Show off your images using the latest in projection technology
By Jon Sienkiewicz
One difference to check as you review projectors is the lens. The lowest-priced projectors often have a fixed-focal-length lens. With such a projector, you can only vary the size of the image if you change the distance between projector and screen.
Projector lamps last a long time, typically between 2,000 and 3,000 hours, and even longer when used in Economy Mode. But the cost is high when it’s time for replacement. It’s not uncommon for a new lamp to cost 30 to 40 percent as much as the projector itself.
For example, the estimated street price for a replacement lamp for the top-rated Epson PowerLite 76c is $299 (the projector itself runs $799). A new lamp for the Sony VPL-EX3 will cost you nearly $400.
However, a rated life span of 2,000 hours equates to one two-hour slide show per day for almost three years—not bad in the final analysis. If you use it that much, you’ll have probably already upgraded to a later model before the bulb blows.
With a zoom lens, you can vary the projected image size by changing the focal length. How much zoom you need depends on how (and where) you plan to use your projector. A longer zoom range gives you more flexibility when setting up, offering more choices for placement of your projector, and helps you fill the frame even from the back of the auditorium.
The Canon LV-X6 is an LCD projector with a native resolution of 1024 x 768 and a maximum resolution of 1600 x 1200. It has a genuine Canon 1.6x zoom, a built-in speaker and quiet (25dB) Whisper Mode. The contrast ratio is 500:1, and brightness is 1500 lumens. It has a unique feature that allows you to project on a background that's not pure white—you can select from several wall color options so that the projector can compensate and make the image appear closer to natural. The estimated street price is $899.
Canon REALiS X600
The Canon REALiS X600 is the world’s first LCOS XGA projector. It stretches boundaries with 3500 ANSI lumens, a 1000:1 contrast ratio and a 1.7x Canon ultra-wide power zoom. Canon has combined the LCOS technology with its proprietary AISYS light engine technology to display images with accurate, uniform color. It offers four color modes, and each can be adjusted in seven dimensions, which means you have up to 28 different custom image modes. Additionally, the projector’s six-axis (RGBCMY) color adjustment allows you to tweak the hue and saturation of each of the primary and secondary colors. With an estimated street price of $2,499, the Canon X600 isn’t for everyone, but if you need to present colors in a uniform and accurate way, Canon’s REALiS series approaches perfection.
The Casio XJ-S30 DLP features a 2x zoom, 2000 lumens output and XGA (1024 x 768) native resolution. It weighs less than four pounds and has a thin, attractive profile. At $1,499, it’s on the upper end of the price spectrum. For $200 more, the Casio XJ-S35 adds a USB port that can be used with the Casio USB Wireless (IEEE 802.11b) Adapter YW-2S for wireless operation.
The Epson PowerLite 76c is a lot of LCD projector at an affordable price. It delivers XGA resolution, 2000 ANSI lumens and a 400:1 contrast ratio. Epson has a strong reputation for high-quality color from its LCD projectors. For an estimated street price of $799, it also offers automatic setup and instant-off functions, so you don’t have to wait while the bulb cools.
The Epson PowerLite 1715c LCD projector, priced at $1,999, is XGA with a 400:1 contrast ratio, is extremely bright (2700 lumens), has wireless capabilities and weighs 3.7 pounds.
If ultra-portability is what you’re after, the Mitsubishi PK20 Pocket Projector will fit on the palm of your hand—it’s less than two inches thick and weighs only 1.1 pounds. It’s a DLP projector that utilizes eight LEDs to generate 25 ANSI lumens. While that figure sounds anemic compared to full-sized models, keep in mind the PK20 is intended for a high degree of portability and close-range use under dark conditions. Native resolution is SVGA (800 x 600), and the contrast ratio is a respectful 1000:1. It also has a slot for an SD card, so you can leave your camera and computer at home. Estimated street price is $810.
The Sanyo PLC-XU48 ($1,199 estimated street price) is a full-featured XGA LCD projector offering 3000 ANSI lumens output, 450:1 contrast ratio and SXGA (1280 x 1024) maximum resolution enhanced by Sanyo’s proprietary DRIT (Digital Realized Interpolation Technology) compression compensation. At six pounds, it’s about the size of an 8½x11-inch notebook, except it’s 2.8 inches thick.
Panasonic PT-LB50SUThe Panasonic PT-LB50SU ($725 estimated street price) offers several convenient features. Its Auto Search function automatically detects what kind of source is connected and begins projection. It also has a Speed Start that displays an image within two seconds of power up. The PT-LB50SU LCD projector has SVGA native resolution, 2000 ANSI lumens and a 400:1 contrast ratio. And it weighs only four pounds.
Sony’s offerings in the digital projector category are extensive. The Sony VPL-EX3 is an LCD projector that’s well suited for business use or occasional travel at a scant 6.4 pounds. It provides native XGA resolution, 2000 ANSI lumens and a bright 1.2x zoom lens. It’s a workhorse that comes complete with a remote control and three-year/2,500-hour warranty. Estimated street price is $889.
From ViewSonic, the PJ400 LCD projector delivers portability at a great price. It weighs less than five pounds and has an estimated street price of less than $800. It features SVGA native resolution and 1600 ANSI lumens. Contrast ratio is 300:1. It comes with an outstanding warranty: three years on parts and labor, first-year replacement service. The bulb is covered for a full year, too.