Greg's experiences with the Acer PH530 video projector
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In October 2007 I bought an Acer PH530 projector to replace my Panasonic PT-AE700E: it was considerably cheaper to buy a new projector than to repair the old one, which was developing a discolouration in one corner of the display. Here are some first thoughts, taken from my diary for 18 October:

Like the Panasonic, the PH530 has 720p (1080x720) native resolution. It came with all sorts of accessories, including a case and an HDMI cable—but no instruction manual! That's on the CD. Instead, they included a “quick start” guide that is almost as long as the instruction manual because it's in about 20 different languages. Strange.

Plugging in the projector worked, barely. For some reason it took quite a while to display an image, and when it did, it was very jumpy. It seemed to think that the image was a 1024x768 format, though in fact it was 1280x720. Took a look in the real instruction manual, which I had downloaded before purchase. It told me to adjust frequency and tracking settings, both of which made no difference. Looking at the specs showed that the signal was well in spec. The projector claims to handle up to 100 kHz horizontal and 85 Hz vertical, and my signal was 60 kHz horizontal and 75 Hz vertical. The next page in the instruction manual shows that this is what the projector expects from an iMac DV signal, which is 1024x768.

The same table showed that it expected a 1280x720 signal to be 45 kHz/60 Hz, so set the X server to do that, and it worked perfectly. Interestingly, the image on the Panasonic PT-AE700E was also much better at this frequency. I get the feeling that the specs are less than completely accurate, and that I should stick to the frequencies that they describe in the documentation.

So how does it compare to the Panasonic? The Acer cost me $965 on eBay, while the cheapest current Panasonic model (PT-AX100E, much the same as the PT-AE700E except that it has 2000 lumens instead of 1000) costs $1799. By contrast, I paid about $2300 for my old projector over 2 years ago, and repairing it could cost as much as $1900. Hopefully models like Acer will spearhead a further drop in prices; currently the 1080p projectors are still very expensive.

The Acer is considerably smaller than the Panasonic; I suspect that the new Panasonic models are the same size as the old ones. To make up for it, the Panasonics have lens shift and a really wide range zoom. The Acer doesn't. As a result, the image we get from the Acer in our narrow lounge room (3.6 metres wall to wall) is considerably smaller than the one we got from the Panasonic, and it's offset vertically. I don't know how they expect that to work when mounted from the ceiling; presumably it needs to be mounted at an angle.

Some reviews I read before purchase suggested that the contrast was not all that it should be. I forgot to check that, but I'm sure I would have noticed if it had been bad. I suspect that Acer might have had quality control problems early on, since all the complaints were from owners of some of the early models.

The other issues were noise and heat generation. The noise doesn't seem to be any worse than the Panasonic, possibly slightly better, and I'm pretty sure that it generates less heat, though maybe that's just because it blows it out to the front instead of to the side.

Apart from that, there's the remote control, which includes mouse buttons and a nipple, only usable if connected to a computer by USB cable (not supplied). I don't have things set up in a way that could use that, but it's a clever idea. Pity the remote control looks so tinny.

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