ViewSonic PX727HD review: Chin up, picture quality down

Maria J. Danford

Consumer electronics is a cutthroat world. If you’re not improving, someone else probably is. Five years ago, the ViewSonic PX727HD may have been a good buy, but it isn’t today. Other projectors in its price range put out brighter images with more contrast and better color accuracy. They also throw […]

Consumer electronics is a cutthroat world. If you’re not improving, someone else probably is. Five years ago, the ViewSonic PX727HD may have been a good buy, but it isn’t today. Other projectors in its price range put out brighter images with more contrast and better color accuracy. They also throw in more features like lens shift and wider zoom ranges. Although not without its charms, the PX727HD has been left behind by competition that offers more for the same money.

Like

  • Compact size
  • Lens chin minimizes light leaks below the screen
  • Long lamp life on Eco mode

Don’t Like

  • Dimmer than competitors
  • Weaker contrast ratio
  • Below-average zoom range

For this review I compared the ViewSonic PX727HD side-by-side with two other sub-$1,000 projectors, the BenQ HT2050A and Epson Home Cinema 2150. Of the three, the ViewSonic was the dimmest, with the lowest contrast ratio and the least impressive overall picture.

viewsonic-px-727hd-10-of-10

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Basic specs

  • Native resolution: 1080p
  • HDR-compatible: No
  • 4K-compatible: No
  • 3D-compatible: Yes
  • Lumens spec: 2,000
  • Zoom: Manual (1.3x)
  • Lens shift: None
  • Lamp life (Normal mode): 4,000 hours

I’ll start with one thing that’s good, and different, about this projector: There’s a small lip in front of the lens, which I’ll name the “chin spoiler,” or alternately, “the underbite.” It blocks light coming out of the lens below where the image is produced, which would otherwise light up the wall below your screen and be a distraction. Neither the BenQ nor the Epson had this, likely due to their lens shift abilities. It’s a small but welcome and clever addition. You’ll still get some light spill on the sides and above the image, but the chin does help.

The rest of the specifications are pretty standard. The PX727HD can accept up to 1080p. There’s no 4K or HDR, which is typical for this price range. It is technically a 3D projector, though the $34 glasses are sold out on ViewSonic’s website. You can find third-party alternatives on Amazon, however.

ViewSonic claims 2,000 ANSI lumens of brightness and I measured approximately 900. It’s normal for projectors to be dimmer in real use than their specs claim, but that measurement is far lower than normal. It’s roughly 45% dimmer than the Epson Home Cinema 2150 and the BenQ HT2050A, for example. The difference was obvious during my comparison.  

There’s no lens shift on the PX727HD, which is typical of DLP projectors in this price range. The BenQ, also a DLP projector, is an oddity with a small amount of lens shift. So the lack here isn’t a negative per se, just not the extra point the BenQ gets for having it. The LCD-based Epson also has lens shift, which is far more common among LCD projectors

viewsonic-px-727hd-19-of-10

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Being able to shift the image at the lens would expand the PX727HD’s placement options, which are limited in its current state. You can’t, for example, place it behind your sofa on a stand. The upwards throw would put the image on your ceiling. Tilting the projector downward to fit a screen, in this same setup, would result in a trapezoidal image shape. Coffee table or ceiling mount are the only options with this ViewSonic and other projectors that lack lens shift.

The relatively narrow 1.3x zoom range is another issue. To fit my 102-inch screen, the PX727HD needed to be closer than either the Epson or the BenQ. Again, not a massive deal, but yet another way this projector limits your placement options.

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I’ll end on another positive note: ViewSonic claims to have 4,000-hour lamp life in Normal lamp mode, which is about average. However, in the Dynamic Eco mode, lamp life is a claimed 20,000 hours, which is significantly greater than the competition. The Epson’s Eco mode, for instance, is 7,500 hours. 

Unlike most Eco modes, there’s no overall brightness penalty with the PX727HD. The lamp runs full-bore for bright scenes, and ramps down for dark. Unless such light level variations bother you, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to just leave it in this mode and only have to replace your lamp every decade or so (running it 4 hours a day).

viewsonic-px-727hd-16-of-10

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Connectivity and convenience

  • HDMI inputs: 2 (only 1 with HDCP 1.4)
  • PC input: Analog RGB (plus 1 output)
  • USB port: 1 (1.5A power)
  • Audio input and output: Yes
  • Digital audio output: No
  • LAN port: No
  • 12v trigger: No
  • RS-232 remote port: Yes
  • MHL: No
  • Remote: Backlit

There are two HDMI 1.4 inputs and an analog computer input. Hinting that perhaps this projector has some business projector DNA, there’s also an analog PC video output. The USB connection can supply 1.5 amps of power, more than enough to power a streaming stick like the Roku.

A one-eighth-inch analog audio output will let you connect a speaker, though in a pinch you can use the 10-watt internal speaker. There’s also an eighth-inch analog audio input to go with the analog PC input.

The remote is backlit in bright blue. It has dedicated input buttons, along with dedicated buttons for contrast, brightness and several of the picture modes, which makes setup a bit easier.

viewsonic-px-727hd-12-of-10

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Picture quality comparisons

Right off the bat the ViewSonic struggled to keep up with these two competitors. I immediately noticed it was the dimmest of the three, by a lot. The ViewSonic doesn’t appear “dim” by any stretch when viewed on its own. But for similar money to the Epson and the BenQ, it’s a big step behind.

The Epson, despite being LCD, has a better contrast ratio than the DLP-based ViewSonic. Both are noticeably behind the BenQ in this test, however, which looks far more natural and seems to have more depth. It had the lowest black level of the bunch and tied for best light output.

The ViewSonic’s color, too, is behind the others. Take the vibrant primary colors of something like La La Land. They don’t look bad with the ViewSonic, but on the other two projectors, especially the BenQ, each color just looks stronger. Blue, yellow, and green dresses pop more on the other projectors. And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s skin tones look more natural, especially on the BenQ.

viewsonic-px-727hd-13-of-10

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Lastly, there’s the question of rainbows. All single-chip DLP projectors can cause this visual artifact on small bright objects, especially when they move. Headlights, streetlamps, flashlights and so on: They sort of smear with a rainbow of colors. It’s brief, and most people don’t notice it. Of the people who do notice it, most don’t think it’s a big deal. Some people, however, do notice it and are bothered by it. For those people, get the Epson instead. The three-chip LCD technology in the Epson can’t have rainbows. So if you can’t stand rainbows, the slight decrease in performance will be worth it.

Overall though, the PX727HD just can’t quite keep up with the others. It’s not a bad projector, but it’s outclassed by its similarly priced competition. The exceptionally long lamp life is great, but with many projectors already lasting many years between potential lamp replacements, that isn’t enough to offset the lower brightness and contrast ratios.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.11 Poor
Peak white luminance (100%) 100.4 Average
Derived lumens 904 Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 2.894 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.207 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 3.357 Average
Avg. color error 3.463 Average
Red error 6.993 Average
Green error 3.669 Average
Blue error 2.703 Good
Cyan error 3.986 Average
Magenta error 1.964 Good
Yellow error 1.461 Good
Avg. saturations error 2.88 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.5 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 16.5 Good

Measurement notes

Before calibration the PX727HD”http://www.cnet.com/”s most accurate picture setting was Movie (Rec 709) mode and it was fairly close to D65, with dark images being closest, and bright images having too much green. Color points were reasonably accurate, though no color was particularly close either. Green was especially off, being oversaturated and somewhat cyan. There was little calibration could do to improve the situation, despite a dedicated ISF menu and two dedicated ISF modes. Color points in particular could be improved, but only marginally changed.

There are four lamp modes on the PX727HD. The SuperEco Plus mode is best avoided, as it locks out any color temperature adjustment, and is quite cool (bluish). Eco was roughly half as bright as Normal. Across these two modes, the contrast ratio averaged a fairly poor 813:1. Most projectors in this price range are over 1,000:1, with the better options around 2,000:1. 

Dynamic Eco pairs the bright whites of Normal with the deeper blacks of Eco, varying the light output depending on the average picture level of what’s on screen. The dynamic contrast ratio in this mode is around 3,800:1, though within a given single image, the contrast ratio is still 813:1.

Picture Mode: Movie (Rec 709)

Expert settings (suggested):

  • Brightness: 51
  • Contrast: -10
  • Color Temp: 6500K
  • Color: 0
  • Sharpness: 15
  • Gamma: 2.2
  • Brilliant Color: 5
  • Eco Mode: Dynamic Eco
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