The Optoma EW330 has the distinction of being one of the smallest and lightest ultraportable projectors we‘ve tested. First, its wide aspect-ratio image (1280 x 800 pixels) is a perfect match for today’s laptops and HDTVs. Second, its impressive brightness—more than 2000 ANSI lumens—is very good for a 2.4-pound device. Third, the image quality is both needle-sharp and rock-steady. And, last but not least, Optoma includes a full-function remote control. You won’t find a better buy in this weight class for $899.
Although it’s light and compact, the EW330’s relatively standard boxlike shape won’t garner any oohs and aahs from your audience when you pull it out of its carrying case. On the top panel, the Power button is poorly labeled (note to Optoma: dark gray text on a gray background is pretty much unreadable). In fact, it doesn’t even look much like a button.
The rear panel features a bare minimum of input jacks—VGA, S-Video, and composite video plus USB for control—with one notable addition: the increasingly important HDMI jack for connecting to notebooks and video equipment.
The EW330’s remote control features all the right functions. We particularly like the buttons for the laser pointer and the left mouse, which are well marked. The right mouse button brings up menus, and a quartet of directional buttons move the cursor around the screen, albeit not very deftly.
Our main complaint is that the remote has too many buttons—24 in total—many of which perform rarely used functions. For example, we would have preferred that Optoma replace the Number and Re-Sync buttons with Page Up/Page Down ones, which come in handy for PowerPoint slideshows. Also sorely lacking is a button for switching the lamp power modes. As it is, you have to enter the projector’s on-screen menu, which requires a finger-numbing 14 button presses.
Brightness and Contrast Results
Although advertised at an impressive 2200 ANSI lumens, many users will probably be disappointed in the brightness of the EW330—at first. This model has no fewer than five display modes, only one of which (aptly named “Bright”) approaches the advertised spec. On our tests, the projector notched 2055 ANSI lumens, 7 percent less than advertised, but more than enough for most conference rooms.
The default display modes (“Presentation” for a laptop and “Movie” for a DVD player or set-top box) are considerably dimmer. Presentation mode drops the brightness by about a quarter, whereas Movie mode cuts it in half. And whereas Movie mode is substantially dimmer than advertised, it offers superior quality for video images, effectively eliminating the pixelation that is sometimes noticeable in light images.
Oddly, Optoma labels the EW330’s low-power lamp mode as “Standard.” Of course, many users may prefer this mode, which quiets the rather noisy cooling fan while dimming brightness by only 26 percent. (We actually prefer this mode for entertainment applications where the cooling fan is an otherwise noticeable distraction.) The low-power mode also increases the lamp life to an amazing 5,000 hours—at least 1,000 hours more than most projectors.
On our other lab tests, the projector was good if not spectacular. Our checkerboard test revealed a contrast ratio of 359:1, which is perfectly acceptable for most applications, but on the low end for DLP projectors, and slightly less than the $999 Dell M409WX, which had a contrast ratio of 464:1. Brightness uniformity, comparing corners to center, was relatively low at 66 percent. That’s no worse than the Dell M409WX, but the uniformity on the $999 Casio XJ-S43W was a more impressive 86 percent. Also like the Dell projector, the Optoma’s image size was relatively small, measuring 46 inches diagonally at a screen distance of 5 feet. The Casio projects images that are 20 inches larger from the same distance. Still, the Optoma’s rapid cool-down time of 9 seconds was the best we have seen recently.
Image and Video Quality
Once you set the display and lamp modes, your audience will be in for a real treat. PowerPoint slides are impressively sharp and steady. Individual pixels have no halos, comet tails, or color shadows. Nor could we see any interlace flicker or image noise. As with many DLP projectors, yellows were dull, but blues and reds were vivid. And, while the projector had trouble resolving very light tones, it did remarkably well with dark ones.
Of course, you would expect a wide aspect ratio to work well with movies, and you would not be disappointed. We were impressed by the EW330’s performance with 1080i HDTV signals, where it showed little image lag in high-motion scenes while viewing a Mets game and a nature show.
If you’re looking for a widescreen projector that travels well, the Optoma EW330—which can be found for as low as $899 online—is a great choice. It’s light enough to go anywhere, and bright enough to handle most rooms. Our Editors’ Choice pick in this category is the $999 Casio XJ-S43W, because it present a bigger and brighter image for just $100 more and has a slimmer (but heavier) design. Nevertheless, the EW330 is a great buy.