The Epson Pro EX7280 3LCD WXGA projector is stiff competition for the NEC NP-ME401W, which it replaces as our first choice in its class. It shares the same WXGA resolution (1,280 x 800 pixels) as the NEC model and most of the same strengths, particularly in terms of brightness and image quality. It’s also significantly less expensive, at $ 699.99, which gives it a big advantage if you don’t need the NP-ME401W’s Ethernet port or its 1.7x zoom lens. The combination of a lower price and a close match of capabilities with the NEC model makes the EX7280 our new editor’s choice for a WXGA projector for medium to large rooms.
The advantages of three LCDs
One of the reasons the NP-ME401W and EX7280 share so many strengths is that they are both built around a 3LCD design, meaning they use three LCD chips to generate all three primary colors at the same time, instead of a single chip. DLP is a rotating color wheel that puts only one color on the screen at a time. The design ensures that the image does not contain rainbow artifacts – the red-green-blue flashes that some people see easily and find annoying.
This is a major advantage, as even if you don’t see these flashes on your own, they can distract someone you’re giving a presentation to or for students in the classroom. The design also ensures color matching and white brightness, which means color images will be as bright as you’d expect from an ANSI lumen measurement for white brightness.
The EX7280 is one of Epson’s portable business projectors and comes with a carrying case if desired. However, at 5.7 lbs and 3.6 by 11.9 by 9.3 inches (HWD), it’s a size and weight that often ends up on a cart or permanently installed. Setup is simple, it consists of little more than placing it in place, pointing it at the screen, and adjusting the manual focus and 1.2x zoom.
Connection options are somewhat limited compared to the NP-ME401W, the most notable differences being a single HDMI port instead of two and the lack of an Ethernet port. However, there is a VGA port for a second source, suitable for a PC or component video input, and also a composite video input if you have an older video source that needs it. You also get Wi-Fi support for connecting to a network and Wi-Fi Direct for connecting directly from a Windows phone or PC for screen mirroring. The projector also puts a QR code on the screen for quick and easy connection, which worked as promised in my tests.
A nice touch is a split screen feature that allows you to show input from two sources at the same time. The menu options allow you to easily choose which source goes on each side of the screen, swap their positions, set both to be the same size, or set one side to be larger. You can also choose which audio input to use.
The built-in 2-watt mono speaker delivers usable sound quality at a volume loud enough for a small to medium-sized room, although it is noticeably tinny, particularly at higher volumes. A minor oversight is the lack of an audio out port. If you need better sound quality, higher volume or stereo, you’ll need to connect an external audio system to the audio source instead of through the projector.
Test of the EX7280: bright and high-level presentations
EX7280 offers five color modes. All provided adequately sharp and legible text and fine detail for the 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution, as well as well-saturated and eye-catching colors for the graphics. For photorealistic images, color accuracy ranged from spot-on in the most accurate color mode to more than acceptable by most people’s standards in the least accurate. (It would be the brightest, most dynamic, as with virtually all projectors.)
For business graphics, some colors in Dynamic mode, especially light blue, were a little less saturated than they should have been, but I haven’t seen any green shifting so common for the brighter modes of many projectors. Cinema and sRGB had the most accurate colors, but all modes provided colors in photos, videos, and movies that fell within the realm of the realistic. If I wasn’t so familiar with the images in our test suite, I wouldn’t have spotted any color errors in any mode other than Dynamic. In short, any of the modes, including the Brighter mode, should be acceptable for most applications, which leaves you free to choose the one with the best brightness level for your image size and room lighting. .
That said, you might want to be a bit more finicky in choosing a mode if you include video or footage in your presentations or if you use the projector in a classroom where you show longer films from time to time. Cinema and sRGB are the obvious choices in that case, since they were pretty much tied to color accuracy in my tests. Between them, sRGB had the best shadow detail, but lost the sense of three-dimensionality in dark scenes. I found that changing the brightness setting in Cinema mode increased shadow detail without making the image flat like with sRGB, which made the modified version of Cinema mode my choice for movies and videos.
Ultimately, none of the picture modes live up to what you’d expect from even a low-end home theater projector, but none of them provided a highly watchable image for instantly out-of-the-box movies and videos, while Cinema with the its brightness adjusted correctly did the best job. There is no support for 3D, as is true for most LCD-based business and education projectors.
According to the recommendations of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), the 4,000 ISO lumens nominal for the EX7280, which equals ANSI lumens and corresponds to NP-ME401W, is bright enough to illuminate a 280-inch, 16: 10 gain screen 1.0 in a dark room. Even in moderately bright ambient light, that’s enough for a 160-inch screen. In my tests, after lowering the brightness by switching to Eco power mode and the lower brightness Cinema picture mode, the projector still illuminated my 90-inch screen with a suitably bright image. He was in a room with all the lights on and daylight filtering through the windows.
Verdict: Our best choice for WXGA projectors
Keep in mind that if you never show anything more challenging than large font PowerPoint presentations and don’t need a widescreen aspect ratio, a lower resolution projector can serve just as well. The Epson EX3280, for example, our current best choice for an XGA projector (1,024 x 768 pixels) for a mid-sized room, is nearly as bright as the EX7280 and a little cheaper. Or, if you need to show images with fine details, you may need a higher resolution model like the 1080p Epson Pro EX9240 (1,920 x 1,080 pixels).
That said, if WXGA is the right resolution and you need high enough brightness to fill an appropriate screen size for a medium to large room, the EX7280 or NP-ME401W should work just fine. But unless you need the extra features of the NP-ME401W, especially the Ethernet connector or the wide zoom range, the Epson Pro EX7280 will do the job at a lower price. And that’s enough to make it our editor’s new pick for a WXGA projector for a medium to large room.
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