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Hands-on Review: Epson PowerLite 1735W Multimedia Projector

As a photographer and educator, I’ve been using multimedia projectors for more than 15 years. They are, in my opinion, magical devices that can essentially turn a small laptop into a huge “slide projector.” But in many cases, you never quite know what the results will be until you connect to a projector at a company or educational institution. And not too long ago, any projector in the $1,000-1,500 range was either too heavy to carry around, or was just not worth using for projecting images.

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All of the Epson 1700 Series Projectors, including the 1730W and 1735W look like this from the front. A sliding lens protector is hidden when the projector lens is exposed (control for it is located just above the lens). Photo courtesy Epson Inc.

Enter the Epson PowerLite 1735W Multimedia Projector. In this review, I’ll give an overview of the 1735W as well as a similar widescreen projector in the line (the PowerLite 1730W), and I’ll cover the topics I believe are most important to photographers and video professionals/aficionados. I’ll end with some overall Pros and Cons and give my thoughts on the product as a whole.

WHY USE A WIDESCREEN PROJECTOR?

If you’ve done presentations using a projector, you’ll know that it’s common to look at a laptop with you facing the audience, while the projector is shining on a wall or projector in front of the audience. Most modern laptops have a native resolution higher than XGA (1024×768). So if your projector can only sync at 1024×768, you’ll be looking at a distorted image on your screen. That’s just one of the advantages of a Widescreen projector like the Powerlite 1735W. You can usually view your screen at its native resolution, or sometimes at a resolution slightly off, but still much better than XGA (1024×768). Believe me when I say that this is a big deal–I have an XGA projector and I now clearly see the advantage of a widescreen projector when teaching Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. The higher the resolution, the more windows you can fit on the screen.

The Epson PowerLite 1735W and 1730W can both be set to scale to the following resolutions (1280×800 is the native resolution):
640 x 480 (VGA), 800 x 600 (SVGA), 1024 x 768 (XGA), 1280 x 1024 (SXGA), 1400 x 1050 (SXGA+), 1440 x 900 (WXGA+), 1680 x 1050 (WSXGA+), 1600 x 1200 (UXGA)

OVERVIEW & FEATURES

Before I started testing the PowerLite 1735W I had no idea how much technology would be packed inside. If you want to delve deeper than the information I provide here, you can start by downloading the product specs in PDF form for the PowerLite 1735W and the PowerLite 1730W:
PowerLite 1735W specs (PDF)
PowerLite 1730W specs (PDF)

The primary differences between the PowerLite 1735W and the PowerLite 1730W can be seen in the chart below from Epson.com (they are all related to wireless and PC-free functionality):

projectorchart

Some specs for the 1735W are below, with separate info about the 1730W where applicable:

Projection system: 3 LCD, 3-chip system
Dimensions including feet (W x D x H): 11.2 in x 7.9 in x 2.8 in
Weight: 3.96 lbs. (3.74 lbs. For the 1730W)
Lumens: 3000
Lamp Life: 4000 hours in Low Light Output Mode, and 3000 hours in High Light Output Mode
Connectivity: Computer/Component Video: Mini D-sub HD 15 pin x 1
S-video x 1
Composite video: RCA x 1
Audio in: Mini stereo x 1
USB connector: Type B x 1
Audio Output: 1 W mono speaker
Contrast Ratio Up to 2000:1
Fan Noise: High Light Output Mode: 39 dB
Low Light Output Mode: 30 dB

Please note that some additional information and features are noted in the PROS and CONS section below.

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The back of the PowerLite 1735W. Photo courtesy Epson, Inc.

IMAGE and VIDEO QUALITY

The Epson Powerlite 1735W performed very well in just about all the tests I ran. Under very low light conditions, test images such as the PhotoDisc Target (download targets here under L2.2) had excellent color and contrast, and the gray tones were very close to neutral to my eyes when projected on a high quality white matte projection screen. For optimum results with any projector, I recommend using a hardware calibration device like the X-Rite ColorMunki or ColorVision Spyder 3 to create a custom projector profile. Video from DVDs and from downloaded files was smooth, and dark areas held a good amount of detail without being washed out.

The projector did an admirable job even in a room lit with some overhead lighting (about the equivalent of 3-50 watt light bulbs). Some other projectors I’ve used are barely usable in these conditions; this is important because instructors and business people often have to use projectors in rooms with a considerable amount of light streaming in from windows or from overhead lighting.

I also tested the projector in a large studio and projected images up to a diagonal width of about 100 inches. The image was sharp and evenly lit without any noticeable hot spot using a roll of white seamless paper as the projection screen. In the same studio, a “high gain” projection screen resulted in images that looked grainy, with an annoying hot spot. I would avoid high gain screens and use matte white fabric screens in all cases with today’s multimedia projectors.

At my home, I used a Da-Lite Deluxe Insta-Theater® 80 inch diameter screen (about $215-300) with a matte white fabric. It is an outstanding screen, and a much better experience compared with projecting onto a paper background or a typical white wall. I’ve also seen the Epson Duet Ultra Portable Projection Screen which is less expensive (about $150), and I can recommend that product as well (see photo below). An advantage to the Epson Duet is that you can adjust it horizontally to fit either a 4:3, 16:9 or other ratio image. It really makes a difference when you can fill the screen with a projected image, especially when projecting video.

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Epson Duet Ultra Portable Projection Screen. Photo courtesy Epson.com

I observed a noticeable difference when switching from High Brightness mode (up to 3000 hours of lamp life) to Low Brightness mode (up to 4000 hours of lamp life), but in cases when you want a quieter environment and when you don’t need maximum brightness and contrast, Low Brightness mode does a great job, especially in darkened rooms.

WIRELESS OPTIONS

The wireless capabilities of the PowerLite 1735W are partly what set it apart from so many other projectors. Quick-Connect Wireless mode allows wireless plug and play projection on most Windows Operating Systems with a special USB key. I didn’t test this feature, but below is Epson’s description of how it works: Simply plug the USB key provided into the projector. In a matter of seconds, it downloads the information necessary for setup and tells you when to remove the key. Next, simply plug the key into your computer. Soon, you are wirelessly displaying your presentation. And, when you’re done, simply disconnect the USB key, and your original settings are restored, with no re-configuration required. Now, you can wirelessly project your presentations, hassle-free, without carrying and connecting bulky VGA cables.

Wireless mode allows wireless projection with an installable application on Macintosh OSX or Windows computers. I tested this mode on a Mac laptop, and it worked fairly well (especially after adjusting a setting to allow for faster displaying of content. However, the image quality was not nearly as good as when I was directly attached to the projector via a monitor cable, and I would not recommend wireless mode for projecting images or video when quality has to be its best–connecting the cable really makes a difference.

USB Plug ‘n Play allows most computers running Windows Operating Systems to connect with a USB cable, which is a great feature to have. I tested this with a Dell laptop running Windows Vista and it worked pretty well, but I wasn’t able to get a full-motion video on DVD to play perfectly over the connection (the image and voice were slightly out of sync). The image quality was better than when I was in wireless mode (see last section), but not as good as when I was connected directly via the VGA cable. That’s not to say that you can’t get very good results via USB Plug ‘n Play–I just think that if what you are projecting is important imagery or video, the VGA cable connection will give you the best results.

PC-free presentations are possible by downloading files to a USB key or via USB memory devices which can be a big help for those who’d rather not including hard drives and digital cameras.

ROUND LENS, RECTANGULAR IMAGE

Though the image I was able to project on a screen was almost perfectly rectangular (see photo below), I was unable to get a “perfectly rectangular” image on my screen with the PowerLite 1735W. The folks at Epson assure me that a perfectly rectangular image is possible, and I’m guessing that it might have something to do with the height of the projector relative to the screen. The keystoning controls are very easy to use and can be very helpful, but they should be used only when necessary because they can cause some areas to go out of focus. Below is a photo of the image I was able to display with a few adjustments to the angle of the projector to the screen as well as some minor keystoning adjustments (just the top is slightly bowed):

epsonscreen

The projector is not billed as a home theater projector, but there is nothing keeping it from serving as one, except perhaps the fan noise and throw ratio (see below). It has an S-Video port for video input from an A/V device or receiver. I found the fan noise in High Light Output Mode to be a bit distracting in general when placed within about five feet from me. The fan noise is reduced in Low Light Output Mode (30dB vs. 39dB), but it was still louder than I would like if I were sitting near it while on a sofa with a bowl of popcorn in hand. That being said, if mounted high up on a ceiling, I doubt it would be objectionable, especially in Low Light Output Mode. In a classroom setting, unless the room had to be very quiet (and based on experience with other projectors), I don’t think it would be too loud, even in High Light Output Mode. While doing some research on fan noise, I came across this interesting DIY project for building a “hush box” to reduce projector noise. I also learned from www.sleepwellbaby.com that “decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, meaning that every time the intensity increases by units of 10, each increase is 10 times the lower figure.” High Light Output Mode doesn’t seem to my ear to be 8-10 times louder than Low Light Output Mode, but that’s what the scientists say so I’m guessing they are correct.

You definitely won’t want to use the built-in 1 Watt mono speaker for home theater use. Instead, just run audio separately, like in many home theaters. Just hooking up a few high quality speakers and a subwoofer to a laptop can result in pretty amazing sound to complement video coming out of a laptop.

IMAGE SIZE (PRO or CON?)

The size of the image that the PowerLite 1735W projector projects (known as the throw ratio) can be a positive or negative feature depending upon how you plan to use the projector. In some settings (like a small classroom or conference room), it is usually a positive feature to have the projector throw a large image from a short distance, but in a home theater, it may not be as advantageous if you want to mount it far from the projection wall. The PowerLite 1735W has a wide throw ratio (lens focal length of 16.1-19.3mm). You should be able to achieve about a 30 inch diagonal image at 2.1 feet from the screen, and about a 300 inch diagonal image from 27.1 feet from the screen). I filled my 80-inch-diagonal Da-Lite screen from about 5-7 feet away. The manual zoom and focus controls just above the lens are welcome–I prefer them to fancy electronic adjustments.

This can be visually altered somewhat by changing the output resolution in your computer (the higher the resolution, the smaller the on-screen image will be-it’s like zooming out on an image). However, you may not get sharp text at certain resolutions. Unlike most modern displays, you can get surprisingly good results at resolutions other than the native 1280×800 pixel resolution. I tested about 6 different settings, and had the most success with 1280×800, 1280×1024 and 1440×900 on my 17 inch Mac Laptop. I had similar results on a 15-inch Dell Laptop running Windows Vista, and every laptop will perform differently so I recommend testing a few resolutions to see which are usable. If you plan to project video, you may find that lower resolutions are better, especially if you are playing and projecting a DVD.

This page has an excellent overview of Throw Ratios and Viewing Distances.

PROS and CONS of the Epson PowerLite 1735W Multimedia Projector

PROS

• Native WXGA (1280×800) Widescreen resolution matches current computer aspect ratios well, with the ability to select other resolutions.
• Less than 4 pounds in weight, and very slim (under 3 inches tall).
• Outstanding color quality.
• Excellent brightness and contrast in High Light Output Mode, with easy to adjust settings for movies, text, etc.
• Very good brightness and contrast in Low Light Output Mode
• Very good sharpness (especially when using a high quality projection screen).
• Lamp does not appear to get nearly as hot as many others on the market and cools down in minutes.
• Bulb lasts up to 4000 hours in Low Light Output Mode, and up to 3000 hours in High Light Output Mode (replacement bulbs run about $300).
• Quick-Connect Wireless mode allows wireless plug and play projection on most Windows Operating Systems with a special USB key.
• Wireless mode allows wireless projection with an installable application on Macintosh OSX computers
• USB Plug ‘n Play allows most computers running Windows Operating Systems to connect with a USB cable.
• PC-free presentations via USB memory devices, including hard drives and digital cameras.
• Easy to adjust manual focus and optical zoom controls just above lens.
• Full-featured remote control, with excellent zoom-in controls (just select an area with the remote and start zooming in).
• Well-constructed sliding lens protector located just in front of lens.
• Projector comes with a very well made protective carrying case that includes extra compartments.

CONS

• Some color fringing was observed from close up (primarily in text areas). At normal viewing distances, this issue was either unnoticeable or barely noticeable.
• Fan noise at normal and high brightness could be distracting for home theater use or in some other situations.
• Full motion video may not be possible in wireless mode, and image quality may degrade compared with connecting directly via the VGA monitor cable.
• Full motion video may not be possible in USB Plug N Play mode, and image quality may degrade compared with the direct RGB monitor cable connection.
• No DVI input (only RGB or USB).
• No laser pointer on remote. (My recommendation is to just tape a small laser pointer onto the back of the remote!)

CONCLUSION

In a word, I’m impressed with the Epson PowerLite 1735W projector. It’s hard to believe that such a small and light projector can display such bright and vibrant images and video. Because of its size, it can fit alongside many laptops in a carry-on bag. Even if you just carry this projector around as a backup in case the projector you are asked to use doesn’t cut it (or if a projector bulb burns out at exactly the wrong time), it will be worth the investment. I would not hesitate purchasing this as a replacement for my XGA projector, and now that I’ve tested this one, I’m thinking seriously about buying the PowerLite 1730W (about $1000 street price) since the wireless functionality is not as important to me. However, I would miss the PC-free option that’s standard on the 1735W. It’s nice to know that if I had the 1735W, I could just load some JPEGs or PowerPoint slides onto a USB key, hard drive or camera and display my images anywhere without a computer. I highly recommend the Powerlite 1735W or PowerLite 1730W projector for just about any studio or individual who wants an affordable, high quality lightweight unit for multimedia projection.

RESOURCES

For a lot more information, including full specs and downloadable manuals (and there is a lot of information!) visit Epson.com and search for any of the PowerLite series projectors by typing “PowerLite 1735W” “PowerLite 1730W” or other projector model number in the Search box. Then choose Technical Support on the right side of the screen, and under Documents & Manuals, choose product documentation. From there, you will see just about all the documents related to the products.

You can also go to the main product pages for the projectors on Epson.com and watch some of the videos (below is a still frame from one them)

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A very helpful image size calculator for determining how to set up an Epson projector can be found here

-Review by Andrew Darlow, Editor, ImagingBuffet.com

Please consider supporting this site by purchasing from one of our affiliate vendors below:

Epson PowerLite 1735W Product Page on Amazon.com
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Epson Duet 80-Inch Dual Aspect Ratio Projection Screen on Amazon.com
Da-Lite Deluxe Insta-Theater® screens on Amazon.com

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Sergio Davila - April 5, 2010

I have not read all what is here yet, but I can see this projector is really good. Only one question. Can this projector substitute the ones that are used with Power Point program? Or can I project any slide, photos or multimedia prepared in Power Point with this projector?
At this time I cannot buy this project, but maybe in a future I try to,if it fits the requirements I have pointed out. Please keep me informed. Sergio Davila

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Sergio Davila - April 5, 2010

Please keep me informed of any other projector like this if there is lower price. Thanks. Sergio Davila

Reply
Tim - April 18, 2010

After preparing your presentation with great photos, there is nothing more disappointing than showing them on a projector which does not do justice to the photos.

I know what you mean with distorted photos because of incompatible screen resolution.

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