If you think of the Epson BrightLink 436Wi Interactive WXGA 3LCD Projector as a short-throw version of the ultra-short throw Editors’ Choice Epson BrightLink 485Wi, you won’t be far off. It takes advantage of the same leading-edge interactive technology, with automatic calibration, the ability to use two pens at once, and the ability to interact with other image sources besides computers. The result is impressive enough to make the 436Wi the new Editors’ Choice for interactive short throw models.
The short throw lens on the 436Wi makes it much more affordable (Read: cheaper) than the 485Wi and also puts it farther from the screen for any given size image. That can make it a little harder to avoid shadows if you have the projector on a cart below the screen, but it has little to no effect on creating shadows if you mount it permanently above the screen.
In most other ways, the two are similar enough to qualify as near twins. Both offer the same WXGA (1,280 by 800) resolution; both offer a similar brightness rating, at 3,000 lumens for the 436Wi; and both are built around three-chip LCD engines.
The three-chip LCD design means both projectors are guaranteed not to show rainbow artifacts. It also means they offer the same color brightness as white brightness. That, in turn, means you don’t have to worry that there might be a difference between the two, which can affect both the brightness of color images and color quality. (For more on color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, and Why You Should Care.)
As with most LCD projectors, the 436Wi and 485Wi also share the same potential disadvantage of not offering 3D support, which is all but standard in DLP projectors, including the interactive short throw Dell S320wi for example. If you have no plans to use 3D material, however, that’s not an issue.
The Basics, Portability, and Setup
The 436Wi measures 6.2 by 13.6 by 11.7 inches (HWD) and weighs just 9.1 pounds, which makes it small and light enough to sit on a cart for room to room portability if you don’t want to install it permanently.
Also helping to make the 436Wi more portable is the automatic calibration between pen and projector, which is nearly as good as not needing calibration at all. Once you have the projector in place, you simply press two buttons on the remote. The projector then puts a calibration image on screen, analyzes it, and calibrates, all in about 10 seconds.
Epson says the 436Wi can throw an image ranging from 53 inches diagonally to 116 inches, at a distance of 21 to 48 inches from the screen. For my tests, I used a 93-inch diagonal (79-inch wide) image size with the front of the projector just 37 inches from the screen.
Setup is absolutely standard for an interactive projector. Image inputs include the usual HDMI, VGA, and composite video ports as well as an S-Video port. In addition, there’s a USB A port for a document camera or for reading files directly from a USB memory key, and both a LAN port and optional Wi-Fi ($99 direct) to let you send both image and audio over a network. A USB B port lets you connect to a computer for interactive control.
Enhanced Interactive Features
The 436Wi’s automatic calibration is only one of the projector’s extras. Another is that it lets you use two pens at once, although Epson includes only one with the projector. Additional pens are $59 (direct) each. As with other current Epson projectors I’ve reviewed, the two pens worked flawlessly together in my tests, letting two people add annotations simultaneously without any problems. That can’t be said for some other projectors I’ve seen that claim dual pen support.
Still another leading-edge feature that’s also on other current Epson models is the ability to annotate more than just computer images. The 436Wi includes an annotation mode in firmware that lets you mark up images from any source, including, for example, Blu-ray players and iOS devices. (Android devices aren’t currently included, but Epson says it will add them shortly with an Android app.)
You can even freeze a video image and mark up the frame, although the player will keep going. When you finish making your annotations, and unfreeze the image, you’ll pick up at some later point in the video.
Bright, High Quality Image
The 436Wi is easily bright enough for the image size I used, at 93 inches, to stand up to the typical ambient light in a conference room or classroom. As a point of reference, with a 1.0 gain screen, 3,000 lumens would be suitable for a 209- to 283-inch image in theater-dark lighting according to SMPTE (The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) recommendations, or bright enough for a 142- to 150-inch screen in moderate ambient light. That makes the 436Wi more than bright enough for most purposes. It also includes options, like Eco mode, that that let you lower the brightness if you need to.
Image quality is another strong point. The 436Wi sailed through our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, with vibrant, eye-catching color; good to excellent color balance in most preset modes, and highly readable text even at font sizes as small as 6.8 points.
Video quality is good for a data projector, which translates to being watchable for long sessions, but not in the same league as a good home theater projector. The 436Wi did a much better job than most data projectors with skin tones and shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), and I saw only minimal noise. I saw a hint of posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) but only in scenes that tend to cause the problem. Most data projectors do far worse.
To say that the Epson BrightLink 436Wi Interactive WXGA 3LCD Projector offers an attractive balance of image quality, brightness, leading-edge interactive features, and price is a bit of an understatement. Except for having to be a little further from the screen than the Epson BrightLink 485Wi, it’s fully a match for its ultra short throw near twin otherwise. That makes it an easy pick as Editors’ Choice. And unless you need 3D support, if you’re looking for a short throw, interactive projector, it may well be the projector you want.
|Native Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||3000|
|Rated Brightness||3000 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc