- Very cheap for a one-box 3D projector
- Compact design
- 3D picture quality better than expected
- Blu-ray 3D pictures lose resolution
- Poor black level response
- Runs a bit noisily
- Review Price: £682.80
- Integrated 3D playback
- Single-chip DLP design
- 720p native resolution
- Rapid on/off feature
- 3200 Lumens light output
The D538W-3D, though, delivers an integrated, single-box, HD-Ready 3D projection solution that costs less than £700 – including VAT. And it does so from a box that measures just 261(w) x 78(h) x 190(d)mm despite claiming to pump out a maximum brightness of 3200 Lumens. This is all pretty remarkable stuff – and raises real hopes that this could be one of those much-beloved devices that you can buy as a business expense but also take home at weekends!
Vivitek underlines the D538W-3D’s portability by supplying a felt carry case for free, and it wears its diminutive dimensions passably well, thanks in particular to its uniformly white colour scheme. The finish is a bit plasticky, and some people might not like the numerous grilles on each of the projector’s sides. But personally we didn’t find that these grilles detracted from the aesthetic too badly, and actually they raised hope that the projector might be able to cope with its extremely high 3200 lumens of claimed brightness without running either too hot or too noisily.
Joining the ultra-high brightness figure on the D538W-3D’s spec sheet is a respectable claimed contrast ratio of 3,000:1 – though experience suggests that when you have a brightness figure that’s close to or even higher than a contrast ratio figure, you often end up with a picture that’s severely lacking in black level. Hopefully this won’t prove to be the case with the D538W-3D.
The D538W-3D’s connections include a single HDMI socket, the inevitable D-Sub PC port, a composite video input, an S-Video input, a mini-jack audio input, an RCA stereo audio input, and an RS-232 control port. The HDMI port is apparently only a v1.3 one rather than the v1.4 one we might have expected.
It’s a pity, perhaps, that such a potentially handy education/business projector doesn’t carry any USB ports for direct playback of presentations or files from USB sticks, but otherwise it covers the key bases.
Heading into its onscreen menus, it proves to be far from the feature-lite effort we’d expected for its money. There’s a decent colour management system for a start, through which you can adjust the hue, saturation and gain of the red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow colour elements. You’re also provided with a series of gamma presets helpfully named in accordance with the source they’re designed to suit (PC, MAC, Video etc).
We got set up mileage out of the unusual way the D538W-3D allows you to adjust separately the projector’s lamp mode (between eco and normal settings) and fan speed (between normal and high) too.
The D538W-3D is understandably rather limited, though, when it comes to optical image adjustments. Optical zoom is restricted to 1.16x, and there’s no vertical or horizontal image shifting. This will leave most people having to resort to digital keystone correction to get the edges of their image straight – a process which effectively involves digitally distorting the native source image. But we’ve yet to see a projector at the Vivitek’s price level that offers our preferred optical image shifting solution instead.
The D538W-3D’s 3D capabilities essentially come about because it manages to fit into its diminutive form the same core technology employed by Optoma’s 3D-XL 3D projection ‘adaptor’. What this does is take in either Blu-ray’s frame-packed full HD 3D images or Sky’s side by side 3D images and convert them to DLP’s 3D-Ready format, which essentially involves converting them into a 120Hz signal divided into two, so that 60fps goes to each eye.
There is one unfortunate difference between the D538W-3D and the Optoma 3D-XL adaptor package, though, in that the D538W doesn’t ship with any 3D glasses included as standard. So you’ll have to factor in the (starting at £60 or so a pair) cost of these when deciding whether Vivitek’s projector fits in with your budgets.
The D538W-3D’s 3D pictures really aren’t bad at all. For a start, as noted during our Optoma 3D-XL review, there’s very little crosstalk ghosting noise at all over 3D pictures – a result, presumably, of the relatively high frame rate that’s being presented to each eye, in conjunction with DLP technology’s relatively fast response time.
There’s a good sense of depth to 3D images, too, and best of all the projector’s mighty brightness output proves highly effective at combating the dimming effect of DLP’s active shutter glasses, leaving 3D pictures looking punchy and colourful.
One catch with the DLP 3D-Ready system is that it currently can’t operate beyond a resolution of 720p. And this fact does result in Blu-ray pictures looking markedly less detailed and sharp than those you would see from a full-HD 3D projector. On the upside, the D538W-3D does seem more at home with Sky’s reduced-resolution side by side 3D broadcasts, which are probably a more ‘comfortable’ fit with the projector’s 3D conversion processing than Blu-ray’s full HD 3D streams.
Other issues with the D538W-3D’s 3D images find them feeling just a touch flickery, and sometimes pushing the depth too hard, so that during shots containing lots of depth the 3D effect can become a little tiring. But crucially none of these issues prevent the D538W-3D from being a very watchable bit of 3D family fun.
So far we’ve talked about the projector’s reproduction of 3D sources. But it also carries a 2D to 3D converter. And while this isn’t as consistently accurate with its calculation of relative depths within a converted image as the best 2D-3D converters we’ve seen, its results are mostly clean and contain a little more depth than the ‘ultra-safe’ conversion systems we commonly see. So while it’s a feature we’re not sure we’d ever personally use, if you do fancy EastEnders in 3D, then you do so on the D538W-3D without struggling to see the 3D effect or getting a headache.
To some extent the D538W-3D is a better-than-expected 2D performer too. Colours look punchy and surprisingly credible in tone provided you’ve set the Gamma level correctly for your source type – and the colour management system is always on hand if you feel the colour balance isn’t quite right in any particular area. The projector’s extreme brightness – even when using its Movie picture preset – also helps colours look vivid and attention-grabbing. There’s some low-level rainbow effect if you flit your eyes over an image containing a mix of bright and dark content, but it’s hardly ever a problem if you just watch something normally.
Motion is predictably a little juddery, but certainly not disastrously so, and sharpness levels are good considering this isn’t a full-HD projector.
The D538W-3D’s high brightness, meanwhile, enhances its ‘casual use’ credentials by enabling images to be watched comfortably even in high levels of ambient light. However, the high brightness also leads us to the main weakness of the D538W-3D’s pictures: their lack of contrast.
The projector really is not capable of reproducing anything like a true black colour – especially when you don’t have 3D glasses on. Instead, in a darkened room you just get a milky grey over anything that should look black. Darn.
The only good news where dark scenes are concerned is that the general greyness doesn’t preclude the projector from reproducing a healthy amount of shadow detail.
If you were paying attention earlier, you’ll have noticed that we mentioned the presence of audio inputs on the D538W-3D. For in keeping with its multi-purpose ‘casual home’ or education/business credentials, it carries a built in mono speaker boasting a whole 2W – count ‘em – of audio power.
Needless to say, this speaker can’t produce a soundstage that’s in any way loud, rich or detailed enough to satisfy when watching a movie in any even fractionally serious way. But we understand the reasons why the speaker needs to be there, and at least the sound it produces is quite clear within the confines of its strict volume limitations. It does struggle at times to make itself heard above the slightly potent noise of the projector’s cooling fans, though.
AV enthusiasts are definitely not going to like the D538W-3D. Its 3D performance reduces the resolution of 3D Blu-rays, and its 2D pictures are severely short of contrast – or, to be more precise, black level response.
But saying AV enthusiasts won’t like the D538W-3D is like saying a vegetarian won’t like a rare beef steak. The two things just don’t go together. Rather the D538W-3D is aimed at people after a highly affordable, exceptionally compact, multi-purpose device that’s ready to rock any time and anywhere and delivers surprisingly enjoyable 3D pictures – plus bright-room-friendly 2D pictures – without the need for any external electronics. And that’s a target market it actually satisfies rather well.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
|Native Aspect Ratio||16:10|
|Projector Type||single-chip DLP|
|Full HD 1080p||No|
|Max Diagonal Image Size (Inch)||300in|
|Min Projection Distance (Foot)||3.94feet|
|Max Projection Distance (Foot)||32.8feet|
|Lamp power (Watt)||180W|
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