Projector Reviews

Epson PowerLite 680 Projector Review – Performance

Epson PowerLite 680 Projector Review – Performance: Brightness, Contrast, Audible Noise

PowerLite 680 Brightness

Epson PowerLite 680 Brightness
 Color Mode  Lumens
 Dynamic  3299
 Presentation  2683
 Cinema  2147
 sRGB  1798
 Blackboard  1636

The Epson PowerLite 680 claims 3,500 lumens, but it came in at 3,299 in its brightest mode, Dynamic Mode. That’s not bad. Most projectors will measure up to 25% below claim. Epson usually exceeds claim, so I was a bit surprised. We don’t work to squeeze every lumen out of the projector, so it is possible that there are a few more in there. Either way, the Epson PowerLite 680 is a very bright projector capable of handling tons of ambient light. When I first powered it on, as I mentioned earlier in this review, I was taken aback by just how bright it is, as it completely illuminated my darkened living room.

How a projector performs for the price is more important than whether or not it meets specs. So here’s some perspective: The LG MiniBeam PF1000, also an ultra-short throw, is a 1,000 lumen LED portable projector that can be found for $1,199 (street price). The LG has Bluetooth audio, online apps and a browser, Digital TV input, built-in ethernet and Wi-Fi, and a remote control with a pointer. The Epson PowerLite 680 has built-in ethernet and Wi-Fi, a remote with a pointer, Digital Zoom and Screen Shift, as well as software for presenting purposes. They have a somewhat similar feature set, but the Epson is way brighter than that LG PF1000 and sells for slightly less.

The Casio XJ-V110W is a WXGA resolution projector, claims 3,500 lumens, with a 20,000 hour LED light engine for $799. That one is a no-frills projector. It has two buttons on the control panel, which means to navigate the menu, you need that remote. Inputs and connectors are few – only an HDMI, VGA, audio input and output, and an RS232 serial port for command and control. If that’s all you need, then the Casio XJ-V110W can consider itself competition for the Epson PowerLite 680. The Epson, by comparison, has a stronger feature set, more inputs and connectors and a control panel you can use to navigate the menus, without the remote.

It is never a question of which projector is better or worse, but rather, which one fits best your needs. Before you buy your projector, ask yourself what features you absolutely need. Do you need a projector that is 4:3 (letterbox) or 16:9 (widescreen)? Do you require wired LAN, wireless LAN, or both? Does the room you will be using the projector in have a lot of ambient light? Once you know what you need, the search becomes much easier, as the sheer amount of projectors to choose from can be overwhelming.

I mentioned on the previous page that this projector has two others in its family – the PowerLite 675W and the PowerLite 685W. Both of those are WXGA resolution and have all the same features and hardware of the 680. If you’re looking for higher resolution and have a wider screen, consider those in your search for the right projector. Okay, now back to brightness.

Dynamic Mode, as mentioned, measured at 3,299 lumens. That’s plenty bright for classrooms and conference rooms where you have very little control over light. With the window wide open (my living room is very bright during the day), the Epson PowerLite 680 could cut through a lot of ambient light. Even dark scenes did pretty well, though they are, of course, faded with that kind of ambient light. Presentations, text, and video were all readable despite the window being open.

Presentation Mode is nearly as bright, at 2,683. Both Presentation and Dynamic do really well on color too, as you read in the Color Modes section of the previous page, so if you require these high brightness modes, you’re not going to be sacrificing a whole lot in terms of color. Cinema Mode, the best mode, is 2,147 lumens and that should even be enough for most conference rooms or classrooms with ambient light present.

sRGB Mode, at 1,798, is still pretty bright, and I would consider this to be the second best mode. For this mode, you may want to have some control over ambient light (the ability to dim the lights or draw shades if possible). It looks good on graphics and presentations, so consider this mode to be a good one in terms of both color and brightness. Blackboard Mode measured at 1,636, and will also be best used when you can control a bit of ambient light leaking in from outside. All of the color modes performed very well in terms of brightness and color, so whatever your needs are – there’s a mode for that.


The Epson PowerLite 680 has a 14,000:1 contrast ratio, which is better than some of its competition, but lower than others. For example, the $799 NEC NP-ME331W, (which received a Hot Product award in our 2017-2018 Classroom Projector Report – check that out to see how the 680 compares to other classroom projectors we reviewed this year), has a 6,000:1 contrast ratio. The Casio XJ-V110W discussed earlier has a 20,000:1 contrast ratio, and I’m seeing that this is pretty typical amongst a lot of projectors.

That said, I found black levels to be decent on the PowerLite 680, though perhaps not as good as competing DLP projectors. Black levels tend to be a strength of DLPs over LCDs. Blacks are still recognizable as black when some ambient light is present, which is a major plus as it is unlikely that you will be using the 680 in a fully darkened room (one can hope, though).


Audible Noise

The Epson PowerLite 680 claims an audible noise level of 35db at full power, 30db in Eco. The fan noise is barely noticeable when projecting presentations without sound, not really detectable at all when sound is present. The projector is quiet enough for the presenter to speak over without getting any interfering noise from the unit. It should not be distracting to those being presented to. I’m not very sensitive to this type of white noise, so unless I was really listening for it, I couldn’t hear it at all.