Optoma S303 review

The Optoma S303 provides solid data image quality, portability, and a good set of connection ports for a budget data projector.

The Optoma S303 provides solid performance as a budget projector for business and classroom use. It’s easily portable, has a good selection of ports, and is 3D compatible.

The S303 is a DLP-based data projector with SVGA (800 by 600) native resolution, a 4:3 aspect ratio common among data projectors. It’s rated at 3,000 lumens, bright enough to stand up to considerable ambient light.

This all-black projector measures 4.6 by 12.4 by 8.8 inches and weighs 4.9 pounds, making it reasonably compact and portable. It also includes a soft carrying case, which isn’t always the case with budget projectors. Focus and zoom (1.1:1) wheels lie near the lens.

It has a good selection of ports for a low-priced projector, including 2 VGA-in (which double as component video; monitor-out; serial; 1 RCA jack for composite video; 2 audio-in; audio-out; S-video; and HDMI, plus a USB type B port for remote mouse control. One port that it lacks is USB type A, for running presentations laptop-free from a USB thumb drive.

Image Quality
From about eight feet away, the projector filled our test screen with an image about 60 inches diagonal. The image stood up well when ambient light was introduced.

In data image testing using the DisplayMate suite, the S303 provided image quality suitable for typical business and classroom presentations. Text was a strong point. Type was readable, although a bit blurred, down to our smallest size in both black-on-white and white-on-black. Some images showed a trace of yellow tinting, and in general yellows and reds looked somewhat dull.

When I viewed the tests over a VGA connection, pixel jitter was evident in images designed to bring it out, and some hatched patterns showed green tinting. These effects disappeared when I switched to an HDMI connection. Several data images showed the rainbow effect, a common phenomenon in single-chip DLP projectors in which little red-green-blue flashes may appear, usually in bright areas against dark backgrounds. Though the rainbow artifacts were slightly more evident than is typical in data images, they’re less of an issue in data presentations than with video, so even people sensitive to the effect are unlikely to be bothered by it.

Video and Audio
The S303′s video quality is suitable for short clips to accompany a presentation. Rainbow artifacts were more apparent than usual in a DLP projector, and there the effect is likely to be distracting to those sensitive to it. Some scenes showed a slight reddish tint.

Audio from the projector’s two-watt speaker is of decent quality, and loud enough to fill a smallish conference room or classroom.

The S303 faces stiff competition in the budget data projector arena. Two notable SVGA projectors we’ve recently reviewed are the NEC NP-VE281 and the Editors’ Choice Epson EX3212 SVGA 3LCD Projector. The S303 couldn’t match their data or video image quality; the Epson’ image quality was particularly good on both counts. Being an LCD projector, the EX3212 is also free of the rainbow artifacts seen in the S303 and other DLP projectors.

At 3,000 lumens, the S303 has a modestly higher rated brightness than either the EX3212 or the NP-VE281, which are both rated at 2,800 lumens. But as perception of brightness is logarithmic, the difference is probably imperceptible. What’s more, LCD projectors tend to offer the same color brightness as white brightness, while that’s generally not the case with DLP projectors.

For a little more money than you’d pay for the S303, the Optoma X303 is essentially the same projector but at higher (XGA) resolution. That should give the X303 an edge in displaying smaller detail. In our testing, however, the S303 did very well in showing small text while the X303 was average for its (higher) resolution, so in data image quality it’s pretty much a wash between them.

As a DLP projector, the S303 does have one advantage over the Epson EX3212 and other LCD projectors: it can project 3D content, providing 3D support for DLP-Link active-shutter glasses. The projector does not include any 3D glasses, and their cost can quickly add up. Still, it’s a nice extra to a projector that provides solid performance at a budget price.

Specifications
Native Resolution 800 x 400
Video Inputs Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video
Computer Interfaces Analog VGA
Wireless Connectivity No
Weight 4.9 lbs
Rated Contrast Ratio 15000
Engine Type DLP
Aspect Ratio 4
Rated Brightness 3000 ANSI lumens

Verdict
The Optoma S303 provides solid data image quality, portability, and a good set of connection ports for a budget data projector.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc