Charge of the light brigade

Introduction

Lugging around a heavy projector for a mobile presentation is nobody’s idea of fun. A lightweight projector is a better option. Macworld Lab looked at five projectors, each weighing under ten pounds, and we were pleasantly surprised. All of the projectors offer either outstanding or acceptable image contrast, colour, and brightness (see “Battle of the lightweights” for subjective test results). Unfortunately, although the projectors are small in size, they’re not small in price – they start at £2,299 and climb from there. It’s important to remember that you’re paying for weight – or lack of it. These projectors’ features can’t match those of heavier models. Our jury of experts looked at two LCD models – Epson’s EMP-500c and EMP-710c – and three DLP (digital light processing) models – the InFocus LP330, the NEC MultiSync LT84, and the Sharp Notevision7. The projectors were given subjective tests to evaluate brightness, contrast, colour, greyscale output, text rendering, and DVD video display. In tests of brightness, contrast, and colour, none of the projectors performed unacceptably; however, the Epson EMP-710c was the brightest and most pleasing to look at. Similarly, in our greyscale tests, all the projectors achieved either excellent or fair results – the Epson EMP-710c and the NEC MultiSync LT84 were the best of the bunch. The InFocus LP330 produced a fair greyscale image, but displayed “dancing” pixels that didn’t go away when we adjusted the display. For our text test, we used a simple PowerPoint presentation. With the exception of the InFocus LP330, the DLP projectors presented even eight-point fonts clearly – something the LCD projectors couldn’t do, although they could accurately display fonts as small as 16-point before text began looking jagged and unreadable. We tested the projectors’ DVD video abilities using a set-top DVD player – similar to what you’d see in a simple home-theatre set-up. We connected the player to the projectors using an S-Video cable, an option available on all the models. The DLP projectors performed adequately when projecting DVD video, but suffered from graininess and poor image quality. The LCD projectors did better, with the Epson EMP-500c and 710c ranking highest. Set it and forget it
If you’ll be connecting a projector to a variety of computers, it’s important that the equipment works with little effort, and is easy to set up. All the projectors we tested, except the InFocus LP330, could be set-up with little or no problem. The InFocus required resetting monitor resolutions, restarting the computer, and re-syncing to get the picture to display correctly. The Sharp Notevision7 is the best plug-&-play projector of the group. It not only offers worry-free set-up but also displays helpful, accurate progress bars while it warms up and while it syncs with the computer after you change the resolution. The other projectors aren’t nearly as helpful, displaying either a blank screen or a simple dialogue box. All the projectors come with both on-board and remote controls. The Sharp Notevision7, and NEC MultiSync have remotes that include laser pointers. We found that the laser pointer drew attention to the screen faster than a mouse pointer or other projector-generated on-screen pointers. The remotes can also be used to control the mouse. We judged the NEC MultiSync’s optional remote to be the best in this category –it features a multi-directional pad for mouse movement. All the projectors are controllable from more than 20 feet away, even with obstacles between the remote and the projector. In a small, quiet room, these projectors can pump out the sound. The Epson EMP-710c offers 3D surround sound, while the InFocus and NEC projectors feature stereo sound – the others offer mono sound.
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