Projector Reviews - General Performance
EP1690 Projector Menus
Pressing the Menu button the projector, brings up the Main Menu, shown here, on the right. The EP1690's menus are organized into 4 groups: Image Display, Setup and Options.
Selecting the Image menu launches the menu you see immediately below, which allows you to control most of the settings that image picture quality.
First of these is Mode, which we discussed in the Image Quality section. Here you can choose between Bright, Cinema, Bright, TV (which many projectors might label Video), sRGB, and User Defined.
Of course you'll find the usual Contrast, Brightness and Color (saturation). In addition there is a Tint control (only works from certain types of inputs, such as S-video, composite video..., Sharpness, and then there is the Advanced controls.
Here you can see the Mode selection menu, which appears close to the bottom of the screen when selected.
In the image below, you are looking at the Advanced sub-menu.
The Degamma setting adjusts the overall balance of the image in "brightness", without affecting the birghtest and darkest areas, so basically it allows you to lighten or darken the mid areas. For movie viewing you normally select the darker gammas, such as film.
Next comes Brilliant Color, Texas Instruments image algorthm, for increasing the dynamics of the image. In reality it affects a number of aspects of the picture. From a practical standpoint it makes the image stand out - with what appear to be richer colors, etc. For typical business settings, settings of 8-10 are desireable. For movies, and videos more in the range of 3 or 4 work best, otherwise the image becomes "over the top."
True Vivid is another enhancement feature, although I really didn't get to spend any time with it, and used the default 0 setting.
RGB Gain and Bias, shown here, let's you control the brighter and darker balance of Red Green and Blue, for calibrating the projector.
This is a common control on almost all home theater projectors and on most business projectors.
Moving right along, below is the main Display menu.
First is aspect ratio control, followed by digital zoom capability. There is a masking control as well, although I did not work with it. The Horizontal and Vertical Image shift are interesting tools. I'll describe the Vertical for you, to give you an idea of usage. Imagine you are viewing a movie, that is the typical 2.35:1 aspect ratio. On normal 16:9 projectors you expect to see the top and bottom (approximately) 10% of the image on the screen to be black - letterboxed. With image shift you can move the viewable area up or down, if you moved it up, you would end up with 0% at the top of the screen and about 20% at the bottom.
So, why do that? Let's say you have a motorized or pull-down screen which allows you to control how far down you drop the screen. You would be able to lower it only 80% of the way, so that the image would fill the entire visible part of the screen. Voila! No letterbox.
The Display menu also allows you to use keystone correction, to maintain a rectangular image, should your projector be positioned above or below the ideal placement, correcting the potential trapazoidal keystoning. Keystone correct degrades image quality slightly, using similar technologies to those used for compressing a higher resolution source.
The Setup Menu, controls menu language choices, type of projection (front, rear, table, ceiling mounting), and also a setting to toggle between 16:9 viewing and this DLP chip's slightly "taller" 16:10 aspect ratio that better matches today's widescreen laptops.
There is also the Volume control, and the ability to set a unique Projector ID for command and control of the EP1690's features from a computer.
Lastly is the Options Menu, shown here.
Some of the features allow you to determine where the menus will appear on the screen, Source Lock, which chooses between the projector, when powering up, comes up set to the same source as the last usage, or to allow it to scan through all sources, and lock onto the first one it finds. There's a high speed fan mode for high altitude use, to keep the projector running cool, and An Auto Power Off, which lets you set a time for the projector to turn off automatically, if there is no source, thus saving lamp life. This menu also has the manual control of lamp mote - Brite or Low Power, Lamp settings to reset the lamp counter when the lamp is replaced, and Security options. Lastly a projector Reset control returning the projector's settings to the default. That about covers the menus.
Next on our list to investigate is the Optoma EP1690's remote control.
The remote's controls are fairly typical of a well laid out business projector remote. I should start by pointing out that the EP1690 supports remote mousing, thus the large disk pad, and accompanying left and right mouse buttons.
At the top of the remote are Power controls, an A/V mute, and other short cut buttons, that allow you to do an Auto setup (re-sync), image Freeze, Keystone correction, Mode change, and aspect ratio change, without having to navigate through the entire menu system. Below the disk pad are digital zoom in and out, Page up and Page down buttons, and four arrow keys for navigation. You'll note that they also have numbers on those keys, and the rest of the 0-9 numerics are below. You use the numbers for setting Projector ID, and possibly (didn't work with it) security features.
Below the arrow keys are the Menu button a Clear button (escape), and Enter. If you are not in the Menu system, those buttons and those below directly select different sources (VGA, S-video, etc.) The Clear button doubles to toggle off/on the Source lock mentioned about.
Overall, an excellent menu, and it offered better range than many remotes (especially the remotes with some other Optoma's I have tested, which had very limited range (barely 20 feet).
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Optoma EP1690 Manual
At this point, I'd like to comment on the EP1690's manual, just to say, it is one of the more impressive manuals I've read through lately. Easy to understand, and very well laid out, with plenty of good graphics. It could stand a little more detail relating to the "why's" of some of the controls, especially for those wanting to tweak image performance, but overall, one of the best manuals I've seen this year.
Lens Throw and Lens Shift
Lens shift is easy - the Optoma EP1690 does not have variable vertical nor horizontal lens shift. The built in lens shift places the projector below the bottom of the screen to get the ideal rectangular image on the screen. The amount of offset is more than most. I assume, since it uses the same layout as the home theater HD72, that for a 100" 16:9 screen, the center of the lens is going to be almost 17" below the bottom of the screen surface, and around 15 inches if you are working with a 16:10 image instead of 16:9.
The lens throw is about average for a business projector (though some would call say it has a short throw lens, but since most projectors have moved toward shorter throw lenses in the last few years, I'd say the EP1690 is fairly typical. To fill that 100" 16:9 screen, the closest you can position the projector (measured from front of the lens) is from approximately 11.24 feet or you can place it as far back as 13.5 feet. The manual has a nice chart and data table - great for computing the screen size based on distance, but not as friendly if you know your screen diagonal and need distances, as I did.
Audible Noise Levels
The EP1690 is a pretty quiet projector as a business projector. In full power (Bright mode), noise is more typical of home theater projectors than business ones. Even in a small room, you should find the noise level to be fine. In low power modes it quiets down further, not as good as the best home theater models, but more than acceptable for almost all movie type viewing. Officially Optoma claims 30 db at full power and 27 at low. If I had to guess (I do not have the tools to measure, I would believe the 27 db rating, but the noise difference between the two modes is definitely more than 3db, so I'd make that guess around 33 db, still very acceptable. To give you an idea, the Panasonic LB60 business projector claims about 36 db in full power, and the Epson Powerlite 760, a whopping, and noisy 41 db.
The bottom line on noise: Performance is excellent, in both modes as a business projector, and more than adequate as a projector used in the home. Very impressive!
Optoma EP1690 Lamp Life
Anyone care to guess? Unlike Sanyo, who never publishes lamp life specs, Optoma does. The problem here is conflicting information. On the Optoma Datasheet it only says 2500 lumens in Eco-mode (low power) and doesn't list a full-power rating (not uncommon). The problem is, that in the manual, it says 2000 hours in full power, and 3000 hours in Eco-mode.
I emailed the product manager at Optoma (right before the Labor Day weekend started)for clarification, but have not heard back yet. I will presume the 2000/3000 hour spec because it lines up with the other projectors Optoma has using this chasis, lens, and lamp.
Time for warranty information.