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iRulu BL20 review

Amazon users love this $150 projector. It produces a big image and costs less than half of name-brand competitors like the Epson 640. So I bought one and pitted it against the Epson.

Long story short, the iRulu got its ass kicked.

Many of those Amazon reviews crow about the iRulu’s picture quality, but I’m guessing the people writing them don’t have another projector to compare it against. And in some ways they don’t need one. A projector this cheap that can throw up an 80-inch or larger picture is likely “good enough” for many, many viewers, especially for only occasional use. At this price, maybe they’re just happy it works at all.

But you’re reading a CNET review, so you probably want to know what I think. In my book it’s a no-brainer. Save up and get something better like that Epson.

Cheap iRulu BL 20 projector, shoddy picture
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Basic specs

  • Native resolution: 800×480 pixels
  • Lumens spec: Not listed
  • Zoom: No
  • Lens Shift: No
  • 3D-compatible: No
  • Lamp life (Normal mode): 20,000 hours
  • Replacement lamp cost: N/A

Like that Epson the iRulu doesn’t have true HD resolution. Although it will take any high-def source like your cable box, Roku or game console, the image it throws on your screen isn’t native HD. It’s less detailed, blockier and shows issues like jagged lines that native 1080p projectors don’t.

Most projectors list a lumens specification to describe their brightness but I couldn’t find one on iRulu’s web site or the user manual. According to my measurements it’s extremely dim.

Like many cheaper projectors you’ll have to physically move the iRulu to size it to your screen properly; there’s no zoom or lens shift. If you’re less persnickety about filling the screen completely, or if you’re using a white wall or other makeshift projection surface, that’s not an issue. There is a manual keystone control, but it’s less exact than the digital one on the Epson, and using it causes the top or bottom edge (depending on your adjustment) to lose focus.

The iRulu uses a LED light engine, hence the extremely high lamp life that’s easily its best feature. Most competitors use bulbs that last 5000 hours or so before you need to replace them (new bulbs cost $80 to $100).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity and convenience

  • HDMI inputs: 2
  • AV input: 2 (with component video)
  • PC input: Analog RGB
  • USB port: 2
  • MHL: Yes
  • Remote: Not backlit
  • Built-in speaker: Yes

Here’s the iRulu’s strongest showing. It has two HDMI (the Epson only has one) as well as two analog AV inputs. It’s also compatible with MHL sources like compatible phones. There’s also an input marked “TV,” but I’m not sure what it’s for. It doesn’t fit any connection I’m familiar with.

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