Casual projectors also tend to be put away in a cupboard when not in use, rather than being left permanently installed somewhere. So another key aspect of casual projectors is that they need to be easy to set up - and again, for the most part the Pro8300 again fits this bill, using simple screw-down legs to adjust the angle of projection, and featuring fuss-free and surprisingly robust-feeling zoom and focus rings around the lens barrel. There’s even an auto keystone adjustment for straightening the sides of your picture.
No optical image shift
Mind you, the fact that an auto-keystone system is necessary at all is unfortunate. For it reveals that the Pro8300 doesn’t carry any vertical image shifting, leaving you having to tolerate your pictures being digitally ‘reshaped’ by keystone processing unless you’re able to get your projector positioned at exactly the right height to make keystone correction unnecessary.
Surprisingly for such an affordable projector, the Pro8300 has a few picture calibration tools up its sleeves. Among the highlights are a series of colour presets that include a Theater mode; a simple low, mid and high colour temperature adjustment; and a colour management system that allows you to adjust the hue, saturation and gain for each of the six primary colours.
The point at which the Pro8300 really got our attention, though, was when we fired it up with most of our test room lights still on. For its pictures remained not just very watchable in the light, but actually genuinely eye-catching.
An illusion of contrast
Despite using our normal, neutral, zero-gain test screen fabric, pictures from a connected Sky receiver erupted off the screen with real vim, as strong colours combined with potent peak whites and even what at this stage appeared to be a credible contrast performance. This latter sense of contrast is particularly striking, and is the ultimate testimony to just how extraordinarily bright for such a cheap projector the Pro8300 really is. We’ve seen other ‘casual’ projectors recently, such as the Epson 850HD and the Panasonic AH1000, but these haven’t quite had enough sheer light ‘punch’ to portray bright content with so much aggression that they’re able to leave dark areas actually looking dark rather than grey and wishy washy.
In case it didn’t come over clearly in the previous paragraph, the key point here is that the appearance of a credible black reproduction in light room conditions from the Pro8300 is in reality merely an illusion, created by the extreme brightness of the light picture elements throwing the ‘dark’ bits into apparently starker relief.
Watching a mostly dark scene with the lights on immediately exposes this illusion, as you suddenly struggle to spot anything going on in the image at all. But for bright, colourful stuff like football matches or Olympics events, the lack of any ‘real’ black level response isn’t a big concern at all.
Sharper pictures than expected
More good news finds the Pro8300 producing HD footage with surprising sharpness for such an affordable projector. Heck, even standard definition doesn’t look the soft, mushy mess we might have expected, courtesy most likely of the surprising inclusion of a PixelWorks video processing system.
Colours, meanwhile, although much more notable for their vibrancy than their subtlety or even tonal accuracy, feel curiously suited to casual viewing conditions where it’s raw ‘poke’ rather than nuance and finesse that matter. We would strongly urge you to avoid the ‘Brightest’ picture preset, though, as this really does take pushing colours way too far. Standard or Theatre are much better options.