Light weight. Bright. Short throw. Comes with carrying case. Native 1,280-by-800 resolution. Near-excellent quality for data images.
Potentially annoying rainbow artifacts with full-motion video.
- BOTTOM LINE
The Acer S1385WHne projector is bright, light enough to carry with you, and equipped with a short-throw lens to give you a big image, even in a tight space.
If you need a WXGA (1,280-by-800) projector that’s bright enough to give you a suitably large image for a midsize conference room or classroom, light enough to carry, and equipped with a short-throw lens so you can get a big image from close to the screen, put the Acer S1385WHne at the top of your list. It’s rated at 3,200 lumens, weighs less than 6 pounds, and even comes with a carrying case. Add in its high-quality output for data images, and it’s an obvious pick as our Editors’ Choice moderately priced, short-throw WXGA projector.
The S1385WHne is a head-to-head competitor with the ViewSonic PJD6683ws, another top pick. Both are built around DLP engines and both offer the same resolution, similar brightness, a short throw, and typical DLP features, like 3D support. However, the Acer model offers a slightly higher brightness rating, a slightly lower weight, and some additional features, including two HDMI connectors with Mobile High-Definition link (MHL) support.
Portability, Connections, and Setup
Measuring 3.4 by 12.1 by 8.3 inches (HWD) and weighing 5 pounds 5 ounces, the S1385WHne is in a size and weight class that’s appropriate for permanent installation, for placement on a cart, or for being stored away when its not in use and taken out only when you need it. It’s also small and light enough to carry with you if you need to, at least occasionally, and the soft carrying case it comes with makes it easy both to carry and to store safely.
Setup is typical for a short-throw projector, with a manual focus and no zoom. For most of my tests, I used a 92-inch image, measured diagonally, with the projector just 39 inches from the screen.
Image inputs on the back panel include an MHL-enabled HDMI port for a computer or video source, two VGA ports for computers or component video, and both S-Video and composite video ports. There’s also a USB Type B mini connector that serves as a service port for firmware upgrades, a LAN port for controlling the projector over a network, and a USB Type A port strictly for providing power for, say, charging a mobile device.
There’s a second HDMI port, also MHL-enabled, inside the projector. You can use it with any appropriate device you want to install permanently, including Acer’s optional WirelessHD dongle ($199, complete with a WirelessHD transmitter for the sending side) or its optional WirelessCast dongle ($69), which supports Miracast and DLNA, as well as Wi-Fi connections to PCs and mobile devices using Acer’s eDisplay app.
To get to the port, you have to remove two screws, and then pop off the top panel— a step that requires enough force that you might hesitate, worrying (unnecessarily) that you might break something. If you’re brave enough to do it, finding the HDMI port and inserting the dongle is easy enough, and it’s a one-time operation. Snapping the top back on is also much easier than prying it off.
Brightness and Image Quality
As with any single-chip, DLP-based projector, pinning down the S1385WHne’s brightness is complicated by the fact that most models have a lower color brightness than white brightness. This means that full-color images may not be as bright as you would expect based strictly on the 3,200 lumen rating for white brightness.
According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, 3,200 lumens would be bright enough at the projector’s native 16:10 aspect ratio for a 215- to 292-inch (diagonal) image in theater-dark lighting with a 1.0 gain screen. Even with moderate ambient light, it will be bright enough for a 140- to 160-inch screen. For smaller screen sizes, you can use Eco mode or one of the lower-brightness predefined modes.
Data-image quality is a strong point, with the projector handling our standard suite of DisplayMate tests without any real problems. Color balance was excellent in our tests, with suitably neutral grays across the entire range from black to white in all preset modes. Red and magenta were a little dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness color model in the brightest mode, and yellow was little dark in most modes, but that’s typical of projectors with lower color brightness than white brightness. Colors were well saturated in all modes.
More important for most data images is that the focus is crisp and clean across the entire screen, which is not always the case with short-throw lenses, and the projector holds detail well. White text on black, for example, was easily readable at sizes as small as 9 points on our tests, and black text on white was easily readable at 6.8 points. The image was also as rock solid with an analog VGA connection as with a digital HDMI connection, even with images that tend to cause pixel jitter or dynamic moire with analog connections.
Image quality is not in the same league for full-motion video as for data images, which is common for data projectors. Among other issues, I saw some posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) in test scenes that tend to show that problem and a mild-to-moderate loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas).
The more important problem for video is rainbow artifacts (flashes of red, green, and blue), which are always a potential concern for single-chip DLP projectors. The good news is that with data images, the S1385WHne does an excellent job resisting showing these artifacts. The only time I saw them was with one screen designed to bring them out, and even then, they were decidedly minor. With video, however, they show often enough that anyone who sees them easily is likely to find them annoying.
The projector’s audio system counts as a plus, but just barely. The two 10-watt speakers deliver reasonably good sound quality. However, there’s no noticeable stereo effect, which is typical for audio systems small enough to fit in a projector, and the volume is suitable for only a small room. If you need higher volume or fully realized stereo, you can connect an external sound system to the stereo audio output.
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