Will Casio render projector bulbs obsolete? Chris Drage is impressed by progress
Early LED-based projectors were disappointing. Most were small and portable but, with low luminosity (around 10 lumens), they were only useful in darkened rooms. Even the best struggled to achieve 50 to 160 lumens, suffered from poor image quality and were not easily portable due to external power supplies. Enter a new generation of Casio projectors.
The new Casio XJ-A135 is light and portable, can run presentations and movies from a USB stick and delivers sufficient brightness (2,000 lumens) for classrooms. And it dispenses with the need for bulbs, the single biggest maintenance cost of projectors. And its LED projector chip has a claimed working life of some 20,000 hours – that's equivalent to 15 years!
While not strictly an LED projector (it’s more of a hybrid of LED, laser and phosphor), the XJ-A135 (£700-£850) projects a claimed brightness of 2,000 ANSI lumens, essential for use in most classrooms. Perhaps more important, it represents ground breaking technology and a glimpse of future developments. Next will come the short-throw models and suchlike.
To date, high-pressure data projector lamps capable of producing 2,000 or more lumens have meant using environmentally harmful mercury – not to mention the additional high cost of replacing them. Laser and LED semi-conductor light sources do offer promising mercury-free solutions, but because high-output sources capable of producing green light have not been feasible for mass production, they have only been applicable for small, low-lumens projectors. The Casio hybrid light source generates high luminosity by combining a laser, a phosphor and an LED, achieving high green light output by efficiently converting blue laser light into green light using the phosphor — a stumbling block in the past. So how does this new hybrid projector shape up?
First, Casio markets the XJ-A135 with its own carry bag which immediately tells us that it’s designed to be portable. Indeed, slim and ergonomic (297mm long x 210mm wide x 43 mm high), it has a 'foot print" (base area) equivalent to a sheet of A4 paper and it weighs in at 2.3 kg – about the same as an average laptop. It has a built-in power supply so all you need is a mains cable.
Although solidly constructed, the flimsy lens cap provided, held in place by a magnet, is a bit disappointing as it comes loose very easily and could soon get lost in school use. However, the XJ-A135 has more redeeming features which overshadow such minor irritations. Possessing a USB port, and with media player firmware on board, all that’s required is to convert a PowerPoint presentation or a movie file via the Casio XJ-A135 software included and you can run your show or presentation without even needing to hump along a laptop as well.
The conversion process is simplicity itself, only requiring drag-and-drop to convert a file to the projector’s required format. The built-in media player’s interface makes it easy to navigate to your files, even on a ‘crowded’ memory stick. Although if you are going to play widescreen movies you will only enjoy them in full glory if you use a small HD camcorder with an HDMI cable connection to the XJ-A135. When connected to USB storage, the projector seems happy to convert and display DivX, XviD, MP4 and WMV movies.
The XJ-A135 is a delight to operate. Its built-in menus are easy to navigate, it includes useful features like automatic keystone correction (when you adjust the front leg) and there are a number of colour presets to try out: Standard, Graphics, Theatre and Blackboard. However, when the Eco mode is switched off, these colour presets disappear, only leaving you with adjustable brightness, contrast and colour balance. The fan also becomes noticeably noisier when not in Eco mode. Oh, and for those who require it there’s wireless connection too so you can link this projector into a wifi network.
In terms of projection the images are sharp with good colour rendition although, in my opinion, not quite up to equivalent metal halide projectors when viewing movies in high definition format. Contrast, too, was lacking, even with adjustments. And stills and movies do look just a little ‘washed out’. Still, for document viewing you would hardly notice the difference.
Whil Casio hasn't produced a short-throw version yet, this projector offers plenty of flexibility for a range of spaces thanks to its wide-angle 2X optical zoom, a feature that proved highly effective.
Overall, the Casio XJ-A135 (typical price: £700-£850) is undoubtedly a cut above your average projector, and for schools the Casio Green Slim range will be particularly appealing. The XJ-A245 (£890-£1,000) is almost identical except that it has higher resolution (1,280x800) and is brighter (2,500 lumens). If you do not require wifi or the media player then the XJ-A240 will cost around £925 while the entry level XJ-A130 typically costs £600-£700.
Although the initial capital cost is greater than an equivalent digital projector, the Casio XJ-A135 will save you money in the long term and is certainly more portable and environmentally better than most. Casio are to be congratulated on producing what will undoubtedly be the shape of things to come.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4
Casio XJ-A135 projector
The first of a new generation of Casio LED-hybrid (bulbless) projectors, with XGA Real (1,024×768), wide-angle 2X optical zoom, USB connector and wifi, £750-£800 from Casio dealers.
Casio XJ-A135 details and specifications