Projector Reviews

Optoma ZW300UST Projector Review – Performance

Optoma ZW300UST Projector Review – Performance: Brightness, Contrast, Audible Noise

ZW300UST Brightness

Optoma ZW300UST Brightness
 Color Mode  Lumens
 Bright  3,475
 PC  3,120
 Movie  3,134
 Game  3,017
 Blending  3,216

The Optoma ZW300UST, as mentioned on the first page of this review, came in over claim in terms of brightness! I get excited when this happens, as it happens on less than half of the projectors we review. Most projectors will measure between 20% below claim and 5% over. Not this projector, though. Claiming 3,200 lumens in its brightest mode, the ZW300UST’s Bright Mode measured at 3,475 lumens, more than 5% over!

I just finished reviewing the Epson PowerLite 680, which claims 3,500 lumens (that one measured below claim, by the way, at 3,299), and I had thought that projector was bright. When I powered the Epson on, it illuminated my entire, fully darkened living room like it was day. Same thing happened with the Optoma, only more so. This projector is more than capable of handling tons of ambient light, so if you’re dealing with a room that has virtually zero control over lighting, the ZW300UST may be one for you to consider heavily.

It is always helpful to compare a reviewed projector to similar projectors in its class, and I have one in particular in mind. The Casio XJ-UT351WN is an ultra-short throw, with a hybrid LED/laser light engine, 3,500-lumen claim and an MSRP of $3,199, and can also be found for around $1,700 online. Same rated lamp life, same warranty, and both have WXGA resolution.

The ZW300UST has a contrast ratio of 22,000:1, whereas the Casio has a ratio of 20,000:1. That’s an insignificant difference, we focus more on how the blacks look, than the claimed spec. However, there is more significant difference in the two projectors is in measured brightness. The Optoma, as you know, came in over its 3,200 lumen claim at 3,475. The Casio measured under claim at 2,920 in its brightest mode.

Now, meeting those specs is only really important for those who need the extra lumens to combat some serious ambient light. That Casio still did pretty well in dealing with lots of light spilling in from the window, although dark scenes did not tend to fair well. By comparison, the Optoma can handle that ambient light and still keep a measure of decent black levels in the process. Score one for the ZW300UST.

The Epson PowerLite 675W or 685W, brothers to that Epson PowerLite 680 we talked about earlier, could potentially be a contender against the Optoma ZW300UST. Also an ultra-short throw and WXGA resolution, those Epsons are lamp-based projectors, with a rated lamp life of 5,000 hours at full power, and an MSRP of $1,190 (675W) and $1,390 (685W). Both have PC free presenting, just like the Optoma, and can be used with interactive whiteboards. The Optoma does not have that feature.

People will often ask, “What is the best projector?” The question they should be asking is, “Which projector is best for my needs?” In the business and education world, what is right for one school or business may not be right for another. Before getting really deep into your search, ask yourself what features you require for your applications.

Do you have a screen installed already? Does it have a 4:3 aspect ratio (square-ish) or 16:9/16:10 (widescreen)? What kind of networking capabilities do you need – wired LAN, wireless LAN, or both? Do you need a really bright projector to cut through uncontrollable ambient light? Do you require PC-free presenting capabilities? Knowing the answers to these questions will make your search easier, and you’ll be able to skim features on projectors to narrow down your choices.

We just published our 2017-2018 Classroom Projectors Report, which details 15 projectors from different series, representing 8 manufacturers. The report provides an overview of each projector reviewed this year, and their awards, which makes it incredibly easy for educators to choose the projector that is right for them. In the report, there is a page that contains a chart showing all of the specs for each projector reviewed. Being able to see the specs for all those projectors in one place allows you to compare, and then read the review of the projector that very well may be your next purchase.

Alright, back to the performance of the Optoma ZW300UST. Bright Mode, as discussed, measured above claim at 3,475 lumens. With tons of ambient light spilling in at the brightest time of the day, Bright Mode produced enough brightness to cut through and produce a reasonably good image, like an LCD TV during the day. Now, the colors did become a bit faded, especially on dark scenes, but that’s typical. In fact, typical would be to lose most of your ability to differentiate between shapes and colors, so this projector is better than typical at handling ambient light when in Bright Mode, even on those dark scenes.

PC Mode would be best used when projecting from a PC, and measured at 3,120 lumens. That’s not even the second brightest mode, and it’s still plenty bright to cut through all that ambient light! Presentations, text and graphics are all still readable even when lighting control is minimal. The next mode, Movie Mode, is its best mode in terms of color, and produces 3,134 lumens. Game Mode measured at 3,017 lumens.

 

The final mode on the ZW300UST is Blending Mode, which is the second brightest mode at 3,216. If you need all of the brightness you can get, Bright Mode is your best bet, as you will not be sacrificing color. With Blending Mode, you’re losing over 200 lumens and getting less-than-stellar color in the process. Should you have a room with a lot of ambient light, Bright Mode is your best bet. All the modes measured above 3,000 lumens, which is pretty great. In all the projector reviews I’ve done so far, none of them measured so close to claim in all modes. Great job, Optoma.

 

Contrast

The Optoma, being a DLP with a laser light engine will have (mostly due to the DLP tech) higher native contrast than, say a 3LCD projector.  If you need to fully darken your room, and need maximum contrast, then DLP has the advantage, but in most environments, let’s just say that the Optoma has good contrast and good black level performance.

The ZW300UST, as such, is very competitive with other projectors in its class. Though not home theater quality, the black levels of this projector could rival many home entertainment projectors. In a fully darkened room, blacks are pretty black, and you don’t lose too much of that when dealing with ambient light. In fact, this projector is one of the best I’ve seen so far at keeping blacks – well, black – in the presence of ambient light. That’s excellent, as you will be unlikely to be using this projector in a fully darkened room.

ZW300UST Audible Noise

The rated audible noise level of the Optoma ZW300UST is 32db. That’s still got a hum to it, but is still fairly quiet. You can definitely hear it, but no more than any computer with a fan. It is certainly not distracting, nor will it drown out a presenter’s voice by any means. Also, as it is an ultra-short throw, the projector will be in the front of the room, right up against the screen. As such, the projector will be behind you, so you’ll be presenting well in front of it and won’t be competing with the fan for who gets to talk loudest.

Even if the projector was a short throw and you had to present from behind, you wouldn’t have any problems speaking above the hum. I believe you will find the audible noise to be acceptable and, perhaps, even unnoticeable when you are presenting. I certainly barely noticed it with no sound on, and definitely couldn’t hear when sound was coming from the speakers.