With busier schedules than ever, we can all agree on one thing: we have less time than ever, and we don't want to waste it waiting for someone to figure out how to use the office projector.
Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped plenty of offices from cheaping out in this regard, or not doing their research, and investing in headaches for years to come. It's a new year, though, and that's as good an excuse as any to review our favorite options for your office's projector unit.
1. Philips PicoPix PPX2055
Small yet perfectly formed
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 854 x 480 | Brightness: 55 lumens | Contrast ratio: 1000:1 | Projection distance: 0.5 m - 5.0 m | Video inputs: Mini USB 2.0 | Dimensions: 72 x 72 x 27mm
Sure, we've reviewed some portable projectors, and many in this roundup qualify as portable, but the Philips PicoPix PPX2055 is shockingly small. So small, that you wonder what use case demands it be that small, aside from it being able to easily fit into a your briefcase, or even a jacket pocket.
Philips has created a projector so small it could be used to surprise unsuspecting co-workers who were blissfully unaware that a meeting was in their future.
Selling for an affordable price, it features an easy setup and is able to project content only drawing power via USB. However, you'll need a pitch-black situation to get the 55 lumen-capable lighting to show an image your team can see. It also failed dramatically to hit its advertised projection size of 120" images, only hitting a still-respectable 50" mark. Also, if you're projecting video, which the device can handle (if not especially sharply) consider a secondary speaker to drown out audible noise coming from the spinning DLP wheel.
- Read our Philips PicoPix PPX2055 review
2. Epson EX7235 Pro
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1280 x 800 | Brightness: 3000 lumens | Contrast ratio: 10000:1 | Video inputs: Component Composite HDMI MHL S-Video USB | Dimensions: 9 x 3.1 x 11.7 inches
If your meetings are never in the same location often, you're going to want a no-nonsense projector that's easy to carry. For that, we can recommend the Epson EX7235 Pro. Weighing in at 5.29 pounds, and measuring 11.7" x 9.0" x 3.0" (W x D x H), it supports connecting via USB, WiFi, VGA, HDMI, or the mobile MHL. Not only is it easy to move around with, it's extremely easy to use, so much so that booting and choosing your input source only took a mere 34 seconds in our testing. This is all with an intensely strong lamp, which maxes out at 3000 lumens.
It is ideal for those who need a simple, portable projector for anything except for streaming video, as we experienced quality issues there, with output being either grainy or stuttering. It also suffered from a moment reminiscent of IKEA, with Some Assembly Required. That in 2015 we're requiring customers to find a screwdriver in order to set up WiFi sounds comically backwards. Sure, the EX7235 Pro doesn't force users to rely on just WiFi for presenting, but when you're dealing anything meant for on-the-go, WiFi is the connection of choice for most. Setting up said WiFi wasn't easy either, but once it's up, the EX7235 Pro performed like the four-star unit we believe it is.
- Read our Epson EX7235 Pro review
3. ViewSonic Pro8520HD
Bright images, loud noises, good projector
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1920 x 1080 | Brightness: 5000 lumens | Contrast ratio: 15000:1 | Video inputs: HDMI, VGA, S-Video, Composite
If you're looking to present in a bright room, or shopping with no worry about price, ViewSonic's Pro8600, weighing 8.5 pounds and measuring 13.1" x 10.4" x 4.3" (W x D x H), and Pro8520HD, also 8.5 pounds and a very similar 13.1" x 10.4" x 4.8" (W x D x H) are especially relevant. The Pro8600 retails for about $1700 (around £1125, AU$2068) online, and the Pro8520HD can be found online at a bump up to around $1799 (around £1190, AU$2188).
Both machines run very loud and very bright, thanks to the Pro8600's 6000 lumen and the Pro8520HD's 5000 lumen capable lamps. So if you're looking to make presentations to people who drift off when the lights go out, make sure you consider these options. Neither are great with USB, but if you're looking to present video, both have HDMI slots - the Pro8520HD actually offers two, if that's something you would need.
Both projectors render HD color video beautifully, although Pro8520HD arguably over-saturates the colors. While the video on the Pro8520HD is of great quality, you're going to need to have any audio pretty loud, thanks to a whirring fan that hovered around 79 decibels in our testing. While the Pro8600 suffers the same noise pollution - its fan reaches 65 decibels - it does feature a useful ECO mode that can dampen the noise. As you would expect from projectors marketed on their HD quality, these units can get an image large enough for native HD proportions.
4. Optoma ML550
The brightest, nicest and best connected palm projector yet
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1280 x 800 | Brightness: 500 lumens | Contrast ratio: 10000:1 | Video inputs: HDMI, VGA, microSD, USB | Dimensions: 105 x 106 x 39mm
The ML550 by Optoma may not be the smallest projector we're talking about here, but it's a lot more powerful than the pocket-sized PicoPix from Phillips. It weighs in at an ultraportable 0.83 pounds with palm-sized 4.1" x 4.2" x 1.5" (W x D x H) footprint. The differences in size between this and the PicoPix are negligible for the power you get in return: a 550 Lumens lamp that lets you present in rooms that aren't completely darkened.
Not only is it port-rich with one MHL-ready HDMI input, a USB 2.0 slot for thumbdrives, a universal I/O slot, and a microSD card slot, but the ML550 handled our 90-inch test screen with impressive results, and peaked at a 60-inch-or-so size. Much like the ViewSonic PLED-W800, though, the ML550 had us grumbling because you need to buy a dongle to achieve WiFi. Which felt as arcane at the time of this projector's release as it does today. And in another moment that felt anachronistic, there is no way to work with the projector via smartphone or tablet.
- Read our Optoma ML550 review
5. Sony VPL-FHZ55
The first blue laser 3LCD hybrid data projector
Projection system: 3 LCD | Resolutions: 1920 x 1200 | Brightness: 4000 lumens | Contrast ratio: 8000:1 | Video inputs: HDMI, VGA, D-SUB, Ethernet | Dimensions: 390 x 134 x 487mm
The Sony VPL-FHZ55 is designed to be installed once and not moved for a long time. At 26.5 pounds nobody will be volunteering to move it between floors, or even carting it between rooms. It measures 15.3" x 19.8" x 5.8" (W x D x H) and we believe it best positioned on a ceiling, even though that will make it even harder to ever move. With all that size, there is a lot to say about it.
Noteworthy for being the first 3LCD projector - a projection chip technology popularized by Epson and Panasonic - with a lamp-less treatment, thanks to a blue laser light source deployed by Sony. For all that above hype and hubbub, the enormous price should not shock you.
It's seriousness isn't just from a top-out of 4,000 lumens, but the fact that it can go for 20,000 hours, reducing the routine expense of replacing burnt out lamps that projectors generally include.
It is connector heavy, as it should be with that price-tag. The right-hand side is a full set of BNC/component inputs, an RGB D-sub 15-pin slot, DVI-D, monitor output and an HDMI input. On the opposite side is S-video, composite video, various analogue audio ins and outs, an RS-232C control jack (beloved of Crestron control systems, among others), the DC inlet, and wired LAN.
Unfortunately, as we notice all too frequently even with the best reviewed units, there is no built in WiFi for the VPL-FHZ55, though it can be networked. And the last thing we'll note is that the VPL-FHZ55 needs some room. To fill our 80-inch test screen we had to place the VPL-FHZ55 about 11.5 feet away!
- Read our Sony VPL-FHZ55 review
6. Epson EB-X11
A good value LCD projector
Projection system: LCD | Resolutions: 1024 x 768 | Brightness: 2600 lumens | Contrast ratio: 3000:1 | Video inputs: VGA, S-Video, USB | Dimensions: 295 x 228 x 77mm
If you're looking for the jack of most-trades option, Epson's EB-X11 is a good place to start. The EB-X11 fits into the middle of the pack, with enough features to make most take it seriously. Measuring just 11.6" x 11.9" x 3.0" (W x D x H) and weighing 5.1 pounds, the EB-X11 is easy to move between conference rooms, or even buildings.
One feature we were particularly keen on is the lens cover that instantly shuts off the lamp and speakers. The lamp inside the EB-X11 is more adaptable than some because of its relatively high brightness rating of 2600 lumens.
Unfortunately it comes with a handful of flaws. The machine only projects to the 4:3 aspect ratio, and when you're showing photos (likely with black bars above and below, thanks to that ratio) you're not going to see the sharpest reproduction thanks to the projector's low resolution.
Unlike other projectors we've talked about in this round-up, the USB slot on the EB-X11 can only handle photos, and the machine has no WiFi options. If all of those red flags aren't enough to dissuade you, and poor audio quality wouldn't either, then still consider the EB-X11.
- Read our Epson EB-X11 review
7. ViewSonic PLED-W800
A very portable DLP LED projector
Projection system: DLP | Resolutions: 1280 x 800 | Brightness: 800 lumens | Contrast ratio: 120,000:1 | Video inputs: HDMI, VGA, S-Video, USB | Dimensions: 175 x 138 x 51.5mm
Although it's less expensive than other ViewSonic models mentioned here, the ViewSonic PLED-W800 still performs well. It earns its price tag thanks to ultra-portability, weighing in at 1.98 pounds and measuring 13.1" x 10.4" x 4.3" (W x D x H).
With a lamp that can reach up to 800 lumens, you can still run a presentation in whatever room you can bring it to, provided you can shade the windows and lower the lighting. It comes with an SD Card slot, a USB slot, an MHL-ready HDMI input (for connecting DVD/Blu-ray players and also smartphones/tablets) and a VGA input for laptops.
Much like other portable projectors we talk about here, just because you can pass video through this unit doesn't mean you should. For it's price, though, making you pay even more for an optional WiFi dongle (ViewSonic recommends its PJ-WPD-200, which brings Miracast and DLNA compatibility) feels like you're getting nickel & dimed.
If presenting Microsoft Office documents is a large part of your practice, and it probably is, the PLED-W800 should stand out thanks to native support for presenting Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files directly from a USB stick or SD card.
- Read our Viewsonic PLED-W800 review