Suitably bright for a small to midsize room. Native WXGA (1,280-by-800) resolution. 1.6X zoom. Near-excellent quality for data images. Better-than-typical video for a data projector.
No 3D support.
- BOTTOM LINE
The Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector delivers high quality for data images, with enough brightness for a small to midsize conference room or classroom.
The Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector delivers all the right features to make it worth a close look. Key points on the checklist include a 3,200-lumen brightness rating, a 1.6X zoom lens, and a long lamp life to help keep running costs down. Finally, it had near-excellent quality for data images in our tests and better video quality than most data projectors. That’s easily enough to make it our Editors’ Choice WXGA (1,280-by-800) projector for a small to midsize conference room or classroom.
At first glance, the 955WH seems almost identical to the Epson PowerLite 955W WXGA 3LCD Projector that it’s replacing in Epson’s line. However, it offers a number of small improvements, including a minor boost in brightness, newly added Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) support, and a longer claimed lamp life at up to 10,000 hours in Eco mode.
Like the Epson 955W and the NEC NP-M311W, the 955WH is built around a three-chip WXGA LCD engine. That gives it the advantage of being guaranteed not to show the rainbow artifacts (flashes of red, green, and blue) that are always a concern with DLP-based projectors. It also ensures that it delivers the same color brightness as white brightness, which isn’t true for most DLP projectors, and which can affect both color quality and the brightness of color images. (For more on color brightness, see Color Brightness: What it Is, Why it Matters.)
The key disadvantage that grows from having an LCD engine is that, as with most LCD data projectors, the 955WH doesn’t offer the 3D support that you’ll find most DLP models, Our top choice for a moderately priced short-throw WXGA projector for a small to midsize room. However, this won’t matter unless you need to show 3D material, which simply isn’t necessary for most data-projector use.
Setup and Brightness
The 955WH measures 3.5 by 11.6 by 10.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 6 pounds 6 ounces, which makes it light enough to carry with you. However, most projectors in this size and weight class wind up permanently installed or on a cart.
Setup is typical, with manual controls for the focus and 1.6X zoom. Image inputs on the back panel include two HDMI ports for computers or video sources, two VGA ports for computers or component video, and both composite video and S-Video ports. In addition, there’s a USB Type B port for direct USB display, a LAN port for sending images and audio, as well as for controlling the projector over a network, and a USB Type A port for reading files directly from a USB memory key or for connecting an optional ($99) Wi-Fi dongle. One of the HDMI ports also supports MHL.
According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, the 955WH’s rating makes it easily bright enough for a small to midsize room. Assuming a 1.0-gain screen, 3,200 lumens would be suitable for a 215- to 292-inch (diagonal) image in theater-dark lighting. With moderate ambient light, it would be bright enough for a 140-inch image. If it is too bright for the ambient light level at the image size you need, you can use one of the projectors’ lower-brightness preset modes, its Eco mode, or both.
Image Quality, Lamp Life, and Audio
Image quality for the 955WH is near-excellent for data images. The only issue worth mention that I saw with our standard suite of DisplayMate tests was a minor problem with color balance. In most of the predefined modes, the brightest gray levels show a slight tint relative to darker levels. This is only obvious with gray-scale images, however, and there are also modes that offer suitably neutral grays all the way from black to white. Colors in all modes are vibrant, eye-catching, and well saturated.
More important for most data images is that the 955WH maintains crisp detail across the entire screen. In my tests, for example, white text on black was crisp and readable at sizes as small as 9 points, and black text on white was highly readable even at 6 points.
Video quality is limited by the native 1,280-by-800 resolution, which translates to a maximum video resolution of 720p HD without scaling the image. Within that context, however, the quality is much better than is typical for a data projector. Contrast is a little low, which means you won’t mistake the image for something you’d expect from a home-theater projector, but the video is good enough to be watchable even for long sessions.
The 16-watt speaker offers good sound quality and enough volume to fill a midsize room. There’s also a stereo audio output you can use for an external sound system.
One important extra is a promised low running cost, with both a longer-than-usual lamp life, rated at 5,000 hours in Normal mode or 10,000 hours in Eco mode, and a far-lower-than-usual replacement cost, at $79. Another plus is a split-screen feature, which lets you see images from any two sources at once. You can toggle to and from split-screen mode with a single button press on the remote. You can also change sources on either side as needed, as well as choose between making the two images of equal size, or making either one larger than the other.
If you need 3D support, be sure to look at the Acer S1385WHne. If you don’t need 3D, however, the Epson 955W, the NEC M311W, and the Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector are all worth considering, with similar levels of brightness, data image quality, and video quality. However, the 955WH is the only one of the three that offers MHL support, its audio quality is a bit better than the NEC model delivers, and it also offers the lowest running cost of the three. That trifecta puts it a step out in front, and makes it our Editors’ Choice.
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