Lighten up your antics on the road
Lighten up your antics on the road<@VM>GCN Lab checks out nine LCD projectors that can brighten your presentation and lighten your load
These luggable LCD projectors make taking along presentations a picnic
By John Breeden II
A good presentation can help get projects approved, as every government manager knows.
One of a presenter's costliest but most valuable tools is an LCD projector. It pumps up images from a PC or VCR, ensuring that everyone around the conference table gets the picture and sees the detail behind laboriously crafted special effects.
Optoma EzPro 710
LCD projectors give the best service when mounted in a fixed location, such as a conference room with a large screen.
Until recently they have been too heavy as well as too fragile for convenient use on the road.
Presenters often have little control over light dimming and insufficient blank wall space to aim a projector properly'not to mention that it takes fortitude to tote a separate, 12-pound unit along with a notebook computer and everything else that may be needed on a trip.
For all these reasons, the market is ripe for bright, ultraportable LCD projectors.
The GCN Lab asked vendors to submit projectors small enough to be carried easily through airports or train stations. Because the projectors are expensive and fragile, travelers generally transport them by hand.
We requested projectors bright enough for varying conditions, such as in undimmed rooms, at close quarters and in auditoriums.
Nine companies responded to the challenge.
Their projectors ranged in weight from four pounds to almost 10 pounds and had just as broad a spread in brightness and price.
We rated the projectors for brightness at the center and at the corners of an image, for weight, for price, for image crispness and for extra features such as useful remote controls.
We measured light in lux'the intensity of light falling on an object'rather than in lumens.
Measurements were taken in a dark room with no ambient light, at a distance of 9.5 feet from the projector and at 3 feet. The 9.5-foot reading was mostly for brightness calculation and grading purposes.
We measured lux at the center of the largest image each projector could generate at each distance. Lux was again measured near the edges.
Some projectors produced images that were bright at the center but dim elsewhere.
We decided to go with lux instead of the typical lumen measurement be- cause lux is a more reliable metric and it takes into account the flux from a light source. Flux is the intensity in candela multiplied by the solid angle over which the light is emitted, which varies in different directions.
The instrument we used for the test was the LX-101 Lux Meter from Lutron Electronics Co. Inc. of Coopersburg, Pa.
The top-scoring projector was InFocus Systems Inc.'s LP335. At the center of the screen, it put out 650 lux at 9.5 feet. Very little light was lost at the corners, where output dropped to 600 lux.
It takes about a 100-lux drop before the naked eye can perceive the difference in light level, so the 50-lux drop was detectable only on our measuring equipment.
The LP335 tied for the lightest projector in this review, weighing just 4.8 pounds'a lot of power in a small package. Images were crisp in all color ranges and looked fine in dark or brightly lit rooms.
The LP335 came standard with a tiny remote control for hands-free access to the projector controls, which set brightness, contrast and color depth as on most of the tested units.
The only negative about the LP335 was that its front foot stubbornly resisted movement to elevate the lens. Most units have movable front feet that pop out when a release button is pressed, but the LP335's front foot required some pulling.
Overall, the LP335's compact size and its power earned it a Reviewer's Choice designation and the highest grade in the review.
Proxima Corp.'s DX3 projector came in a close second in performance but cost about $500 more.
The DX3 was tiny, not just in its 5-pound weight but in its compressed form factor. It could almost fit in the palm of a fairly large hand. Most of the other projectors were oblong, whereas the DX3 was an 8-inch square.
It produced 620 lux at the center of the screen and dropped off to 550 lux at the edges. At three feet, the projector could generate a powerful 5,720-lux beam, which fell to 620 lux at the greater distance.
Polaroid Polaview 238
Its remote also incorporated a laser pointer for extra reach during presentations.
Solid performance earned the DX3 a Reviewer's Choice designation.
The Epson America Inc. PowerLite 710c was the most impressive projector in features and control.
The PowerLite remote control easily zoomed in on a photograph or a graphic. There were two adjustable feet in front, so the screen could be leveled even when the unit rested on an uneven surface.
Instead of a laser pointer, Epson integrated pointer features into the projector. A cartoonlike arrow could move around the screen via a tiny joystick on the remote control.
Also from the remote, the presenter could highlight parts of a paragraph and draw boxes around important information'far more useful than even a laser pointer.
Epson PowerLite 710c
The Epson unit produced a 605-lux beam at the center of the screen, dropping off to 515 lux at the edges. The 5.8-pound device did a great job of protecting its bulb by powering up the cooling fan at shut-off.
Most projectors keep their cooling fans running for several minutes after shutoff, but the 710c was the only one that increased air flow across the bulb as well.
I could not test bulb life, said to be 2,000 to 4,000 hours, but I know extra cooling at shutdown extends it. Because a new bulb costs $400, no presenter would want to waste even one hour.
The Epson earned the third Reviewer's Choice designation.
The Boxlight Corp. XD-5m is the projector to choose for quiet presentations.
It was the quietest unit in the review and lightweight at 4.8 pounds. Even in a soundless room, the fan was difficult to hear. The Boxlight would not drown out the presenter's words or interfere with conversation in tight quarters.
It produced a clean image, one of the sharpest in the review, especially with bright colors that tended to wash out on other projectors.
Its remote control was nothing fancy but helpful in managing presentations without hovering over the unit.Sparkling images
Sharp NoteVision 7
The Boxlight generated as much bright light as some of the other units. Its beam measured 540 lux at the center of the screen, trailing off to 415 lux at the edges. Heat was vented toward the back'a good design for keeping the temperature down near the adjusting knobs.
The Sharp Electronics Corp. NoteVision 7 had lots of extra features in a slim, 6-pound frame designed for operation under low lighting.
The control panel glowed when the projector was on, making adjustments easy even in pitch blackness.
The remote also glowed when a special button was pressed, and it had a built-in laser pointer.
The NoteVision 7 could be mounted permanently or used in a variety of positions, thanks to a special menu for changing the image orientation. You could place the projector behind a screen instead of in front.Even beam
The NoteVision 7 produced a 520-lux beam at the center of the screen. There was almost no drop-off at the edges; the beam weakened to 500 lux, far less change than the human eye could detect.
The only real drawback was the NoteVision 7's high price. At $8,995, it cost $4,000 more than the top-performing projector. The extra features were useful but couldn't justify that much of a premium.
The Polaview 238 from Polaroid Corp. was one of two budget units in the review. The Polaview handled resolutions only up to 800 pixels by 600 pixels; most of the other projectors could manage at least 1,024-by-768 resolution.
That isn't as much of a drawback as you might think, because 800-by-600 resolution is fine for most presentations and more than enough for video. And the price is quite low at $3,133.
The Polaview 238 had all the standard controls plus a few extras unusual for a low-end unit. It produced a 530-lux beam at the center, dropping to 430 lux at the corners. The second heaviest in the review, it weighed 7.1 pounds.
The remote had a handy enlarge feature: When activated, the volume control became a zoom key. A laser pointer was built in.The price is right
If you don't want to spend a lot of money for a presentation device, the Polaview 238 is the one to buy. Above-average performance at a below-average price earned it the lab's Bang for the Buck designation.
The Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc. LVP-X70u did not fare well on the brightness tests, producing a 455-lux beam at the center of the screen with a drop to 425 lux at the corners. And its $7,995 price was steep.
The 7.1-pound unit resembled older versions of the Mitsubishi product line rather than the new ultralights. Its controls were fairly standard with emphasis on color balance and saturation.
The Toshiba America Consumer Products Inc. TDP-S1 was the second budget projector in the review and the lowest-priced at $2,690. Like the Polaview, the TDP-S1 could display only 800-by-600 resolution.
Surprisingly, it had extra features such as buttons that glowed when the device was powered.
Its most notable feature, other than the low price, was the huge lens that resembled a fish-eye lens. After a little exploration with a screwdriver, we discovered that the TDP-S1 lens acted as a magnifying glass, boosting the projector's power by focusing it.
The beam at the center measured 810 lux, brighter than that of any other unit in the review. But the fish-eye lens concentrated the beam wholly at the center; brightness dropped off dramatically to 400 lux at the edges.
A 400-lux drop was easy to see even without instruments. The center looked bright, but the corners and even the sides were dim.
The unit made a lot of noise when running and, when placed in standby mode, a normal procedure before a full shutdown, the bulb stayed on by default. That could damage the bulb, which must cool down before the fan shuts down.
The TDP-S1 might be good for short-range presentations. At three feet it generated a searing, 7,450-lux beam nearly bright enough for an airplane landing beacon.
But the rapid dropoff at the maximum screen width, especially around the edges, earned this low-priced projector only an average grade.
The final contender, the EzPro 710 from Optoma Technology Inc., was an upright projector with the lens on top. In the same line are other projectors with the lens sitting in the middle of a square box. This 6.3-pound design had some flaws.
The EzPro's cooling fans vented heat toward the top, and the focus dial and screen size dial both sat right above the exhaust. Any user of projectors knows how hot they get. A projector bulb can cause a severe burn if touched or if the cooling air gets superheated.
That in turn heats the dials on the focus knobs to the point of unpleasant surprises for anyone who tries to adjust settings.Hot spot
After running the unit about 15 minutes, I reached over to adjust the screen and jumped back in pain.
My hand was red and sore where I had touched the metal dial.
Fortunately, there was a remote, though it couldn't adjust screen size or focus.'
The image was not very bright, only 300 lux at the center. But there was no drop in brightness below 300 lux at the edges.
This was the only unit to deliver zero drop-off. If it had been brighter to begin with, it would have gotten a better grade.
Any of the lightweight LCD projectors in this review might be acceptable for different situations, but some shine a bit brighter and won't take as many shiny coins to acquire.
InFocus Systems Inc.
Epson America Inc.
Long Beach, Calif.
Sharp Electronics Corp.
Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc.
Toshiba America Consumer Products Inc.
Optoma Technology Inc
|Weight||4.8 pounds||5 pounds||5.8 pounds||4.8 pounds||6 pounds||7.1 pounds||7.1 pounds||5.8 pounds||6.3 pounds|
|Lab light measurements|
|Lux at 9.5 feet, center||650||620||605||540||520||530||455||810||300|
|Lux at 9.5 feet, edges||600||550||515||415||500||430||425||400||300|
|Lux at 3 feet||5,500||5,720||4,550||4,080||3,750||4,150||3,500||7,450||2,360|
|Pros and cons|
|Pros||+ Light weight|
|+ Tiny footprint|
+ Excellent controls
|+ Wonderful remore|
+ Crisp, clean image
|+ Clean image|
|+ Panel glows when powered|
+ Good controls
|+ Good controls|
+ Nice Remote
|+ Low lux drop-off|
+ Brightest center screen
|+ Inexpensive||+ Good remote|
|Cons||- Hard to adjust front foot||- Slight image loss at screen edge||- Focusing a little awkward||- Somewhat dim in brightly lit areas||- Expensive||- 800-by-600 maximum resolution|
|- 800-by-600 maximum resolution|
|- Heat vents towards focus knob|