Casio's XJ family of Super Slim projectors have long impressed us with their low-profile designs that enable them to be almost as thin as some laptops. When you turn the XJ-S43W ($999) on, yet another size factor comes into play; this widescreen model displays images that are among the largest we have seen. Add in over 2500 lumens of brightness and an electronic focus and zoom, and you have the best ultraportable projector available for under a grand.
On the outside, this new Casio model looks exactly like all the other Super Slims (such as theXJ-SC215). Its height of only 1.7 inches gives it approximately the same dimensions as a somewhat thick netbook, and enables it to be just as portable. Even in its full travel configuration with remote control and cables, the XJ-S43W weighs less than 4.8 pounds, and slides almost effortlessly into a laptop carrying case.
The improvements are all on the inside--specifically the widescreen capability. Like an increasing number of projectors, the XJ-S43W sports a WXGA resolution of 1280 x 800, which matches nicely with the latest wide-aspect-ratio laptops. And unlike other recent ultraportables, this model can pump out images at a brilliant 2500 lumens of brightness, which should be more than sufficient for all but the sunniest of business environments.
As with previous XJ models, one of our favorite features is the credit-card-sized remote control. True, it does lack such useful items as a laser pointer and Page Up/Page Down buttons. But it more than makes up for this omission by including buttons for power focus and zoom. This enables you to stand near the screen and adjust the focus to obtain crystal-clear images. Also, unlike many other projectors, images stay in focus while zooming.
In our lab tests, the XJ-S43W did very well. We measured the brightness at 2626 ANSI lumens; this is a rare case of results being above those advertised, and also about 600 lumens brighter than the Optoma EW330 and Dell M409WX. As per usual, our contrast ratio results using a checkerboard test were a fraction of those claimed with a full-on/full-off test (438:1 vs 1800:1), but were still well above average for projectors. The uniformity of brightness, comparing corners to the center, was an impressive 86 percent--20 percent better than the Optoma and Dell projectors. The cooling fan was fairly noisy but quieted down significantly in low-power mode, which also drops the image brightness by a relatively large factor (35 percent).
The cool-down time was a rather leisurely 60 seconds, but the projector's on-screen menu includes a Direct Power On feature that should enable you to pull the plug immediately, while the fan is still running. After accidentally burning out a few lamps on other projectors, however, we are hesitant to pull out any plugs while fans are still running, and were unable to test this.
Qualitatively speaking, the images that the XJ-S43W produced were quite sharp. We saw some tiny comet tails on individual pixels, but only in the lower right corner. The images were also quite steady; we saw a mere trace of flicker, and that was on only one test slide. As usual with a DLP projector, the yellows were dull, but reds and blues looked rich.
In entertainment applications (i.e., when connected to a DVD player or set-top box via component video cables), the projector defaults to its Movie color mode, which adjusts for color but also drops the brightness by almost two-thirds. This projector's initial brightness is so high, however, that we barely noticed the dimness. Video action was smooth, without any motion artifacts.
When you combine the XJ-S43W's short-throw lens with its widescreen resolution, you get huge images measuring 65 inches diagonal at a distance of only 5 feet. The Optoma EW330 and Dell M409WX, by contrast, can only manage 45 inches at that same range. And don't worry about images being too large. The amazing 2X optical zoom range of these projectors enable you to shrink the images to half this size when necessary.
The Casio XJ-S43W initially appeared at a list price of $1,199, which quickly dropped to $999. This price, combined with a three-year warranty (and a comparatively generous 180 days for the lamp), makes this projector one of the best values on the market. The XJ-S43W doesn't just excel at PowerPoint. Many if not most business users will be sneaking this ultraportable projector home for entertainment purposes--an area where it truly shines. But be careful: We made the mistake of watching an HDTV broadcast of a baseball game blown up to a size of 96 inches, and the image quality was awe-inspiring. Now, unfortunately, we will never be satisfied with our regular TV again.