FoS has featured a few projectors over the past few weeks. The first two were both Epson home theatre systems, which carried a rather large price tag. Over the next two or more weeks, we’ll be featuring a few of the more ‘budget’ projectors, better suited for your pocket. The first of these is Acer’s K335 Projector. While the K335 is marketed as a “travel projector” for business, most likely to display a few PowerPoint slides, it can, to some extent, double up as a system that can be used in the home. The K335 was put through its paces on both fronts.
Design and Build
Projectors in recent years have become more affordable, durable, and most importantly, mobile. The Acer K335 was designed to be a “travel projector,” and that it is. The K335 weighs just 1.3KG, which is light enough for even your kids to lug around…not that it’s a good idea. The idea behind the K335 is for a more mobile business, whereby businessmen are able to transport both their laptops and the projector for their PowerPoint presentations without the fuss. In fact, you can simply load the presentation onto a USB flash drive and leave the printer back at the office altogether; the K335 offering a number of different input methods.
In terms of the actual design and layout, the K335 doesn’t do much to stand out apart from being so small and light. The top is finished with a glossy white plastic, whereas the edges, vents and sides have a matte silver plastic finish. The front face houses the 1000-lumens lamp on the far right, ventilation system on the left, and the Infrared sensor in the middle. The top of the projector houses the menu controls, along with the Acer logo and compatibility stickers. The left and right sides provide more ventilation intakes, and the bottom house two adjustable feet at the rear. The back of the projector provides a number of different input ports, including an SD card reader, HDMI, VGA, USB, microUSB and S-video. There is also room for an AV In port and 3.5mm audio out to replace the onboard sound. Although there is only one HDMI input, this is easily rectified by means of an HDMI Hub to connect additional HDMI sources.
Display and Performance
The K335 is rated as having a 1000-lumens LED lamp. This is, however, a little misleading as the unit never quite reaches brightness levels this high. In addition, the K335 has a recommended resolution output of 1280x800px, only slightly higher than 720p. Having connected the unit to my 1080p resolution computer, the overall results don’t differ much in terms of image quality. The most notable issue when switching to 1080p mode is that it makes reading text all that much harder.
There is an obvious question that arises when using the Acer K335 projector, whether it is as capable for home use as it is for business presentations, for which it more than adequate. The answer isn’t a simple yes or no, it’s what you as the user are willing to live with. For starters, there’s the a small issue of not having 1080p video. That being said, many of us are able to live with this, since DStv offer HD movies in the form of 720p resolution. By default, the settings for Dynamic Black and Auto Iris are on, which causes major issues with watching any video. For viewing images, this is perfect. For movies, and even simple YouTube videos, these settings require the projector to readjust its colour balance, something that takes between 10 and 15 seconds to complete. This wouldn’t be so bad if it occurred once, but almost every 30 seconds is not ideal. Turning this feature off is a must. Then there’s the issue of brightness, which will always crop up when discussing projectors (for now that is). In the middle of the day, image brightness isn’t the greatest, although you can still easily watch some sports and brightly filmed media. Viewing anything filmed in darker light, such as Hannibal or Game of Thrones, all you will be left with is audio, and a few moving shadows.
On the topic of audio, it is also best to use the allocated audio port on the rear, which offers stereo output. Any form of stereo is much better than the single-output, mono speaker available on the K335, which comes across as soft, tinny, and with absolutely no bass.
Being a mobile projector, the K335 is easy to move around, and easy to use, once you’ve done your first setup that is. Upon first use, it isn’t simply a matter of connecting the power and video source, although I would have hoped it was. The menu layout isn’t as straightforward as one would have hoped either, but once you’ve come to terms with it, there are still quite a few options to go through. Placing the unit at the rear to project forward already saves time by cutting out one step of choosing the projection mode. Even before selecting your source, finding the most ideal position is a bit of a nightmare. Having chosen the top of the shelf, which holds the TV, meant that a straight projection was out, with half the image displayed on the roof. This meant that I would have to raise the feet to lower the display due to the fixed lens position (no lens/image shift or optical zoom). Getting everything perfect, then, takes some trial and error, but once everything is in position, and the focus set just right, you’re able to enjoy quite a good image quality, if not interrupted by too much light.
The Acer K335 is a brilliant and easy to transport business projector, which offers multiple input methods for your preference. To make things even easier, you could use a wireless adapter in the USB port and connect via your smartphone or tablet. There is even an option to project in 3D, but this requires a DLP link most often associated to PCs, and is incompatible with your standard 3D Blu-ray player. Unfortunately, this is where the brilliance ends. For standard home use, the K335 performs rather average, and is only just passable for watching movies without some heavy tinkering and external speakers. I found that upscaling to 1080p often meant you also have to deal with scaling artefacts as well as horizontal lines across the display when watching high-res movies.
The K335, however, isn’t as pricey as you would think, falling between the R7,000 and R8,000 mark. For the portability alone, this is a good price, and if you double the unit as a home cinema (if you can manage), it becomes a really good bargain. All things considered, then, unless you require a true 1080p option with excellent movie quality at the foremost, the K335 is a suitable solution for both business and private use.