Casio XJ-UT351WN Projector Review – Picture and Sound Quality

Casio XJ-UT351WN Projector Review – Picture and Sound Quality: Color Modes, Video Picture Quality, Text and Presentation Quality, Sound Quality

XJ-UT351WN Color Modes

The Casio XJ-UT351WN has five color modes, all of which performed very well out of the box. I was even surprised by the projector’s “Standard mode,” its brightest mode, as it went above my expectations for bright modes. Typically, you will see a high amount of green and yellow tints, but this projector only had a slight variance toward that part of the color spectrum. Good job on Casio’s part. Standard mode will be plenty bright and natural looking enough for business and classroom presentations where there is a need to overcome ambient light, and in situations where color accuracy is of low priority.

The Graphics mode’s color performs better than Standard’s in that it is more natural looking. I did notice some overt yellow and green hues, but the main thing this mode does is turn whites a soft magenta color, and generally makes skin tones more magenta-tinged. It’s certainly a useable mode, with high brightness, which will be acceptable for presentations in the business and education settings. Graphics mode is the third brightest mode this projector has to offer.

Theater mode is by far the best mode. It has the most accurate color of them all and is great for skin tones and viewing movies. In some scenes, there was a tendency for orange-hued skin tones to look a tad yellow, which you can’t really make out in the photos. Still, the color looked the most natural in this mode. Though not as good as a home theater projector in the same price range, this mode will be most useful when viewing movies in the classroom, online videos, and presentations where color accuracy is important. This mode is the second dimmest mode but was still bright enough to handle the ambient light coming through the sides of my closed blinds.

The XJ-UT351WN has a mode called Blackboard mode, which is intended for projecting an image onto a blackboard. I do not own a blackboard, nor do I know any schools that still use such an outdated method, so this mode wasn’t tested on the material for which it was intended. That said, this mode had the lowest brightness of them all, and on my white screen, it had a blue/magenta tint to it. This mode would be my last choice to use, being the dimmest, and may only truly be useful when projected on a blackboard. With so many other great color modes to choose from, it’s likely you’ll land on one that is your favorite and completely forget the rest.

The last and second brightest mode is the Natural mode. The color leans a little toward the same look as Standard mode, though it is noticeably toned down. This is the second best mode, and would be useful if you need a mode that is brighter than Theater but has good color accuracy. If your business or classroom presentation requires high brightness and good color, this is the mode for you. All of the modes are shown in the slider above. The camera didn’t quite capture the color I observed in person but came pretty close. Overall, the XJ-UT351WN has great color accuracy and I have no doubt that you will find a mode that works best for your conference room or classroom lighting and needs.

XJ-UT351WN Video Quality

The images above were taken in Theater mode, which easily has the best all-around color. The images may look a bit different on your computer monitor, and some of these images have a yellow-green tinge which was not present when viewing in person. That said, the color was great, though, in some scenes, greens tended to be a bit on the yellow side, skin tones were a bit off, and there was an over-saturation of reds and yellows. This wasn’t in every scene, and was largely due to the color correction in the films I was viewing. It wouldn’t bother a classroom full of students who are just happy they’re watching a movie at all. What really caught my attention was image noise.

The amount of image noise seemed to be directly linked to how much film grain was in the footage of the movie being projected. That much seems obvious, but the image noise combined with the film grain made the images look, well, super grainy. Like the filmmakers were using low-quality equipment or trying to shoot a scene with poor lighting. Modern films sometimes take a bit of creative license by including footage with a lot of film grain, such as is the case with The Hunger Games. Some scenes in that film, projected by the Casio, were a little hard to bear for me as a filmmaker. In film school, if our footage looked like that film does projected on the XJ-UT351WN, we would be told to go reshoot it immediately. But then, we’d normally be using more of a home theater class projector, where the emphasis is on great color and image performance.

Again, this isn’t on every scene, nor will it happen with every movie. I found the image noise to be acceptable in bright scenes, but more noticeable in dark scenes. For perspective, consider that despite my criticisms, the video handling on bright scenes is typically rather excellent for projectors of this class; enough to more than offset the slight extra image noise. The video quality of this projector will be good enough for the classroom, especially if you are teaching pre-teens and teenagers who are barely awake anyway. In the conference room we’ll hope everyone is attentive, but either way, the Casio UT351WN will do a very respectable job. That background “live noise” is called mosquito noise, which is noticeably more visible on DLP’s than LCD or LCoS projectors. I did not notice it on anything other than movies, which is not something this projector is likely to be used for regularly. There didn’t appear to be much image noise at all.

Also worth mentioning is the pixel size. This is a WXGA projector (1280×800) so that the people nearest to the screen will likely make out pixel structures in any text, and off-angle lines. That’s just fine. It will all be perfectly readable, down to extremely small type. We’re starting to see a shift now to higher resolution WUXGA (or 1080p) projectors for classroom or business use, but WXGA will remain the widescreen resolution of choice for the majority of projectors purchased, for at least the next couple/few years. No need to worry about obsolescence. I noticed those pixels most on the menu, and in solid colors like white. I’ve included a photo of the menu, which you saw on the previous page, for your reference.

Casio-XJ-UT351WN_Menu-Image-Adjustment-1
As you can see, particularly in the “Hulu” and “Netflix” graphics, the pixels are rather noticeable. Also, note that they are present in the menu and in the graphics above. These pixels are not noticeable when viewing video.

 

Text and Presentation Quality

The first thing I noticed about this projector was the sharpness of the text. I use the Playstation 4 menu to focus, as there is a lot of text to choose from. Focusing about a third of the way out from the center, I found fonts of all kinds and sizes to be very sharp indeed. Of course, the projector’s sharpness is limited by its native 1280 x 800 resolution, but the text is overall very readable in many different scenarios, and I would say the sharpness of this projector is one of its biggest selling points for the price and feature set.

Keep in mind this is a single chip DLP projector – no 3 panels (like with 3LCD) that are never in perfect alignment.  The inherent native sharpness of a single chip DLP is one of that technology’s key strengths.  It is limited only to the resolution, and the quality of the lens design.  In this price range you expect respectable lens quality, but it will still be below more expensive and higher resolution models.  That’s certainly fair!

In the slider above, you will find images that show the sharpness of several font sizes and text in presentations. Graphs, charts, and images within presentations looked as sharp as the text, so count that as a plus. This projector would be ideal for business and education platforms where there will be a lot of text projected on the screen, as those viewing will be able to read most text from the back of the room.

XJ-UT351WN Sound Quality

The speakers in the XJ-UT351WN are 16 watt, low fidelity speakers that can produce fairly loud sound but are lacking in a few ways (though perhaps ways that are not important to you). The high-end frequencies get distorted, even when lowering the volume, which hurt my ears – I was maybe five feet back from the projector. The speakers are loud enough to be used in larger conference rooms and classrooms without needing external speakers. That you can hook up better speakers through the RCA audio output is a major plus in my book, as I didn’t find the sound quality good enough to enjoy watching TV programming with this projector. Better Call Saul, which has stellar sound design, sounded like a made-for-TV movie in the nineties. Yuck.

Some applications call for a better grade of sound, but most won’t need it. If very high-quality sound is important, few business/education projectors will accomplish the goal effectively, which is when you use external speakers or a sound system. Granted, I’m a bit of an audiophile, perhaps even an audio snob, and great sound is important to me. Now this is significant: I spoke with a teacher about this speaker quality in his classroom, and he told me that most of his colleagues would not feel the need to use external speakers for their purposes (and it’s unlikely a school district would splurge unless it’s a very large room that most projector speakers can’t cover adequately). Even watching a movie, these teachers wouldn’t care, provided they’re loud enough.

That said, they’re plenty loud for a business or classroom setting, though they do not have any real bass (nor did we expect any), making the sound rather thin (contributing to the issue I had with the sound while watching Better Call Saul). The Casio will sound bit tinny, but nothing like real 3-5 lb portable projectors that have 1-2 watt speakers. For a presentation, video narration, or even some soft background music, the speakers are capable of handling a decent sized room.

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