Epson Powerlite 826W Projector - Performance
For it’s $999 retail price, the Epson Powerlite 826W provides solid image quality and a number of convenience features missing on some of the competition. Let’s see how it performs.
8-21-09 -Mike Rollett
Epson Powerlite 826W Projector - Video Performance
To check out the 826W’s video performance, I used the DVD playback from my laptop, as well as a standalone DVD player feeding the 826W via S-video. As we’ve come to expect from Epson’s 3LCD projectors, video from any source looks very clean, with well-saturated colors. Using the same DVD in each, I didn’t notice any difference in picture quality between the two video sources.
The Theater mode of the 826W can make use an auto iris, which when active, results in an improved contrast ratio (up to 2000:1). While a 2000:1 contrast ratio is low among home theater projectors, it is a decent ratio for a projector this bright and can contributes to a more film-like image than is normally seen with multimedia projectors. The auto iris is also available in Dynamic mode as well.
Use of the auto iris does help to improve the otherwise grayish blacks in mixed light scenes with most video sources. When faced with a movie with a majority of dark scenes, the 826W falls short in comparison with similarly priced home theater projectors, but none of them offer the brightness of the 826W. For daytime TV or video viewing (like sports events), the extra brightness of the 826W provides for a highly watchable picture that is not washed out, as most home theater projectors would be.
While the 826W is not designed to be used for movie or TV viewing, it’s nice to know that it certainly could be used for that in a pinch, while still providing solid picture quality.
Epson Powerlite 826W Projector - Brightness
The 826W is rated at 2500 lumens. Our experience with other Epson projectors is that they usually achieve or come close to their rated specification. So, we expected the 826W to perform well and it did. In Dynamic mode (the brightest), we measured 2136 lumens at mid-zoom range. The output varied slightly throughout the zoom range, but was still very bright. At full wide zoom, we got 2225 lumens and at full telephoto zoom it was 1940 lumens. All further measurements were taken at the mid-zoom point. Using Presentation mode, the output dropped to 1753 lumens. Photo mode and sRGB modes were nearly identical for lumen output at 1540 and 1529 lumens respectively. Theater mode, which provided the best contrast between dark and light scenes for movie and video viewing, was still quite bright at 1517 lumens. Finally, Blackboard and Whiteboard (specifically designed color balances to work with school blackboards and dry erase-type whiteboards) came in at 1491 and 1357 lumens respectively. Overall, the 826W has plenty of punch for its intended markets, the classroom and conference room.
Below are a series of images taken at the same exposure, showing the different brightness and feel of different modes. From top to bottom: Dynamic, Presentation, Theater, Blackboard, and Whiteboard modes Notably missing is Photo Mode, of which you will find an excellent image on the Image Quality page. These images are all taken projecting approximately a 6 foot wide image under full room lighting.
Dropping the lamp into Low brightness mode resulted in a lumen output of 1716 in Dynamic mode. This is about a 20% drop, which is still quite bright, and only a few lumens less than Presentation mode on High lamp.
The 826W provided a very sharp, clean image with our usual variety of source material. Bringing up our usual spreadsheet with a range of text sizes and colors, small (8 pt.) text was easily readable on a 90” diagonal projected image. This was also true of white text-on-black and yellow text-on-dark blue backgrounds as well.
The 826W also did not have a problem handling higher resolutions. Switching to 1600 x 1200 to test its ability to scale and resize these resolutions, the 826W handled the text spreadsheet as if it was at its native resolution. Some projectors, when fed higher-than-native resolutions, have difficulty accurately displaying the different colored text/background combinations in the spreadsheet. Combining that with a different aspect ratio as well can play havoc with the projector’s compression circuitry. This was not the case with the 826W, which did an excellent job with both. Small text remained sharp and readable.
There was only the slightest color separation or overlap and that was only with the smaller text. To keep perspective, one would rarely project anything smaller than 12 point type (maybe 10) and expect anyone in the room to be able to read it. In formal presentation, such as the typical Powerpoint presentation, small type is considered 18 point, and most bullet points are 24 to 36 points, and titles 48 points and larger.
Finally, the 826W also did an excellent job on lower resolutions, like the old standard XGA (1024 x 768) resolution. Overall, an excellent performance for any projector, much less one in the 826W’s price range.
The Epson 826W is reasonably quiet (35dB in High lamp output) for a multimedia projector. There would be no problem with the presenter being heard, even without using a microphone and the built-in 10W speaker. If a quieter environment is desired, dropping the 826W into Low lamp mode reduces the noise level significantly to 28 dB. Combined with the aforementioned 20% drop in lumen output, the 826W would easily be quiet enough for comfortable video or movie viewing. Comparing its noise level to a popular home theater projector, like the Epson 6500UB, 28 dB would be slightly less than the 31 dB noise level of the 6500UB when running on High lamp power. The bottom line is that even in High lamp mode, the 826W’s fan noise is not objectionable for its intended uses.
With the optional wireless LAN module or USB key, the 826W allows for simple wireless connection to any desktop or laptop with 802.11 a/b/g capability. Like the previously reviewed Epson 1735W, there are two ways to connect wirelessly to the 826W. The first, is to use the optional USB key. We did not have one for the 826W, but from our experience with the 1735W, you simply plug it into the rear USB port of the projector to record the network information. Then plug the key into any available USB port on your computer and follow the installation screens that appear. This only takes a few minutes and when done the computer image will project on the screen.
Shown: Two of the wireless LAN network menus
Unlike the 1735W, the 826W’s software does not include a video player for wireless operation, nor does it allow for PowerPoint presentations wirelessly. Basically, if you display video or do presentations on a regular basis, plan on using a wired connection.
The second way to set up a wireless connection is to install the optional wireless LAN module, which plug into a slot about the dust filter. You then set it up on your PC with software from the CD provided with the 826W. Your computer will see the 826W as an available wireless network and you can connect to it.