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If you're pinching pennies, the compact, 2.7-pound Acer P3250 ($791 as of 8/7/09) is the lowest-priced lamp-based projector among the 2-to-3-pound models we tested for our recent ultraportable projectors review, and it has excellent image quality.
Its economic advantage includes the cost of its 3000-hour replacement lamp, which is $240, versus a price of well over $300 for the lamps the other models use. However, since the P3250's native resolution is 1024 by 768 (XGA), you'll need to use a laptop running at the same XGA resolution to obtain the best image sharpness and clarity for presentations.
The P3250's most praiseworthy feature is the excellent quality of its images. Among the seven projectors we tested (four lamp-based and three LED-based), this model landed in second place for its overall performance, finishing close behind the top-ranked InFocus IN1102. While it delivered crisp, legible fonts in all of its text-rendering tests, it was strongest in displaying colorful images. It tied for first in graphics tests, delivering vivid color with fine details in both the light and dark areas of our test pictures, and it came in second on our motion and video tests. It earned some of its best scores for its color authenticity in displaying the varied hues of all four seasons in an outdoor-photo series. In DVD-movie playback, the P3250 did exceptionally well in capturing the bright reds, yellows, and blues in Speed Racer, as well as in accurately rendering the earthy browns, tans, and greens in Quantum of Solace.
One of the likely reasons the P3250 projects superior color is that its proprietary ColorBoost display technology uses an additional color (cyan) in its six-segment color wheel, which can help render better results in some images when compared with the five-segment color wheels (red, green, blue, white, yellow) that other traditional projectors use.
The P3250's high brightness rating of 2000 lumens makes it suitable for use in a large conference room with a fair amount of ambient light. In our tests the P3250 effectively displayed an 8.5-foot-diagonal image at 15 feet from the screen, in a room with moderate ambient daylight. However, like most of the other models equipped with a 1.0-watt mono speaker, in audio capability it proved too weak, providing insufficient sound to accompany presentations or videos.
The P3250 is simple to set up, using its three tilt-adjustment feet and its smooth lens zoom and focus controls. Inputs include VGA, composite video, S-Video, audio, USB (for page up/down via remote control), and an HDMI (HDCP-compliant) port for displaying digital content from a computer, a TV tuner, or another video source that shares an HDMI connection. The control panel on top of the projector is somewhat small and compact, but most of the buttons are big enough to help prevent you from pushing the wrong one. The remote is larger and easier to use than the smaller card-size versions, and it includes a handy laser pointer, but it lacks a hot-button for instant access to its six preset picture modes ("Bright," "Standard," "Video," and others). The well-designed on-screen display is simple to navigate, and it offers an array of image adjustment controls. One hitch, however, is that Acer's one-year limited warranty for this model (90 days for the lamp) is skimpy compared with the two- and three-year warranties that competing projector makers provide.
All in all, the Acer P3250 is a good choice for people who want an affordable ultraportable projector that combines all the essential features with great image quality. Although it lacks the anamorphic advantages of a native, wide-aspect-ratio model, such as the InFocus IN1102 or the Optoma EW330, it costs considerably less, and it delivers business presentations with plenty of visual punch.
Superior color quality, well-rounded features, and a great price help the Acer P3250 rise toward the top of the heap.
- Excellent color quality
- HDMI support for digital display
- Skimpy warranty
- Weak built-in speaker
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