Projector Reviews

Acer S1386WHN Short Throw Projector Review – Picture and Sound Quality

Acer S1386WHN Short Throw Projector Review – Picture and Audio Quality: Color Modes, Video Image Quality, Text and Presentation Quality, Audio Quality

Color Modes

The Acer S1386WHN is a DLP projector. While I greatly prefer the accuracy of color found on 3LCD projectors, DLPs certainly have their place. DLPs are generally known for “rainbow effect,” in which an observer sees vertical red, blue and green lines – this affects only a very small portion (5%-ish) of the population, but for some who are extra sensitive, it can be disorienting. I am somewhat rainbow sensitive (not as bad as Art!), and found some scenes, but not all, to be disorienting if I was walking past the projector.

Other deficiencies of DLP are found in color, especially when it comes to reds and yellows, with reds appearing more as a “wine” red or maroon, and yellows resembling the mustard found on a hotdog. These deficiencies are readily apparent with this Acer in certain color modes, but that is to be expected.

There are some decent image enhancement options which we discussed on the Special Features page, as well as three customizable User color modes. These three User Modes are based off the preset color modes (and the other two User modes) and allow adjustments to Brightness, Contrast, Gamma, R/G/B Gain through the Color Temperature sub-menu. The Acer S1386WHN offers five color modes, consisting of Bright, Presentation, Standard, Video, and Education. As mentioned above, there are also three User Modes, which we did not photograph as they are subject to the configuration of the individual user.

We’ll start with the first mode on the Color Mode list – Bright – which is the brightest mode available on this projector. This is the typical sickly yellow-green “bright” mode you find on most projectors in the business and education market; this is what we refer to as the “Emergency! Break Glass” mode because, unless your venue has high ambient light, this mode should be avoided as it will distort color to such a high degree. Bright Mode, in ECO Mode, offers equally icky color, just dimmer.

Presentation mode offers decent color, but with a cooler temperature. Standard and Video offer some really good color for this price point, with skin tones looking quite lifelike, yellows that look yellow and reds that look redder than I would have expected. If anything, Video Mode seems a little cooler in temperature than Standard mode, but no complaints for either of those two modes.

The final mode is Education, which is geared toward classroom content and provides good color, but at a little warmer a color temperature than Standard or Video. I definitely favor this Education Mode over Presentation Mode for presentations and graphics. In fact, the photos I took of video content were projected in Video Mode, and the Text and Presentation photos were taken in Education Mode.

Video Image Quality

As I mentioned above, the Video Image Quality photos were taken of content projected in Video Mode. I really enjoyed Journey to Space, as the images were respectably sharp. Colors were vivid and bright. It is expected that a WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution projector would have good picture quality, as WXGA is the business and education world’s 720p, and the S1386WHN does not disappoint. With this review, I have started including a shot from Journey to Space that shows the Orion Spacecraft Instrumentation Displays, which were crystal clear as they appeared on my 90-inch screen.

Skin tones look decent in Bill Nye Saves the World, and there seems to be decent detail in the shadows near the back wall of his set. The color seen on this show was vibrant and enjoyable.  Overall, I think the Acer S1386WHN short-throw projector does a good job when it comes to video image quality.

Text and Presentation Quality

I really like how sharp and clear text appears when projected by the Acer S1386WHN. At a distance of 12 ft from the screen, I was easily able to read 8pt text, and at a distance of 20ft I found 10pt text plenty clear. The above photos were taken at a distance of 12 ft.

Obviously larger fonts will be used in presentations, but that’s how well this Acer performs.   The photos above were taken in Education Mode, which I like better than Presentation Mode – the color is better, being a little warmer than even Video Mode. It’s also more than 100 lumens brighter than Presentation Mode, but we’ll talk about that on the Performance Page.

Audio Quality

I find that as we explore different projectors across the many manufactures serving the business and education markets, there are vast differences in audio levels compared to the power of the speaker. I find that interesting because you would expect a 3-watt speaker to be louder than a 1-watt, but it all depends on the implementation.

The Acer S1386WHN has a single 16-watt speaker built in to the side of the projector. While audio is decent quality and plenty loud enough for the boardroom, conference room, and mid-sized K-12 classroom, I had hoped for more considering it is a 16-watt speaker. Of course, there is no real bass, but that is to be expected. As I write this, the kids are down the hall watching Coco, and while I can tell that Miguel is speaking, I cannot understand what he is saying.

I recently reviewed a pocket projector with twin 3-watt speakers – it was much, much louder than this Acer. There seems to be no rhyme-or-reason to sound levels not corresponding to speaker power. Anyway, back to this Acer. Fortunately, many classrooms and conference rooms have a decent audio system installed into the room itself, and this projector offers a 3.5mm MiniJack Audio Out port to connect to that system.

Next up, we dive into the performance of this projector in terms of brightness, contrast and just low loud is that fan?