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Epson BrightLink 696Ui Projector Review – Summary

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Art Feierman

The Bottom Line

The Epson Brightlink 696Ui is a higher-education classroom projector that was featured in our 2017-2018 Classroom Projector Report, where it won one of our top awards – Best in Classroom: Ultra Short Throw or Interactive Projector – Performance. This is a state-of-the-art interactive projector that is a definite improvement on its predecessor, the Epson Brightlink 595Wi.

With a higher resolution (WUXGA – 1920 x 1200 vs WXGA – 1280 x 800), and the ability to use two projectors at a time to create a ultra-wide screen with seamless interactivity, the 696Ui is quality. Even if you never used the interactive feature, this projector’s performance is well worth the MSRP.

This projector and its sibling, the 697Ui, are certified as compatible with Crestron control systems. That’s a great feature, as it means this Epson will perform will in the more sophisticated networking environments, such as school districts or universities, where dozens or hundreds of these projectors may be installed.

Speaking of schools, Epson offers huge education discounts on this projector and accessories through their Brighter Futures program. The program drops the price of the 696Ui by $700, bringing it down from $2,799 to $2,099. That’s a huge difference, especially when buying these in bulk. A replacement lamp is discounted at a mere $49.

The Epson Brightlink 696Ui is an 18.3 lbs, ultra short throw, interactive install projector that can be wall mounted or vertically mounted to create an interactive table top. That interactive image can be as small as 65 inches diagonally, to 100 inches diagonally. It has a decent rated lamp life of 5,000 hours in full power, 10,000 in Eco. That seems to be typical of Epson’s lamp-based business and education projectors and is competitive. The 696Ui has a contrast ratio of 16,000:1 and blacks are recognizable as black even in the face of ambient light.

The Brightlink 696Ui measured over its 3,800-lumen claim at 3,963. The projector can handle loads of ambient light, and has excellent color even in its brightest modes. It has a sharp image, even on small text when viewed from the back of the room. Presentations, documents, videos, TV, and film all look great in most modes, though you’ll find one you favor more than the others – mine are Cinema and Presentation. Its best modes are Cinema and sRGB, and Presentation when you want all the brightness with great color.

It has built-in networking support via an Ethernet port and a Wireless LAN option. That requires an optional module that must be purchased through Epson, as using third party products will void your warranty. Better stick to the brand. The projector is loaded with inputs and connectors – everything you’ll need for your higher education purposes and more. Connecting various video sources is easy with multiple inputs, including three HDMI ports and a Computer input, as well as a Video port – and you can even connect up to 50 devices across four sections at a time.

The projector has a great feature set, including interactivity. The interactive function is easy to use, and comes with Epson’s interactive software as well as a year’s subscription to SMART Notebook. That’s a real treat for teachers, as it allows you to create gamified lessons using templates. Those types of lessons stimulate students to become engaged in the subject, while appealing to every learning style.

The 696Ui has a digital zoom capability that digitally moves the optics from wide to telephoto, and when in “telephoto,” you can use Image Shift to shift the projector in four directions. The E-Zoom feature is digital zoom that punches into a the image to highlight something specific. The Warranty is good – 2 years parts and labor, 90 days on the lamp. Epson offers ExtraCare Road Service that runs alongside your 2 year warranty, and is a fail-safe for those road warriors out there. Get a replacement projector shipped to you anywhere in the United States. More on that in the Warranty section of the Special Features page. All in all, I was very impressed with the 696Ui!

Pros

  • Impressively Bright - 3,800 Lumen Claim (White and Color Lumens)
  • WUXGA Resolution (1920 x 1200 pixels)
  • 3LCD Technology
  • Impressive Interactive Capabilities – tools, pens, multi-finger touch sensor, support from third party interactive software programs as well as an interactive software program by Epson
  • DuoLink allows seemless interactivity between two adjacent BrightLink projectors, creating an interactive space spanning two screens
  • Split Screen capability
  • Wired and Wireless networking (optional Wireless Wi-Fi dongle required)
  • Crestron RoomView Ready and Control4 Compatible
  • Multi-Presenter Functionality
  • USB Plug-and-Play Presenting
  • Very sharp image with fantastic focus uniformity, especially for an ultra-short throw projector
  • Extensive selection of inputs and connectors
  • Excellent color, even in brightest modes
  • 16-Watt Mono speakers loud enough to use in small to medium/medium-large sized conference rooms or classrooms, with good audio quality
  • 2 Year Limited Warranty on Projector, 90 Days on Lamp, Excellent Support Programs
  • Excellent Education Program (Brighter Futures)

Cons

  • No EdgeBlending – this would have been a nice feature to use with the DuoLink function so that the two projectors would not have to be placed with such accuracy
  • Loud fan – 37db
  • Cannot sit on a table and use the interactive features – must be inverted or vertical.
  • Black levels are not so good, but this is trivial with a classroom projector (we’re more concerned about this in home theater projectors)
  • Cable cover is annoying because you have to unscrew two screws to get it off instead of an easy-release lever

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