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ViewSonic PJD7820HD Projector Review

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The price is attractive but how pretty is the picture?

by Steve Withers Dec 14, 2013

  • Home AV review

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    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Projector Review
    SRP: £599.98

    What is the ViewSonic PJD7820HD?

    In the past we’ve been accused here at AVForums of only reviewing expensive projectors and ignoring the cheaper models.

    This isn’t true of course, as we’ve often tested budget projectors and in fact, we’ve been very impressed by some some of the cheaper offerings from manufacturers such as Optoma, Epson and, most recently, BenQ. However it is fair to say that we haven’t seen that many projectors in the ultra-budget price range. This brings us the the PJD7820HD, a 1080p single-chip DLP projector from the Chinese manufacturer ViewSonic.
    Whilst this particular manufacturer hasn’t previously passed through our doors, after being impressed by Vivitek in our recent visit to their factory outside Shanghai, we were curious to see what ViewSonic had to offer. The PJD7820HD is currently available from Scan as a £599 package, which includes a pair of 3D glasses and a copy of the 3D Blu-ray of The Wolverine. So is it the deal of the century or too good to be true? Let’s find out.

    Design and Connections

    Right off the bat it's fairly obvious we're into budget territory when it comes to the PJD7820HD, with an all-black chassis that has a very light and plastic feel. It’s also something of a dust-magnet, which made photographing the ViewSonic a nightmare. The configuration is fairly standard for a projector at this price point, with an offset and very small plastic lens.

    Above the lens array there are manual zoom and focus rings but no lens shift. The PJD7820HD also has a very long throw, so positioning will be important. There are some basic controls on the top and various large exhaust vents at the front and sides. In operation the PJD7820HS was a little noisy and there was light spill through the various air vents.
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Design and Connections
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Design and Connections

    At the rear we get a fairly standard set of inputs with a single HDMI port and some legacy connections for composite video, S-Video and VGA. There are also analogue stereo inputs for the built-in speakers, a mini-USB port for any service needs and an RS232 serial connector - although we can't imagine the PJD7820HD being used in many custom installations.

    The PJD7820HD includes a pair of active shutter 3D glasses.

    The projector comes with a small black plastic remote that is comfortable to hold but has a rather unintuitive button placement. The lack of a backlight doesn’t help and we found it hard to use in the dark.
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD

    The package we are reviewing also includes a pair of active shutter 3D glasses, which are similar in design to ones we’ve seen with other single-chip DLP projectors. These glasses are made of black plastic and are fairly light and flimsy. The lenses are also quite dark but at least you can fit them over prescription glasses.

    Menus

    The PJD7820HD has a simple user interface and wilst the menus are relatively straightforward to navigate, the layout is unusual and some of ViewSonic’s nomenclature is confusing. The first menu page includes the Aspect Ratio selection, Keystone control and 3D Settings (when appropriate). It also includes the Colour Management System (CMS), which is good see on such a cheap projector but really should be with the other picture controls.
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Menus
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Menus

    These can be found on the second menu page where there are a choice of various image presets which ViewSonic call Colour Modes. If you want to adjust any settings you need to use one of the User modes but you can then pick one of the other presets as a starting point. Aside from that there are all the usual picture controls like Contrast and Brightness, as well as the BrilliantColor feature. In the Advanced sub-menu there are options for Noise Reduction, Gamma and Colour Temperature but worryingly, no white balance control.

    The menus are not that intuitive and the nomenclature is confusing.

    Test Results

    Pre-Calibration

    Things didn’t get off to a good start when we brought up a multi-burst pattern to find out which aspect ratio was the pixel mapping mode. Despite options that included Auto, 16:9 and Wide, none of them matched a 1080p signal to the 1920 x 1080 panel that the PJD7820HD is supposed to have. There were clearly artefacts and loss of resolution as the result of scaling on every option, so none of them were pixel mapping precisely.

    We ultimately left the aspect ratio on Auto but the result was that we were losing a degree of high frequency detail. In fact, even allowing for the quality of the lens, the images the PJD7820HD produced looked more like 720p rather than the full 1080. By their nature single-chip DLP projectors have perfect alignment but, even after focussing the image, it still had a distinct lack of definition.
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Test Results
    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Test Results

    After that investigation we moved on to performing a basic setup, which also proved problematic. Initially we selected User 1, using the Movie mode as a starting point, and then we adjusted the Brightness and Contrast accordingly. So far so good but selecting the correct Colour Temperature and Gamma was more of an issue as ViewSonic don’t follow any standard naming convention. So the colour temperature options ranged from T1 to T8, whilst the gamma ranged from 1 to 8.

    As a result we had to test each one individually, as well as combinations of both, and whilst none were great we managed to find two settings that we could live with. The measured greyscale had an excess of blue energy and a deficit of red, resulting in visible errors and giving colours a cyan tint. The gamma was tracking between 2.3 and 2.7 but was preferable to some of the extreme s-curves that we also measured. Not an ideal state of affairs and one we could do nothing about in the absence of a white balance control.

    We then measured the colour gamut with BrilliantColor both on and off and whilst this feature made little difference to the measurements in did improve the brightness so we left it on. As you can see the colour accuracy was very poor with green in particular heavily under-saturated and skewed in terms of hue. This in turn had a knock-on effect with cyan and yellow, whilst magenta was being skewed by the blue pull of the greyscale. Although the PJD7820HD technically includes a CMS it didn’t work properly and frankly there was nothing it could do to improve such a restricted and inaccurate colour gamut. As result there were no post-calibration measurements and this was as good as it gets.

    Video Processing

    Could the PJD7820HD redeem itself with some decent video processing? Well it handled standard definition content quite well, reproducing the SMPTE colour bar tests for both PAL and NTSC and correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images. The video deinterlacing test was also reasonable, although on the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the projector introduced some jaggies. However, in the cadence tests the projector correctly detected both the 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. Whilst the PJD7820HD had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring.

    The ViewSonic didn’t perform as well in the tests using high definition content and whilst the projector deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests, there were signs of artefacts in the images. However the projector had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any obvious problems, aside from the unnecessary scaling. Finally, in the dynamic range test the PJD7820HD was clipping all three primary colours and white, thus losing detail above video level 235.

    The colours were very inaccurate and there are limited calibration controls.

    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Picture Quality SD/HD

    Given the measurements taken during the testing phase of this review, our expectations weren’t high but thankfully the PJD7820HD wasn’t as bad as we feared. There was certainly a softness to the image and the mediocre video processing resulted in jaggies and other artefacts but for the majority of viewing it was acceptable. When it came to standard definition content the results were also reasonable but there was definitely a feeling of the picture lacking in detail with high definition content.

    The images were reasonably bright, although nothing like the claimed 3,000 lumens and it came as no surprise to discover the blacks were poor, even for a budget DLP projector. The colours weren’t quite as disastrous as their measurements might suggest, although green was clearly under-saturated and had a yellow tinge, whilst whites and flesh tones had a definite push towards blue. As is usually the case with a DLP projector, the motion handling was quite good, with minimal smearing or judder. However the overall performance really won’t stand up to any critical home cinema viewing.

    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Picture Quality 3D

    The situation definitely improved when it came to 3D, although surprisingly the images were quite dim which was probably due to the dark lenses on the glasses. The amount of available controls is very limited when the projector was in 3D mode and the noise levels obviously increased as the lamp power ramped up. We started off with the 3D Blu-ray of The Wolverine that came with the projector, although this might not be the best choice since it wasn't shot in native 3D and was converted in post production.

    However we have plenty of native 3D Blu-rays and overall the PJD7820HD did a good job, producing 3D images that had depth and dimensionality. There was no crosstalk or visible flicker and aside from the drop in brightness the 3D images were very watchable. The darkness of the lenses also helped disguise problems like poor blacks whilst the tint made colour inaccuracies less of an issue. Overall, as is often the case with DLP projectors, the 3D was good and definitely benefited from being seen on a large screen.

    The PJD7820HD at least offers a decent performance with 3D.

    Conclusion

    5
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Good 3D
    • Price

    Cons

    • Poor blacks
    • Scaling on all content
    • Inaccurate Colours
    • Limited controls
    You own this Total 1
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    ViewSonic PJD7820HD Projector Review

    Whilst it might be tempting to buy a very cheap projector, there are always going to be trade-offs in order to reach a certain price point. Generally the quality of the lens is compromised to reduce costs, as is build quality and features. The ViewSonic PJD7820HD is a good example, with a cheap construction, limited installation options and minimal calibration controls. The image accuracy is poor and it appears to always be scaling the picture, thus robbing it of some definition and detail.

    The video processing is reasonable but the black levels are poor, resulting in a restricted dynamic range. On the plus side the motion handling and 3D are actually quite good. Ultimately the decision to buy a projector like the PJD7820HD is based on what you intend to use it for. If all you're after is something cheap and fun for the occasional blast of big screen action then it might suit. However if you're after a projector for more critical home cinema viewing, then there are better options that won't cost you much more.


    The Rundown

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

    5

    Colour Accuracy

    5

    Greyscale Accuracy

    5

    Video Processing

    6

    Image Uniformity

    6

    2D Picture Quality

    6

    3D Picture Quality

    6

    Features

    5

    Ease Of Use

    5

    Build Quality

    5

    Value For Money

    6

    Verdict

    5

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