ViewSonic PHD5523

GCN LAB REVIEWS

This projector brings high-def video to life

No set of reviews of cutting-edge products would be complete without a projector, and we think the PJD5523w from ViewSonic fits the bill. Yes, we put the PJD5523w through our rigorous display testing, the details of which will be revealed a little later in this review. But some impressive features of this DLP projector are apparent before it even gets powered up.

One of the most remarkable features that does not contribute directly to the display’s quality is the way the unit is vented. You may not think venting is important, but we’ve seen quite a few different heat diffusion schemes over the years, some good and some really bad. Two of them even burned us! Of the entire crop, the PJD5523w is probably the best we’ve tested.

The most expensive part of most DLP projectors, at least among the ones that you can realistically replace without buying a new unit, is the bulb. Projector bulbs are costly, and, because they get incredibly hot, are prone to breaking if not properly vented. They also tend to lose their raw light power over time, and proper ventilation can help stave off the inevitable. So venting is important, like a projector’s life support.


ViewSonic PJD5523w

Pros: Perfect venting for long bulb life; great sound; vivid colors.
Cons: Images dim slightly in right-side corners; slower than optimal response time with fast-moving pixels.
Performance: B+
Ease of Use: A
Features: A
Value: B+
Price: $549

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The PJD5523w has no filters. Although we thought this was an odd choice at first, we’ve seen filters that do more harm than good, restricting air flow and clogging up with dust, necessitating replacement of yet another part. The PJD5523w has a wide intake vent on the left side of the projector, behind the lens. There is no fan there, just a plastic grill. Cool room air is pulled into the unit via two quiet but powerful fans that expel hot air out the front of the unit, the one side that you know is going to be open and unrestricted in every setup since that is where the image is projected.

The DLP is only 3.2 inches thick, and you might be surprised to find that most of that is open space, which is why it’s only 5.7 pounds. The PJD5523w could probably be half its thickness if the open area were eliminated inside the unit, but it’s used to ensure that all the electronics and other components remain cool. Air heated by the bulb is almost immediately expelled out of the unit, to the point that other than the area directly near the exhaust, the entire projector remains cool.

How confident is ViewSonic in this new venting system? Confident enough that there is no enforced waiting period when shutting the projector down. Press the off button and the fans stop spinning with no delay. That’s confidence, and this is the first unit we tested to ever do that.

It would take a very long test to see if the venting on the PJD5523w gave it longer life, but we will say that it performed better in the short term. Normally lumens on projectors drop after 10 hours of use, and then again at 200 hours, and then not again until the bulb actually dies. After 20 hours of using the PJD5523w, we did not detect any drop in light power, and we believe this is likely due to the excellent venting.

High-end video

Now, the reason we wanted to review the PJD5523w had nothing to do with airflow. We were looking for a projector that used the ultra-high-end HDMI input. Found in home theater setups and game consoles, HDMI (and its non-licensed DisplayPort cousin) represent the best in high-definition video. As a bonus, the cables also carry sound, so with one cable you can hook up the absolute best sound and video from a source to a display. The PJD5523w has one, in addition to other inputs such as S-video, VGA and Composite.

So we hooked up the projector to our test laptop and installed the drivers. As a word of warning, be sure to always install the drivers on any device you want to run the projector. Although the computer could detect the PJD5523w when it connected, we could not set the output to the native 1280 x 800 resolution before the drivers were installed.

Once we got that sorted out, we were pretty amazed at the video quality. We loaded up the video benchmark suite from Passmark Software. The PJD5523w had perfect single-pixel display, with no stretch marks or blurs around dots placed on a black field. And when it came to color saturation, the HDMI input combined with the ViewSonic six-segment color wheel meant that even very subtle 2 percent differences between shades of red, blue and green were apparent. The PJD5523w performed well with color display in both the lighter and darker spectrums, which is fairly unusual as most projectors do one well at the expense of the other.

The sound was also adequate. It only has a 2-watt speaker, but that’s good enough for most presentations. You probably want to invest in higher-quality external speakers if you plan to watch any movies on it, though.

Minor caveats

In terms of negatives, there were two of note, both of them minor but both of which need mentioning depending on which application you plan to use. First, the light produced by the PJD5523w is not completely homogeneous across an entire screen. In the center of a screen sitting exactly 10 feet from the unit and minimized down to the smallest size possible, we recorded 871 lumens. In the lower left-hand corner, that light dropped slightly to 783 lumens, within the 100 lumen range where the naked eye could not tell a difference. The same was recorded in the upper left-hand corner. However, on the right side of the screen we recorded a drop to 653 lumens at the top and 661 at the bottom. So an image that spans the screen might appear darker on the right side to anyone watching.

Secondly, the PJD5523w was slow to render very fast-moving pixels. Although things looked almost perfect with a block moving across the screen at 600 pixels per second, when it was increased to 800 pixels per second there was a lot of obvious drag at the front and back of the block as the unit struggled to keep up.

Neither of those negatives is a deal breaker, and they may not even be noticed by most people, but they prevented the PJD5523w from quite achieving a perfect performance score.

The features and quality of the PJD5523w would have been unheard of in a $549 projector just a few years ago. Today, this projector represents the new breed of inexpensive, high-performing DLPs that work even better when driven through HDMI cables. You would be hard-pressed to find a better deal for a widescreen model DLP.

ViewSonic Corp., www.viewsonic.com

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