Epson Powerlite W16SK Projector Review
This projector is first and foremost about affordable 3D in the classroom or training room. Let’s explore what the first affordable passive glasses 3D projector system brings to the market. (LG has a $10,000+ passive system built into a single 6 panel projector, not exactly school budget material)
W16SK 3D Capabilites - Passive 3D
Passive 3D projection is exactly what the Epson W16SK projector is all about. Epson in particular created the W16SK as their idea of an ideal solution for dealing with 3D in the classroom. OK, we already know that studies show 3D is a very effective classroom tool. But the problems of using 3D in the classroom can be daunting. Primarily, the problems include lack of a bright image, extremely expensive 3D glasses to replace and perhaps having some students who can’t watch 3D. The disappearance of 3D glasses is a financial problem for schools. Things do dissappear from schools as we are all aware. Replacing a number of $40 or even $100 glasses is prohibative for a school, and that might be in just one classroom.
Bright 3D is the primary issue the Epson W16SK projector addresses. While there are plenty of 3000 lumen 3D projectors out there using active glasses, none are going to be bright in the classroom. Figure that at the very best with active glasses, perhaps 1/3 of the light gets to your eyes, and likely less.
But with this system, you are starting with 6000 lumens. Theoretcially half of that its each eye, less the amount lost by the glasses themselves, which are not quite clear. Expect the Epson W16SK projector stack to produce 3D images that are 2 to 3 times brighter than lower cost active projectors which are all DLP. You can also expect better color from this Epson.
While we don’t have a classroom like room here, I can say this. I put on a bit of Men In Black 3 last night to see how the W16SK projector system would do on a 3D movie. I was very impressed with the color, even in the bright 3D mode. The 3D Theatre mode was a little less bright, and had even better color. (Black levels, I will note are not a strength of this system, but then no one really worries much about black levels in a classroom environment with a fair amount of ambient light present.
And that is the point of the Epson W16SK. It’s bright enough to look good, tackling 3D in a classroom that’s got a typical healthy amount of ambient light.
Epson W16SK 3D Cost Benefit and Analysis:
Following the concept of TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” – Robert Heinlein), below we will discuss the trade-offs exchanged for Epson’s bright, easy to view 3D, with low cost passive 3D glasses, as how it stacks up against the far more common 3D DLP projectors using active glasses:
- The projector package is, itself, expensive. While well under $2000 for schools, consider that 3D capable DLP projectors with around 3000 lumens and the same WXGA resolution and a passable feature set start around $600.
- The “silver screen” – To use any passive 3D glasses setup, you need a special screen. Note, such screens are not particularly expensive as screen surfaces go. All those 3D movies you have seen in the theaters, while wearing passive glasses are special screen surfaces. They can be fine for 2D, but they are needed for passive 3D. Thus, for a classroom or other location already equipped with a traditional screen, a new screen will be needed.
- With two projectors, you get more audible noise than with one projector, and two lamps are in use at the same time.
Still, the Epson can be significantly less expensive overall. Consider the math:
Average class size in the US: 30 plus students. Assuming about that number of students per class, let’s assume a school gets a 3D projector setup with 35 pair of glasses. That’s a spend of roughly $1400 – $3000 for 3D active glasses. Let’s go with the $40/pair number. OK, that’s $1400 for the glasses, with a couple of spares, and glasses for teacher, etc. Add that to a $600 projector, so you have $2000.
For the Epson W16SK figure 35 pair of passive glasses, which is $105 at only $3 each. Add to that a $1699 projector price. If you need a screen to replace one, that might add about another $500 more or less. So the Epson still could cost more. If the room doesn’t yet have a screen, then both screens would typically cost about the same, with the 3D screen being only slightly more expensive.
But it is the nature of things, that 3D glasses will disappear, get broken, or have other mysteries befall them, in a school environment.
With the W16SK for 3D use, you have two projectors running, so you are using up two lamps.
Fortunately, Epson’s lamps are perhaps the least expensive in the industry (at least for schools – typically $79). Better still, they claim especially long life: 4000 hours at full power, 5000 in eco-mode. 4000 hours is about as long as full power lamps last, and 6000 hours is with one or two exceptions out of hundreds of projector models, is about as good as it gets using a lamp instead of a more expensive laser or LED light source.
Of course, this Epson will produce 3D images that are dramatically brighter in eco-mode than any 3000 lumen active 3D projector can do running at full power.
Technically, another, minor really, downside is that the Epson W16SKprojector stack will draw more electricity than a single 3D DLP projector, but not by much, as the Epsons each run a 200 watt lamp, while many, if not most 3D DLP require over 300 watts. The thing is, the Epsons would be in eco-mode for 2D, and still be much brighter than any 3000 lumen DLP at full power. Eco mode should draw about 25% less electric. I would therefore doubt that there is any real cost differential in terms of electricity. I would certainly think not enough difference to be a factor in the value propostion.
Consider also that color lumens standards relate to brightness and picture quality, but we won’t get into a discussion now of color lumens and white lumens and how that affects the picture, but you can check out our video about the new Color Lumen measurement standard. On the Image quality page we show how the W16SK compares to a very good 3D capable DLP projector in terms of best, and brightest color modes.
Blue-ray 3D is supported by the Epson W16SK projector system. That makes it the exception in the non-home theater world. Very few 3D capable projectors for business or education (at least of those under $2000) have HDMI 1.4 which means they cannot run Blu-ray 3D. For example the Mitsubishi WD390U-EST that I just finished reviewing, only supports one major 3D format: Field sequential. (It is widely used for educational content).
Unmentioned so far: Each of the two W16 projectors that ship as part of the W16SK projector system is in its own right, a 3D capable projector that will work with passive glasses. Who knows, that might become valuable some day. If active glasses drop to $9 each a school district might decide to split up a W16SK putting projectors in two rooms. Not likely, but, I thought it would be fun to mention. Epson actively sells the W16 as a 3D projector using active glasses.
W16SK 3D Glasses
Lightweight, and comfortable! Weighing in at only 22 grams and change, the passive glasses for the W16SK are definitely light. Certainly they are lighter than any active glasses we have had here. In fact they are about 25% lighter than the lightest active glasses (Panasonic) and about 1/3 lighter than Epson’s own very light active glasses, and less than half the weight of many.
For perspective, the Epson 3D glasses weigh less than my frameless prescription glasses, and far less than my Ray-Ban sunglasses. In other words they are extremely light, and they happen to also be nice and comfortable. Active glasses not only weigh more, but tend to be front heavy, putting a whole lot more weight on the bridge of your nose, which tends to make them far less comfortable.
The a key advantage of Epson’s passive 3D glasses besides weight and comfort, include: Extremely low cost of glasses.
Epson prices these passive 3D glasses at $3 a pair for schools. That means the cost for an entire classroom of glasses is about the same as one to three pair of active glasses, depending on the brand.
It isn’t rare at all that some projectors sit idle in classrooms simply because the school doesn’t have the money to replace a burnt out lamp! Schools not being able to afford replacing active 3D glasses, would end up without enough pairs to use them for an entire class. And that means no With low cost passive glasses, that should not be a real problem
Also, some people who have trouble watching 3D through active glasses find passive glasses to be perfectly acceptable. Thus, it’s more likely that everyone in a classroom can view the 3D with a passive glasses setup as used by this Epson W16SK projector stack. While they don’t offer it yet, it’s easy to support someone who can’t watch 3D with a pair of glasses where both glasses have the same polarization. That gives them 2D, but they won’t be seeing double as would be the case of 3D running and no glasses on.
With glasses that cost $3 or less, it may even be practical in schools to assign everyone their own pair of glasses, which also solves the cleaning, and health issues raised by regularly sharing active glasses. Consider, there are UV storage cases (not inexpensive), that sterilize the active glasses when they aren’t in use. Those are marketed to schools among others.
Running the W16SK in Single Projector Mode
One of the first things I looked for, in scanning the menus, was how to only use one projector at a time for 2D. Afterall, even one W16SK is rated 3000 lumens (and almost hits it on the money). 3000 lumens is on the brighter side of projectors heading into normal classrooms and conference rooms, so why use both projectors if you don’t need to?
Unfortunately, the Epson W16SK confounded me, until I opened the manual (which comes on disc, there is a printed setup guide as well).
No mention in the menus, but running a W16SK as a single W16 projector for 2D is very easy. If the W16SK stacked projectors are already one, power them down. That takes about 2 seconds.
To turn on the whole W16SK, of course you hit the Power button on the Epson’s remote control. If, instead, you only want to power up one projector press the #1 button on the remote, and while holding it down hit the Power button. Bingo, the Commander – the top projector will fire up. If instead you had hit #2 and Power, then only the lower – Receiver projector would turn on.
It’s that simple. Of course if you run only one projector you can expect a just slightly sharper image, as you don’t have two projectors whose images are converging. A single W16 is very sharp, while the stack is acceptably sharp.
W16SK Projector: Audio, Audio Out
Each Epson projector is fairly small, so it’s not suprising that the two W16 projectors that make up the W16SK have only a small two watt speaker. The good news is that there are two of them. Four watts of sound is less than many education oriented projectors, where having a five or ten watt speaker is fairly common. The W16SK, however has an audio out so it’s easy to add a powered speaker for larger or very noisy room.
The Epson Auto Iris works in all but the brightest modes. That makes sense. It does help slightly with black levels, but this is still not a projector with impressive black level performance. As I point out later, though, this is a system designed for rooms with a good amount of ambient light where black levels are almost irrelevant.
WK16SK Color Contrrols, Menu Features
We look at the menus on the Tour page, but this is interesting:
The W16SK is a bare bones projector when it comes to settings. For example when running both projectors you can select different modes like Presentation, Dynamic, Theatre, but there is no access to settings such as Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, and Color Temp, and Color calibration controls
If you run the W16SK as a single W16 projector, however, then all those controls and many more become available to you.
As a single W16 projector you also get Epson’s Pointer system which allows you to move a projected pointer around the screen. The pointer function is disabled when running both projectors.
No projector destined for the classroom is complete without support for Closed Captioning. I’m pretty sure that at least in some states, it is a required feature. No worries here, as the Epson W16SK offers the Close Caption feature.
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