Published on January 20th, 2013 | by Greg0
Epson PowerLite 1761W: The Best Portable Projector We’ve Seen
Last week, we took a look at an Epson printer that was applauded for many qualities, but with one major caveat- it was quite hefty. Today’s Epson product occupies a very different niche, and is almost the opposite- it’s small size may be the only downside. That might seem like a strange statement- “too small” is almost never an issue unless you’re talking about diamonds or apartments- but we’ll add some context in a moment. For now, let’s look at the many bright sides of the Epson PowerLite 1761W, an LCD projector that is both super-portable and ultra-flexible.
Most projectors occupy one of three basic segments: business portable, affordable home cinema, or the premium market. The premium segment is, well, pricey, and is for those who likely don’t mind spending several thousand dollars or more on a sound system as well. If you’re looking for one of those projectors, you probably are looking in the wrong place. Instead, this WXGA (1280 x 800) model occupies a middle ground between the inexpensive home cinema type and the business “road warrior” models. We’ve seen other styles of projectors- ones that connect directly to the iPhone, and other pico-style versions for instance- but they aren’t generally for serious use, or viewing by multiple people.
Weighing in at 3.7 pounds, and coming complete with a basic speaker and a nice carrying case, you could absolutely take this anywhere for presentations. There are a few special features that also serve those purposes well, like the very nifty included wireless connection capability, ideal for presenting from your iPad or even iPhone (or laptop as well). And projected text quality is quite high, extremely sharp, and it’s very easy to setup thanks to the auto-keystone that adjusts to your environment without you needing to fiddle with a bunch of knobs or settings. It’s also basically a short-throw projector, meaning that you won’t need much room between the wall and your projector, and will still have a very large image (100 inches at 8 or so feet, as in our setup).
On the other hand, home users will be totally satisfied with the movie quality. We primarily tested this projector in this mode, throwing movies and TV shows up during afternoon and evening viewing in a dimly lit room. Offering a solid 2600 lumens, brightness is more than sufficient for most situations, though if you like to watch movies in a bright room for some reason (or you have a lot of windows and want to watch a show during the daytime), then you may need a brighter option. We’ve checked out a brighter option in the past, the 3700 lumen VS350W, which offers the same resolution though less sophisticated features, but is louder and much larger. Picture quality was excellent, even during action scenes, and there was no rainbowing effect as can occur with DLP projectors. We compared and contrasted to our long-time favorite, the Epson EX7200, which is still running strong on the original bulb after several thousand hours, and we found the 1761W to offer slightly better contrast (they do have a similarly rated bulb life at 4000 hours and equivalent decibel levels, audible but not distracting at 30-40 dB depending on settings). We love Epson’s instant-off feature, eliminating the need for cool down.
Did we mention that the 1761W is super-slim? It’s svelte body takes up little space in a bag, and includes lots of connectivity options. The essential ports are all there- HDMI, USB for computer-less presentations via USB thumb drive- and there is a built-in 1W speaker as well. It offers enough sound for basic uses, but home theater users will want a bit more power and range. Unfortunately, as is common, there are no audio out ports on the unit itself, so you’ll need a receiver or another way to grab audio from your source. The killer feature here is the included wireless module. The freely available, though limited, iProjection app (we tested on iOS; an Android version is available) is quite cool- you can display web pages, images, as well as documents. But it won’t work well with web video or with video on your device either. We definitely appreciated the inclusion of wireless-N, which is faster than 802.11b/g and meant smooth performance. It’s fun to control the projector from your iPhone, but you can’t turn the projector on or off, so you’ll still need the (fairly boring) included remote.
If the PowerLite 1761W’s wireless connectivity sounds appealing, or you need portability (or even the potential to bring your theater with you), then this is the best choice we’ve seen. If you don’t mind spending a bit more, or having a bulkier stationary model, you might be able to get another Epson with a bit more brightness that would better serve a dedicated travel or cinema option. The price surprised us- this felt like well over $1000 of projector. But the list price is only $799, and we found it online for $699, making it an extremely good deal (and making us wonder why anyone with wall space would purchase a television).