Even more than the Optoma X304M that I recently reviewed, the Optoma W304M invites comparisons to sub-three-pound, WXGA (1,280 by 800), LED-projectors like the InFocus IN1144. Less than a pound heavier than the LED models, and not much more expensive, the W304M offers a far brighter image (with a 3100-lumen rating rather than 500 lumens), the same WXGA resolution, and only a small step up in weight and price. If you need a WXGA portable projector, that alone is enough to make it worth a look.
In addition to offering a brighter image than lighter, less expensive projectors, the W304M competes with more expensive WXGA projectors as well. Compared with the Editors’ Choice NEC NP-M311W in particular, it weighs only half as much, at 3 pounds 5 ounces, while offering the same 3,100-lumen brightness rating.
The lower weight is an obvious advantage. Keep in mind, however that any brightness comparison is complicated by the fact that the NEC NP-M311W is LCD based while the W304M is DLP based. With DLP projectors, there’s typically a difference between white brightness and color brightness, which makes simple comparisons of brightness ratings potentially misleading. (For a discussion of color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, and Why You Should Care.)
Not surprisingly, the W304M offers a compact size, at 2.8 by 8.7 by 7.0 inches (HWD), to go along with the low weight. As with most portable projectors, it comes with a soft carrying case complete with a handle and a pouch for cables.
Setup is standard. Plug in the power cord and cables, turn the projector on, adjust the manual 1.15x zoom, and focus. As with the X304M, the connectors for image sources are limited to HDMI, VGA, and composite video ports. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s no USB A port for reading files directly from a USB memory key, an option that can enhance portability by letting you carry just the projector and a USB key.
The HDMI port supports all of the HDMI 1.4a mandatory 3D formats. That means you can connect directly to a Blu-ray player, other video source, or computer by HDMI for 3D. If you’re upgrading from another projector and already have 120Hz DLP-Link glasses, be forewarned that you need 144Hz glasses to work with Blu-ray 3D at 24 frames per second. For games, however, both 144Hz glasses and 120Hz glasses worked in my tests without problems.
One other basic that demands mention is the W304M’s longer than typical lamp life, at 4,000 hours in Bright mode and 5,000 hours in Eco mode. The long life, combined with the lower than usual $230 (street) replacement cost, translates to a low running cost.
Image Quality and Other Issues
The W304M sailed through our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, with near-excellent data image quality. It delivered suitably neutral grays at all levels from black to white in every preset mode, and also delivered saturated, pleasing color, despite yellow being a little mustard colored in all modes, and red a little dark.
The projector also handled fine detail well, with both black text on white and white text on black readable even at 6.8 points, although white text on black was a little less crisp at that size. I saw a hint of pixel jitter on screens that tend to cause that problem. However, it was so slight that there was no obvious improvement when I switched from an analog to a digital connection.
Video image quality is better than you’ll get with some data projectors, but it’s not suitable for long sessions. The native resolution can accept 720p HD without scaling, which helps a little. Also on the plus side is that it handles shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas) better than many data projectors, and it shows only minimal noise. However, in scenes that tend to cause the problem, I saw more posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) than with most data projectors.
The far more serious issue for video is that the W304M shows rainbow artifacts easily, with bright areas breaking up into flashes of red, green, and blue. With data images, I saw the artifacts only occasionally. With video, however, they were both frequent and obvious enough that anyone in your audience who sees them easily is likely to find them annoying. That makes this the wrong projector if you need to show much video, although it’s useable for short clips.
As with most portable projectors, the audio system in the W304M is basically useless. Even at top volume, the one-watt speaker is hard to hear from two feet away. If you need audio, count on getting an external sound system.
Clearly, if you need to show much video, the Optoma W304M is a poor choice. You’ll be much better off in that case with the NP-M311W. Not only does it offer good video quality by data projector standards, but as an LCD projector it’s also guaranteed not to show rainbow artifacts. If you’re primarily interested in showing data images at WXGA resolution, however, with video limited to short clips at most, and you also need a highly portable, bright projector, the Optoma W304M may be exactly the model you want.
|Native Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||10000|
|Rated Brightness||3000 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc