M-tech: A Bright Future

Much is required of today’s data/video projectors. They are expected to perform in rooms flooded with ambient light, and reproduce colour images that are near-perfect copies of originals. Projectors have had to slim down dramatically in order to go on the road with presenters – many models now make portable PCs look positively overweight by comparison. Other attributes demanded of these multimedia machines include user-friendliness, reliability, low noise, flexibility, and even wireless connectivity.

M-tech went shopping and discovered models such as Toshiba’s TLP701 – an XGA projector with built-in document camera (works like conventional OHP but displays 3D objects) and wireless connectivity. Via wireless LAN card, your PC can communicate and send data to this projector for display in the conventional way. Multiple computers can wirelessly connect to single projector, and similarly, single PC can talk to multiple projectors.

Another stand-out model is the diminutive PLUS V Series DLP projector. Weighing mere 0.9kgs it is billed as the world’s smallest and lightest projector (actually, PLUS has claimed this title since it launched the UP-800 back in 1998 when 4.5kgs machines were indeed the lightest). The V Series, launched last January, has an additional input terminal (Digital Visual Interface or ‘DVI’) which provides full digital-to-digital capability, reproducing digital images without any deterioration in quality.

Mitsubishi’s XD200U projector is unique in the market because it was the first DLP projector rated at 2000 ansi lumens, and to reach the coveted Microsoft sRGB colour profile.

Mitsubishi also markets the XL30U ColourView family of projectors, producing up to 3000 ansi lumens, which are particularly effective in school rooms and auditoriums where ambient sound can pose problem.

The ColourView family is not only quiet; these projectors also feature Mitsubishi’s new ProjectorView networking system, device that connects the LCD projectors to LAN via serial-to-Ethernet translator.

In the home theatre sector, Panasonic’s PT-AE100 offers widescreen viewing and excellent video quality, and has been credited with doubling the company’s sales of projectors. Epson’s EMP-TW100 is dedicated home theatre projector that was awarded “European Video Projector of the Year” for 2002/03.

MATCHING YOUR NEEDS

Projectors offer comparatively long operational lifespan, so it pays to get it right when choosing model and brand. In New Zealand, brand names include Acer, 3M, PLUS, Canon, Elmo, Epson, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Panasonic, Sanyo, and Sony – all reputable manufacturers. To separate them you may need to organise side-by-side comparisons, especially to see if any brightness claims have been exaggerated. Remember, model that looks good on paper, may not necessarily be the best performer.

Lindsay Knowles, national sales manager for PLUS distributor ACME Office Supplies, advises buyers to discuss their application and usage requirements with small number of reputable audio-visual dealers. “Ask for demonstration at the place you’ll be using the projector to ensure it performs in the ambient light and size of your room space, and with your laptop or PC.” Knowles then says to narrow your selection down to two or three suitable models, and then ask for references so you can speak with current end users of the machines.

In addition to weight (mobility), brightness (ansi lumens), image quality (contrast ratio) and fan noise, another major consideration for buyers is resolution, and here you really need to think about what the projector will be primarily used for. Glenn Wright, product sales manager for Toshiba agent Monaco Corporation, explains: “If the vast majority of your presentations are PowerPoint or graphics based, then SVGA resolution (800 x 600 pixels) is probably fine. However, if you need to display fine detail, Excel spreadsheets or CAD graphics, or if the projector will have multiple users, then XGA (1024 x 768 pixels) is probably best to cover all eventualities.”

Wright points out that most PCs and laptops now have XGA as standard display resolution, and your presentation will look the best when the display matches the projector’s resolution.

On the subject of brightness, Wright says it is again about matching needs. “As rule, the entry level brightness for projector should be 1200 lumens, ideal for even semi-bright rooms. However, 2000 lumens will allow the ambient light to be relatively high to the point that people can read and write notes in comfort,” he says. “The biggest issue with projectors is the ambient light between the projector and the screen – the less there is, the better the image.”

The dealer or reseller you buy your projector from is equally important as the projector itself. Find one that offers 24-hour back-up and service, as well as loan projectors in times of need.

“Also check the warranty,” adds Wright. “Some manufacturers won’t warrant the product if it runs continuously for more than certain number of hours, or if it is installed upside down (ie ceiling mounted). Buy brand you know, that is supported locally.”

You might also want to check the warranty on the lamp – they’re not cheap to replace. In fact, Julian Lefebvre, from Mitsubishi distributor Melco New Zealand, suggests all buyers should check the total running cost of their intended purchase, beyond simple lamp replacement. “The latest 0.7-inch LCD panels are only likely to last around 2000 hours, so users may be hit with $3000-plus bill to replace the panels soon after their first lamp replacement.”

An even brighter future

The future is bright indeed for the multimedia projector market, with the most growth expected in the home theatre market. Remember that business data/video projectors don’t necessarily make good home cinema projectors – it is specialised market sector – although there are exceptions. Epson’s EMP51 and EMP71, for example, make excellent sales presentation tools during the week, and on the weekend double as home theatre projectors.

While LCD projectors are still common, DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology is becoming an option for an increasing number of projector manufacturers. One reason is its ability to project digital-to-digital images (ie where the source can be supplied as digital output). As Knowles explains: “the digital input signal is not converted to analogue for projection, as is the case with LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technology. This means there is no deterioration in image quality caused by signal conversion, which makes it ideal for home theatre enthusiasts.

“DLP also offers far higher contrast ratios than LCD,” adds Knowles. “The contrast ratio differential and consequent image quality difference between DLP and LCD will continue to grow.”

Projectors will continue to get brighter, with no corresponding weight gain, and there will be increased interest in wireless projectors as well as models with CompactFlash card capability (or other data storage technology) for PC-free presentations.

Tips for presenters

Once you’ve purchased projector, the key is to get the optimum performance out of it. M-tech offers some operational tips:
• Ensure the “auto setup” feature is compatible with your computer. Auto keystone correction is another handy feature, eliminating that annoying “skewed” image when the projector isn’t sitting flat or straight on to the screen. However, keystone correction, because it digitally squeezes the image in, may not always be appropriate when displaying fine text such as spreadsheet. When fonts are just one or two pixels wide, and squeezed, something has to give and the image can become blurry.
• Utilise remote mouse control, especially on PowerPoint presentations. This allows you to present information at your pace, because you control it from your presentation position (such as the lecturn, desk, or while r

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