Bill Livolsi, February 14, 2013
The Optoma TW865-NL is a large WXGA conference room projector capable of producing up to 6,000 lumens for an impressively bright picture. But while we looked at conference room projectors in our recent shootout, the TW865-NL is a completely different beast. First of all, at 1280×800 or WXGA, it is lower in resolution than those larger machines, yet still capable of showing a high-definition picture. Secondly, its 6,000 lumens are produced using one lamp, not two, which is both a blessing and a curse depending on the situation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it has a significantly lower price tag, coming in at about $3,999 without a lens. This makes it an attractive option for conference rooms and small meeting halls where high resolution is less of a concern, but brightness and full-featured performance are still high on the agenda.
The Viewing Experience
The Optoma TW865-NL is a large projector; the body weighs in at over 40 pounds. As such, your conference room should have a sturdy ceiling mount or a solid shelf in place to handle the projector. Make sure that the mounting location has plenty of space for ventilation — the TW865 produces plenty of heat.
The TW865-NL comes lensless (the NL stands for No Lens), so before you even consider setting up the projector you’ll have to decide where it is to be placed and then do a small amount of math to figure out which lens will serve your needs best. The standard lens, which Optoma calls the A02, has a 1.25:1 zoom range and a medium focal distance. Also available are a 1.28:1 short-throw lens and a 1.9:1 long-throw, long-zoom lens. All lenses can take advantage of the projector’s motorized zoom, focus, and lens shift adjustments.
At startup, the projector sounds like a jet engine; the fans run at full speed for about thirty seconds until the projector is running smoothly. After this the fans come down and the picture comes up, and from that point fan noise is much less intrusive. In a ceiling mount, it is unlikely that the TW865 would be loud enough to distract your audience.
The picture produced by the TW865 is bright and colorful, though the relatively weak black level makes it clear that this projector was designed for use in a room with ambient light. All of the projector’s pre-set image modes with the exception of Bright and Blackboard have relatively neutral white balance, within about 1,000 degrees of the desired 6500K with some variations based on expected use. As an example, Presentation mode introduces more blue into the picture to combat predominantly yellow ambient light. Movie mode emphasizes dynamic range while sRGB mode opens mid-tones, making them suitable for video or photography.
Interchangeable lenses. The TW865 uses interchangeable lenses. The lenses available can produce a 150″ diagonal image from 10′ 7″ all the way out to 32′ 7″ with no breaks in between. Which lens you’ll need depends on what size of image you want to produce, but ourProjection Calculator has all three lenses programmed in if you want to take a look. Lens prices range from about $1000 for the standard lens to about $2500 for the short-throw lens.
Warranty. The TW865 features a full three-year warranty on the projector itself with Express Replacement service, meaning that Optoma will try to swap out your projector as quickly as possible in the event of a failure. The warranty also covers the lamp for a full year. Considering that the lamp is rated for 2,000 hours of use, a year could encompass the entire lifespan of the lamp. That is above and beyond what most lamp warranties typically cover.
Onboard sound. The TW865 has an onboard five-watt monaural speaker in case there are no other options for sound. It can come in handy when your usual presentations do not incorporate sound but there is an occasional need for audio of some kind. While the 5W speaker is not especially powerful, the sound quality is excellent for a small speaker, with no tinny character or distortion even at maximum volume.
Rated for 24/7 operation. The TW865 has the ability to run 24/7 without overheating or damaging internal components. This is an ability that not all projectors have. On the other hand, the relatively short lamp life of 1,500 hours in full power and 2,000 hours in Eco mode limit the usefulness of this feature — you will burn through a lot of lamp hours leaving the projector running full-time. Assuming 1,500 hours of real lamp life, a fresh lamp would last about two months.
Ease of maintenance. With a projector as heavy as this one, it is important that regular maintenance can be undertaken without moving the projector from its mount. The TW865 has a side-loading lamp bay, which makes it simple to swap out lamps without taking the projector down from the shelf or ceiling. The projector also sports a self-cleaning air filter, reducing the amount of maintenance you’ll have to do overall.
Placement flexibility. The TW865’s motorized lens shift can move the image up or down by 50% of the image’s height, or move it left or right by 10% of the width. In other words, you can put the projected image either completely above the lens centerline or completely below it, but horizontal adjustment is more limited.
Center-mount lens. Projectors with offset lenses tend to be more difficult to mount than those with center-mounted lenses. A center-mounted lens keeps installation math simple. When installing a lot of projectors, simplicity saves time.
Network administration. The networking features of the TW865 allow your IT support staff to monitor the projector or projectors for failure from a remote location. It also allows them to turn off projectors that were accidentally left on. From a management standpoint, being able to control all of a company’s projectors from one location is invaluable.
PC 3D Ready. The TW865 can accept frame-sequential 120Hz 3D 720p, XGA, or SVGA signals. Understand that PC 3D compatibility and Full HD 3D compatibility are two separate things, so you won’t be able to hook up a Blu-ray player.
Connectivity. The TW865 has an impressive connection panel. Included are two VGA inputs, one VGA monitor passthrough, one DVI-D port, one set of five BNC inputs, a set of YPbPr component inputs, S-Video and composite video ports, two 1/8″ audio inputs, one 1/8″ audio passthrough, a 12V trigger, two 1/8″ ports for in/out wired remote, a VESA 3D sync port, an RS-232 port, and a USB port. But it has only a single HDMI port. If you need multiple HDMI ports, you’ll have to invest in an external switch.
Light output. The TW865 is rated at 6,000 lumens maximum. The brightest mode on our test sample, called Bright, measured 5476 lumens maximum using a fresh lamp at full power. Bright mode has a noticeable green tint, as do most projectors’ brightest modes, and is best reserved for those times when you need maximum light output and don’t care as much about color fidelity or contrast.
The next mode is Presentation, which is the go-to mode for data presentation on the TW865. Presentation mode has a bluish white balance and measures around 7000K, but that white balance is utterly consistent across the grayscale. Presentation mode measured 3680 lumens.
The two modes that offer the best color accuracy are Movie and sRGB, which clock in at 2961 lumens and 2567 lumens respectively. Both Movie and sRGB modes have near-perfect 6500K grayscale tracking right out of the box with no need for adjustment. They differ in their handling of contrast. Movie mode enhances shadows, while sRGB mode opens up mid-tones by adjusting gamma. Either mode would be excellent for video or photography display.
The TW865 also offers Blackboard mode (4376 lumens) which compensates for color shift when using a blackboard as a screen; Classroom mode (2134 lumens) which, with its lower light output, would be appropriate for use on a whiteboard; and DICOM SIM mode (4362 lumens) which is ideal for medical lectures and document display. The final image mode, 3D, is only available when displaying 3D content, but suffice to say that the TW865 has plenty of lumens to create a satisfying 3D picture.
The “standard” A02 lens, which we used for testing, has a zoom range of 1.25:1. Our maximum light output numbers were obtained with the lens at its widest angle position. Setting the lens to maximum telephoto reduced light output by about 12% in all modes.
If the mode you want to use is too bright, one option is to switch to Eco mode. Eco mode extends lamp life while also lowering light output by 22%, so Bright mode would drop from 5476 lumens to 4271 lumens.
Contrast. As a projector built for use in ambient light, the TW865 does not have deep, dark black levels. In ambient light, black levels are the first casualty, and it is a projector’s brightness that creates the impression of contrast. On the other hand, dynamic range becomes especially important as shadow detail can become washed out. The TW865’s dynamic range keeps that from happening, and its gamma settings in the brighter modes are tailored to prevent shadows from being lost. And black level, despite the projector’s intended purpose, isn’t bad. In Movie and sRGB modes, the TW865 can put up a perfectly respectable video image.
Color. The TW865 is capable of producing rich, vibrant color, and its out of the box color is excellent as well. Presentation mode does not lack for color saturation, which is often a problem in business projectors. Movie mode is pre-calibrated to 6500K across the board, as is sRGB. While Bright mode has a noticeable green tint, that green tint helps to boost lumen output, and so it is functioning exactly as intended.
Presentation mode comes in around 7000K by default, which is not unusual. However, if desired, it is easy to bring Presentation mode down to 6500K by making the following adjustments:
As a result, Presentation mode loses about 500 lumens and has much better color. Meanwhile, Movie mode already produces 6500K without any adjustment.
In installations where multiple projectors are installed across a business’s facilities, a projector like the TW865 can reduce costs by eliminating color calibration from the list of things to do. The TW865’s accurate factory calibrations can shave hours or entire days of work off of the installation schedule since color does not need to be tweaked. The projector already looks its best straight out of the box.
Expensive lamps. The TW865’s 400 watt, 6,000 lumen lamp is the heart of the projector, and getting that kind of power out of a single lamp is no small feat. As such, it is not surprising that lamp life is relatively low, at 2,000 hours, and replacements are somewhat costly at about $450 each. Then again, the projector’s warranty has a full year of lamp coverage included, so faulty lamps should be replaced quickly.
Loud fans. It’s not a surprise that a 6,000 lumen projector makes noise. But as there are other projectors that are both smaller and brighter than the TW865, it is theoretically possible to make a projector this bright that produces less fan noise. The noise is only a real nuisance during startup and shutdown; at these times the TW865 sounds more like a jet engine than a projector. During normal operation, though, fan noise comes down to a more reasonable level, though it is still louder than comparable projectors.
Locked image modes. The TW865 presents a wide variety of image modes, and many of them are useful right out of the gate. Presentation, Bright, Movie, and sRGB modes are particularly well-suited to their intended applications. However, should you find something in any of these modes that you don’t enjoy, changing it can be a hassle. The image modes are all hard-locked, meaning that any adjustments shunt you into the projector’s sole User memory slot. This also means that if you want to calibrate more than one preset, you’ll have to write down your settings and restore them the old fashioned way.
The Optoma TW865-NL is a conference room projector that is packed to the gills with capabilities and features, making it a powerful contender in the business market. Its 6,000 lumen single-lamp output rivals that of dual-lamp projectors, while its excellent color needs no calibration in most circumstances. Lamp life is short, but the projector’s warranty covers an entire year of lamp use. Black level is only so-so, but dynamic range is solid, and photography and video look their best. 3D capability is a bonus, but as the TW865 does not come with glasses or an emitter, it also does not add to the cost of the projector.
With a street price around $4,000 and an additional cost of $1,000 to $2,500 for a lens, the TW865-NL is not an inexpensive projector, but neither is it overpriced. For the money, you get a highly capable projector that is a perfect fit for many conference rooms. The TW865-NL is sold through authorized Optoma dealers and select Internet resellers, so it is not available everywhere, but a projector of this quality is worth seeking out.