Budget projectors group test


Presentations pop. Movies feel more cinematic. Spreadsheets come alive. OK, that last point may be stretching it, but there’s no doubt that splashing the results of your hard work across a big, 7m-wide vista has a certain something. And, of course, it can be a great way to get across a lot of information to a lot of people in a short space of time. Which is why you’ll find projectors in classrooms, boardrooms and homes up and down the land.

Projectors now have to be more than one-trick ponies. We expect ‘data’ projectors to do more than just project data. We want them to be easy to move from place to place without requiring a van and a couple of burly men. And because time is of the essence we want to be able to set them up quickly and easily – and we don’t even want to use a projection screen if we don’t have to.

Technological advances, of course, have come to our rescue again. Massive CRT projection units are gradually giving away to LCD and DLP models that are more compact, offer flexible setup and can even display decent images in rooms full of ambient light. And now we have pico projectors – LED light spitters so tiny you can fit them into a shirt pocket and splash your productions on almost any convenient surface.

For this test, we wanted projectors that covered all of the above and not break the bank into the bargain. To this end we’ve rounded up two ultra-portable pico projectors – the 3M MPro 120 and the Aiptek PocketCinema V20 – plus four more conventionally portable models – the Mitsubishi XD221U, NEC’s NP115, the Optoma EX531p and Viewsonic’s PJD5112 – all of which have Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology at their heart.

Finally, a word about video resolution. Just because a projector is capable of supporting certain screen resolutions it doesn’t follow that that’s what you’ll see on screen. What’ll happen is that the video will be downscaled to the projector’s native resolution, which can be much lower. In other words, don’t expect to see full 1,920 x 1,080 HD video on a projector that’s only capable of displaying 800 x 600 pixels. For that you may have to pay much, much more.

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