The ViewSonic PLED-W800 is, according to ViewSonic, that rarest of projector beasts: a highly practical, ultra-portable model that also sports enough picture quality and flexibility to support both business presentations and home entertainment use. All for the not wholly unreasonable sum – if it delivers on its promise – of £495.
The PLED-W800 certainly lives up to the portable part of its billing. Its petite form measures in at just 175 x 138 x 51.5mm high – similar to a typical hardback book. It wears its petiteness nicely too, with its matt black finish, boldly recessed lens housing and attractive glossy ‘diamond’ embellishment on its upper edge, which houses the ViewSonic logo in one half and some control buttons on the other.
Handily, though, you don’t have to use these buttons to control the W800. Unlike some portable projectors this one ships with a remote control. This lacks any button backlighting, which is a pity, but it is at least a reasonable size, unlike those fiddly credit card-style remotes some projector manufacturers are so fond of.
The W800’s connectivity is respectable for a model of its type. There’s a D-Sub PC port, a USB port, a single HDMI input, an SD card slot and two 3.5mm ports, one an audio output and one an AV input. The HDMI is compatible with the MHL mobile phone connectivity protocol, while the USB and SD card inputs prove capable of handling an impressive quantity of file formats without the need for an intermediary PC. These include PDFs, Word docs, Excel files and Powerpoint presentations.
The projector’s file navigation system is a bit awkward initially, but you get the hang of it in the end.
Also supported via USB and SD are video formats including AVI, MP4 and even the MKV container with its high definition capability. Plus you can simply hook up a Blu-ray/DVD player or TV set top box to the HDMI input if you want to use its home entertainment talents. Impressively for its money the W800 even supports wireless HDMI dongles, like Google Chromecast.
The only pity where connectivity is concerned is that there’s no built-in Wi-Fi support. If you want to send files to the projector wirelessly you’ll need to cough up for an optional USB dongle. However, it’s important to add that the W800 sports a reasonably handsome 2GB of built-in memory, so you might be able to fit all the material you need for a specific meeting directly into the projector’s memory.
The W800 further supports its plug and play multi-purpose credentials by carrying a built in audio system. Inevitably considering how small the projector is this audio system won’t exactly make your ears bleed – its output is rated at just 4W, delivered via two 2W speakers. But we have heard startlingly small amounts of audio power go much further than you would expect before, so we’ll reserve judgment for now.
Turning to the W800’s picture technology, it’s a DLP system illuminated by LED lamps – as is usually the case with such small projectors. Its LED lamps are rated at a huge 30,000 hours - essentially the lifespan of the projector, meaning you’ll never have to worry about the cost and hassle of replacing any bulbs like you do with normal LCD projectors.
The W800’s optics claim a brightness of 800 ANSI Lumens (high for a portable LED design), while its contrast ratio is claimed to be a startling – and doubtless hugely optimistic in real-world conditions – 120,000:1. With figures like this it’s no surprise ViewSonic claims the W800 can double up as either a business or entertainment projector.
The unusually high brightness claims for the W800 lead ViewSonic to suggest that it can deliver images up to 100in across. In reality we’d say things start to look a bit dim when you get past around 70 inches, but even this is a very good result for an ultra-portable projector.
The one slight fly in the specification ointment is the W800’s native resolution of 1280 x 800. While this is decent in simple resolution terms, it works out to a 16:10 aspect ratio rather than the 16:9 aspect ratio used by today’s video sources. However, the W800 does at least provide the option to preserve the 16:9 ratio of video sources, placing small bars above and below the picture, rather than just automatically stretching 16:9 pictures vertically to suit the 16:10 pixel ratio, as happens with less thoughtful 16:10 projectors.
The W800 isn’t exactly overburdened with physical set up aids. There’s no optical zoom and no vertical image shifting, for instance – though there is a screw point on the projector’s bottom edge for attaching an optional tripod mount.
There is, though, a simple (and rather imprecise) inset wheel for adjusting focus, and the projector’s built-in automatic keystone adjustment option (where the projector digitally manipulates the picture to correct potential angled edges) works better than most. Though as ever, if you can position the projector so that it doesn’t need to use keystone correction you’ll enjoy slightly crisper images.
The onscreen menus contain quite a few useful adjustments. There is, for instance, a digital zoom capable of zooming up to 2.25x the original image size (though you should always handle such digital zooms with care, as they invariably lead to image quality degradation). There’s also a series of image presets that include a Movie mode as well as the more typical Dynamic and PC settings, plus DLP’s BrilliantColour technology for boosting colour saturations.
If you’re really into tinkering you can even adjust the saturation, tone, gamma and colour temperature settings on top of the more expected brightness, contrast and sharpness adjustments.
The single most important advice we’d give regarding set up would be that if you’re using the projector for gaming or movie watching you should employ a pretty high brightness setting – as much as two thirds of the maximum brightness range, in fact. This is based on an assumption that you’ll want a pretty big image size of at least 60 inches, for which any lower brightness setting simply proves inadequate, even if you’re projecting onto a reflective screen rather than a wall.