The ViewSonic Pro8200 may seem "cheap and cheerful," but its sub-par image quality against rivals makes it a worse value.
It's a well-worn cliche that if you want to have a quality product, then you have to pay for it. But even at the most basic levels there are still the stars and the clunkers. When it comes to budget-level projectors, this ViewSonic is the one making the heavy clanging sounds.
While people's expectations will no doubt be low -- this is under a thousand dollars, and there are projectors over $20,000! -- it's in the presence of budget stars like the BenQ W1080 that the ViewSonic Pro8200 starts to unravel.
The Pro8200's main problem is that it crushes shadow detail, which is a very old trick used to make an image look like it "pops" but really destroys image quality. The ViewSonic is one of the worst displays when it comes to displaying shadow detail: it simply can't. When you read further down the list of things it does "wrong" -- blows out colors, poor black levels, etc -- the ViewSonic presents a worse value than before. Get either the BenQ W1070 or W1080 instead: same DLP technology, only executed with care. They're easily worth the extra couple hundred dollars.
If this was a competition to design the projector that looked more expensive than it actually was, then the Pro8200 would win. Judged against competitors like the BenQ W1070 and Epson 2030 , the ViewSonic at least looks like it means business. There is a distinct Darth Vader thing going on here, from the ridged zoom control to the jet black lens cover "helmet" and general color scheme. The Pro8200 is relatively coffee-table friendly at 13.1 inches wide, 4.3 inches high, and 10.4 inches deep.
The projector comes with a backlit remote control but the ergonomics are a little iffy -- for example the "Video" input button is in the same place most other companies put their "Menu" buttons.
The menu system is straightforward but it would be helpful if it minimized when making individual picture adjustments.
|Native resolution||1,920x1,080 (1080p)|
|3D glasses included||No|
|Zoom and focus||Manual|
|Lamp lifespan||Up to 6000 hours|
|Replacement lamp cost||$329 list|
The Pro8200 is a little long in the tooth now having debuted at the start of 2011, though projectors don't conform to the same rapid release schedule as televisions. This model, like the BenQ 1080 is a DLP projector based on DarkChip3 technology.
As a somewhat older unit the ViewSonic lacks some of the mod-cons now seen at the sub-$1,000 level. The most obvious is the lack of 3D which while not mandatory is a "nice to have." It does have a 10W "stereo" speaker though.
As always you will need to replace the lamp periodically but the advertised life is higher than normal at up to 6000 hours. The ViewSonic Web site has the replacement RLC-061 lamp at $329 but Amazon and other sites have the price at half that.
At this range you can expect some setup options to go missing, so the complete lack of lens shift is no surprise. The unit included a 1.5x zoom lens capable of a maximum image of 300 inches from up to 10 yards away. There's also a (rather good) keystone control and adjustable feet on the front and back of the unit.
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.
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.
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 2030||3LCD projector|
|BenQ W1080ST||DarkChip3 DLP projector|
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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|
|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|