Epson Powerlite S5 Portable LCD Projector Review
9-19-2007 Art Feierman
Incredibly affordable, incredibly bright, and well featured, the Powerlite S5, Epson's least expensive projector, is all about value and performance (and a great warranty). Quite honestly, it was a slam dunk for receiving our Hot Product Award, and may well be the best projector value in the low end of the market.
Epson Powerlite S5 Key Points
- Extremely bright
- Rich saturated, accurate colors
- Great warranty
- Very good, overall design
- Lacks zoom lens
- Aggressively priced at under $600
Ahh, it must be another year, for here we go again, with another review of Epson's entry level S series. This year we are up to th Powerlite S5 version. Previous models included the S1, S1+, S3, and S4. In each case Epson has produced a solid performing portable, SVGA projector.
The Epson S5 is no exception. Although it looks the same as the Epson S4, it is about a pound lighter than the last generation. Most notably, it is significantly brighter.
Once more, Epson has produced an affordable projector that actually, dramatically exceeds its brightness specifications. This, in a world, where most projectors tested, typically come up short of their claims when tested.
Epson has introduced a new smaller remote control for the Powerlite S5. If you like compact, you may like this remote, but personally, I think this time Epson replaced a very nice remote, with one not quite as user friendly, but more on that later. Picture quality, is excellent, and I will go over that in-depth a little later.
With almost all computers except many in schools (K-12), having XGA resolution or higher, the Epson S5's SVGA resolution is going to be a little lower than your source. The Epson S5 will compress data to handle it, but, of course, smaller type and objects will suffer from the compression. This will be discussed more in the Image Quality section. The point I want to make, though, is that, the S5 is entry level. As such most potential buyers out there should be looking to spend a bit more on a higher resolution projector, with XGA resolution, or perhaps a widescreen projector if you are using widescreen laptops, etc.
On the other hand, for those on a really limited budget, the Epson will do about as good a job as any SVGA projector around when working with the typical higher resolution sources. Still, the bulk of the S5's sold will go into schools, and small businesses on really tight budgets. Consider that it's been at least 5 years since anyone has bothered to build a mainstream SVGA computer.
Before we get started with a tour of the Epson Powerlite S5, here are some basic specs: For additional specs, and a downloadable brochure, click here.
Epson Powerlite S5 Basic Specs:
Native Resolution: SVGA (800x600)
Brightness: 2000 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: None, but electronic zoom out with a 1.35:1 ratio
Lens shift: None
Lamp life: 3000 hours (high brightness), 4000 hours (low brightness)
Weight: 5.7 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years Parts and Labor, with overnight replacement program, both years
View full specifications here: S5
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Epson Powerlite S5 Projector - Physical Tour
Looking at the Powerlite S5 from the front. the recessed non-zoom lens is positioned near the right side of the projector. Epson has been using standard lenses without zoom for several years on the S series, to keep the cost of these entry level projectors down. As a tradeoff, though Epson provides digital zooming in and out, which I'll cover below. A sliding door can cover the entire lens as a video mute, or to protect it when moving the projector. Below the lens, even further to the right, is the front infra-red sensor for the remote. Below the lens to the left, but not quite in the center, is a button to release the drop down front foot, which can be controlled by the button, or by turning it for fine tuning the amount of adjustment.
Moving to the top of the Epson Powerlite S5 projector, you will find an extensive control panel, and three indicator lights.
Looking at the top from the back (so we can read the labels), on the left most side is the power button, it's power indicator light and the other two "idiot lights" one for Lamp, and one for Temperature. Different flashing patterns tell you different things, as the manual explains.
Moving to the right, next comes the Source Search button. Now, the Epson S5, like most projectors gives you a choice in the menus, of auto search, where the S5 will look and lock on to the first active source it sees, or manual, where you select the source from this button, or the remote.
Further to the right we get into the heart of the S5 control panel . A Menu button, four arrow buttons, with a center button for Enter, and an Escape button for moving backwards (upward) in the menus.
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Of significant note, the left and right arrow buttons are labeled Wide and Tele, and this deals with the Epson's digital zoom in and out. Unlike many projectors which allow you to digitally zoom in, magnifying one area of the screen, the Epson S5 allows you to zoom in or out, duplicating the effects of a zoom lens. In fact, the zoom throw ratio, is 1.3:1 slightly larger than the 1.2:1 most typical on smaller projectors. There is a price to pay, the projector is essentially using compression type technology to make the image smaller, so there is some degradation in image quality as you move to telephoto. More on that in the image quality section.
Not to be forgotten, is the right most button: Help. Epson provides interactive help, which I have always been impressed with. Having an issue, just ask help. If, for example, you look up color, it will take you right to the color controls, so you don't have to navigate through the menus. The number of areas it addresses is reasonable but could be further expanded, meantime, nice feature.
The last thing to note, on the top of the Epson S5, is the lamp door. Yes, the S5 has the door on the top, with a screw to release it on the back by the top. (On the image to the right, you can see most of the gray door, with all the text on it.) This is a huge plus for those who will be ceiling mounting the S5. Ceiling installations are a huge market for this projector, as the S5 is extremely popular with K-12 schools, as one of the very best solutions for putting low cost projectors in every room.
OK, time to consider the input panel located on the back of the Powerlite S5. Nothing really special here, but the Epson S5 has all the standard inputs. From left to right: First, is the rear infra-red sensor, followed by a USB port. Then comes the low res video - S-video, and composite video jacks. Next up are the left and right audio inputs, and then, of course, the computer input. The S5 has only one computer input, but also has a monitor output, for all those using it with a desktop PC, and not a laptop.
Of course there is also the powercord recepticle, and also a serious anti-theft bar, for chaining down the projector. Afterall, stealing projectors from schools is a very big business, has been for years.
On the bottom of the projector, at the back, are two more feet, for a stable 3 point stance when using the Powerlite S5 on a table. Very nicely, one of the two rear feet is screw thread adjustable, making it easy to get a level image even when the projector is on a non-level surface.
OK that covers the hardware, except for the remote, which is discussed in the General Performance area. Time to consider the Epson Powerlite S5's overall image quality.