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Big Quality in Small Packages

Portability is just another perk in pro-grade projectors

by Robin Berger

Manufacturers say their customers want affordable, hassle-free, portable digital projectors that deliver stellar widescreen, high-resolution images.

And, they think ecologically appropriate options would be nice. Yet some of these perks, including portability, are just extra bonuses atop high-quality images. Many users are installing these smaller units, happy enough to find a bargain for quality resolution and the ability to handle many formats.

Here‚ the lineup of favorites.


In June 2008, Canon introduced two new REALiS Multimedia Projector models. Its top-of-the-line, 10.8-pound WUX10 boasts widescreen WUXGA resolution (1920×1200; 16:10 aspect ratio), delivers 3,200 lumens of brightness and offers a contrast ratio of 1000:1. At launch, it had a suggested retail price of $12,999. The 11.5-pound SX80 features SXGA+ resolution (1400×1050; 4×3), 3,000 lumens, and a contrast ratio of 900:1. It was the first to offer PictBridge connectivity for PC-free presentations. Suggested retail price: $3,999.

Canon REALiS SX80 Various user-friendly features in both projectors simplify setup, signal input, color correction and pack-up, as well as central control of multiple units. Clinton, N.Y.-based Hamilton College installed its first WUX10 this fall for a popular classroom in a newly renovated building.

“We were so pleased with the image quality and the selection of signal inputs, I changed the room design to allow for the correct signal paths,” said Tom Hicks, director of Audiovisual Services. “I quickly ordered a second unit for film viewing—I wanted something that would handle everything from a VHS tape to Blu-ray, from composite video to HDMI—and this unit does that at a great price. The resident computer in one of the rooms is an iMac, and their resolutions and aspect ratios sync up nicely.”

Both the WUX10 and the SX80 feature LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) reflective LCD panels and Canon proprietary AISYS (Aspectual Illumination System) Optical Engine. AISYS equalizes the projection lamp light and maximizes the LCOS panel performance to optimize brightness, contrast and resolution, according to the company. The projectors also have Genuine Canon 1.5x Powered Zoom/Focus Lenses for increased resolution and suppression of lens aberrations, and improved 10:0 lens offset, reducing the need for tilting and/or keystone correction, according to the manufacturer, plus lens coatings to reduce glare and ghosting.


Epson PowerLite1730W According to Epson, the PowerLite 1730W Multimedia Projector, introduced last year, is still its most economical and overall best portable digital model for pros. At 11.2 by 7.9 by 2.8 inches and 3.7 pounds, it delivers 3,000 lumens of brightness in WXGA resolution (1280×800; 16:10). Specs include an advanced 3LCD (3-chip) optical engine, 2000:1 contrast ratio, and built-in closed captioning capabilities. Epson claims that its E-TORL lamps last up to 4,000 hours in economy mode (up to 3,000 hours in High Mode), and are replaceable at up to $150 less than competing bulbs. The suggested retail price at launch was $1,699.


NEC Display Solutions of America began shipping its NP Portable Series this September. The company says the projectors offer extended lifecycles, and their new filters require less maintenance. And, says NEC, the projectors’ ECO Mode limitscarbon emissions.

Top of the line is the NP510W (MSRP $999). Its dimensions are 12.13 by 3.68 by 10.31 inches and 6.59 pounds. It boasts 3,000 lumens (70 percent of that in ECO Mode), a contrast ratio of 500:1, and up to 5,000 hours of lamp life (in ECO Mode; otherwise 4,000). Moreover, NEC claimed, it can start up in seconds and shut down with ease.

Other amenable features include built-in closed captioning (enabling the decoding and display of a video text information), virtual remote over the VGA cable (to better control the projector from a computer), integrated RJ45 (for quicker LAN connection), dual computer inputs (to speed switching between presentations) and automatic keystone correction technology (to square the image even when the projector is angled badly).


Sanyo PLC-WTC500L

Sanyo introduced the PLC-WTC500L LCD projector at InfoComm in July, touting its high brightness (5,000 lumens), reduced maintenance, ease of use and reliability.

Sized at 17.76 by 6.89 by 21.66 inches, it weighs about 32 pounds, not including the lens. (Sanyo defines portable as transportable from room to room, said one rep.) Its suggested retail price at launch time was $6,995.

The PLC-WTC500L claims a contrast ratio of 3000:1 and WXGA (1280×800) native resolution. It has a new optical engine using an inorganic panel and Sanyo’s Lamp Selection System, which automatically selects one of two lamps to project from, making it possible to project approximately 6,000 hours before replacing the lamps.

The projector manages the projection time for each lamp, depending on the mode selected, allowing for seamless presentations and longer projection life, according to Sanyo. It also features picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture modes.

SONY OFFERS LIGHTWEIGHT CHOICES Sony offers a couple of solid mobile KGA resolution projectors below $2,000, and a couple of more tricked-out units around $3,000. The Sony VPLDX10 is powerful mobile business projector is ideal for mid-sized conference rooms and classrooms. It features 2,500 lumens color light output (2,000 in low mode) and accepts a wide range of input signals, including both PC and video sources. It’s $1,740 and weighs barely four pounds.

At $1,880, the Sony VPLDX11 is a little brighter, shining 3,000 lumens.

Up a notch at $2,320, the VPL-DX15 is a Windows Vista-compatible Network Presentation Projector featuring network file viewing; remote monitoring and maintenance; streaming video viewing; and Remote Desktop, which allows the user to view files and folders from their PC and access web browsers without needing proprietary software.

And for a bit over $3,000 you can get Sony’s super-thin (less than 20-inch-thick) 3LCD projectors. The VPLMX20 Premium Mobile Projector and the VPLMX25 Network Mobile Projector both pack 2,500 lumens. Sanyo says its Active Maintenance Filter system detects air blocks or clogs, and then scrolls the filter reel to the next clean filter, dramatically lowering maintenance costs and the time required to check and change filters. Its advanced lens function lets the projector be positioned almost anywhere, and a mechanical shutter completely blocks out lamplight, the company said.

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta installed its first PLC-WTC500 in the ceiling of a 240-seat classroom, at the center of a three-projector setup, said Chris Hamlin, the school technical project director. He sees the PLCWTC500 as a supplement to its predecessor, the Sanyo PLC-XTC50.

“We use it (the WEC500) primarily to show content from the Blu-ray player and widescreen laptops, and have two more on order to be installed in smaller 30-person classrooms,” he said. “Since nearly all our projectors are mounted to the ceiling and quite often difficult to reach, we prefer models that have dual lamps and active maintenance filter system features that allow longer intervals between required maintenance.”