Posted on March 28, 2018 By Lyle Silverman
Epson PowerLite 990U Projector Review – Performance: Brightness, Contrast, Audible Noise
The Epson 990U combines impeccable brightness to go along with phenomenal colors thanks to Epson’s 3LCD technology that provides 3x higher color brightness than typical single chip DLP projectors. Even at the brightest possible setting, the Epson 990U manages some decent color while, as mentioned, the less bright modes are all at least very good!
Some highlights of note on the overall brightness performance before we get to the light readings. During the daytime with plenty of ambient light coming into my room, the lights in the room on full power, and in Eco Dynamic mode, the image was not washed out and visibility was strong. On Eco Presentation, the results were similar and with Cinema you might lose some visibility due to the lower brightness. Without a doubt, you can feel comfortable in most environments that you’ll have the brightness you need if you’re in Normal Dynamic mode. And if it’s not crazy bright in your room, you can switch on Eco mode, extend the lamp life, and still enjoy a bright, bold, and easy to read and see image.
For perspective it’s unlikely, that you could find a K-12 classroom that this Powerlite 990U won’t handle in Presentation mode, even with all the lights on. As a former teacher, depending on the classroom and the kids themselves, I know some that would choose to cut the room lighting back a bit to reduce ambient light to make the picture even better. And I know others that preferred as much ambient light as possible to keep those tired kids from falling asleep! I endorsed the latter so I appreciate all the lamp brightness that can be offered here.
Powerlite 990U Lamp Life
With regards to lamp life, the 990U claims to get 6,000 hours in Normal mode, an impressive amount of lamp life in full power mode! While in Eco mode, Epson claims to double the life of the bulb, giving you 12,000 hours. While you may never hit those total hours, the reality is if you can get close to 10,000 hours of lamp life out of this quality projector, these lamp hour numbers are tough to beat, short of spending bigger bucks on a projector with a laser light engine. Of course we only have a projector for perhaps 50-100 hours when we’re reviewing, so we have no way of verifying how long the lamps really do last. Still, most of these major companies have proved credible over the years.
I took the usual light measurements, and found some impressive results. In dynamic mode on the normal lamp setting, we clocked in at a very nice 3700 lumens, just under the manufacturer claim of 3800 lumens on the projector’s brightest setting. However, we do most measurements with the zoom lens set to the middle of its zoom range. That results in lower measurements. Projectors can lose up to 40% brightness going from full wide angle to telephoto, so we choose to provide a middle number. The one exception is that we also measure the brightest mode at full wide angle (closest and brightest). On Presentation mode, the 990U dropped down to 3000 lumens, still more than enough to project in any well-lit room with sunlight coming in. Cinema mode put out 2637 lumens and colors in this setting really do shine.
We also had sRGB measuring in at 2308 lumens. There’s also a Blackboard mode (although few will need it.) Blackboard completes our tour color mode measurements with 1795 lumens with the projector on Normal (full power) mode. Within each color mode, you can customize your contrast, brightness, etc… So just be aware of this if you make any adjustments.
The Epson 990U has a high native contrast ratio of 15,000:1 and while that is more or less just a number manufacturers like to brag about, it doesn’t always tell us the whole story. That said, the actual performance of this projector in action was very good. The Epson 990U performed pretty well in bright and dark scenes, providing a great deal of detail in its images and while you are not going to be receiving the wide range of blacks that you’d typically get from a home theater projector, you will be happy with the level of detail that is delivered to this projector.
Especially for its use in the classroom, boardroom, or on the go, you can be certain that at the very least, your audience will be impressed with the detailed, bright and colorful images, and sharp text that the 990U will capably put on your wall.
Epson claims 37db as the PowerLite 990U’s rated fan noise when the projector is operating at full power. I did not even think it was that loud, so much that I almost forgot frequently that I was in full power mode. In a classroom with kids talking, the noise won’t be an issue at all. In the boardroom, it’s not remotely loud enough for any professional adult to complain about nor would get it anyone’s way of hearing. Overall not exceptionally loud in full power mode, you should utilize this mode with no fear of overly loud projector fan noise.
In eco mode, the Epson 990U has a claim of 28db, which is pretty good. If for some reason the 37db above is just too much fan noise, switching to Eco mode on the 990U will instantly solve that problem. You should have no issue with the reduced brightness that comes from the switch to Eco mode but should the room have a lot of uncontrollable ambient light and it affects your viewing, the switch back to full power, as noted above, really isn’t that noisy to switch back to.
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