Sharp PG-LX3500 review

The Sharp PG-LX3500 projector delivers excellent data image quality and a bright image.

The Sharp PG-LX3500 ($990 street) stands out for a spare, utilitarian design. It’s a little weak on convenience features, like providing every connector you could possibly want, but it’s strong on the basics, like image quality and brightness. Built around a DLP chip with XGA (1024 by 768) resolution, it weighs a little less than six pounds and is rated at 3,500 lumens, putting it at the high end of the brightness range for its weight class. If you need an XGA projector that can throw a high-quality, bright image, that should be enough to pique your interest.

The PG-LX3500 is comparable in most ways to the LCD-based Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite 93+ and the DLP-based Dell 1430X. All three offer a 1.2x zoom lens, they all weigh about the same, and they’re all appropriate for a small to mid-size conference room or classroom. The PG-LX3500 offers the brightest rating of three, but I’ll come back to the issue of brightness shortly.

Basics and Setup
The PG-LX3500 weighs 5 pounds 11 ounces, and it measures 3.7 by 12.1 by 9.7 inches (HWD). That puts it in a size and weight class that makes it potentially portable, but more likely to wind up permanently installed or on a cart. Unlike some other models in this weight class, however, it doesn’t come with a carrying case, so you’ll need to buy one separately if you want to carry it with you.

Setup is standard fare. Plug in the appropriate cables, adjust the 1.2x zoom, and adjust the focus. The choice of connectors is a little lean, with image inputs limited to HDMI, VGA with both computer and component video support, and composite video. Notable for its absence is any kind of USB port, which not only means you can’t read files from a USB key, but there’s no way to connect to your computer for images using Direct USB or even for using your projector’s remote for controlling the mouse cursor.

Brightness
Although the 3,500-lumen rating is obviously a plus for the PG-LX3500, it’s important to keep that number in perspective when you compare it with the 1430X at 3,200 lumens or the Epson 93+ at 2,600 lumens. Keep in mind that perception of brightness is logarithmic, so even though 3,500 is about a third more lumens than 2,600, that much brighter an image won’t look anywhere near a third brighter to the human eye.

Also keep in mind that brightness comparisons are complicated by the relationship between white brightness, which the rating is based on, and color brightness. If there is any difference between the two measurements, as there usually is with DLP projectors, the difference can affect both color quality and the brightness of color images. (For more on color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, and Why You Should Care.)

That said, the PG-LX3500 was easily bright enough for the 98-inch diagonal image I used in my tests to stand up to the ambient light in a well-lit room. For lower ambient light levels or smaller image sizes, you can switch to Eco mode, to any of several preset modes with lower brightness levels, or both.

Image Quality and Other Issues
Even more important than brightness is that the PG-LX3500 delivers excellent data image quality, sailing through our standard suite DisplayMate tests. Yellow was a little dark in all modes, but colors were otherwise well saturated and suitably eye catching. Color balance was excellent in all modes, with neutral grays at all levels from white to black.

More important for data images is that the projector held detail well, with text characters highly readable at sizes as small as 6.8 points, although white text on black was a little easier to read than black on white, because the strokes of the characters were just a bit thicker. Also demanding mention is that the image was as rock solid with an analog connection as with a digital connection, even on screens that are designed to bring out pixel jitter.

Video quality for the PG-LX3500 is limited by the native 1,024-by-768 resolution, but is best described as watchable, which is better than many data projectors can manage.

It also helps that the PG-LX3500 doesn’t show many rainbow artifacts, which is always a potential issue for single-chip DLP projectors. I see these artifacts easily, but with data screens I saw them only in one test image that’s designed to bring them out. With video, I saw them a little more frequently, as is typical, but still far less often than with most DLP projectors. It’s unlikely that many people, if any, will find the rainbow artifacts annoying.

One last plus for the PG-LX3500 is the surprisingly capable 2-watt speaker. Despite the low wattage, the speaker delivers enough volume to fill a small conference room. The audio quality isn’t terrific, but it’s a lot better than many projectors offer.

The Sharp PG-LX3500 comes up a little short on connection options and on convenience features like a large zoom or the ability to read files from a USB key. If you need those features, you’ll obviously have to look elsewhere. However, it earns most of its points on data image quality and brightness, which are precisely the most important features for any data projector. And unlike many DLP projectors, it resists showing rainbows well enough to make video watchable. If you need a 1,024-by-768 projector that does the basics well, it can easily be the right choice for your needs.

Specifications
Native Resolution 1024 x 768
Video Inputs Component, Composite, HDMI
Computer Interfaces Analog VGA, HDMI
Wireless Connectivity No
Weight 5.7 lb
Rated Contrast Ratio 2000
Engine Type DLP
Type Business
Aspect Ratio 4
Rated Brightness 3500 ANSI lumens

Verdict
The Sharp PG-LX3500 is a little short on extras, offering only a 1.2x zoom for example, but it's strong on basics, with a bright, high-quality data image and usable video.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc