Acer PH530 Home Theater Projector Review - General Performance
Topics in this section:
Acer PH530 Menus
PH530 User Memory Settings
PH530 Remote Control
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
SDE and Rainbow Effect
PH530 Projector Brightness
Audible Noise Levels
Projector Screen Recommendations
Acer PH530 Menus
Most of the key image controls are found on the Color menu shown here:
As you can see, there are 5 presets at the top to choose from. Theater is the primary for movie watching, however, the Acer needs adjustment, so as soon as you do a grayscale adjustment with the Color R, G, and B controls, you'll see the Display mode shift to User.
Color management is at a minimum with only the single R,G,B controls in addition to the standard "stuff": Brightness, Contrast, Color Temp, Degamma, etc.
The next menu is Image:
It controls positioning (front, rear, ceiling, table), and keystone correction (best avoided of course). Also aspect ratio, and sharpness.
The Management is the other key menu. First is lamp brightness (Eco-mode off/on), plus various shutdown options, menu location, user defined startup screen (Bill's Home Theater?)
This menu also tracks lamp hours and offers resets
PH530 User Memory Settings
The User Memory is my biggest single complaint with the PH530 home theater projector. Here's the problem:
On first viewing, like with most home theater projectors, the Acer does not have great "out of the box" color balance. It needs to be "calibrated" at least a basic grayscale balance, to get color temp to 6500K for movies, and to make sure "green" isn't over or under represented.
So, when I did that, I had to change the R, G, and B settings on the Color Menu. So far, so good. That moved me from Theater Display mode, to User.
Then, I wanted to get TV/HDTV/Sports looking good. Again, a grayscale balance, but for the coolor color temp associated with broadcast. This required me to change the R, G, and B settings. Again, no matter where I started (let's say Video mode), I end up in User.
That means the original settings I needed for best movie watching are lost.
The solution - write down the correct RGB (and other settings) for movies, and also for any other modes, because the projector will only remember the last one you used.
And that is a pain in the butt.
So, if you really do want your PH530 to look as good as it can, you'll be going into the menus, and making adjustments every time you switch from movies to most TV, and worse, you might need slightly different settings for working with some ambient light, as well as in a fully darkened environment.
Too much work for me, and the PH530's colors are too "off" out of the box to ignore, and still expect to have good skin tones and natural colors.
There are some other home theater projectors with a single User area, or "almost" similar limitations, however, those are usually source specific. That is, they either recognize the input (HDMI, vs component), or more typically, recognize that it is a different device (can tell the difference, say between your Blu-ray player, your regular DVD player, and your cable box). With these, you can then have one set of settings for your movies from Blu-ray player, another setting for your cable box, etc.
But the Acer is doing none of that. It's a shame, and in my opinion, this particular lack of flexibility, is the single greatest flaw of the Acer PH530, and almost certainly the primary reason I cannot grant it our Hot Product Award.
PH530 Projector - Remote Control
The PH530's remote control isn't backlit. Strike One!
It's immediately obvious, looking at the remote, that it was designed for a business projector. Its got a mouse control, and page up/down features (normally found on business projectors for working with programs like Powerpoint).
Beyond that, it's not a bad remote. You can read the various labels on the picture to the right. Of note, access to color, brightness, contrast and RGB can be accessed by buttons near the bottom, along with direct access to different inputs. BTW, you'll note that the remote has both HDMI and DVI inputs, but the projector only has HDMI.
PH530 Lens Throw and Lens Shift
The PH530 has a 1.2:1 zoom lens, which is typical for most DLP projectors. This provides very limited placement flexibility, and means you'll probably be putting your Acer on a table, or ceiling mounting it.
To fill a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, the front of the home theater projector needs to be between 11 foot 5 inches and 13 foot 8 inches.
The Acer has no variable lens shift, and the image has moderate built-in fixed lens shift, so that the projector will be either above the top of the screen, if ceiling mounting, or below the bottom on a table, etc. The shift isn't as great as most DLP projectors (a good thing), which is typically about 16 inches, but, sorry, I didn't measure, and no longer have the manual to consult for the exact offset.
Acer PH530 SDE and Rainbow Effect, Pixel Visibility
The PH530 seems to be a 4X color wheel. I am only slightly susceptible to the "rainbow effect" (RBE). But, with the PH530, I saw more rainbows than I'm used to. Most home cinema DLP projectors these days are 5X and there are a couple of 6X speed color wheels out there as well. If, therefore you, or your family, can spot the rainbow effect (most noticeable when fast moving, bright objects move across a dark backgound) on other DLP projectors, this projector is probably best avoided, since it's a bit worse than most.
Acer PH530 Projector Brightness
In best mode - Theater - out of the box, the PH530 put out a low to average 382 lumens. After grayscale adjustment, that dropped insignificantly to 375 lumens.
In low power (lamp in eco-mode), the Acer drops to 297 lumens.
In Bright mode, the Acer was basically right on its 1000 lumen claim, with a measurement of 997 lumens. In Video mode, it dropped to 808 lumens, and when grayscale balanced for best TV viewing, it was slightly lower at 782 lumens.
Simply stated, the PH530 is one of the least bright home theater projectors out there, not as bright as the other DLP competition (the Mitsubishi HC1500 in best mode, and brightest modes was 1218 lumens and 1824 lumens, respectively). Basically the HC1500 completely crushes the Acer, no contest. The Mitsubishi HC1500 would be more comfortable on a 130" screen, than the Acer on a 100".
The Optoma HD70 (price wise the closest competitor) beat out the Acer by about 100 lumens in best mode, and the two were about tied in brightest. (HD70: 454 lumens/991 lumens, however, Optoma has never really optimized a bright mode, and with playing, I was able to get up to about 1400 lumens out of the HD70.)
Brightness was more in line with the Sanyo PLV-Z5, an excellent, but not particularly bright LCD projector competitor.
So, bottom line, the Acer is not particularly bright. For one or two hundred more dollars, you can find much brighter DLP projectors.
PH530 Projector - Light Leakage
Nothing serious here. Some light out the front vent but it misses the screen. Some very dim leakage through the lens. Not an issue for an entry level projector.
Acer PH530 Audible Noise Levels
Not bad at all. DLP's are traditionally noisier than LCD projectors, and the Acer is no exception. I would, however guess that it is 1-2, and maybe 3 db quieter than either the Optoma HD70 or Mitsubishi HC1500.
PH530 Projector Screen Recommendations
I hope you have room lighting under control, because, due to the brightness of the projector, I'm recommending screens with a little gain, and that means white surfaces that can't reject side ambient light. If you are keeping the size small, say under 100" diagonal, and are on a tight budget (which I assume would be typical, since this is the least expensive home theater projector out there), then you might also consider the Elite HC Gray surface. The surface, I believe is available in motorized, pull-down, and fixed screen configurations. Not only is the Elite affordable, but it is a very light gray surface, without too much "HC - high contrast." As a result, it tends to work well with lower powered projectors, that need a bit of a boost in black levels. Because it is both low in contrast and light gray, it's not as effective as others in terms of ambient light, but still far better than a white surface in that regard.
Overall, the PH530, in my testing room (fairly dark walls), worked very nicely with my Carada Brilliant White screen (gain 1.4).
PH530 Projector Measurements and Calibration
The Acer PH530 was definitely off the target of 6500K temperature in Theater mode. Before adjustment:
100 IRE (white): 6033K
80 IRE: 6185K
50 IRE: 6201K
30 IRE: 6274K
By applying these changes:
Red= 95, Green= 99, Blue= 100 (defaults are 100,100,100)
Grayscale balance was almost dead on the ideal 6500K for movies:
100 IRE: 6388K
80 IRE: 6515K
50 IRE: 6562K
30 IRE: 6656K
Skin tones with these settings really were very good, as was overall color.
The Video preset was worse out of the box, with very strong greens.
To fix Video, R,G,B was adjusted to 100, 90, 102, respectively. That yielded a color temp of 8053K for white. I did not measure the other IREs (grays), but the very tight range of color temperature seen in the Theater mode should hold here as well, so that these settings should (and did) produce very watchable TV/HDTV/Sports.
PH530 Image Noise
I didn't spend much time here, and sadly never got around to running the HQV test disk. Still, I spotted no severe problems. There was about an average (maybe, just maybe) a touch more noise visible than with other DLP projectors, but again, for a low cost projector, not an issue. I found no real problems with handling motion artifacts or jaggies. It was very typical in that regard.