Review Written By:Bill Livolsi | View original article on Projector Central here.
The Epson PowerLite Pro G6900WU is a 6000-lumen WUXGA projector built with large venues in mind. WUXGA resolution is 1920×1200, the new gold standard for conference room and auditorium projectors. It used to be a high-end format, but at this writing there are two hundred WUXGA projectors in production across a wide range of price points. It has broad market appeal due to its versatility — WUXGA projectors will display both 1920×1200 computer signals and HD 1080p video in native format, so it has become the go-to resolution for sharp, detailed projection display.
As installation projectors go, the Epson Pro G6900WU is compact and easy to handle, weighing in at just over 20 lbs. It is a single-lamp projector that is not only rich in features, but also more affordable than dual-lamp models. The Pro G6900WU is powerful enough to light some seriously big screens, versatile enough to handle just about any connection or media type, and aggressively priced within its performance class. It also has some features not found in other Pro G-series projectors that make it ideal for digital signage. And at $6,499, you can’t beat its combination of features and performance.
The Viewing Experience
At 6,000 lumens, the Pro G6900WU is built to be used on large screens, typically in the presence of ambient light. As such, our light-controlled theater is not exactly the ideal environment. It was not a surprise when the projector started up and bathed the entire room in reflected screen light. We toned down the image brightness by switching into ECO lamp mode and increasing the screen size, but the Pro G6900WU is clearly intended for larger, brighter spaces.
The most striking thing about the Pro G6900WU’s image is its excellent color. The Pro G6900WU produces bright, saturated color in every image mode, and this goes a long way towards creating a natural-looking image. This is especially helpful when displaying data graphics or photography, because brightness does not drop off when a full-color image is put on screen. While this is not unique in data projectors, it is also not a given.
The projector’s color performance made us curious how it would perform with 1080p video. As it turns out, the answer is “quite well.” The Pro G6900WU uses Faroudja DCDi technology to process video signals, and the result is a smooth video image with great detail. The only weak point is black level, and even then the Pro G6900WU performs admirably for a projector in its class. It is not built to be a dedicated video projector, but it does very well in a pinch or for part-time use. And on the bright side, the projector’s dynamic range is sufficient to prevent crushing of shadow detail.
The Pro G6900WU includes quite a few little touches that make video more pleasant to watch, such as an automatic iris and frame interpolation. The iris brings down black level and can be very helpful when viewing video or film, but only if room lighting can be reduced as well.
Frame interpolation smooths out judder in film and video. The Pro G6900WU’s FI circuit is more or less identical to those found on Epson home theater projectors. There are three different modes, labeled Low, Normal, and High. Low mode was most appropriate for film, as it displayed the fewest artifacts and the least amount of digital video or “soap opera” effect. High mode is overkill for film and 24p content, but has no negative effect on 60p video signals. Keep in mind that Frame Interpolation is not for everyone; some folks do not enjoy the effect when viewing film, but there are no real downsides to using it with video.
In short, the Pro G6900WU’s image is bright, color is excellent, and video quality is superb for its class. The projector’s black level is typical for a data projector, but in an auditorium this actually matters very little — and with the auto-iris engaged and the lights dimmed, black level becomes quite good.
Setup and Configuration
Gone are the days when a 6000-lumen projector was a heavy behemoth that required a lot of muscle to install. The Pro G6900WU is small enough to be easily deployed pretty much any way you want to use it. It can be ceiling mounted, installed in a projection closet, or even placed on a rolling cart if mobility is desired. There is an assortment of six optional lenses to choose from which will allow you to fill a 180″ diagonal screen from a throw distance of anywhere from 8’2″ to 84’7″ (with the exception of a break in the range from 10 to 16 feet).
The Pro G6900WU comes with the Standard Zoom lens, a 1.82:1 manual zoom/focus lens that will put a 180″ image on screen from 16′ to just over 29′. The projector is available either as a bundle with the Standard Zoom, or as a bare body (Pro G6900WUNL, with the “NL” standing for “No Lens”). The latter is priced at $5,199 to the former’s $6,499. The lenses vary in price, with the Standard Zoom selling for $1,399, the Short Throw Zoom selling for $2,999, and the other lenses all priced at $1,899.
As for lens shift, the projector allows for both vertical and horizontal adjustment using manually-operated thumb knobs on the top of the projector. Once lens shift is dialed in, the projector has a sliding lock bar that prevents further adjustment or drift.
The exact range of the lens shift changes with each lens, but the standard lens allows for approximately 70% vertical adjustment in either direction and about 33% adjustment to the left or right. On a hypothetical 180″ diagonal image (95″ high by 153″ wide), that’s 66.5″ range up or down and 46″ of adjustment to the left or right.
The Pro G6900WU can be installed in an auditorium, but it can also be used on curved surfaces, hard corners, ceilings, floors, and portrait orientations. Digital signage-oriented features like arc correction, edge blending, corner wall projection, and 360-degree display make it possible to install the Pro G6900WU in positions that are either difficult or impossible for many other projectors.
The Pro G6900WU is easy to install and maintain, and even a surface-level examination of the projector reveals some thoughtful touches. The projector’s lens mount uses a quick-release system, so you can swap out lenses without a screwdriver. The air filter door uses a sliding lock system and filters can be changed without tools — though the air filter is built to last 10,000 hours, so it’s only an occasional maintenance item. The lamp door on the projector’s side is attached with two Phillips screws, so unfortunately lamp changes still require a screwdriver.
One final note: The Pro G6900WU includes a third lamp power selection called “Temp Interlock.” This mode keeps the lamp at full power unless the surrounding temperature rises outside the range for normal operation, at which point lamp power switches to ECO. If you were going to keep the lamp at full power, there is no reason not to use this setting, as it can help preserve your projector and improve lamp life.
Image quality. The Pro G6900WU’s stand-out feature is the balanced, natural quality of the image even in the projector’s brightest modes. The Pro G6900WU has well-saturated, bright color, a sharp and detailed image, and great dynamic range. The projector is as strong in video display as it is in data thanks in part to a Faroudja DCDi image processor, an automatic iris, and frame interpolation.
Connectivity. Nearly the entire rear surface of the Pro G6900WU is taken up by its connection panel. As the flagship model of Epson’s new G series, the Pro G6900WU features connectors for HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, VGA monitor out, S-Video, composite, 5BNC component, wired LAN, WiFi (with a $99 adapter), both 1/8″ and RCA audio inputs, HDBaseT, and HD-SDI. That last one in particular is not found on any other projectors in the G Series line-up and is unique to the Pro G6900WU.
HDBaseT is getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. It combines HDMI, ethernet, and RS232 control over one inexpensive, non-proprietary, easily sourced Cat5e or Cat6 cable. Epson sells an HDBaseT transmitter box for $499 that bundles HDMI, Ethernet, and RS232 and sends them out over a single wire, but aftermarket products are also an option.
Arc correction. If your screen isn’t flat, the Pro G6900WU can correct for that. Arc Correction allows you to digitally fine-tune the projection geometry to compensate for a screen surface that is not perfectly flat. In other words, the Pro G6900WU can be used on curved screens without pincushion or barrel distortion. Moreover, the projector is capable of correcting focus in non-flat images, keeping your entire image crisp and clear. Arc correction does apply scaling to the image, so if you are using WUXGA or 1080p content you will lose the benefit of 1:1 native display.
Edge blending. For large-scale screens that require more than one projector, the Pro G6900WU has Advanced Edge Blending. All projectors in Epson’s G Series offer edge blending — the ability to seamlessly stitch the edges of two or more projectors’ images in order to make one fully integrated image. But the Pro G6900WU has the “advanced” version, which also includes support for curved surfaces and corner walls.
360-degree installation. Many projectors can only be installed horizontally due to heat concerns, but the Pro G6900WU can be installed in any position. One of several features aimed at digital signage, this allows the projector to be mounted in any orientation without fear of overheating or malfunction.
When you combine these three features — arc correction, edge blending, and 360-degree installation — you gain the ability to install the Pro G6900WU in some radically non-traditional setups, making it perfect for digital signage. You can aim the projector at a floor or ceiling, or project onto a vertically oriented screen. Getting more creative, you can use the Corner Wall feature to project a portrait-oriented image onto a curved pillar or sharp 90-degree corner. Getting more creative still, you can use a series of Pro G6900WU projectors to edge-blend a huge display all the way down one wall, around a corner, and onto the next. You could extend that display up onto the ceiling or down onto the floor. The flexibility afforded by these features make the Pro G6900WU a perfect projector for use in digital signage applications.
Scheduling and control. Like most large-venue projectors, the Pro G6900WU can be monitored and controlled over a wired network. Unlike most other comparable projectors, though, the Pro G6900WU has a scheduling feature that allows the projector to be programmed based on a timer and internal clock, which is especially useful in places where network connectivity is unavailable. Using the Scheduler, you can program the projector to turn itself on and off, change sources, change lamp power, mute sound and video, and adjust the volume. These actions can be programmed for a specific date or a repeating day of the week. While the scheduler is not as comprehensive as network monitoring, it is a great way to ensure that a projector does not accidentally stay on all night. It’s also ideal for digital signage — all of your displays can be set to turn off at the close of business, automatically.
Low fan noise. The Pro G6900WU is a bright projector, but it doesn’t sound like one. Fan noise, while not whisper-quiet, is comparable to what you’d get out of home theater projectors from a few years back – a low rush of air, noticeable but not annoying. That is a nice bonus, particularly if you’ve got the projector on a rolling cart close to the audience in the center aisle of a conference room.
3 year warranty with overnight replacement. When it comes to projector warranties, three years is about as good as it gets. But the Pro G6900WU’s warranty also includes Epson’s Road Service program, so if your projector fails while it is under warranty, Epson will overnight ship a replacement projector to you, free of charge. The warranty also includes 90 days of coverage on the lamp.
If three years isn’t long enough for you, extended warranties are available and include a one-year Exchange plan for $199 or a two-year Repair plan for $299.
Light output. The Pro G6900WU is rated at 6,000 ANSI lumens, and using its internal white test pattern did give a maximum reading of 6021 lumens on our projector using Dynamic mode. Switching to an external source over HDMI, Dynamic mode measured 5012 lumens with 85% brightness uniformity. On most projectors, Dynamic mode is a green-tinged mess designed to pump white light output at the expense of color and contrast, but Dynamic mode on the Pro G6900WU actually produces a respectable picture that would be appropriate for text and data graphics in a high ambient light setting.
The next mode, Presentation, has a cooler bluish tone and better black levels than Dynamic. At 3922 lumens, Presentation mode does give up some of Dynamic’s brightness, but the trade-off is worth it for color-rich PowerPoint presentations, graphs, or charts.
Theatre mode, at 4049 lumens, has better color saturation and accuracy and a very good default gamma calibration. Theatre mode is more likely to be used with the lamp at low power and with the auto iris engaged, in which case light output drops to 2632 lumens. That’s a more appropriate level of brightness for a room with dimmed lights and a more comfortable configuration for the viewing of film or video.
Sports mode, at 4285 lumens, has the same blue tint bias as Presentation and is appropriate for live television and video content, just as the name implies.
The final image mode is sRGB, which at 3268 lumens has both the most natural color of any preset mode on the projector and the lowest light output. If you plan to view a lot of photography and can afford to sacrifice the light output, sRGB mode is the way to go.
Any image mode can be reduced in brightness by switching to ECO lamp mode. ECO mode reduces lamp power by 36% and can bring the Pro G6900WU to a more appropriate level of brightness for smaller screens or rooms with better control over ambient light.
Contrast. In a room with ambient light, the Pro G6900WU produces a well-balanced image with sufficient contrast for viewing text and data graphics, though contrast is not the projector’s strongest suit. Content like video, film, and photography is much improved if room lighting can be dimmed. The projector’s automatic iris is useful for deepening black level when room conditions allow. There is little muddiness in shadows, and black is black, not dark gray, when the lights are off.
Color. Even in its brightest modes, the Pro G6900WU’s color performance is more than adequate for data graphics. Color light output matches white light output, meaning that color appears natural and color-rich images do not seem dark or undersaturated. This all comes together to give the Pro G6900WU a bright, vibrant image that is not just limited to black-and-white data, but is a good choice for video, film, and photography use in a non-theater setting.
Sharpness and Clarity. The Pro G6900WU’s image is sharp and clear at just about any resolution. The Pro G6900WU is capable of natively displaying both WUXGA and HD 1080p. These native-res signals are tack-sharp on the Pro G6900WU, which does an excellent job of rendering fine detail from both video sources and data.
Lower-resolution signals can either be displayed natively in a window or scaled to fit, but the projector upscales cleanly and shows few signs of blurring or detail loss. Up-conversion of a text document from a WXGA (1280×800) laptop did not result in any significant loss of legibility.
In our testing, there was significant digital noise in Dynamic mode, especially when watching film or video. The noise was much less noticeable in still content like photographs, PowerPoint presentations, and web pages. The other image modes were less noisy than Dynamic, with sRGB being the cleanest mode available.
Input Lag. Straight out of the box, the Pro G6900WU measured 92.3 milliseconds of input lag, or five and a half frames on a 60 FPS signal. Film and video playback might have visible audio delay if a correction circuit is not used. Like other Epson projectors, the Pro G6900WU includes an option to use either “Fast” or “Fine” image processing. Fast processing reduces input lag to 40 milliseconds, or just over two frames, but also reduces detail clarity in the image.
Light loss due to zoom. Long zoom lenses all share one thing in common: they reduce the amount of light that reaches the screen as you shrink the image down. All of the above readings were taken with the Standard Zoom lens at its widest position (the biggest image for a given throw distance). At maximum telephoto, light output is reduced by 35%. If you need to mount the Pro G6900WU at the long end of its throw range, maximum light output falls to 3260 lumens. That’s enough of a drop that you might want to consider using the next lens in the lineup rather than trying to make do with the Standard Zoom.
Light loss due to lamp age. In the projector industry, all projectors carry brightness ratings based on new lamps. High pressure lamps typically diminish in light output about 25% during the first 500 hours of use, and degrade more slowly after that. At the end of a lamp’s anticipated life it will be putting out 50% of its initial brightness. When planning any installation with any projector, one should make allowances for diminished lamp output over the life of the lamp. It can be advisable to plan for running in eco-mode during the early phase of the lamp’s life and full power in the later phase in order to equalize brightness over the lamp’s life. If maximum light output is required for the application, one might plan on replacing lamps more frequently than the estimated life. Replacement lamps on the Pro G6900WU are $549, which is typical for large venue projectors.
Screw closure on lamp door. On the Pro G6900WU, both the lens mount and the air filter cover use a tool-free closure — a push-lever in the former case and a sliding lock in the latter. However, the lamp door still requires a screwdriver. Since the projector lamp (2,000/4,000 hour life) requires attention more often than the air filter (10,000 hour life), and lens swaps are unlikely once the projector is installed, it would be ideal if the lamp access door was tool-free as well.
Manual lens adjustments. The Pro G6900WU’s manual zoom, focus, and shift adjustments may require a second person to eyeball the screen up close as these adjustments are being made at long throw distances. This is a non-issue once installed in a permanent location, but focus could be done with one person standing at the screen if the lens adjustments were powered.
Taken as a whole, the Pro G6900WU is an impressive package. The projector couples WUXGA native resolution and a small, light-weight package with high light output and great color performance to create a sparkling and engaging image. The projector’s connection panel is packed tight with high-quality digital connections ranging from HDMI to DisplayPort to HDBaseT and HD-SDI. The projector is designed from the ground up with installers in mind. Arc correction, edge blending, and 360-degree projection make it possible to install the Pro G6900WU in just about any situation.
All in all, the Epson PowerLite Pro G6900WU is a powerful, highly capable WUXGA projector that strikes a compelling balance between affordability and feature set. It brings some high-end features to a more affordable projector than the massive two-lamp models. It is among the most attractively priced WUXGA projectors available at its brightness level. For that reason and many others, the G6900WU is an excellent value in today’s market.
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