ViewSonic Pro8200 review: Poor picture sinks cheap projector

Picture settings

The ViewSonic offers up a number of different modes including Brightest, Dark Room and Cinema but more importantly it gives you two user modes. The advanced controls amount to a full Color Management System, a selection of Gamma presets, and a one-point greyscale adjustment.

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Connectivity

While more expensive projectors are lucky to offer you a couple of HDMI and USB ports, budget models like the Pro8200 offer an embarrassment of connectivity. From little-used connectors S-Video to A/V, to D-Sub to component, it's all pretty much covered. Oh, and it has two HDMI ports. While it does have a USB port, it's for firmware upgrades and not by users.

Picture quality

If you watch a lot of animation then the shortcomings of the Pro8200 aren't going to be immediately apparent -- most displays can display bright scenes well -- but throw something akin to "normal" content on it and the cracks will appear. One of the biggest issues with the ViewSonic Pro8200 is that all of the preset modes bar "Brightest" are very dark and are saddled with terrible color. Even after calibration the projector still wasn't able to rise to the standard of its rival, the BenQ W10XX series. Crushing of shadow details is the projector's worst transgression, and it is so bad that one of our dark test scenes didn't display at all! While color can be much improved somewhat via calibration, but it's still over-saturated, with skin tones suffering most.

Surprisingly enough the image processing is excellent with low lag and very good keystone adjustment. But sadly these two things along can't make up for the hatchet job this projector does on black levels and contrast.

Comparison models (details)
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 20303LCD projector
BenQ W1080STDarkChip3 DLP projector

Black and white level

While the projector has fairly poor black levels, especially given that the similarly priced and specified BenQ W1080's are so good, it's the lack of shadow detail that is the biggest issue. So bad as to be comical with the right material. For instance, the hilltop scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II" (45.55) was unwatchable: the first 10 seconds of the scene were completely blank -- in every mode! This projector crushed the image worse than any other display I have ever tested. Even the cheapest LCD TVs will display something on the screen here.

While the BenQ was able to, in "Star Trek," make the image of Nero lying down on a green bed look natural (28:38), the image looked almost cartoonish on the Viewsonic with no depth and missing half of the character's face.

Even daylight scenes, such as where Bones and Captain Kirk converse outside the Starfleet Academy in the San Francisco sunshine ("Star Trek," 29:52), look overly moody on the Viewsonic. Where the BenQ 1080 is able to illuminate the detail in both characters' faces the Viewsonic hides them in darkness like they're standing under a thundercloud.

Color accuracy

In its default modes color was fairly inaccurate, but via calibration I was able to dial in colors that were much closer to reference -- at least as far as the numbers were concerned. Unfortunately, I was unable to correct the oversaturation of both red and green.

What this meant was that skin tones were particularly feverish in most material. Watching The Tree of Life and the mother looked a little sunburnt as she down in the ulra-green grass. Her cyan dress was also quite a bit brighter than the more "truthful" BenQ conveyed. In concert with the crushed blacks the overall image was too dark and colors were overpowering.

Video processing

Given that the picture crushes so poorly it was a surprise to see that the video processing was better than any of its competitors. Firstly, while the BenQ and the Epson had real troubles with jaggies on the digital keystone it was only at the real extremes that the ViewSonic would exhibit mild jagged edges on a test pattern grid. In lieu of a physical lens shift the Pro8200 is less fussy about placement as a result.

When completing our more traditional picture processing tasks the ViewSonic performed similarly well, passing 1080p/24 correctly and deinterlacing 1080i content without artifacts. While motion resolution was a little disappointing with only 340 lines, the projector did really well in our gaming test with an input lag of only 24.8ms -- the best of any projector we've tested.

Bright lighting

Though the picture was overly green in its "Brightest" mode the color reproduction was actually better -- read, "less overly-saturated" -- than the other modes. Light output wasn't as good as the other budget projectors, with the ViewSonic only able to reach a maximum brightness of 50.87 fL. As a result the picture could look a little washed out in a lit room.

ViewSonic Pro8200

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.027 Poor
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.05 Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 3.084 Average
Dark gray error (20%) 3.053 Average
Bright gray error (70%) 2.338 Good
Avg. color error 2.165 Good
Red error 2.471 Good
Green error 1.818 Good
Blue error 1.939 Good
Cyan error 3.159 Average
Magenta error 3.262 Average
Yellow error 0.34 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 330 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 24.8 Good

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