistles, provided they don't have to spend a lot. For those on a shoestring budget who nonetheless want a big, bright picture, an SVGA projector like the D510 might be a good choice for home entertainment use as well.
Light output. The D510 is, first and foremost, a data presentation projector. That means its image modes are tailored to the sort of environment one would find in an office - i.e. they emphasize an image's brightness, not color or contrast, in order to overcome ambient light.
The brightest mode, conveniently called Bright, measured 1800 lumens in high lamp mode. This mode is ideal for content that does not have a lot of color data, such as a spreadsheet or text document. The next mode is Presentation at 1250 lumens, which puts more emphasis on color and contrast at the expense of lumen output. As you may have noticed, both of these modes measure significantly lower than the published specification of 2600 lumens, which we could not attain no matter what we tried to do. This might be a disadvantage in a bright conference room or on a large screen. But 1800 lumens is still a lot of light, so screen sizes up to 60" diagonal should still look great, even with some ambient light.
If you want to display video or other color-sensitive data like photography, your options are Movie or sRGB mode. Movie mode improves shadow detail and color while decreasing lumen output, but not by much - our test unit still measured 1215 lumens in this mode using the high lamp setting. The final mode, sRGB, measured only 887 lumens, but if you want the purest, most balanced video image possible from the projector, sRGB is your best bet. And 887 lumens exceeds the average brightness of home theater projectors in video optimized modes, so this is quite a bit of light for this application.
Low lamp mode, by the way, only reduced lumen output by 9%, bringing Bright mode to 1640 lumens and Movie mode to 1104 lumens. For an increase in lamp life of 1,000 hours, this is a very small sacrifice.
Contrast. One advantage that DLP projectors continue to have over their LCD counterparts is better dynamic range potential in any given scene. If you have a scene with both bright highlights and dark shadows, it will typically look more vivid and three-dimensional on a DLP projector than on an LCD, all else being equal. LCD home theater projectors tend to compensate with auto-irises that boost highlights in bright scenes while deepening blacks in dark scenes. Since SVGA projectors are not built for home theater (at least not anymore), an LCD SVGA projector will not have a fancy auto-iris to boost contrast. However, a DLP SVGA projector like the D510 will look very three-dimensional indeed. This can make your videos look more three-dimensional, your photos more dynamic, and your spreadsheets more legible.
Color. As with most presentation projectors, the D510's default modes are tailored for brightness. This is to ensure a bright, dynamic presentation experience in any environment. However, if you wanted to use the D510 for film or video, you will need to select either Movie or sRGB mode. Movie mode introduces a higher gamma setting, while sRGB can appear slightly washed out at times. Still, these two image modes offer the best out-of-the-box color performance available on the D510, and are the best choices if you plan to display photography or other color-sensitive data.
Connectivity. The D510 includes both VGA and HDMI ports, allowing for the connection of two high-resolution sources without changing wires. This could be a computer or disc player of some kind, whether that be DVD or Blu-Ray. Also included are the standard s-video and composite connections, allowing compatibility with legacy devices. True, this is not a lot of connections, but the inclusion of an HDMI port is highly unusual in a very inexpensive projector built for presentation use.
Low maintenance. The D510's lamp is rated for 3,000 hours of use in Normal lamp mode and 4,000 hours of use in Eco mode. This is becoming the new standard in many projectors, where 2,000 hour lamps were once the norm. The D510 also has a filter-free design, meaning you will not have to perform any maintenance other than an occasion vacuuming of the vent. Lamp replacements have an official retail of $399 each, which is almost as much as the projector--but actual street prices should be much lower, around $229.
3D Capability. The D510 is 3D Ready, so it will work with several current 3D content delivery systems. It is not powerful enough to handle Blu-Ray 3D or even 720p 3D, so its use is somewhat limited. Practically speaking, if you want high-quality 3D out of the D510, it is best to stick to SVGA signals.
No screen door. One common concern with SVGA resolution is the screendoor effect, but this is more of a problem with LCD than DLP, so it is not much of an issue on the D510. Sure, you can see pixels if you lean in close to the screen and actively seek them out. However, if you sit back and immerse yourself in the movie, there is no distracting "screen door effect" to pull you out of the action.
Video performance. The D510, like most other presentation projectors, has image modes that are optimized for the display of computer graphics, text, and Powerpoint presentations - and it excels at these things. It includes both a "Movie" and an "sRGB" mode, both of which de-emphasize brightness in favor of increased color and contrast.
The D510's 800x600 native pixel matrix will not be able to display any video signals in native format, save for 4:3 standard definition TV. That means that all other formats, from widescreen 854x480 all the way up to 1080p, need to be scaled within the projector. The D510 does this quite well, and while edges never seen quite as sharp as they do in the projector's native SVGA, video is not softened too much at all.
2x speed wheel. The 2x-speed wheel commonly used in inexpensive DLP data projectors is likely to cause rainbow artifacts for those who are sensitive to them. Most viewers will find that they cannot see rainbows in data, with the notable exception of motion graphics (such as slide transitions) in Powerpoint slideshows. If the content isn't moving, even those sensitive to the artifact can often get through an entire presentation without seeing a flash of unwanted color. However, with video, rainbows can be more of a distraction. A movie like Star Trek is a perfect example - there are bright explosions set against the darkness of space. When the camera moves over this backdrop, color separation artifacts will appear if you are the least bit sensitive to them.
Many people are not bothered by rainbows at all. But if you are one of those who is, one option for reducing rainbow artifacts is to reduce screen size, and/or sit farther back from the screen. Rainbows occur when your eye moves to follow the action in a film. Sitting farther back changes the viewing angle and thus reduces eye movement, which tends to decrease the frequency of visible rainbows. If this does not solve the problem, your only option is to save your pennies and buy a projector with a 4x-speed or faster color wheel, or buy an LCD projector that does not have the problem at all.
User interface. The D510 has an easy-to-navigate menu, and the credit-card style remote is simple to operate. However, the projector's image modes are all locked, meaning you cannot customize any settings unless you choose the User mode. There is only one User mode, so the projector can be programmed with only one custom calibration.
One annoying aspect of the menu is that it is large and centered in the image. As one tries to adjust color, contrast, or gamma settings in User mode, it is not possible to see what impact these changes are having on the image until the menu is closed. This is particularly true when 16:9 widescreen video is being displayed, as the menu blocks almost all of it. Vivitek needs to rethink this, and come up with a way to make the image visible while picture adjustments are being made.
No monitor loop-through. Many SVGA resolution projectors are being designed for the education market, and for this market a VGA loop through is highly desirable. The D510 lacks this feature, but Vivitek did not design it to be marketed to schools to begin with, so there is no surprise that it isn't there.
One year warranty. The D510's one-year warranty is the minimum in the industry, which is not surprising on a product that costs only $479 to begin with.
Low resolution. SVGA the lowest resolution still produced in bright, full-sized projectors (though many pocket and pico models are 640 x 480 or lower). This is fine for PowerPoint slides, but is not ideal for video. If video quality is your main concern and you can spend more than $500, you can get 720p models for around $700 that will give you a more satisfying theater experience. But the D510's portability and extra brightness, as well as its very low price, may still tip you in its favor.
The Vivitek D510 is a very good presentation projector. Its SVGA resolution is perfectly adequate for Powerpoint presentations or data graphics use, though it will result in a fair amount of compression for most video signals. The D510 is a solid video projector as well. Its Movie and sRGB modes provide good color and high dynamic range. An HDMI connection makes it easy to hook up high-quality sources such as Blu-ray movies and high-resolution computer systems. Video quality is quite good, and compression is handled without undue introduction of artifacts or noise.
The D510 costs only $479 from authorized dealers, so it is certainly a cost-effective way to get a bright picture on the screen. However, if video is the primary intended use and light weight and portability are less of a concern, the 720p projectors around the $700 mark represent attractive alternatives.
Nevertheless, in these budget-conscious times, a sub-$500 projector has great appeal. The D510 provides all the basics and delivers a very pleasing image in both data and video. For a combination of portable business use and some very engaging large screen home entertainment on the side, the D510 is an excellent choice.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Vivitek D510 projector page.