Walter Shillington writes about products he knows firsthand. His articles focus on healthcare, electronics, watches, and household items.
Last winter, I began my search for a projector that could provide a theatre-like experience without being overly hard on my budget.
I discovered that the price range of projectors is incredibly wide. If, for example, I'd had $10,000 to throw around, I could set up a private theatre within my home. On the other hand, a $50.00 investment would be sufficient to purchase a device suitable for projecting cartoons onto a child's bedroom wall.
I eventually acquired a Toptro X1, a Roku streaming stick, a ceiling mount, and a nice pull-down screen. The total cost came to just over $400.00.
This configuration worked well. The projector's resolution was good and, once the sun dipped below my neighbor's roofline, the picture proved bright enough to be enjoyably watched.
Because I had a lot of fun reviewing the Toptro, I decided to pick up an even less expensive projector and run a comparison. After arming myself with a $200.00 budget, I browsed through the options available.
While several less expensive devices boasting similar specifications were available, I chose the Onn 720p HD projector as my test subject.
Onn, because it is a Walmart brand, benefits from excellent aftersales support. Also, unlike most of its competitors, this projector comes fitted with a Roku streaming stick.
The Onn projector weighs in at 4.8 pounds and is rectangular in shape. This device is 5.1 inches high, 12 inches wide, and 10.2 inches deep.
While this projector's outer shell is composed of white plastic, its upper surface is overlaid with gray cloth-like material. Nine control buttons may be accessed from the top.
The projected image can be focused by manually turning the front-mounted lens. Slits located on the sides and back of the unit are utilized for ventilation.
An IR sensor, the keystone adjustment control, and all ports, inputs, and outputs are located at the back of the projector.
This device utilizes an LED to provide a projected LCD image with a native resolution of 1280x768P (XGA). It can project a 100-inch image from 10.8 feet. Wi-fi capability is added when the projector is used in conjunction with the included Roku streaming stick.
The package includes the projector, Roku streaming stick and remote, projector remote, AC adapter, and user guide.
- Manufacturer: Onn
- Name: 720p HD Projector
- Model: 1000106682
- Dimensions: 13 x 30 x 26 centimeters (5.1 x 12 x 10.2 inches)
- Weight: 2.15 kilograms (4.74 pounds)
- Input power: AC 100 - 240V
- Projection method: Front/rear/desk/ceiling
- Display technology: LCD
- Light source: LED
- Brightness: 84 ANSI Lumens
- Native resolution: 1280x768P
- Supported resolutions: 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 576i, 480p, 480i
- Contrast: Not specified
- Bluetooth: No
- Speakers: Two (3W each)
- Media device: Roku streaming stick
- Wi-fi: Yes (via streaming stick)
- Interfaces: HDMI(2), USB(2), and AV
- Correction: Manual keystone correction
- Aspect ratio: 4:3/16:9/Auto
- Projection size: 36 – 150 inch
- Accessories: Remote control, AC adapter, lens cover, user manual, and Roku streaming stick with remote
Onn is trademarked by Walmart Apollo, LLC.
The brightness of the more expensive projectors is calculated in ANSI lumens. Lower-priced competitors generally express this measurement in LUX lumens. The Onn 720p is rated at 84 ANSI lumens.
Native resolution refers to the fixed horizontal by vertical pixel count of the projector. The Onn 720p has a native resolution of 1280x768P and supports lower resolutions.
Since my Toptro's native resolution is 1920x1080P, I expected its video output would be far superior to that of the Onn projector. To my surprise, the perceived resolution was similar in most cases. This is, I believe because many of the high-definition programs available from companies such as Netflix are streaming at 1280x720P.
Contrast refers to the ratio of the light reflected from a completely white image and a completely black image. A 3000:1 contrast ratio means that the white image is 3000 times brighter than the black image. The higher the contrast ratio, the more detail you can see on the projected image.
One of the factors affecting contrast is brightness. If the projected image is exceptionally bright, the difference between contrast levels can be more easily discerned. As light output drops, the difference between contrast levels becomes more subtle and difficult to distinguish.
The Optoma EH412ST projector benefits from a 4000 ANSI output. This helps it to achieve a contrast ratio of 50,000:1.
My Toptro X1's output is in the 250 ANSI lumen range. Its 10,000:1 contrast ratio is still very good.
The Onn projector has a brightness of 84 ANSI lumens. While the company did not list its contrast ratio, my educated guess is 3,000:1. This ratio is acceptable, but you will experience difficulty distinguishing the action in dark scenes.
Positioning and Keystone Correction
The keystone effect is the apparent distortion of an image caused by projecting it onto an angled surface.
A dial at the back of this projector is used to correct this effect, turning a trapezoidal screen into a more rectangular shape. While this helped to a certain extent, I also needed to carefully position the projector to face my screen as directly as possible.
If you purchase this projector, I recommend you spend another $20.00 on a ceiling mount. Then your projector can be mounted at the best position possible without regard for furniture placement. Also, a ceiling mount can be tilted in various angles, helping to alleviate the keystone effect.
I own an Elite 100-inch pull-down screen. When comparing the screen to the light blue backdrop of my wall, there was little change in the projected image's sharpness. Colors, however, were noticeably brighter, and the new screen professionally framed the image.
Please note, however, that it is usually better to purchase a projector with a brighter output rather than invest in a screen.
The Onn 720p Projector is fitted with a pair of three-watt speakers, which produce a weak and tinny output. I fixed this problem by connecting my 100W powered Luxpro speaker.
I set up the projector in my dining room about an hour before sunset. Then I turned off all the lights and closed the heavy drapes. The next step was to stream my favorite superhero show—The Tick—from Amazon Prime.
The program was quite watchable, although, at times, the projector's barely adequate contrast took its toll. At one point, for example, when a blue background highlighted the Tick, it appeared as if he were a cut-out figure. Happily, when the background changed, the picture improved.
Once the sun dropped behind the horizon, the projected video brightened considerably. I switched to Netflix and played the first of the new series of Star Trek movies. Aside from a few particularly dark scenes displaying less contrast than desirable, the picture was excellent. It is always fun to watch an exciting, action-packed movie on a 100-inch screen!
This projector's resolution is good, brightness is fair, and contrast is acceptable. Its speakers, however, are inadequate to the task.
The projector does present good value, but most people would be better served by adding a little extra money to the pot and purchasing a projector with a brighter output and better contrast. Bluetooth connectivity is also a practical option.
If, however, you are on a tight budget, you might follow my example and purchase a Renewed Onn 720p Projector from a vendor at Amazon. Then, if you later decide to upgrade to a better device, you can scavenge the Roku streaming stick from this one and plug it into your new projector.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Walter Shillington