As long as its name is, and as much information as Epson has packed into the name, the Epson PowerLite W16SK 3D 3LCD Dual Projection System, leaves out one critical piece of information: Namely, the W16SK works with passive, rather than active, 3D glasses. That’s particularly important for a data projector, because it makes 3D far more economical for an audience of more than a handful of people. The lower cost, in turn, removes the major hurdle to making 3D practical in an office or classroom. And if you need 3D, it also earns the W16SK a spot on your short list.
Support for 3D is common enough to be nearly standard on DLP projectors today, and it’s even starting to show up on LCD projectors, including the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e home entertainment projector and the Epson PowerLite W16 3D WXGA 3LCD Projector that I recently reviewed. However, the 3D in virtually all of these projectors depends on active-shutter glasses.
Passive glasses are much cheaper. Epson’s are $15 (direct) for a pack of five, while its active glasses for the W16 are $99 each. So even though the W16SK costs more than twice as much as the W16, if you need more than about 10 pairs of glasses, the total cost for the W16SK for 3D will be lower. And since passive glasses don’t use batteries, you won’t be constantly changing or recharging batteries either.
All this makes a 3D data projector for a relatively large audience a lot more practical with passive glasses. That’s what the W16SK brings to the table.
The W16SK is similar to the W16 in some ways. Both offer WXGA (1,280 by 800) resolution, and both are built around LCD engines, which means they share the advantage of not showing rainbow artifacts the way single-chip DLP projectors can. They also share the advantage over most DLP projectors of offering equal color brightness and white brightness.
Both also let you connect directly to a 3D Blu-ray player or other video device for 3D input, even though they don’t fully support HDMI 1.4a. According to Epson, they also both work in 3D with a 3D computer equipped with a Quad-buffered, Open GL 3D-compatible graphics card. However, they don’t support the 3D format that computers typically use, and they don’t support 3D over a VGA connection. To get 3D with a computer, you need third-party software for the computer, and have to connect by HDMI.
Where the two most obviously differ is that the W16 is a single projector while the W16SK consists of two projectors plus a stacking mount. The mount holds the projectors in the right position relative to each other, so their images will be registered, meaning they’ll be precisely aligned, pixel by pixel, without one turning into an apparent ghost image of the other.
Setting the W16SK up is surprisingly easy, considering the need to get the images aligned. However, Epson doesn’t supply a splitter for either VGA or HDMI connections, and it doesn’t supply any cables, so be sure to order these along with the projector. For my tests, I used a simple Y-cable splitter for VGA, connecting it to the computer and then connecting standard VGA cables between the splitter and each projector. For the HDMI connection, I used a powered splitter and three HDMI cables, with one going to the image source and one going to each projector.
Epson provides clear instructions for every step of the installation, starting with putting the projectors in the mount and adding the polarizing filters. You then plug in the cables, with one cable from each image source going to each projector. There’s also a supplied USB cable to plug into both projectors, so you can change settings in both simultaneously with one remote or one projector control panel.
Each projector has independent manual focus and zoom controls. In addition, a Screen Fit feature automatically adjusts the images to correct for any misregistration. Here again, the steps are simple and clearly explained. They consist basically of pressing a button, following the instructions on screen to zoom the two images so one is larger than the other, and pressing the button again.
Once two projectors are set up, you can use them for 2D or 3D images, just as you would use a single projector. If you move them so they get misaligned, you can quickly realign them using the Screen Fit feature. I tried it several times, moving the table the projectors were on between each try, and it worked as promised every time.
A Word about Brightness
Epson rates the W16SK at 3,000 lumens for each projector, or 6,000 lumens for both together. It’s important to understand that you actually wind up with fewer lumens to work with, however, which is why you need so much brightness to start with.
Before using the Screen Fit feature, the image in my tests was roughly 78 inches wide. After using the feature, it was 75 inches wide, with Screen Fit scaling the image on one projector to fix the misregistration. This is obviously needed, since the two images need to be aligned, but it works out to a reduction in screen area of about 7.5 percent. So if you assume a true 3,000 lumens per projector, you only get to use about 2,775 lumens with these particular settings for the image size, or a total of about 5,550 lumens.
There’s also a reduction in brightness from the polarizing filters. Epson claims they drop the brightness by about 17 percent, but I measured it at 24 percent, bringing the total brightness down to about 4,260 lumens. And if you don’t spend the time I did tweaking the zoom settings to give you the largest possible final image, you’ll get a still lower brightness level. In one test run I wound up with a 71-inch width, which works out to about 3,820 lumens.
Keep in mind too that for 3D images the left and right lenses in 3D glasses each block out the light meant for the other eye, which effectively cuts the brightness in half again for 3D. So although 6,000 lumens would normally be bright enough for a small auditorium or large classroom, in the W16SK’s case the actual brightness level is more appropriate for a suitably large image for a medium-size conference room or classroom with typical levels of ambient light.
One other twist on brightness relates to the screen. Passive 3D depends on polarized light. It won’t work with a standard white screen, because the light from the projector loses the needed polarization when it’s reflected from the screen. Instead you need a silver screen like the Severtson GP169923D ($1,150 street, 4 stars), which I used for testing. However, screens for 3D also tend to offer a high gain, with a 2.4 gain in the case of the GP169923D. That means the screen increases the brightness for the image by reflecting more of the light back towards the audience and less towards the sides.
The W16SK’s 2D data image quality was a little short of excellent, but not by much. On our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, it delivered fully saturated, vibrant color in all modes, and excellent color balance, with suitably neutral grays at all levels from white to black in all modes. It doesn’t show fine detail well, however, with black text on white easily readable only down to 9 points in my tests, and white text on black taking some effort to read even at 12 points. This shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but if you need show images with fine detail, it could be a problem.
Video quality was far better than you’ll get with most data projectors, making it easily good enough to watch a full-length movie. I saw some exceedingly mild loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), but only in scenes that are particularly hard to handle and that most data projectors do far worse with.
I didn’t see any motion artifacts, posterization (colors changing suddenly where they should shade gradually), or other issues worth mention, and the projector did a good job with skin tones. Colors don’t pop they way that would with a better contrast ratio, but that’s just another way of saying that the W16SK isn’t in the same league as a home theater projector. It also helps that, as an LCD-projector, it doesn’t show rainbow artifacts.
3D and Other Issues
The W16SK comes with only one pair of 3D glasses, so plan to buy more. Image quality in 3D is reasonably good overall, with good color quality in particular. I saw some crosstalk in one scene that tends to bring out crosstalk, but I didn’t see any 3D-related motion artifacts in scenes that other projectors have problems with. In general, watching 3D with the W16SK was one of the most comfortable 3D viewing experiences I’ve had outside of an IMAX theater, with a good sense of depth, smooth movement, and no obvious issues beyond the occasional crosstalk.
One feature that’s almost not worth having is the W16SK’s sound system, with its severely underpowered 2-watt mono speaker. If you need sound, plan on getting an external sound system.
Given the Epson PowerLite W16SK 3D 3LCD Dual Projection System’s price, there’s little reason to consider it unless you are serious about 3D. But if you need 3D for an audience of 10 or more, it offers a complete, cost-effective option. The problem holding fine detail will be an issue for some people, but shouldn’t matter for most. And for that majority, at least, the Epson PowerLite W16SK 3D 3LCD Dual Projection System is a potentially cost-effective solution that will be hard to beat.
|Native Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||5000|
|Rated Brightness||6000 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc