Review: Casio XJ-A146 Projector Page 2

Performance

Even though the chip is 4x3, and the 16x9 portion is 1,024x576, the Casio is surprisingly detailed. I could occasionally see pixels from my normal 9-foot seating distance, but I didn't find it distracting.

Light output is decent, and on par with most of the higher-end projectors I've measured recently. In Eco lamp mode, on my 1.0-gain, 102-inch 16:9 screen, I measured a maximum light output of 17.14 foot-Lamberts. Black level, however, was fairly mediocre: 0.014, for a contrast ratio of 1,224:1. Not great, but I've measured worse. With the Eco mode off, the light output kicks up to a highly respectable 25.45, and black level goes to 0.016, for a contrast ratio of 1,591:1.

However, fan noise is a issue. Even in Eco mode, it's pretty loud, sounding every bit like the tiny high-speed fans that are surely inside. Kick it out of Eco mode, and sounds like a mini tornado: adorable, but annoying. If you place the A146 anywhere near where you're sitting, the Eco Off mode will likely be too loud to use.

Of bigger concern is the color accuracy, which the XJ-A146 doesn't have much of at all. In the closest color mode (Theater), all the color points, save yellow, are noticeably off spec. Reds and blues look off, the most noticeable consequence being oddish skin tones and lips that look purplish. I can't say I ever really got used to it.

The less "real" the source material, though, the better the XJ-A146 performed. With How to Train Your Dragon, for example, it looked great. The contrast ratio was high enough that the image looked good, there was plenty of detail, and overall it was far more watchable than the projector's budget price would suggest.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, with its heavy sepia tones, also looked good, sucking me in to this far-too-long unwatched classic.

With more realistic content, though, anything near red took on an odd purplish hue. Watching Aaron Sorkin's latest wordsplosion, Newsroom, I found the image just off enough to constantly remind me that I was watching an inexpensive display. Lips looked like everyone was really cold, or perhaps hypoxic.

It was still watchable, though, and for something that creates a bright 102-inch image for the price of a decent 50-inch plasma, that is still rather impressive.

The comparison to the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD projector is obvious. However, a clear winner is difficult to proclaim. Both projectors have their strengths and weaknesses. The overall light output of the 850HD is staggering (compared to projectors at any price, really), though its contrast ratio is abysmal. Even the unimpressive contrast ratio of the XJ-A146 is nearly ten times better. However, color accuracy of the Casio is quite poor. Not to say the Epson was good in this regard, but it was better. If you can overlook the color inaccuracy, I'd say the Casio generally produced a more watchable image, but the extreme light output of the Epson could be quite useful in a lot of situations.

Bottom Line

The Casio XJ-A146 is a decently bright, and rather tiny, projector. The color accuracy leaves a little (OK, more than a little) to be desired. On the other hand, it's highly portable, has lots of high-end features, and has no lamps to replace, ever. When this price usually buys you a 50-inch flat panel, and can put 17 ftL on a 100-inch or more screen, some compromises are assumed. Color seems to be the biggest here. That said, it's not bad and for such a low price - and I'm thinking of the A141 specifically here - it's actually quite cool.

And inside it's got a frikkin' LASER BEAM!

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