Almost identical to the Editors' Choice Epson PowerLite 955W WXGA 3LCD Projector, but with XGA (1,024-by-768) rather than WXGA (1,280-by-800) resolution, the Epson PowerLite 965 XGA 3LCD Projector ($899) offers the same size, weight, and conveniences—from its selection of connectors to its 1.6x zoom lens to the 16-watt speaker in its audio system. More importantly, the Epson 965 delivers similarly high-quality data images and video. The combination makes it an easy pick for Editors' Choice as an XGA data projector for a mid-size room.
Compared with the Epson PowerLite 1835 XGA 3LCD Projector that it replaces as Editors' Choice for this category, the 965 offers a lighter weight and better audio quality. It shares the same 3,500-lumen brightness rating, and, like the Epson 1835, it's built around a three-chip LCD engine. That gives it two advantages over DLP projectors and one disadvantage.
On the plus side, it's guaranteed to be free of the rainbow artifacts (flashes of red, green, and blue) that are always a potential problem for DLP models. It's also guaranteed to offer the same color brightness as white brightness, so you don't have to worry about differences between the two affecting color quality or the brightness of color images. (For a discussion of color brightness, see "Color Brightness: What It Is, Why It Matters.")
Like most LCD data projectors, however, the 965 doesn't offer 3D support, which is standard on today's DLP models, like the BenQ MX600. If you don't need 3D, however, that won't be an issue.
Setup, Connections, and Brightness
Setting up the 965 is standard fare, with manual controls for focus and the 1.6x zoom. The back panel offers all the choices for image input that you're likely to need, including an HDMI port, a VGA port, and a composite video port. There's also an S-video port, a USB Type B port for direct USB display and for controlling the computer mouse from the projector's remote, a LAN port, and a USB Type A port for reading files directly from a USB memory key or for connecting an optional ($99) Wi-Fi dongle.
For my tests, I used a 78-inch-wide (98-inch-diagonal) image, which was easily bright enough to stand up to the ambient light in a typical conference room or classroom. As a point of reference, using recommendations developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), 3,500 lumens is bright enough with a 1.0 gain screen for roughly a 220- to 295-inch (diagonal) image in theater-dark lighting. With moderate ambient light, the suitable size drops to about 145 inches. For smaller screen sizes, you can lower the projector's brightness by using Eco mode, one of the lower-brightness preset modes, or both.
Data and Video Image Quality
The 965 garnered an excellent score for quality for data images, with no noteworthy problems in our standard suite of DisplayMate tests. Colors were well saturated and suitably vibrant in all modes, and color balance was excellent, with suitably neutral shades of gray at all levels from black to white in most preset modes. More important for data images is that the 965 handled detail well. With text, for example, white text on black was highly readable at sizes as small as 9 points, and black text on white was highly readable even at 6.8 points.
Video quality is watchable for long sessions. The quality is limited by the projector's native XGA resolution, but compared with other XGA projectors, the 965 offers better video than most.
The audio system counts as another plus, with the 16-watt speaker delivering good sound quality and enough volume to easily fill a mid-size room. For stereo, higher volume, or better quality, you can connect an external sound system to the audio output. Epson rates the 965's lamp at a longer than usual 5,000 hours in Normal mode and 6,000 hours in Eco mode. The long life, combined with a low replacement cost for the lamp ($99), should translate to a low running cost as well.
If you need an XGA-resolution model with 3D capabilities, you'll need to bypass the 965 and consider a DLP projector like the BenQ MX600. However, if, like most data-projector users, you don't need 3D, the Epson PowerLite 965 XGA 3LCD Projector should be high on your short list. The combination of brightness, excellent quality for data images, and above-par video quality is enough to make it a strong contender. Niceties like the 1.6x zoom, the better-than-typical audio, and the long lamp life, make it even more attractive, and an easy pick for our Editors' Choice as an XGA projector for a mid-size room.