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Epson BrightLink 585Wi Projector Review - Summary

Posted on May 15, 2014 by Art Feierman

Best In Classroom: Ultra Short Throw Projector

In addition to winning our Hot Product award, the Brightlink 585Wi earned one of our top award in this year's education report.

That award is  for best ultra short throw projector.  We really didn't have a selection of interactive projectors to give out a specific award for interactivity in this year's report, but it should be noted, that it's predecessor - the Brightlink 485Wi (they look virtually identical) did win that Best In Classroom: Interactive Projector last year.

Overall, the Brightlink 585Wi proved to perform at least admirably in virtually every area we consider when reviewing.  As mentioned elsewhere in this review, we do not test wired networking.  That said, as this Epson and its siblings are certified as compatible with Crestron control systems, that pretty much guarantees that these Epson projectors will work well in sophisticated networking environments with advanced features.  That is ideal for a school district or university, where dozens, or even hundreds of these projectors might be installed.  Since I started this conversation mentioning networking, I'll mention now, that the wireless networking configured simply, and I had no trouble communicating with the projector on several levels using Wifi.

Key areas we consider important, and summaries below:  Picture Quality, Performance - including brightness and sharpness, Feature set, Ease of operation (remote control, menus and navigation), Warranty and support, and the Value Proposition.

Click Image to Enlarge

Picture Quality

The images above were all taken using Epson's Presentation mode - its second brightest mode with almost 3000 usable lumens. You'll have to admit, color is especially good, considering it's almost at maximum power.  Some projectors, make that many, when in their brightest modes, can look pretty bad.

Editor's note:  While viewing these images, be aware that the photos themselves are showing more than the browser window, or powerpoint window - the full size encompasses the tools.  Even so, these images were reduced to our usual 1000 pixel wide size.  The actual resolution of the projector is 1280x800 rather than 1000 by approximately 650 pixels.  That is, even if you have a high resolution display, the photos themselves have only about 60% the resolution of the projector.

In other words, the projected image is much sharper than what you are seeing on your screen.  To get a really good idea of how sharp, check out the closeup of a menu found on the Picture Quality page, or view the Sharpness section on the Performance pages.

So, back to color.  This Epson doesn't have a single color mode that doesn't look at least very good.  This means that you can have very good color even when fighting a healthy amount of ambient light, when competitors either compromise on color or on brightness.  Even skin tones, though they vary from mode to mode, still look at least acceptable in every mode.

Contrast, on the other hand, is typical 3LCD projector, which means not as good as DLP or LCoS designs.  Still, Epson managed to include a dynamic iris to help out a bit.  More to the point, in a classroom, this projector will likely never be used in full darkness, which is the only time a big difference in contrast ratios makes a real difference.  Call contrast a weakness, but not much of one.  Certainly not a deal breaker.


Brightlink 585Wi Feature Set

Well endowed would be a good description to start, but there are a few things missing.  Let's get those out of the way first.  This Epson does not offer 3D capabilities.  While there's great interest in the classroom for 3D, use is still very limited.  Still, if 3D is in your future, Epson does not have an ultra short throw projector for you.  Epson, I should mention, does offer their passive 3D W16SK projector, which would be worth a close look if 3D is something you need/want.

And it relies on pens for its interactive functions, you can't just use your finger tip.  OK, finger tip control is a new feature out there, I"m not sure if there are even a handful of projectors that can do at the screen touch control at this time.  I know Epson's slightly more expensive Brightlink 595Wi is touch or pen (up to 8 folks collaborating at once), but as this publishes, the 595Wi still hasn't shipped.

OK, there's also no zoom lens, but, ultra short throw projectors don't have zoom lenses.  They technically have no use for them.  Epson does give this projector digital zoom, however, a nice feature, if a bit different.  The digital zoom works well, and there's a photo showing the effect - with the zoom being controlled by Pen (or you can  use the menus).

What else doesn't it have?  Well, it runs on conventional lamps, not a 20,000 hour plus digital light source such as led projectors or laser projectors.   For most, though, that's just fine.  With the Epson lamps costing education users only $79, and lasting a claimed 4000 to 6000 hours depending on full or Eco mode, the cost to keep in lamps is only a few hundred dollars  to get to that 20,000 hour mark.  Considering that solid state light engines add roughly $500 to $2000 to a projector's cost, those  provide the  convenience of not having to change a lamp every few years, but lack the strong value proposition of a well priced lamp based projector.  Further, technology may make all these projectors obsolete if not used 40+ hours a week, before anyone gets near 10,000 hours, let alone 20,000.  Business users, you'll be paying about $200 each per lamp, but if you are using this projector even 20 hours a week, it will be 4 years before its time to change the lamp for the first time (if only using full power).

Two pens are included, and, of course, a remote control.  This projector is built to interface - with the world.  there are iOS and Android iPresentation apps from Epson to allow you to use your iPad or favorite other mobile device to present or to interact.  (Mimio also offers up an App.)  And the projector can present off of USB or Wifi, as well as HDMI, component video, composite, S-video and analog computer.  Of note is that one of the two HDMI ports supports MHL (discussed in special features section). With MHL you can interface with a variety of mobile devices which include Roku sticks, a few Android tablets, some cameras and a lot more coming.  The last of these three images shows the projector with the cable cover installed.

I'm quickly running out of missing features, and I still haven't come up with any (other than 3D) that might cause anyone to skip this projector in favor of another.

Some of the other features and strengths include a healthy range of supporting software to enhance interactive functions.  Most recently - this week - Epson announced another software partnership, this time with Mimio who has been making interactive hardware and software for at least a decade.  Smart makes compatible software, as do TeamBoard and RM.

The projector can project up to four computers at once (four quadrants).  It definitely has been designed to support today's BYOD.  Of course as a projector geared for the education market among others, it has Closed Captioning.  There are even some built in templates so you can project grids, to keep things neat.


Brightlink = Bright Projector

Although measuring brightness of ultra short throw projectors can be a challenge, we're satisfied that this Brightlink produces just about the 3300 claimed white, and color lumens.  Best still, as mentioned, even the brightest modes have impressive color, so no need to sacrifice 1/3 or 1/2 of brightness just to have a good looking picture.  Choose your mode, modify it if you feel you need to, but mostly they should all be useable. Drop into Eco mode to increase the claimed lamp life from 4000 to 6000 hours.  It will reduce the projector noise at the same time, but the Epson at full power is still reasonably quiet for a business/education projector.

The Bottom LIne: Epson Brightlink 585Wi

We have here a well endowed projector that performs extremely well, bright, great picture, lots of networking and interactivity, BYOD and more.

What about the value proposition?  That too, is most impressive.  You always pay a hefty premium for ultra short throw, but that comes with benefits, especially for an interactive projector.

Official pricing for the Epson Brightlink 585Wi is $2199, however, for Education buyers, the Brighter Futures price in the US is $1599.  That's rather hefty educational discount.   Business buyers, you'll probably get a break on price from your favorite dealer, but it won't be that good.  Educators:  The $79 replacement lamp cost keeps cost of operation way down.

Now mind you we gave this Epson an award for being the best Ultra Short throw projector in this year's education projector report, but not everyone needing an ultra short throw projector needs this level of interactivity.  Just to let you know, there's a Brightlink 585W (no "i") without the bulk of the interactivity (still will work with the iOS and Android apps, basic remote mousing, etc.)  That projector by comparison is $1499, and less for schools.   Love the 585Wi, but tight on budget, you can save $200 by going with the virtually identical 575Wi which isn't quite as bright at 2700 lumens.   That will save you $200.  For a school you can equip 8 classrooms with  575Wi's for a price of equipping 7 with the 585wi.  Of course, you can never really have too bright a projector!

On the other hand, what if you have the big bucks and want an even better projector than the Brightlink 585Wi?   No problem, consider the Brightlink 595Wi, with all the same bells and whistles but supports touch interactivity and up to 8 users at once!  It's $200 more (business or educational pricing), for even better interactivity.

Bottom line:  I don't think there's an interactive ultra short throw projector that can hold its own with the 585Wi.  I've seen equally impressive interactivity elsewhere, but not part of an ultra short throw projector, and one that comes even close in color, sharpness or some other key areas that this Epson excels at.  Only one complaint, when all is told and that would be that I have to like the touch control of the 595Wi, even better.  So know that there is one better projector out there!



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