Time for a Close-Up
Mitsubishi’s wD380U-EST makes short throw projectors with output mirrors obsolete by combining low-cost operations with a sharp image and vibrant colors. While it lacks the latest interactive features, the wD380U-EST can deliver a big image in a small space.
Rather than having a large output mirror, which is used on many of Mitsubishi’s short-throw competitors, like Sanyo’s PDG-DWL2500 the wD380U-EST has a large bulbous lens and comes with a lens cap. The big pay-off is that you don’t have to clean the output mirror, often an awkward task when the projector is mounted on a ceiling, but like other short-throw devices, there’s no optical zoom lens.
Based on a Texas Instruments 0.65-inch DLP imaging engine with a five-segment color wheel, the wD380U-EST can fill a wide-screen with 1,280 by 800 resolution video and images. The projector is a little big at 5.5- by 12.8- by 10.2-inches, but includes attachment points underneath for ceiling- or wall-mounting.
The projector comes ready to start teaching with a simple, straight-forward control panel. There are buttons for selecting the source, keystone correction, opening the Menu as well as power on and standby. In fact, the remote control is much more complex, with digital magnification, changing the source between two computers and a handy mute button. It does without a laser pointer, though.
Along the back, the wD380U-EST has a good assortment of connections, ranging from a pair of input VGA and an output VGA port as well as ones for HDMI, S- and Composite Video. On top of audio and the ability to use the projector as a classroom public address system, it has connections for USB, is 3-D ready and is compatible with Crestron control hardware.
It lacks the ability to connect with a school’s wireless network on its own, but Mitsubishi sells a USB plug-in WiFi adapter for $40. The D380U-EST can be plugged into a wired network. I really like its ability to have its screen divided into four quadrants to display up to four separate feeds – a great way to show different ways to attack a problem or to compare maps.
There is one big bonus: the projector can play .jpeg images or PowerPoint-based .PTG files directly from a USB memory key, making for computer-free lessons. The projector comes with software for converting presentations to the .PTG format.
It takes just a few minutes to unpack and set up the projector. At just two-feet from a screen, the wD380U-EST can create a 6-foot diagonal image, making it one of the most efficient short-throw projectors. It can create images up to 14-feet. On the downside, it lacks the expected automatic keystone correction; there is an easy-to-use manual keystone correction system.
On the downside, the wD380U-EST is a slow starter, taking 55.3 seconds to put an image on-screen, and another minute to get to full brightness. With competitors that put an image in-screen in a matter of 10- or 15-seconds, the slow start-up can waste valuable teaching time.
Rated at 2,800 lumens, the projector I looked at put out 2,803 lumens with excellent brightness uniformity across the screen. That’s more than enough light to have a lesson with the window blinds up and the lights on. By contrast, the Optoma TW601ST delivered less than 2,500 lumens.
The downside to all this brightness, however, is that the projector gets hot and its exhaust on the left side of the projector hits 170-degrees F. and the WD380U-est’s fan might disrupt an otherwise quiet classroom.
Its color balance is a mixed bag. While the image’s whites are excellent and its blues show up very strong, greens and yellows appear to be washed out and mustardy. It handled a variety of teaching situations, from slide shows to video, well
The projector uses 302 watts of electricity at full power, a bit less than other classroom projectors and it consumers no power in sleep mode. The projector’s lamp is rated at 3,000 hours of use or twice that in power-saving eco mode.
Replacement lamps cost $200. Exchanging them requires removing three small Phillips screws, sliding a panel open. It takes all of about 2 minutes to so the swap.
Based on an expected use of 8 hours a day for 200 school days a year, the projector costs roughly $150 a year to operate. That’s slightly higher than the Optoma TW601ST.
There's an incentive to buy the wD380-EST now rather than later. If you get the projector before the end of the year, you'll get a free lamp and wall mounting hardware, worth roughly $350. Not a bad deal
All in all, the wD380U-EST puts a lot of light onto the screen from a short distance. If it only got started quicker, it would be perfect for classrooms.
+ No output mirror to clean
+ Great assortment of connections
+ Easy lamp change
+ PC-free lessons
+ Three-year warranty
+ Free lamp and wall mount hardware
- Slow start up
- Runs hot with loud fan
- Lacks optical zoom