LED-2 Video Projector

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LED-2 Video Projector review


Lawrence of Arabia needs to be wall sized. Note that
motion blur is a result of slow exposure on the camera

For some movies, nothing is better than having a really large screen. Not just 42 inch or whatever, but something that fills the wall. The only way to achieve this is to have a video projector, but they're usually very expensive.

About twenty years ago I had a short home loan of what was then the lowest cost model of Sharp LCD projector. While it was fun for a weekend, the very low resolution of 320x240 and the very obvious chicken-wire effect on the screen detracted from the experience. Then there was the problem of the short expected lifespan of the very hot running bulbs used. The cost per minute of watching a movie with such a projector was surprisingly high. Too high.

Twenty years later I found myself hiring projectors a day at a time for the purpose of making presentations for work. There were several problems with doing this. For a start, each time I made a presentation I'd be faced with a different projector (even in the same room as before) which often worked differently. Sometimes I'd need different cables to those which were needed before. Also, it was surprisingly expensive. Therefore I became interested in buying a projector once again.

Looking for a projector

Technology had moved on since 1992. It was now possible to buy a projector with an LED light source which was expected to last 50000 hours of use. If the manuofacturer's estimations are correct, this is enough for eight hours of use every day for 17 years without having to replace an expensive bulb. What's more, projectors using LED light sources can be compact and robust.

Some of the "pico projectors" turned out not to be suitable for me because they have very low light output and can only throw a very small picture. Others had a very low resolution - 320x240 pixel projectors still exist. Many of the projectors come from Chinese sources and are available under a range of model names so it can be confusing to buy them.

I had been making my presentations using the combination of a laptop with VGA output and a media player with composite video output. However, I now also owned an Android tablet with HDMI output and this combined with a small enough projector would be easier to carry on a bicycle.

The LED-2 projector

We settled on a projector called simply "LED-2". This uses Liquid Crystal on Silicon technology (LCOS) and has a native resolution of 640x480. This doesn't sound much, and of course a higher resolution would have been nice to have, but is about the same as standard definition TV which most of us have been watching for many years and in practice it doesn't look too bad. There is little of the chicken-wire effect that I noticed all that years ago. The projector can accept inputs with a wide range of higher resolutions, but down-scales all of these to 640x480 for display.

LCOS technology appears in many low cost projectors. It has an advantage which I appreciate very much over the many DLP projectors which use a colour wheel in that rainbow patterns are not produced when you move your head.

The projector has a wide range of different inputs, including the composite video, VGA and HDMI that we wanted. It also has s-video and component video inputs, and even a tuner with an aerial input on the back which can be configured to work with most international analogue TV standards.

Some versions of the projector also include slots for USB drives and SD cards and can play videos directly off those media.

the projector even includes a small internal audio amplifier and speaker. The audio quality is not great so we run the sound through the hifi when we watch films. However, it's quite acceptable for this type of product and this again reduces the amount you need to carry to make a presentation.

The image is bright enough to use for presentations in a slightly darkened room so long as the projector is close to the screen, thus the image is kept relatively small and the picture being displayed is bright. For films you need a dark room. You can then use the projector further from the screen and the resulting image can be 2 m wide and still bright enough to watch.

These projectors are sold under a number of different names, including "Favi Rio HD" and "Callium". It appears that the manufacturer is Hongtianpao, though this name doesn't appear anywhere on the projector or its packaging. They're sold at many different places, including Amazon. See the link to the left.

Prices for these projectors vary greatly. I paid around €120 to a seller on marktplaats, which I now realise was a good price. Generally speaking you can find them for less than $200.

Note that Amazon also has many other projectors, some of which are updated versions of this one and may be more suitable for your needs.

Controls

Almost everything is controlled from the infra-red remote control.

This allows switching of sources, rotating the image (for mounting the projector upside down on the ceiling or for rear projection), setting up image quality (contrast / brightness etc.), switching between 4:3 and 16:9 display modes etc.

I recommend finding your own settings for video. As delivered, there are three preset settings and user setting which by default has "sharpness" turned up to a ludicrous extent, and the picture is a bit too colourful and bright. You lose details due to this. However, the most bright of the preset settings gives you the best chance of displaying clearly with excess ambient light, so that's also of value.

Focus is controlled by rotating the lens at the front. Easy to set up. Keystone / trapedzoidal correction is also mechanical and adjusted with a fairly awkward to use wheel under the projector. Luckily, you don't have to do this often. This correction blurs the image if used to extremes so it is best to try to line the projector up well with centre of the screen.

The box

The projector comes in a sturdy and useful cardboard box which protects it well. I use this for storing the projector when not in use and also for transporting it safely to meetings.


Specifications according to the manufacturer are printed on the side of the box:

50000 hours LED lifespan, brightness 1500 lumens. I have no way of measuring these things. In practice, it's bright enough for watching movies in a dark room, but not with lots of lights on and for making presentations with high contrast slides in a dim room but not a well lit room. There may be some exaggeration here, but in general it appears to do what it says on the box.

Inside

I took the top off our projector to show what is inside:

Clockwise from top right: Fan, power supply for LED, heatsink with LED and difracting lens, rear panel with tuner, main PCB, inputs, 45 degree mounted LCoS block with electronics, speaker, lens.

Problems

  1. The s-video input produces a dull picture. I've tried NTSC and PAL, several sources and two different cables. I don't know if this is a one off problem with our projector or generally true. I use composite video instead.
  2. The component video input doesn't seem to work with the SD interlaced output from my DVD player, though it does work perfectly with the 720P output from our media player
  3. Connected through HDMI from my tablet I find I only get correct aspect ratio on video if I set the output to 480P. I don't know if this is more generally the case for HDMI through the projector. It ignores the 4:3/16:9 button on the remote when projecting from HDMI.
  4. The fan could be quieter, but that's true of every projector I have experience of.

Summary

There are some compromises, including that it's not as bright and does not have the same resolution as much more expensive projectors. However, this is a good product at an exceptional price. Please note that I waited until we'd owned this projector for more than six months before writing this. I recommend it because it offers honest value for money. Just don't set your expectations too high.


I sell bicycle components and lead cycle tours for a living.