Product Review – Optoma ZW210ST LED/Laser Projector

A Very Pleasant Surprise from Optoma

By Alan C. Brawn CTS, ISF, ISF-C, DSCE, DSDE, DSNE

See the ZW210ST on the Projector SuperStore website here!

All of us in the commercial AV industry get bombarded with the “latest and greatest” technologies from every nook and cranny of the industry. This ranges in scale and scope from a firmware update, all the way to ground breaking new products. For some of us, this means we can get desensitized to the constant onslaught, and as such we might miss some really cool “stuff” along the way. As a technologist, teacher, consultant, and writer it is up to me to know, and I must confess I almost missed a real jewel along the way.

The story goes something like this. My partner Jonathan and I just moved into a new Brawn Consulting office and for the first time we decided to do it right. We have a video conferencing system, an actual video wall at the rear of office and (nearly) every electronic gadget we might need to better serve our clients. Our desks are separated by a large conference table between us and so we had a brain storm. What if we put a small projector on that conference table in between our desks and then customize the screen size to best fit our training program creation activities. We needed something that was capable of high performance but at the same time literally becoming invisible when not in use.

Having grown up in the projection side of the display industry, the obvious conclusion was to go with one of the new compact projectors that have cropped up over the last couple of years. We know there are a plethora of manufacturers who have neat little projectors, but we have long appreciated the products coming out of Optoma from a quality and design perspective, so we gave them a call. We explained what we needed and they said and I quote, “You saw our newZW210ST Hybrid projector at InfoComm… Right?” I did my best to avoid further embarrassment and said something to the effect of “Oh sure, that was a great little projector, tell me more”. The point here is that when you do not have a clue, but in fact you should, then ask a leading question, shut up, and listen in order to learn. To be frank, the answers to this innocuous question paved the path to my learning about a fabulous tool that otherwise I might have missed out on.

Some of you will notice I used the word tool and not projector and I did that on purpose. Now, I know this is a compact projector, but it is so much more than the sum of its parts and specs. You simply cannot get the full picture (pun intended) from a spec sheet. The doubters out there, and you know who you are, will want proof of the tool claim so here goes.

To state the obvious, the projector is a single lens and single chip DLP unit, weighing in at a reasonable 9.4 pounds. Nothing out of the ordinary at this point, but remember that the DLP chips do not burn-in no matter how long the duty cycle, and they do not require the expensive filter changes that other technologies require. Also, the chip has a resolution of 1280 x 800 which for me is a sweet spot, where it is high resolution enough for day to day use, works well with the majority of laptops out there, and in the process keeps the price down to a reasonable level.

In terms of light output, the projector produces 2,000 lumens. My favorite feature/benefit revolves around the light engine that produces this performance. Why do I think 2000 lumens are impressive, since we all know there are brighter projectors out there? It is not the light output, but how the light is generated inside the projector that truly provides the benefit. There are few other projectors on the market that will do what this projector actually does at 2000 lumens and especially with the performance on screen that is attained. Optoma has chosen to eliminate the conventional projection lamp system inside this series of projector, and replaced it with an LED/laser hybrid illumination system. This advance provides excellent contrast and superb color saturation, while it also truly eliminates the need to replace those expensive lamps we all love to hate. By being LED and laser, it also provides instant on and off capability. I must add that it’s pretty nice not having to wait for the projector to warm up before we get to work. Those are not the only impressive benefits from this new light engine. In our office, this projector sits on a table between our two desks, and it is on most of the day. It is stone cold quiet and has no discernible heat radiating from any of the vents around the projector. I mean literally cool and quiet. We even do teleconferences and video conferences with the microphones right by the projector!

For those of you who want to know exactly how the new light engine works, Optoma uses a hybrid light engine design on both of their Z-series projectors, which as we noted earlier, uses both LED and laser light sources to produce the illumination. The projector uses red and blue LEDs, to create those colors, and then a blue laser focused onto a green phosphor wheel to generate the green color light extremely efficiently. The light engine is rated for 20,000 hours of use, without needing replacement!

Still not enough? Another of my favorite features/benefits is the lensing. We get a 60” diagonal image at less than 3 feet from the screen and no distortion of any kind. This compact little projector also features network control and network video through included software and onboard LAN interface. To add to all the connectivity that is provided, Optoma includes an SD card slot and well as USB so you can present documents and images at will without the need of a computer. Of course my newest “tool” also has audio built-in with two 5 watt speakers that actually sound pretty good. By the way, Optoma has not ignored the environment, this new little gem of a projector uses up to 40% less energy than a comparable lamp based system.

Wrap all of these benefits around a 3 year rapid response warranty and you have a real tool. A tool is something that does a specific job with defined results and is available at a moment’s notice. We now have the ability to do our jobs more effectively and do them without having to accept limitations or intrusions on the work process. My advice is to think about real world solutions and just see how useful this new tool can be.

See the ZW210ST on the Projector SuperStore website here!

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