Optoma EP1690 Widescreen Projector Review - Overview
9/3/2006 - Art Feierman
I waited and waited to get my hands on an EP1690 for review. I'm a big fan of the concept that, the time of widescreen portable projectors has come for the business and education community. In addition, I realize that on the home theater side of the industry, there are lots of potential projector buyers out there who can't fully, or sufficiently darken their viewing room, and that means the typical home theater projector just won't be bright enough.
I had hoped to include the EP1690 in the recent business projector comparison review, but couldn't get one out of Optoma, so subsituted the Mitsubishi HD4000, a competing product, that, by nature of its similarities will be mentioned a number of times. Finally an Optoma dealer - Projection Guys, lent me one for several days, so that I could do this review. My thanks to them.
So, what is the EP1690? it's first and foremost a very bright, medium sized portable, widescreen projector. It's light enough and small enough to carry around frequently. Many may prefer something smaller and under 6 pounds, but, so far, there are no widescreen projectors that are significantly smaller and lighter than Optoma's EP1690 projector.
With a claimed 2500 lumens, it is also far brighter than the typical under $2000, or even under $5000 home theater projector, so we will look closely at using it as an alternative to dedicated home theater projectors in the home.
Let's do it.
Optoma EP1690: Basic Projector Specs:
Technology: Darkchip2 DLP projector
Native Resolution: WVGA 1280x768
Brightness: 2500 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.2:1
Lens shift: No
Lamp life: 2000 hours full power, 3000 in eco-mode
Weight: 7.0 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years
Physical Tour of the Optoma EP1690
Starting from the front, this silver finished Optoma offers a lens which is offset to the left side (if you are facing the projector). If you are mounting the projector, you'll need to take this into consideration (non-centered lenses are fairly common). To focus the projector, simply rotate the lens ring. There is an infra-red sensor for the remote control on the lower right of the front. Two adjustable feet are at the front bottom at the sides.
Moving to the top of the projector, you will see the zoom lens ring for the EP1690. It adjusts the zoom through it's 1.2:1 zoom range. With that ratio zoom, the placement range of the projector varies by only 20% from the closest, to the furthest it can be placed from any particular screen.
Running almost the full left to right ends of the Optoma's top, is the control panel, consisting of a series of skinny, but wide buttons, as seen below. Viewing the projector from the rear, you'll find the power switch toward the right side, with the Menu and Select buttons in the next pair, followed by the up/down arrow buttons (for menu navigation), and on the far right, Source selection, and "re-sync" to lock in on most signals if, for some reason the EP1690 didn't do a good job initially.
That takes us to the back, and the input panel of the EP1690 widescreen projector.
As you can see from the image below, the EP1690 is pretty well endowed. Starting from the right, is a DVI-D connector for handling digital sources, it is HDCP compliant. Below it, is the monitor out for supporting an external monitor (it's labeled VGA-out). Next up on the top row is a standard VGA computer input HD15 connector, and a second one below it. Both can also handle the international SCART connector with the adapter provided in the box with the Optoma projector. Both VGA inputs can accept a component video source instead of a computer.
There are a pair of audio inputs one for VGA1or the DVI, and one for VGA2. Optoma uses the standard stereo mini connector. Next comes the standard S-Video and composite video inputs and each of them have their own audio inputs.
As we get towards the far left, there is a stereo audio output for feeding the signal to powered external speakers, an RS-232 serial connector for "command and control", and finally a USB connector which relates primarily to the Optoma's remote mousing capabilities. (The power cord socket also is on the back!)
Lastly the projector vents out the side, with a large vent on the left side (viewing from the rear), that blows air out, and slightly forward, well away from the lens.
The Optoma EP1690 comes pretty well equipped when it comes to cables. You'll find a power cord, a vga computer cable, a USB cable, RS-232 cable, and a composite video cable. What I would have also liked to have seen in the box would be an adaptor from 3 RCA connectors to a VGA connector for people wanting to feed component video to the computer ports. (It's a lot harder to find component video cables with 3 RCA's on one end and VGA on the other, than the traditional three RCA connectors on both ends.
That pretty much covers the physical tour. I'll go over the remote, and the menus in the General Performance section of this review.
Time to discuss how the EP1690 performs in terms of image quality - as a widescreen XGA projector for business/education/etc., and as a bright home theater projector alternative.