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Tap into the presentation power of mobile projectors: learn all about this true road warrior's business companion.

YOU'VE FINALLY CRAFTED the most amazing business presentation ever. The timing between slides is perfect, your graphics look like they were created by a professional artist, and you've carefully wordsmithed every bullet point. Now it's time to take your PowerPoint slides on the road. But how do you know what's waiting for you across town? Will the projector or television in the client site conference room make your business slides shine, or make them look blurry and unprofessional? Bringing your own mobile projector might be the solution you seek.

Mobile projectors are becoming popular with salespeople and business workers, mostly because they're so light, portable, and easy to set up. DLP technology also helps, because the multi-mirror image is a vast improvement over the LCD projectors of old. Of course, the real trick is figuring out which device meets your needs. In a round up of the latest mobile projectors, I found that quality, ease-of-use, and added features are the biggest differentiators.

I tested a variety of mobile projectors to give you a taste for what's on the market. All the devices use Texas Instruments DLP technology for better video contrast and a sharper image, except for the Hitachi CP-X327W, which uses LCD. I used DisplayMate for testing image quality. This useful tool displays thin intersecting lines as a way to test the projector's lens capability. Putting these devices through a battery of tests helped distinguish the devices that improve your presentation--or lessen the impact of your message.

In the end, nothing beats a projector that displays a stunning and vibrant image, and there's nothing more annoying--at least in terms of running a business presentation--than an image that looks like it was filtered through a screen door. Choosing the right projector may not be easy, but you'll be happy you extended the effort to study them when you're able to wow your customers with sharp-looking presentations.

To begin, here are several important characteristics you'll find in most mobile projectors:

VGA input

At the heart of each device is a VGA input, which lets you run PowerPoint slides. In some cases, the projector uses a proprietary cable that runs from the VGA output on your desktop or notebook to the VGA input on the projector. In other cases, you can use a standard male-to-male VGA cable. The cable determines the resolution of the image; in most cases it's 1024x768 (a.k.a. XGA), although there are a few 800x600 resolution devices on the market (a.k.a. SVGA).

Video input

The standard RCA "yellow" video input lets you run a VHS or DVD player to the projector. Video quality is determined mostly by the contrast because a moving image involves so many dynamic shifts in color and dark-to-light transitions. If video is important to you, consider a projector with a high contrast ratio.

Contrast

Contrast is more important for video than a computer signal. The displayed image will look muddy and out-of-focus if the contrast ratio isn't high enough. A high contrast ratio means the video pops off the screen and is easier on the eyes.

Brightness

Brightness is measured in ANSI lumens. The brighter the rating, the better the image looks, especially if you combine a high lumens rating with high contrast. You can easily spot a projector with a low lumens rating because the image looks muddy. Brightness is the most critical factor in measuring the quality of a computer image because, instead of the movie image of video, you'll usually see a static image; when it's nice and bright, it looks like it's in sharper focus.

Source

Mobile projects let you easily switch between sources without having to disconnect cables. Usually, you can just press one button and the device searches its inputs for a connected player or computer connection.

On-board controls

Most projectors let you adjust the image using buttons located on the top panel. You can increase the contrast or brightness, switch to a different source, and even configure less obvious settings, such as whether the unit powers down after a set period of inactivity.

Fan operations

All mobile projectors include a fan that keeps the lamp from overheating. In most cases, after you power off the device, you can't use it again until the lamp cools down--an important consideration if you're using a projector in front of an audience.

Keystone

Keystone adjustment--the ability to modify the slant of the image--is important if you can't point the projector directly at a wall or screen. If you're in a room and point the projector at an angle, you can adjust the keystone to make the image look perfectly square on the wall.

Remote

Every manufacturer seems to have a unique remote with various functions it deems important. For example, one remote might have a prominent button for the source and keystone, while another might give you options for blanking the screen. Usually, the best remotes give you plenty of clearly-labeled options without overloading you with too many. For example, the Toshiba remote is handy because it lists the source inputs one-by-one (VGA, video, etc.) rather than just providing one source button that scans through the available inputs.

Noise level

One final consideration when evaluating projectors is the noise volume from the fan. In some cases, a noisy fan can be so much of a distraction that it makes the overall quality of the image less important. What's quiet? About 35 dBA is typically a low enough noise emission for even an empty conference room or living room.

Common uses for mobile projectors

Mobile projectors are designed for multiple uses, not just for displaying presentations at meetings. Inputs for a notebook or desktop computer, DVD player, high-definition television, and video game consoles make them highly versatile. Here's just a few of the many ways you can use a mobile projector:

Business presentations

Bringing a mobile projector on the road has never been easier. Most of the devices I tested include a carrying case with strap, plus all the cables you'd probably ever need. And they usually weigh about 5 pounds, so they're light enough to bring on an airplane and lug around the office for a quick setup in a conference room. All of the devices I tested included a remote, so you can talk about sales figures and business strategy from anywhere in time room and still control just about all time projector Functions, such as the brightness, contrast, and keystoning. In most cases, the projector cable includes a USB 1.1 connection that lets you use the remote like a mouse, which is handy for advancing through a PowerPoint presentation or starting applications remotely.

Business videos

Many businesses are moving out of the dark ages of VHS and into DVD and HDTV. That means your conference room might be equipped with a DVD player, which provides much better quality than VHS. Fortunately, most mobile projectors are designed to support the digital Format using RCA cables or an S video cable. DLP projectors provide better contrast For high-resolution DVD playback. And, many projectors support component video or HDTV for even better quality from a high definition source, such as an HDTV television. Most projectors provide a small speaker, which does the job in small conference rooms but doesn't work for for groups larger than about 100 people.

Entertainment

It's likely you'll want to else a mobile projector for occasional entertainment, and the ability to play DVD-quality video and HDTV makes them even more versatile for theatrical movies and console gaming. Video games look much better if you use the S-video cable, and all three main gaming platforms (PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube) support high-definition as long as you have the proper, console cable.

TIP: If you want to play games at high-definition, you'll probably need male-to-male adapters to connect the video cable to the mobile projector cable. It's also important to note that most mobile projectors don't include an HDTV cable.

Projecting the right image

When you absolutely must display the perfect image for your business presentation, a mobile projector is the perfect solution. They stow easily for long flights, present a stunning image, and let you show videos when you aren't using them for PowerPoint. Choose the right projector, and you might just impress a client so much that your next sale will pay for the hefty price of these portable wunderkinds.

MOBILE BUSINESS BENEFITS

Instead of trusting tour carefully prepared presentation to unknown and untested equipment, you do have another option, especially if you can afford to spend about as much as a laptop computer. Mobile projectors are the true road warrior's business companion.

RELATED ARTICLE: Choose your mobile projector.

Hitachi CP-X327W

http://www.hitachi.com US$7,495

The first phrase that comes to mind when evaluating the Hitachi CP-X327W is "old-school," mostly because it uses LCD technology instead of DLP. LCD uses one mirror to project the image, which means the focus is a bit cleaner across the image, but not as crisp and bright. Also, the contrast on the Hitachi isn't as good, so videos look muddier. However, this device is loaded with features that make it an excellent choice for those looking for specific options. For example, the device includes clearly labeled plug-ins for an HDTV component video cable, which is unique--most projectors force you to use a proprietary cable, but you can just use the cable that comes with your HDTV or progressive DVD player. Also, this device includes two foreign-market power cables for travel to Europe or Asia. At 1,800 ANSI lumens, the device almost makes up for the LCD's grainy image. The contrast ratio of only 350:1 is on the low side. And, it's a bit heavy at 6 pounds.

There was a slight blurriness on some of the DisplayMate tests; for example, small text looked out of focus in some instances. This was probably due to the LCD lens, because none of the other projectors had such obvious blurring. On the plus side, the feet adjusters on the unit were easy to find and you get two VGA inputs (one for a notebook, one for a desktop, perhaps).

A note on price: The MSRP is quite high, but several retailers offer the CP-X327W for between $2,000 and $3,000.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Optoma EzPro 737

http://www.optoma.com US$2,995

Although the brightness rating of 1,500 lumens on the Optoma EzPro 737 is a little lower than some of the other projectors I tested, the contrast ratio of 1,800:1 is about as high as you can get with DLP technology. This means this device does an outstanding job projecting video images. At only 3.5 pounds, it's also one of the lightest projectors on the market. Another plus: It's quiet, rating only about a 32 dBA noise level.

I was also impressed that a device this small and quiet supports HDTV resolutions all the way up to 1080i. I tested progressive scan DVD playback and an Xbox high-definition video game and was pleasantly surprised by the consistent quality.

Unfortunately, a couple of problems surfaced during DisplayMate tests. The image caused some flicker on the text pattern tests, which is something you might never see in a business presentation, but might notice if you display a business document. I also had a hard time locating the adjustment feet, which would be a problem in a meeting if you have to fidget with the height and level and can't find the feet. Although the projector is whisper quiet, the fan on the device blows enough hot air to keep you warm on a winter night--too hot for my taste.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

PLUS U2-1200

http://www.plus-america.com US$3,395

At 2,000 lumens, the PLUS U2-1200 is a compelling choice for business workers who require exceptional quality. In the DisplayMate tests, the U2-1200 passed each text pattern and image with flying colors--literally. Even on the toughest color spectrum tests, the unit performed admirably with only slight flicker issues.

The only real drawback with this device is that it's somewhat bulky. Although it weighs only 5.6 pounds, the device is almost 12 inches long, so it isn't as compact as other mobile projectors. However, the projector fits comfortably in its included carrying case. And, because of the longer size, the projector packs some serious image-projecting power. The contrast rating is 1500:1, so the video image looks quite impressive. I also tested HDTV compatibility and the device compared favorably with other devices that support the higher-resolution television format.

Another bonus with the larger size is that this PLUS unit features standard size video and RGB connections, unlike the smaller PLUS V-1100, which includes proprietary cables. The advantage is, if you happen to lose the cables, you can pick up replacements at any electronics store.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Toshiba TDP-D1

http://www.toshiba.com US$2,695

The unusual circular vent holes on the front of the Toshiba TDP-D1 are striking at first until you realize they serve a purpose in keeping the unit cool. That's important, considering the device pumps out a beautiful 2,000-lumens image at an 800:1 contrast ratio. Comparing several projectors in succession, it was obvious the Toshiba projects the clearest, brightest image while maintaining a consistent focus across the entire screen. This is true for both video and computer output.

The TDP-D1 also passed the DisplayMate tests with hardly any flicker, even on images that consisted of small text on a black or white background. Just about every mobile projector I tested includes a VGA output port so you can hook up your computer to the projector, and the projector to an external monitor. In some cases, the image displayed on the monitor isn't worth the effort because the VGA signal is weakened; but, for some reason, the Toshiba displays a much brighter and cleaner image on the external display.

One ease-of-use feature of note is the ability to change the source of the projector by pressing the Source button on the remote or the unit itself. Then, you can use the the scroll buttons to select the source you want. It may seem trivial, but it makes selecting a different source much easier than pressing source and waiting for the projector to scan through the available inputs.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

John Brandon is a freelance writer from Buffalo, Minnesota. Before starting his writing career, he worked as an IT manager with a large consumer electronics retailer. His areas of expertise include hand held computers, notebooks, smartphones, wireless technology, displays, and any other computer-oriented device. He is currently writing a book about user focused project management, to be published in June 2003. jbrandonbb@hotmail.com.
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Title Annotation:Hitachi CP-X327W; Mobile Projectors
Author:Brandon, John
Publication:Mobile Business Advisor
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:2457
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