Light enough to invite comparison to the plethora of WXGA (1,280 by 800) sub-three-pound LED-based projectors like the InFocus IN1144, the Optoma X304M delivers a lot more lumens per ounce, with a 3,000-lumen rating and a 3 pound 5 ounce weight. It also delivers an XGA (1,024 by 768) native resolution, rather than WXGA. If XGA is what you need, the X304M offers a lot to like.
Native resolution, of course, is one of the most important factors for choosing a projector, since the image quality will be best with that resolution. That makes the X304M less directly competitive with the crowd of WXGA LED projectors than with other XGA projectors, including, for example, the DLP-based ViewSonic PJD6235 and the LCD-based Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite 93+ ($549 direct, 4 stars).
The X304M has the advantage of being lighter than either of those choices—by more than a pound compared with the PJD6235 and more than three and a half pounds compared with the 93+—which largely justifies the higher price. It also offers a higher brightness rating than the 93+. However, any brightness comparison is complicated by the fact that both the X304M and PJD6235 are DLP based. That brings issues of color brightness into play, which means that a simple comparison of brightness ratings isn’t very meaningful. (For a discussion of color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, and Why You Should Care.)
Along with its light weight, the X304M offers an attractively small size for a portable, at 2.8 by 8.7 by 7.0 inches (HWD). It also helps that Optoma ships it with a soft carrying case complete with a handle and a pouch for cables.
Setup is standard. Simply plug in the power cord and cables, turn the projector on, and adjust the manual zoom and focus. The zoom is only 1.15x, which isn’t a lot, but is enough to give you at least some flexibility in how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image.
Connectors for image sources are limited to the most common choices, with HDMI, VGA, and composite video ports. Notably missing from the list is a USB A port for reading files directly from a USB memory key.
Image Quality and Audio
The X304M earns points for its data image quality. It did a good job in my tests with our standard suite of DisplayMate screens, with excellent color balance in all modes, and good, though not great, color quality. Colors were generally well saturated and eye catching in all modes, but yellow was a little mustard colored and red was a little dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness color model, particularly in the brightest mode.
Much more important for data images is that the projector did a good job with fine detail. Black text on white was crisp and highly readable at sizes as small as 6.8 points, for example. White text on black was a little less crisp at that size, but still readable.
I saw some exceedingly minor pixel jitter and dynamic moire with an analog connection, but only on screens that are most likely to cause the problem. Unless you use images with patterned fills, you’ll probably never see this issue at all. Even if it shows up, it’s so minor that you may not notice it unless you’re looking for it. You can also get rid of it completely by using a digital connection.
Video image quality isn’t in nearly the same class as the data image quality. It’s obviously limited by the native resolution, so the projector has to scale HD images to fit in the available pixels. Beyond that, I saw some moderate posterization (colors changing suddenly where they should change gradually) and loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), but only in test clips that tend to cause those problems.
The more important issue for video is rainbow artifacts. These are always a potential problem for DLP projectors, with light areas breaking up into little flashes of red, green, and blue. I saw almost none of these artifacts with data screens in my tests. With video, however, they showed up even in scenes where they rarely show with most projectors. Anyone who is sensitive to seeing them artifacts will likely find them annoying for long video sessions, which means the X304M is best limited to short video clips if you use video at all.
Also on the minus side is the essentially useless audio, with a one-watt speaker. Even at the highest volume, most spoken dialog in our test clips was barely audible from two feet away, and one quietly spoken monologue was impossible to hear at all. If you need audio, plan on getting an external sound system.
One other feature in the plus column is the X304M’s support for all HDMI 1.4a mandatory 3D formats, which means you can connect directly to a Blu-ray player, other video source, or computer by HDMI for 3D. If you’re upgrading from an older projector, note that you need 144Hz DLP-Link 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.
Also on the plus side is the X304M’s longer than typical lamp life, at 4,000 hours in Bright mode and 5,000 hours in Eco mode. Even better, the replacement cost is $230 (street), which is a lower cost than with many projectors. Less frequent replacements at a lower cost obviously helps keep running costs down.
The Optoma X304M earns most of its points for portability and for data image quality, with a little extra thrown in for its 3D support and long lamp life. If you need an XGA projector and also need to show video, you’ll be better off with the Epson PowerLite 93+, simply because LCD projectors can’t show rainbow artifacts. If you don’t need to show video, however, or don’t need to show it much, and particularly if you want a highly portable XGA projector with a bright image, the Optoma X304M is a strong candidate and certainly worth considering.
|Native Resolution||1024 x 768|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||10000|
|Rated Brightness||3000 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc