You could reasonably describe the Sharp PG-LW3500 as a higher-resolution version of the Sharp PG-LX3500 that I recently reviewed. However, as is often the case for nearly identical models with different resolutions, they differ in some critical ways as well. In particular, the PG-LW3500 scored slightly better than the Sharp PG-LX3500 for data image quality on our tests, but was less watchable for video, despite the higher resolution. That makes it at least as good a choice for strictly data presentations, but not as good a choice if you need video too.
Like the PG-LX3500, the PG-LW3500 offers a notably utilitarian design that concentrates on basics, like brightness and image quality, instead of such extras as an unusually large zoom or lots of connectors. Aside from its WXGA (1,280 by 800) native resolution, it also shares most of the same features. Namely, it's built around a DLP chip, it weighs only 5 pounds 11 ounces, and it's rated at 3,500 lumens. As with the PG-LX3500, that makes it both bright for its weight class and appropriate for a small to mid-size conference room.
Basics and Setup
The PG-LW3500's sub-six pound weight along with its size, at 3.7 by 12.1 by 9.7 inches (HWD), makes it potentially portable. However, projectors in this weight class are more likely to wind up permanently installed or on a cart. And note that if you want to use it as a portable, you'll need to buy a carrying case separately. Sharp doesn't supply one with the projector.
One potential issue is that there are fewer connection choices than with most projectors. There's no USB B port, for example, so you can't connect by USB to control the computer mouse pointer from the projector's remote. However, all the most common image sources are covered, with connectors for HDMI, VGA with both computer and component video support, and composite video. Setup is absolutely typical. Plug the appropriate cables into the projector, adjust the 1.2x zoom, and adjust the focus.
The PG-LW3500's brightness rating, at 3,500 lumens, is impressive, but keep in mind that brightness comparisons for projectors are complicated by several factors. First, perception of brightness is logarithmic. Even if you assume ratings are absolutely accurate and fully comparable, 3500 lumens wouldn't make the PG-3500 all that much brighter than, for example, the Editors' Choice NEC NP-M311W, with its 3,100-lumen rating.
More important is that brightness ratings aren't fully comparable. Projectors with three LCD chips, like the NP-311W, offer the same color brightness as white brightness. Projectors with a single DLP chip, like the PG-LW3500, generally don't. And since any difference between the two measurements can affect both color quality and the brightness of color images, comparing only the white brightness can be misleading. (For more on color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, and Why You Should Care.)
That said, with the 92-inch diagonal image I used for most of my testing, the PG-LW3500 was easily bright enough to stand up the typical ambient light in a conference room or classroom. For smaller image sizes or lower light levels, the projector offers both an Eco mode and presets with lower brightness levels.
Image Quality and Other Issues
Data image quality is one of the PG-LW3500's best points. On our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, color balance was excellent in all preset modes, with neutral grays at all levels from black to white. In addition, colors were well-saturated and acceptably eye catching, despite being a little dark, with mustard-colored yellows in particular. Far more important for data images is that the projector handled detail well. With text, for example, both black text on white and white text on black was highly readable at sizes as small as 6.8 points.
With a 1,280-by-800 resolution, the PG-LW3500 can deliver 720p HD video, but that doesn't guarentee terrific video quality. Among other issues, I saw some mild posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) in scenes that most data projectors have problems with. I also saw more noise than with most projectors, mostly in solid areas like the sky, but also occasionally in faces and other foreground areas. The noise was moderately obvious in most scenes, occasionally rising to the level of annoyingly obvious.
Another issue for video is rainbow artifacts. These are always a potential problem for single-chip DLP projectors, which typically show them more often in video than in data screens. With the PG-LW3500, I saw few enough with data images so it's unlikely that anyone would be bothered by them. However, they showed often enough with video that anyone who sees the rainbows easily is likely to find them annoying.
On the plus side, the PG-LW3500's sound system is much more useful than you might expect from a two-watt mono speaker. The audio quality is better than you'll get with many projectors, and the volume is high enough for a small conference room.
If you need a projector that lets you watch long video sessions comfortably, or you need any of the convenience features the Sharp PG-LW3500 lacks?like additional connection options or the ability to read files from a USB key?you'll obviously have to look elsewhere. If you're primarily interested in showing data images at WXGA resolution, however, and particularly if you need both a bright image and a projector that's light enough to be portable, the PG-LW3500 could be exactly the right fit.