It's far from the lightest or smallest business projector on the market, but the Epson PowerLite 765c squeezes the abilities of a conference-room projector into a remarkably portable case. With more than 2,000 lumens of light, it's bright enough for a lights-on presentation or a digital classroom lesson, and it's packed with features, including wireless networking, the ability to run a show from a memory card, and LAN management for IT administrators. The 765c's $2,300 price tag is a bit steep, but it's worth it if you need the power of a large projector in a small package.
Built around three 0.5-inch LCD panels, the silver-and-gray Epson PowerLite 765c features an XGA native resolution and weighs a light 4 pounds. Its 11-by-7-by-3-inch dimensions are typical for the portable-projector class, and with the included padded case, remote control, and key cables, the 765c hits the road at a total weight of 7 pounds.
The Epson PowerLite 765c can fill a screen as large as 25 feet and can project a surprisingly big image from a short distance away; we filled a 30-inch screen from just 3.2 feet away. We really like the automatic keystone correction, which displays a perfectly square image regardless of the angle you're projecting from. With the ability to support both 4:3 (the PC standard) and 16:9 (the DVD standard) pixel arrangements, the 765c can handle standard and high-definition video formats.
Although it lacks an HDMI connector, the Epson PowerLite 765c is a well-connected projector. It features both USB A and USB B ports, so you can plug in a notebook or pull images and video off of a camera, a flash key, or an external drive. There are also ports for VGA, audio, S-Video, and composite video. The two-prong power cord makes the 765c lighter and easier to handle by reducing cable bulk.
The Epson PowerLite 765c's control panel is on top of the projector, and the buttons are large and intuitive. There are dedicated controls for manual keystone correction, volume, and menu navigation, as well as status lights for lamp life and overheating. Atop the projector are controls for manually adjusting the focus and zooming up to 1.2X--both easy adjustments, thanks to protruding knobs. The included remote lets you adjust volume, input selection, and digital zoom, among other things; however, it lacks a laser pointer.
It's the 765c's PCMCIA Type I/II Card slot that sets it apart from the crowd. You can use it with the included Wi-Fi card to monitor the projector over a LAN or to show images stored on a network drive or a nearby laptop--no Ethernet cables needed. The downside is that before displaying slides or digital images over the network, you first need to convert them with Epson's EMP SlideMaker 2. In our tests, the projector worked like a charm with a variety of flash cards and USB memory drives but balked at a 2GB PC Card hard drive. When connected to a network, you can take advantage of the 765c's EMP Monitor software, which can change the image source, make minor image adjustments from afar, and even send e-mail when the lamp burns out or is in danger of overheating.
Make no mistake: with the ability to deliver 2,148 lumens of light in presentation mode, the 765c is among the brightest projectors in the portable XGA class, though it's slightly off Epson's advertised 2,500 lumen rating. Theater mode reduces the brightness level by 25 percent; the low-brightness setting delivers 1,616 lumens, which is the equivalent output of the at its high-brightness setting. With all this brightness comes a downside, however: when maxed out, the 765c's fan is among the loudest we've encountered, though it's not quite overwhelming. The low-brightness setting reduces the noise to an acceptable level. The Epson PowerLite 765c has an average brightness uniformity of 75 percent, though we noticed a hot spot in the center. Unfortunately, the projector's color temperature shifts from one side to the other, giving the image a pink cast on the right and a blue one on the left.
Like those of other LCD projectors, the Epson PowerLite 765c's 204:1 contrast ratio can't match the 500:1 ratio that's common on DLP projectors today. On the plus side, its images were rock solid, without any ghosting and with only occasional flicker. It displayed some of the sharpest type and images we've seen, making it great for text-heavy presentations.
Firing up the Epson PowerLite 765c and putting an image onscreen takes only 23 seconds, just long enough to make sure your notebook is powered up and connected. The 765c shuts down, cools off, and is ready to be packed up, all in a miraculous 4 seconds. Most projectors, such as the , take more than a minute.
Maintenance for the Epson PowerLite 765c is easy: we love the pull-out air filter and the ability to quickly cool down the 170-watt lamp and change it with a screwdriver. Bulbs are rated for 3,000 hours in low-brightness mode, which is about 500 more hours than we typically see, but replacements cost $450 each--$250 more than the Hitachi CP-RS55's bulb, which lasts for 2,000 hours. The expensive bulbs significantly contribute to the 765c's high maintenance cost of 15 cents per hour of use.
Epson's warranty for the 765c covers parts and labor for two years--a year less than the industry standard--and expedited repair service costs an extra $539. Epson's Web site features troubleshooting advice, software downloads, detailed FAQs, and manuals. If you need personal attention, you can use the dedicated e-mail link, work through the amazingly confusing toll-free fax-back service, or talk to a tech-support representative by phone. Epson's toll-free support is open on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.