Notebook screens went wide ages ago. Now, finally, widescreen projectors are catching up, and the Optoma EP1691 is a very good complement for laptops with 16:9 displays. This tiny model weighs just 3.2 pounds, yet is capable of pumping out nearly 2,000 lumens, and has a wide WXGA native resolution of 1280 x 768. The EP1691 also includes a full-featured remote control with laser pointer and mouse controls.
Good Overall Performance
In our lab tests the EP1691 beamed out sharp, bright, super-wide images. We metered the brightness at 1,968 ANSI lumens, significantly less than the advertised 2,500, but still plenty for most typical business environments. In our contrast tests this model scored a ratio of 676:1, just shy of the best we've ever seen. The picture size was huge (54 inches diagonal at a 60-inch distance). And the cool-down time was impressively fast, at just 11 seconds.
Clear But a Bit Loud
We tested this widescreen model using our Scientific Atlanta HDTV-capable cable box from Cablevision (at 1080i). The EP1691 showed beautiful images with very few artifacts. In fact, we had trouble taking our eyes off it. But this is where the biggest drawback revealed itself: excessive cooling-fan noise.
Most of the time the fan noise is noticeable but quite acceptable. Occasionally, however, the fan kicks into high gear and becomes distractingly loud, especially during entertainment applications, when the audience may actually want to hear what is being said. This fan problem, by the way, arose in both the default Bright and Standard power modes.
EP1691 Remote Issues
Like that of the Optoma EP727, the bundled remote control has an amazing feature set (including numeric keys for inputting a theft-deterring password), but most of the buttons are arranged poorly, and could easily confuse a nervous presenter. Also, the menu structure is a bit more complicated than it needs to be. This is a particular problem for a widescreen projector that will have to match up with input devices of various resolutions and aspect ratios. We found the best results using the projector's native format, but getting this set up required more than a little menu digging.
Optoma EP1691 Verdict
Of course, one of the best features of the Optoma EP1691 is its price: just $999 street, which includes a 2-year warranty. Although it has a few flaws, this is easily one of the best projector values on the market.
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