Acer PH530 Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
10-23-2007 - Art Feierman
Acer PH530 Projector Highlights:
- Currently the least expensive, by $75-$100, (current model) home theater projector (some discontinued models can be found for less)
- Overall design, performance is typical for an entry level DLP HT projector
- Very basic in terms of inputs
- Build quality issues - not critical, little things, adjust the zoom projector, and you'll have to refocus the PH530 projector, remote is more of a business projector remote - not backlit...
- Image quality not quite up to some of the competition (including sharpness), but no serious flaws
- Lack of multiple user savable settings is inconvenient
- 1 year warranty
A little background on this review before we get going. Normally I get review units directly from the manufacturer. But this time, one of the owners of an Acer PH530 had a call out on the forums, to see if any of us "professional" reviewers would be interested in reviewing his projector.
Well, since I hadn't been on the forums in a couple of months, I figured this was a sign, so I agreed to take a quick look. Since I already had the BenQ W500 here, and was expecting the new Panasonic PT-AX200U, I would have two other low cost 720p projectors to compare it against, even though they were both LCD projectors, whereas the Acer is DLP. I should also mention, that the Acer PH530 home theater projector's closest competition are two other DLP projectors, the Optoma HD70, and the Mitsubishi HC1500. Both also sell for less than $1000, although for roughly $75 - $250 more than the Acer, depending on where you shop.
Because this is the busiest time of my review year, and I'm squeezing the Acer PH530 into the lineup, this review won't be as long as the typical home theater projector review. I also took less photos as well. Still, you should all find it sufficiently detailed.
This is the first home theater projector I've reviewed from Acer, and my initial impression is that the PH530, which is, I better note, a 720p projector, seems to be more of an adaptation of a business projector, than a home theater projector from the ground up.
That said, the PH530 consistently did a respectable job. Its key strength, though, is not its picture quality, or its hardware, or its warranty. #1 is definitely its low price, which quite often, is below $700, and although I haven't found it, as low $600. I'm told that some have bought for $599.
Out of the box performance for "best mode" - Theater mode, was shifted too much to red, but was correctable. I will say, that the shift must be corrected, to obtain a really watchable image. There are some others which are very close to ideal, "out of the box" for those of you not wanting to fuss, but the PH530 isn't one of them.
OK, let's get this party rolling!
Acer PH530 Projector: Basic Specs
Native Resolution: 720p (1280x720)
Brightness: 1000 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.20:1
Lens shift: motorized vertical and horizontal
Lamp life: 2000 hours full power
Weight: 6.0 lbs. (2.7kg)
Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
View full specifications: PH530.
Acer PH530 Home Theater Projector: Physical Tour
OK, let's start facing the front of the Acer PH530. The manual zoom lens is offset to the left side. It has a 1.2:1 zoom ratio. To focus, turn the trim ring around the lens. The zoom adjust is a slide bar located on the top of the PH530, just behind the lens. Also on the front, is an infra-red sensor for the Acer remote control. At the bottom of the front, near the center, is a bar for dropping the center front foot. There is exhaust venting on the front right.
Moving to the top of the PH530, as I have already noted, is the slide bar for zooming in and out. If you move the slidebar to adjust, plan on having to refocus the projector. This is simply less than great build quality, and quite honestly, is fairly common on lower cost projectors - both for home and business.
Looking at the top from the rear, you'll find the control panel toward the back left. The layout is a good one. There is the traditonal power button (once for on, twice for off), a source select button and resync. The rest of the control panel consists of the Menu button in the center, and the four arrow keys. There are also two indicator lights, labeled Temp and Lamp. The Power button lights up as well.
OK, that takes us to the back of the PH530, which was a tad disappointing. With the latest generation of home theater projectors, almost everyone has two HDMI (or, less frequently, one HDMI and DVI) inputs. Not so, the PH530 with a single digital input.
This is a negative if you lack an AV receiver with HDMI switching (or similarly, an HTPC). After all, ultimately, if not now, then soon, you'll want a digital source for your hi-def DVD player and another for your cable/satellite feed. Yes, you can buy an outboard switchbox for $299 or so, complete with remote, but that sort of kills off the key feature of the PH530 - its low price.
As to the rest of the inputs, there are the usual composite and S-video inputs, plus one component video input (three RCA jacks). There is also an HD15 connector for the classic computer input (analog). Lastly, there is a USB port.
I should point out, that the Acer PH530 is one of the smallest and lightest home theater projectors out there, which may be important to some who plan to "take it with them" on vacations, etc.
The remote control will be covered in the General Performance page. Time now, though, to consider image quality!