Mitsubishi WD390U-EST Cloud Projector Review

Mitsubishi WD390U-EST Projector: Bottom Line

The Mitsubishi WD390U-EST projector is one of at least a couple hundred current model projectors that weigh in the six to ten pound range, can be used as portables or mountable projectors, and boasting 2000 to 3500 lumens.  These types of projectors are the mainstay of the commercial projector market (business, education, government, house of worship…).  In fact Mitsubishi alone offers more than 20 projectors, that fit that description.  That said, the WD390U has several attributes that make it fairly unique, especially its ability to present some files found on remote (and local) servers, and interactive control functions possible using iPads and the like.   While that encompasses a lot of “sexy” capabilities, one of the most striking features of the Mitsubishi is its lens based ultra-short throw design, that typically places it between about 20 and 40 inches from the screen.  (Placed at 39 inches – let’s call that 1 meter – from the screen, and you’ll have a 10 foot diagonal image!)

The short version is that I was most impressed with this Mitsubishi WD390U projector.  This “ultra-short throw” (or very short throw) projector, starts off as a very solid DLP projector that even without all its fancy “networking” related abilities, has to be considered a well thought out projector.  With the interesting mix of things that this “Cloud projector” can do in terms of presenting and controlling the presentations, the WD390U may not be totally unique, but it is far more capable that most other portable/small install projectors on the market.  It should be noted, that Mitsubishi is also releasing this month (April ’13) another projector with similar capabilities, but in its new LaserVue line with long life digital light source operation (instead of lamp).  We will be reviewing one of the new Laservue projectors this spring as well.

Sporting standard WXGA 1280×800 resolution, the WD390U should be a great projector in the classroom, conference room, training room type environments.  Having 3000 lumens provides it enough brightness to handle a fair amount of ambient light even on screens up to about 100″ diagonal, much larger if there is respectable lighting control.

Although this WD390U is not a traditional interactive projector using wands, it certainly has interactive capabilities.   You can, for example display content from your computer, and use an iPad, iPhone or (we did not test) an Android device, to control it. If you have software with any interactivity, such as the ability to annotate over a powerpoint slide, then that’s what appears on the projector.  It’s interactivity done differently.

What the WD390U can’t do interactively is save such annotations in a finished video clip, that might, for example be loaded onto the web so a student that missed the class can watch it later.   That’s not to say that software for your computer might not be able to capture that, but it’s not normally a relatively simple “record that” and save.

In the course of testing the WD390U I explored almost all of the network and interesting source connections except two.  Those were the USB Display, which is a common enough feature, and not complicated at all, and the standard analog inputs (instead using HDMI), because again, that’s pretty basic stuff.  Also did not use the composite video or S-video (haven’t in years, except for hooking up my Wii.)

But we did work successfully presenting from photos, spreadsheets, word documents and and other content from over a network (the cloud if that’s part of your network).  We were able to connect over wifi to control my MacBook Pro, using MirrorOp which comes with the projector software.  You can scale the image to appear in one of four windows when using LAN Display.  View four four computers at once, select and enlarge the one you want to look at.  That’s a good collaboration feature.  We never hooked up a second computer to see both at once, but we were able to effortlessly put the MacBook’s image in one corner or another then go back to full screen.

Complaints?  Only one really:  The WD390U is a typical DLP projector when it comes to color handling.  It’s low on color lumens and, more to the point, cannot reproduce really great reds and yellows except in its least bright modes.  Brightest modes are most affected.  In less bright modes such as Theatre, colors start looking rather good, but still not great.  That’s not to say the brighter modes are unacceptable, unless color accuracy is very important. Over all, in terms of color handling, I would say the WD390U is a little better than the average small business DLP projector.

Most impressive is the projector’s overall sharpness, quite often a noticeable limitation with other ultra short throw projectors.  In fairness, this projector doesn’t get quite as close to the screen as mirror based ultra-short projectors, but it has the sharpness advantage on all of the projectors with even shorter throws, including Epson’s ultra short throw Brightlink projectors, which we have found to have the best overall sharpness of the projectors that sit only a few inches from the screen.

Mitsubishi’s WD390U-EST in terms of standard projector operation and performance such as brightness, is a very good projector.  What makes the WD390U most interesting is both the “cloud” and network support for presenting documents and images and remote computers, and by offering a solution that allows you to control a computer from your iOS or Android device.  That last essentially gives the WD390U basic interactive abilities.  Not the least of the nice features is the almost ultra-short throw operation of the WD390U, that allows you to place the projector close, typically on a telescoping wall mount 2 to 3 feet from the screen wall, or a very close table.

All considered, although the WD390U is not an inexpensive projector, I have to still consider it a very capable projector with a strong value proposition!

Mitsubishi WD390U Projector: Pros

  • 3000 claimed lumens and produced 3112 in the projector’s brightest mode
  • Ultra short throw design allows wall mounting above a screen which typically saves real money compared to ceiling mounting
  • Plenty of brightness allows most users to run in “eco-mode” where Mitsubishi rates the lamp life at an exceptionally long 6000 hours.  In a very busy classroom setting where it might be used at 20 hours a week, 30 weeks a year, that’s 10 years!
  • For interactivity, the WD390U relies on devices like iPads, instead of wands/pointers/pens/remotes
  • Built in “thin-client”
    • Can present files from remote servers/the cloud
  • Can present from a computer that is remotely controlled by an iOS such as the iPad or iPhone, or Android devices
  • USB Display provides alternative to using analog computer, or HDMI signals for interfacing with PCs and Macs
  • Can present various documents on iOS devices (and Android – we did not test Android) supported by Wifi Docs app
  • A full suite of inputs and outputs making it capable of just about anything
  • Extremely sharp image for an “ultra short throw” projector, especially good in maintaining sharpness from center to edge
  • Good evenness of illumnation, which is typically a challenge for ultra-short throw projectors
  • Can produce a 100″ image from as close as 31 inches
  • Reasonably quiet projector, with a very reasonable 28db in “eco-mode”  Full power spec is 33 db, which puts it right down there with some of the home theater projectors
  • Good documentation (in addition to the User manual, there is also a user LAN manual as well)
  • Great 3 year warranty with 3 years of rapid replacement program

Mitsubishi WD390U Projector: Cons

  • Despite a rather complete set of cloud and tablet/phone based control that’s well thought out, getting all this to work still will require IT help
  • The total system still deals with different types of sources separately, for example you can put up one to four screens from different computers using LANDisplay, but you cannot have, for example, one screen from a computer using LAN Display, one from the Cloud/server, and one from perhaps an iPad using Wifi Docs, or a USB thumb drive.  Each are separate apps or applications that cannot work simultaneously Still, the WD390U has an impressive set of abilities, even if not integrated.
  • The WD390U is relatively expensive.  This isn’t really a “con” in terms of value.  Buyers are playing a good amount for all that special connectivity, and for its ultra-short throw design.  (Typical WXGA DLP designed projectors with 3000 lumens and similar form factors typically cost about half the price.  Mitsubishi themselves have otherwise similar projectors without those features for about half the price.  In fairness, pricing is in line with various other ultra-short throw projectorrs that sport some type of interactivity.
  • Colors could be better – typical single chip DLP related color handling, with less than great reds and yellows.  Typical may not be fair, better than average I would say, but not up to a typical LCD projector
  • Documentation – while good, could definitely be a bit better.  As a non-networking kind of guy, I spoke with Mitsubishi when I needed assistance getting all the LAN Display, and other advanced functions working.  More setup examples, and a detailed FAQ relating would be desireable.  Sometimes it’s just telling users what they can’t do, such as project the desktop or applications from an iPad wirelessly.
  • Remote is smallish, A bigger and backlit remote, with easier to read buttons would be better.

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