If there’s one thing we hate feeling as technology reviewers, it’s confused. Yet that’s exactly the emotion we’ve come away with after spending the past few hours with ViewSonic’s Pro8400 projector.
The thing is, it was ‘sold’ to us as a home cinema projector. An idea underlined by its appearance on ViewSonic’s UK website, where it appears in the ‘Precision Series’ section reckoned to bring ‘high-end performance and style to home entertainment’.
However, it’s quickly apparent that while we can just about see a use for the Pro8400 in very specific home entertainment scenarios, it really feels much more like a business/presentations projector than a living room one.
Looks wise, for instance, it’s a bit of mess. With a glossy bit of black plastic over its rear half and matt black/grey over its front half, a startlingly big lens hanging out of the right front side, a rather random downward curve on the front upper edge and a grilled finished to the sides and front, there’s just too much going on.
The best thing about the Pro8400’s physical form is that it’s small and light, making it genuinely portable - especially as it ships with a well-made carry case.
The Pro8400’s connections impress to the extent that they have two v1.3 HDMI sockets on board for HD video use. Home users might also like the onboard 12V trigger port and the fact that there’s a USB port through which you can play slide shows without needing a PC. However, with one or two notable exceptions, USB ports tend to be staples of the business projector world more than the home one. And in the Pro8400’s case, the businessy feel is reinforced by the appearance of not one but two D-Sub PC inputs, and a LAN port through which you can schedule, manage and monitor the projector remotely, or even receive email alerts about the status of the projector’s lamp. These sort of connections are far more likely to be of use in a networked business environment than a typical home one.
Adding further to our confusion about what the Pro8400 is really designed to do are its key specifications. For while its native 1920x1080 ‘full HD’ resolution bodes well, we’re much more concerned about its claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 3000:1 and claimed maximum brightness output of 4,500 Lumens.
The brightness figure seems crazily high for a projector supposedly aimed at domestic users. Even the phenomenally bright Sim2 Crystal 35 model ‘only’ managed 2,500 Lumens. As for the dynamic contrast ratio, 3000:1 is one of the lowest figures we’ve seen on a home entertainment projector costing more than £1000.
In fact, seeing a brightness output that high alongside a contrast ratio that low makes us wonder if the Pro8400 will be able to deliver any sort of contrast/black level performance at all.
Setting the Pro8400 up is helped by a decent 1.5x level of optical zoom, but badly hindered by the lack of any vertical image shifting. This means that for many/most people, the only simple way to get an image on their screen with straight edges will be to use the projector’s digital keystone correction system. Which means, essentially, that they will have to distort the picture rather than being able to watch it in the perfect pixel for pixel way that surely is the whole point of having a full HD projector in the first place.