Review: Acer K335 projector

Bright projector good for business use, requires many adjustments at home (May 13th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: Acer

Price: $700

The Good

  • Color options
    - Compact, thoughtful design
    - Video source options

The Bad

  • Button controls
    - Need to change color settings
    - Artifacting

Since the arrival of PowerPoint into the business landscape, projectors have become increasingly important to have for fiscal reports and pitch meetings to add a multimedia aspect that holds the viewer's attention. Having the right tools for the job is important for a traveling presenter: carrying around a full-sized projector for a presentation is not terribly practical. Adding an entry to the field of "travel projector" offerings, Acer has released the K335 LED projector. Is it up to the task for the professional presenter?

Acer markets the K335 as a travel projector, but its size may make a consumer think it's a conventional, bulky projector. It's true that it is the largest of the travel projectors the company offers, at 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.8 inches, but it is much smaller than Acer's home-based offerings like the H6510BD, measuring 10.4 x 8.7 x 3.1 inches. The K335's size belies its weight, coming in at just 2.87 pounds (and includes a carrying bag).

The unit is a clean-looking, easy-to-setup projector that hits all of the right spots. It has a low profile, and sits solid on a flat surfaces (no wobbly, cheap and easily-stripped "screw legs" as seen in other projectors). Dialing in the focus of the picture requires next to no effort, traveling less than an inch from end to end of the range. The white and silver plastic exterior is thick, and feels as if it will withstand the usual accidental mishandling over the life of the device.

Vents on the sides are ample for letting out the heat that builds up during operation. As an LED projector, it doesn't build up as much heat as much as some with expensive bulbs, but it is a good design consideration to make allowances for it. A large heatsink is visible on the right, next to the vents of the device, allowing heat to escape more quickly.

Even though the projector is simple to setup, there were some problems with its operation. The control system on the top of the K335 appears to have everything needed, but the execution of it is lacking. For whatever reason, the way things are labeled and laid out doesn't seem quite right.

We thought that the basic selector button had the lines in the wrong places, which made it seem like they needed to be pressed in a different place. The button has to be pressed along the lines, instead of the areas they split apart. Operation of the outer buttons was even more awkward.

The "L" shaped buttons are operated on the edges on the left and right sides. Trying to press on the top and bottom of the area makes the controls feel like they are going to cave in if pressed too hard, since there is no "give" in the panel. The buttons are inconsistent in their activation areas, offering different levels of feedback based on where they are pressed. It makes remote operation of the projector the preferred way to do anything.

Acer's menu options within the projector are far better and more readable than in previous projectors The black menu screen is easier on the eyes than some of the color or gray options that many manufacturers employ to stand out against a white background. Options are generally in places that make sense and provide a robust selection of items to change, going from basic color adjustments and projector settings to sharpness, frequency adjustments and LED calibration. High altitude modes that keep fans constantly spinning and an eco-mode that dims the lamp for lower power consumption can be set within the menus.

Picture quality from the DLP, 3D-ready K335 is good, but not great -- thanks to its LED light source. Native resolution for the projector is 1280x800, but goes up to a maximum of 1920x1080. Display ranges were tested from three to 20 feet to get a good feel of the operational distance of the projector. Five to 10 feet seems to be the sweet spot for the K335. The projector still keeps it definition up to 20 feet away from the screen in the dark, but noticeable pixelation occurs in anything past 10 feet. Acer says the image throw for the K335 should be 30 to 100 feet.

Closer inspection of the picture quality throughout the distance range reveals artifacting along many edges. It mostly comes in with fine, detailed instances on flat-colored backgrounds. Most users won't notice it when watching films, but text on a white background with bright bar graphs will start to show pixelation in numerous places. Even then, it won't be bad enough for it to be distracting or even to be noticed by most people.

Different color presets are included in the options of the projector, allowing for quick changes based on the source. Common balanced modes, game mode and movie modes are included. A mode specifically for dark films is included, which was great for dark animation subjects. When all else fails, there is a user-controllable setting, which allows for manual adjustments. Acer states that the life of the lamp should be in the 20,000 hour range.

The ability to change these settings is something users will make constant use of, because of the way the projector handles colors. Generally all of the colors are bright, but saturation and depth can be an issue at times -- and this greatly depends on the settings being used. Depending on the type of graphics being looked at, a user may have to change the preset from show to show. Animation required the dark cinema setting to bring up the shadows. Some TV shows could work with the standard cinema preset, while others produced a better balance in the bright setting.

Automatic keystone adjustment was a surprise for the K335, as it isn't something the user usually has to worry about. Moving the projector can cause it to readjust the proper keystone setting based on the angle it is sitting at. If it isn't to a user's liking, the auto function can be disabled.

Height adjustment is handled by an adjustment foot that sits near the lens on the button of the device. The rubber foot points out a weird design flaw on the bottom -- only three of the four feet are rubber. One is plastic that is molded into the body.

The projector's speakers proved to be adequate for filling an office-sized room with sound. The unit contains one three-watt speaker with a mono output. While this isn't going to offer the best sound quality, for the purpose of a report or presentation it should do the job.

Inputs in the projector offer a good variety, which should fit any age machine a consumer may have. VGA, single composite video and HDMI are built in to fit most needs. USB A is available for media from a USB stick or Wi-Fi adapter; USB B is included for a connection to a PC, though there is also a built-in SD card slot if a user wanted to view pictures straight out of a digital camera.

The Acer K335 is an easy-to-use LED projector that provides a good picture in most situations. Customers looking for a bright projector with numerous color options should consider the K335 if it is something for occasional business use. At $700, a long-term investment in the projector will be rewarded with a device that fits the bill in nearly all cases. However, if it is something to be used in the home, there are many other options on the market that won't require constant fiddling with, or have such a frustrating button system.

by Jordan Anderson


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