The ViewSonic PA503W performed well in our testing but did not stand out in any specific rating metric. We found it best suited for presentations because of its high brightness, which is useful in rooms with ambient light. The WXGA resolution and 16:10 aspect ratio felt like a big step up from cheaper models, which tend to have a native aspect ratio of 4:3. The PA503W was underwhelming for movies but shined for its presentation capabilities. Its fan noise is noticeable, which is a detriment for viewing movies and annoyed some of our testers. Overall it is a good option for educational and business presentation use.
ViewSonic PA503W Review
Pros: Bright image, relatively cheap, WXGA resolution
Cons: Poor adjustability, unimpressive colors
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With WXGA resolution and high end brightness, the PA503W works fairly well for presentation settings. However, if you don't mind small text looking a bit fuzzy you can save money with the Epson VS250, and if you want small text to be perfectly clear you'll need to upgrade to the Epson EX9220. This puts the PA503W in an odd middle ground. It is a good presentation projector, but wouldn't be our first suggestion unless you want small text to look as clear as possible but don't want to spend extra on the Epson EX9220.
The ViewSonic PA503W was middle of the pack in our overall testing. It didn't excel in any particular capacity, but wasn't atrocious in any either.
We found the PA503W to be a strong performer for presentations and slideshows because of its high brightness and 16:10 aspect ratio. It earned a 6 out of 10 in our image quality rating metric, which is average among the projectors that we tested. Our testers liked the WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution far better than SVGA (800 x 600), especially when it came to text. The PA503W displays crisp letters, while lower resolution models created barely readable slides.
Colors weren't very rich in the PA503W and this was its most significant issue with image quality. In dark rooms, its brightness seemed to wash out darker colors and we weren't impressed with its ability to display black. The BenQ HT1070A falls in the same price range but is far better for home theater use, despite lacking the presentation capabilities of the PA503W. If you don't watch movies frequently this isn't a substantial issue.
Ease of Use
Earning a 5 in our ease of use tests, the PA503W didn't stand out as the most user-friendly projector. It mostly lost points for the lack of adjustable feet. Only the front foot is adjustable and this made it much slower to set up on flat surfaces. The remote is easy to navigate but the menus didn't feel as user-friendly as those of BenQ's projectors. It is fairly portable with a rectangular profile and a weight of 4.9 pounds.
We measured the brightness to be 2588 Lumens, making it one of the brightest projectors that we tested. Even though this is 28% lower than ViewSonic's claimed brightness of 3600 Lumens, it still projected clearly in mild ambient light. Colors still appear clear and accurate in ambient light, while darker shades got washed out. The high brightness is ideal for presentation settings but tends to wash out colors if you're viewing a movie in a completely dark room.
Like other ViewSonic models, the PA503W had a noticeably loud fan, which is especially bothersome while watching movies. It earned a 4 out of 10 in this metric, placing it among the lowest scorers. For presentations, the fan noise didn't feel distracting but it seemed like the projector's fan was on much more frequently than most other models in our review.
The ViewSonic PA503W lists for $460, placing it in between low-end and high-end consumer projectors. It's a good choice for those who want a projector with a 16:10 native aspect ratio, WXGA resolution, and high brightness. Cheaper business and education-specific projectors typically have aspect ratios of 4:3 and SVGA (800 x 600) resolution.
For those seeking a projector for business or education that has a 16:10 aspect ratio, the PA503W is a great option. It is better than any of the 4:3 models we tested, yet doesn't break the bank like the top scoring models. If you're looking for top-notch business performance at a higher cost, then the Epson Pro EX9220 is a surpassing alternative.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata