3D Projector for Business and Education
The Mitsubishi XD600U is the latest in Mitsubishi’s line of bright, highly portable business projectors. It distinguishes itself from the crowd of XGA DLP projectors in several ways. With a 4500 lumen maximum light output, 2000:1 contrast, and weighing less than eight pounds, it is an attractive value. It also has a 1.5:1 manual zoom lens and a mild upward throw angle, making it very easy to use in a conference room or in a ceiling mount.
The XD600U is 3D enabled, using DLP’s new implementation of 3D technology. While a full discussion of 3D DLP projectors is beyond the scope of this article, we have had the opportunity to look at several 3D DLP projectors, so we have included some qualitative comments on the XD600U’s 3D implementation. The bottom line is that the XD600U is a great 2D business and classroom projector first, and a great 3D projector second. With street prices around $1900, the XD600U is an attractive value for large-venue applications in business and education.
High Brightness. The XD600U is a small projector, but its small size is deceptive. It is rated at 4500 lumens, and our test sample gave a maximum reading of 4351 lumens in Presentation mode. This makes the XD600U a great choice for large-venue, especially when portability is important. If that is too much light for your needs, Standard mode is an option that produces 2634 lumens while also improving contrast and color fidelity. Of course, this could still be too bright. In this case, try low lamp mode, which reduces light output in any mode by 23%. Backing it up and using the longest throw setting on the zoom lens will cut light by an additional 19%, compared to what it delivers at its wide angle setting.
Contrast. The XD600U has solid contrast, and even small text was easy to read on an 80" diagonal screen from almost twenty feet away. In addition to text, high-contrast images are displayed with excellent dynamic range, giving the image plenty of "pop." In Presentation mode, where BrilliantColor is active, dynamic range can be excessive, while Standard mode places greater emphasis on color accuracy while still producing a high-contrast picture.
Placement Flexibility. The projector’s 1.5:1 manual zoom lens can display a 100" diagonal 4:3 image from 9′ 7" to 14′ 3". A zoom lens with this kind of flexibility gives the XD600U a certain amount of "one size fits all" flexibility, making it a good choice for multi-unit installations when you have a variety of difference size conference rooms or large classrooms. The 19% light loss at maximum telephoto zoom is minimal for a 1.5x zoom lens, and the XD600U has lumens to spare. Even at maximum telephoto, Presentation mode delivers over 3500 lumens, which is still a very bright picture.
The throw angle is fixed, as the projector has no lens shift. The throw angle offset is 12%. In practical terms, that means the bottom edge of a 100" diagonal 4:3 image will be 7" above the centerline of the projector’s lens. This is a good compromise offset, allowing the projector to be used on conference tables or in ceiling mounts.
Low Maintenance. The XD600U will make the people responsible for projector maintenance very happy. It has no dust filter to clean, and the lamp is accessed through a door on the top of the projector. That means you will never have to take a projector down from the ceiling in order to do a lamp change. Speaking of lamps, the XD600U’s lamp is rated to last 5,000 hours in low lamp mode, which is excellent lamp life for a high brightness projector. Replacements cost only $350, which ought to make the people holding the purse-strings very happy, indeed.
Great Warranty. In the event that your XD600U should malfunction, Mitsubishi includes a three-year standard warranty with express replacement. So not only is your projector covered for three full years, but Mitsubishi will send a replacement unit as soon as possible to minimize downtime. In addition, the lamp is covered for one year or 500 hours, whichever comes first. In a school district with a tight budget, being confident that your projectors will all be fully functional for the next three years is a nice comfort.
Connectivity. The back panel of the XD600U is positively jam-packed with connection options. The projector has one HDMI port, two VGA inputs, a monitor pass-through/VGA out, the ever-present composite and s-video connections, two 1/8" audio inputs, one set of L/R RCA audio inputs, a 1/8" audio output, a serial port, and an RJ-45 networking port. It is clearly designed with auditoriums and classrooms in mind, where several signal sources might be permanently wired to a ceiling-mounted projector.
Wired Networking. Built-in wired networking makes it easy to centralize control of all the projectors in an organization or school. With a standard RJ45 network port, the XD600U can be connected to your school or business’s existing network, and monitoring software can inform the IT department in advance that a projector is experiencing problems or in need of a lamp replacement. It can also tell them when a projector has been accidentally left on, so they can turn the power off remotely.
10W Speaker. While no substitute for a proper sound system, the XD600U’s ten-watt speaker goes a long way towards bridging the gap. It is loud enough to be easily heard in a small meeting room or classroom, though more powerful speakers would be preferred for lecture halls or large conference rooms. The speaker still has some of the "tinny" quality associated with small speakers, but it is quite loud, which is sometimes all that is needed.
3D Ready. The XD600U is 3D ready, but there seems to be a lot of confusion floating around as to what this actually means. When a DLP projector like the XD600U is labeled 3D ready, it does not mean that you can simply attach it to a Blu-Ray player and start watching movies in 3D. It means that the projector is compatible with DLP’s new implementation of stereoscopic viewing, but you will need some extra equipment in order to use it.
First, you will need a computer with a fairly beefy graphics card, capable of outputting XGA at 120Hz. Next, you will need a suite of 3D content. Several companies now market 3D content to schools, and there is some gaming content available as well (though we have not had a chance to test this yet – check back soon for more information). Finally, you will need a pair of compatible active 3D glasses. These are not the cardboard colored-lens glasses you may have seen inside "3D" movies sold on DVD, nor are they the polarized plastic glasses you get if you go see a movie like Avatar in theaters. The glasses required for 3D viewing on the XD600 are active LCD shutter glasses, designed to strobe in synchronization with the content on screen and trick your eyes into seeing two separate images.
Once you gather all of these items and connect them together, you can view educational material or specially designed video clips in 3D. There is currently a limited amount of content available, and we have not had a chance to explore it, but most of what’s available now has limited appeal to home users. Educators and business buyers who are trying to stay current can rest assured that the projector’s 3D capability in no way detracts from its usefulness as a conventional 2D projector. You can purchase 3D Ready projectors like the XD600U and install them in your office or classroom, even if you never plan on using 3D content. If content is more compelling in the future, there will be no need to upgrade, since the projectors are already in place. If not, no harm done.
We will say this, though: DLP’s implementation of 3D is easily the finest in-home 3D we have ever experienced. The quality is light-years ahead of the old anaglyph 3D method (the kind that uses the colored glasses) and is nearly on par with the 3D you will see in commercial theaters. If the amount and quality of available content starts trending higher, this could be a major area of growth in years to come.
Enough about the technology; how does the projector look? The XD600U is a fine 3D projector. 120Hz display with this technology gives you 60 frames per second per eye, which is enough to ensure a flicker-free, stable image. There is a color shift due to the tint of the glasses, but this is true of all 3D technology, not just this implementation or this projector. The XD600U’s high brightness helps to compensate for the substantial lumen loss associated with 3D display. In the future, we will be making comparative comments about individual projectors’ 3D performance abilities, but we are confident that the XD600U will be one of our reference units.
3D Limitations. Now, not everything about the XD600U’s 3D implementation is perfect. First of all, to engage 3D mode, you will need to dig down into the menu system: From the menu, click "Detailed Menu > Image > Advanced Menu > 3D Mode" and set it to "On." This will put the projector into its 3D mode, which again only works if you have it connected to a computer outputting 120Hz 3D content. This mode switches the projector into its "User" mode and locks the controls. So while the projector has a maximum lumen output of 4500 in its other modes, 3D content has a maximum lumen output of 2580. Effectively, this limits the size of the 3D image you can display. And if you plan on alternating between 2D and 3D content, you will need to manually switch 3D Mode on and off through the menu selection detailed above.
One other thing. We mentioned that 3D mode on the XD600U cuts lumen output rather drastically, but there are also the 3D glasses themselves to consider. Since the glasses operate through the action of an LCD shutter, they do cut light output significantly – about 70%. To the viewer’s eyes, the picture appears to be about 775 lumens. There’s an upside, though – the same shutter that cuts lumen output also deepens black levels, meaning the net result is an increase in contrast. With a bright projector like the XD600U, you still end up with enough light for a very enjoyable picture. On 3D projectors with much lower light output, this may not be the case.
Edge-to-edge Sharpness. Edge-to-edge sharpness was solid overall, but we did notice some unevenness when displaying a screen full of small text. When the top right corner of the projected image is in focus, our test unit shows some softness in the bottom left section. Unless you are using lots of small text or finely detailed images, this is not something you are likely to notice in everyday use. Most photographs and PowerPoint presentations did not suffer any degradation due to this slight flaw.
Brightness uniformity. While very bright, the XD600U has a brightness uniformity of about 75%. Specifically, on our test unit, the bottom right corner was brightest, while the top left was the least brilliant. The difference between them is enough that you notice it on a full-screen white pattern. However, most content is considerably more varied than a full-screen white test pattern. While viewing photographs, for example, the difference in illumination was not visible most of the time.
Mitsubishi’s XD600U is a compact powerhouse of a projector. With a weight of less than eight pounds and 4500 ANSI lumens of brightness, it is a versatile, portable option for large-venue installation. Its 1.5:1 zoom lens makes it easy to install, and 3D capability goes a long way towards making it future-proof. Maintenance costs are kept low thanks to a filter-free design and long lamp life. Wired networking makes things simple for the folks in charge of maintenance, as well. All in all, the XD600U is a projector that is designed to deliver a great image for a reasonable price, both up-front and in the future. If you are looking for a versatile projector for a multi-unit installation in conference rooms or university classrooms, the XD600U may be just what you’re looking for.