MULTIMEDIA PROJECTORS

Projectors show off light side

The Boxlight MP-30T was

Any of the four reviewed would help your audience see the big picture

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

Ultraportable multimedia projectors make the light dance across a big screen without weighing you down unnecessarily.

The GCN Lab put four of the brightest and lightest units through their paces. One test consisted of showing to several audiences the Apple QuickTime video trailer of the movie 'Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace.' The high-quality video file revealed the light sides as well as the dark sides of the four test units.

The Boxlight Corp. MP-30T, at 13.6 pounds the heaviest projector of the bunch, packed in heavyweight features that made it worth carrying. It earned the Reviewer's Choice designation.

Mitsubishi Display Products' X120 came close in quality except for its slightly inaccurate colors and speaker.

Even so, its long warranty and low price easily merited the lab's Bang for the Buck rating.



The PowerLite 7500C from Epson America Inc. needed a boost in brightness and a longer warranty. NEC Technologies Inc.'s MultiSync LT100 had variable brightness, and its colors looked dull and muted.

That said, any of the four multimedia projectors would make a welcome addition to any agency's conference room or conference center.

More and more real

Projection display is coming amazingly close to photorealism. The old ghosting effects and jagged pixelation have vanished. The next generation of high-resolution entertainment centers promises to have projection this crisp.

Even though three of the four test units used LCD technology, their results looked better than most LCD monitors because they work differently from conventional full-color notebook computer displays.

Notebook and desktop LCDs bend light to certain frequencies as it passes through a liquid crystal channel. Older full-color LCD panels needed large lamps to push more light through, which made the projectors pretty hefty.

The new-generation Boxlight, Mitsubishi and Epson units each have three polysilicon LCD panels the size of a postage stamp. Each panel is responsible for creating a grayscale image of red, green or blue content that is projected through the appropriate color filters and combined by a prism into a full-color image.

The triple LCD method admits more light than the older single-panel design.

Unlike the other projectors, NEC's does digital light processing, or DLP. Inside the LT100 are three digital micromirror devices. Each DMD contains hundreds of thousands of mirrorlike switches that cancel or reflect light. A memory cell controls the tiny mirrors.

Depending on the status of each memory address, the mirrors can rotate plus or minus 10 degrees.

As with the LCD method, each DMD generates a red, green or blue signal, which combines with the other signals to make a full-color image.

Texas Instruments Inc. developed DLP primarily for digital cinema multimedia. More information about DLP appears on TI's Web page, at www.ti.com/dlp.

The NEC LT100 was my first experience with DLP, and perhaps DLP limitations caused the uneven brightness of the LT100's images. The Epson's images appeared brighter than the NEC's even though the Epson projected at 200 lumens less.

A lumen is a measure of brightness, calculated from an average of several measurements taken across the light source. A wax candle generates 13 lumens; a 100-watt bulb generates 1,200. The bulbs in all four projectors were higher than 100 watts. Image brightness varied from 800 to 1,400 lumens.

The NEC projector had the most powerful bulb at 280 watts, but the resulting lumen rating was 400 less than that of the Boxlight, which had a 160-watt bulb.

The MultiSync LT100 performed well. Its lesser brightness and image quality, however, kept it out of the same league as the rest of the batch.

At less than 10 pounds with a carrying case, I found Epson's PowerLite 7500C the most portable of the bunch. It could have been brighter, but for small to midsize conference rooms, the PowerLite would serve well.





























































































































































































































































Four projectors make presentations a big-screen experience

MP-30T

Boxlight Corp.

Poulsbo, Wash.

800-497-4009

www.boxlight.com

PowerLite 7500C<>
Epson America Inc.

Torrance, Calif.

800-463-7766

www.epson.com

X120

Mitsubishi Display Products

Cypress, Calif.

800-843-2515

www.mitsubishi-
''display.com

MultiSync LT100

NEC Technologies Inc.

Itasca, Ill.

800-836-0655

www.nectech.com

Type

Polysilicon LCD

Polysilicon LCD

Polysilicon LCD

DLP

Lumens

1,400

800

1,000

1,000

Diagonal image size

20 to 400 inches

19 to 300 inches

20 to 260 inches

24 to 300 inches

Projection distance from screen

4.6 to 35.4 feet

3.3 to 50 feet

3.3 to 54.2 feet

3.9 to 40.9 feet

Lamp wattage

160

120

150

280

Lamp life

2,000 hours

400 hours

1,300 hours

1,000 hours

Weight

13.6 pounds

9.4 pounds

10 pounds

10.8 pounds


Features

On-screen menu

Yes


Yes


Yes


Yes


Remote control

Infrared


Infrared


Infrared


Infrared


Laser pointer

No


No


Yes


Yes


Motor focus

Yes


No (available manually)


No (available manually)


No (available manually)


Mouse control

Yes


Yes


Yes


Yes


Digital zoom

Yes


No


Yes


Yes


Telephoto lens

Yes, on remote


Yes, manual


Yes, manual


Yes, manual


Carrying case

No


Yes


No


Yes


Built-in speaker

Yes, 2-watt stereo


Yes, two 1-watt stereo


Yes, 1-watt mono


Yes, 1-watt mono


Video

Maximum native resolution in pixels

1,024 by 768


1,024 by 768


1,024 by 768


1,024 by 768


Maximum emulated resolution

1,280 by 1,024


1,280 by 1,024


1,280 by 1,024


1,280 by 1,024


Aspect ratio(s)

4:3 or 16:9


4:03


4:03


4:03


Contrast ratio

300:01:00


300:01:00


200:01:00


500:01:00


Colors

16.7 million


16.7 million


16.7 million


16.7 million


Keystone correction

Yes


No


Yes


No


Software drivers

No


No


Yes


No


Macintosh-compatible

Yes


Yes


Yes


Yes

Input connectors

15-pin RGB, one RCA/
composite, one
S-video

15-pin RGB, one RCA/
composite, one
S-video

15-pin RGB, one RCA/
composite, one
S-video, PC Card slot

15-pin RGB, one RCA/
composite, one
S-video

Input protocols

RGB, NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL, SECAM

RGB, NTSC, PAL, PAL M, PAL N, SECAM

RGB, NTSC, NTSC
4.43, PAL, PAL M,
PAL N, SECAM

RGB, NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL, SECAM

Price

$7,199

$6,712
from GTSI and other resellers

$6,249

$6,967

from GTSI and other resellers

Warranty

2 years

1 year

3 years

2 years

Grades
Ease of use

A-

B-

A-

B-

Remote

C+

B

A-

A-

Brightness/color accuracy

A+

B-

B

C

Static image quality

A

B

B+

C+

Moving video image quality

A

B

B+

C

Portability

B-

A

B

A-

Overall grade''

''




If it breaks?

Epson should extend the warranty, which lasts only a year.

Warranty is a feature buyers should focus on. Before you find yourself on the road with a projector that doesn't work, you want to know if the vendor will stand behind it.

Mitsubishi's X120 warranty was the best by far. If a unit breaks down within three years, Mitsubishi will ship a loaner overnight while the broken unit is being fixed. NEC and Epson have a similar program. Boxlight does, too'but at extra cost.





NEC's MultiSync LT100 uses digital light processing technology, which works differently than the other units' LCD processing.


The X120 also was the best value, considering price and warranty. It has most of the features available in the market, but its color accuracy did vary slightly. Even several color adjustments never quite made the Mitsubishi image look the same as the on-screen display. Image quality and overall accuracy were good.

Mitsubishi provided a software driver. Why is a software driver required? If a notebook PC is connected to the projector on bootup, Microsoft Windows 9x Plug and Play notices what it considers a monitor and requests a driver.

After I had to hit Cancel a few times for the other projectors, I was relieved to find that Mitsubishi supplied the vital .inf driver file.






The X120 from Mitsubishi has the longest warranty and best price of all four units, and includes a handy software driver.



Ultimately, the Boxlight MP-30T gave the best and most intense images. It had all the qualities a multimedia display needs, particularly sound. MP-30T's dual 2-watt stereo speakers performed significantly better than the other three test units' 1-watt speakers.

The beginning of the Star Wars trailer has whispery background sounds. The Boxlight unit had the sensitivity to transmit the whispers; the other three did not.

They also missed many sounds aside from loud bangs or blasts. The MP-30T could convey to an audience the greatest range of presentation sounds, including restrained cues.

The Boxlight also had more diverse input-output choices, although it lacked the Mitsubishi's PC Card slot input.

Boxlight does need to make some improvements, though.

The remote control has focusing and telephoto features, but it is more difficult to use than the other systems' remotes. The buttons demanded a hard press, and the multidirectional disk often did not register when pressed.

Moreover, the infrared reception range seemed much more limited than that of the other three. NEC's remote had reception points along all four sides, whereas the Boxlight unit had small ones in the front and rear.

Screen scene

The Boxlight on-screen display also was confusing. On-screen options implied they could switch between video sources, but it turned out only the remote's mode button could make the switch. Image quality, however, was impeccable.

Users who give lots of presentations on the road should seriously consider Mitsubishi's X120 or the dimmer but smaller Epson PowerLight 7500C.

If you travel a little, the X120 is an option, but the Boxlight MP-30T will draw more audience attention. If you need a mostly stationary projector for a conference room, get the MP-30T.

inside gcn

  • When cybersecurity capabilities are paid for, but untapped

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above