VJ Portable Projector Showdown

By January 25, 2013 Gear Reviews No Comments
Epson PowerLite 1761W Projector angle 620x350

by Phil Graci (Papa Fz)

For the past few years, I’ve been thinking about getting serious in the VJ scene alongside Mark Hines, one of the premier VJs in the game.  Aside from running my creative agency, TriAgency, and being the in-house programmer and developer of the crew, I also DJ as part of the Solomonic Sound System.  

I started building out my video toolbox in 2007, when we were doing a webcast from our studio.  I had experimented with different VJ software, and in 2008 I even tried (and gave up on) the Numark NUVJ. The love affair with the NUVJ was short-lived when I realized it couldn’t actually queue videos or do anything the way I expected.  Mark kept using it and somehow made the thing work, but for me it was a different story.  

I got excited and bought Serato Video-SL the day it was released, with visions of mixing video dubplates live at our gigs, only to realize I needed to make some further investments to get it to work the way it did in my vision. Reality soon set in, and I realized I’d need a computer with a better graphics card, a mixer with midi mapping capabilities, and most importantly – a projector.

I slowly built my video archives up over the years waiting for the time to be right.  Seeing the Pioneer DDJ-SX announcement and finally being able to jump in for a reasonable investment, I was ready. My preorder was placed, and I waited patiently.

The first few venues I performed at had projectors in-house.  But I had a few gigs coming up that either didn’t have a projector, or I needed to run 2 projectors – and it went without saying, to do this seriously, I at least needed one of my own.

I wasted an hour one morning considering buying a used one off of Craigslist or eBay.  Mark quickly talked me out of it.  The reality of not knowing the life on the bulb was one thing.  The majority of them not having HDMI was another. The biggest issue was that the older technology tends to overheat quicker, and then shutoff.  I needed to make sure the the projectors could run for long periods of time (NYE I had the setup going for over 10 hrs).

Mark had determined based on his previous research, to go with the Casio Green Slim XJ-A256.  It uses LED tech and claims 20,000 lamp hours. At $1,499.00, it was a pricey, but lightweight, compact and really solid piece of gear.  It was priced a little out of my current budget.  I couldn’t spend more than $800, but I still needed to get HDMI and VGA cables, splitters, and adapters.  

I took a look at what Panasonic had on the market.  I have a Panasonic Vierra tv in my living room and have been digging their quality and product lines for a while.  However the only one that fit the bill was the PT-VX400NTU – and priced at $1299.00 was more than I wanted to spend.  It was also way bigger than the Casio, and not small enough to co-exist with the rest of the gear in a gig bag.

For a short while I considered the BenQ W710ST.  At $699 this was what I was looking for price wise, but the thing is fat and bulky, weighing in at 8lbs – compared to 3 lbs on the Casio.  The size of this one made it a no go.  Too big and heavy to pack in the case easily, or mount in some crazy position on the fly at at a venue.



Continued the digging, and finally came across the Epson 1776W PowerLite projector.  It was the same overall size as the Casio – a little taller, but a smaller footprint.  I read some reviews comparing the two, and the Epson seemed to win out in deeper blacks and overall richness.  The bulb was LCD not LED, so it only got 5,000 hours. However it retailed for $1099.00.  Getting closer.

Then I saw the 1761W model, which lacks digital zoom, but which retailed for $899.  Now we’re talking! I found it a few places for $799.  But I am cheap, and that left me nothing for cables and adapters.  I kept hunting.  Finally, BestBuy put it on sale for $699 and I was in.

Overall, the projector has been awesome.  I’ve had to mount it at odd angles, and the Quick Corner feature let me bend up the image to fit the screen perfectly.  

This projector has some other cool features, like USB input – but don’t get your hopes up.  This just mirrors your main desktop, it’s not an additional monitor.  I had to bring my dream of wireless USB input to a grinding halt.  It works, just not for VJ purposes.  

It also has an included WiFi module that allows you to manage it using an Epson iPhone app.  I haven’t had the need to do any of this, but it could be useful if you have to mount the projector somewhere the remote can’t reach, say in an auditorium or sports stadium.

For what it’s worth, the 1761 also looks better in my opinion than all the others in this roundup.  The black color matches my computer and DJ gear and it fits better into a nightlife environment.  It’s not a big deal when the projector is mounted and out of the way, but it’s definitely a consideration when overall presentation is a concern for professional or corporate gigs.

My one dislike is the lack of the digital zoom, which means that the size of the image is only controlled by the distance away from the screen or wall you are hitting.  This makes it a little challenging in venues with limited places for mounting.  I will definitely grab the 1776W model the next chance I get for the throw feature alone.

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