Hitachi CP-AW250N Projector - Physical Tour
5-10-11 -Mike Rollett
Much like the previously reviewed CP-A100, the CP-AW250N provides no immediate clue as to how it is to be placed to project onto a screen. The projection mirror is hidden under a door on the top of the projector, which opens up and rotates into position when the projector is turned on. As a result, the following description will reference the end of the projector that’s closest to the screen as the front of the projector. The top of the CP-AW250N slopes downward from front to back providing a sleek look from the rear. The front face is comprised of two intake vents side-by-side, with the one on the left also containing the removable dust filter. On the right side is a large hot air exhaust vent and the input/output panel is on the left side.
Moving to the top of the projector, in addition to the door for the projection mirror, there’s a control panel for the main functions. These include a Power button, Input button and Menu access and navigation buttons, which also act as focusing controls. Just to the right of these controls is a cover for accessing the lamp. Also on top at the point where the top starts to slope down to the rear is an IR receiving window. On the bottom of the projector are two height adjustable feet, one in front on the left side and another in the middle at the rear. There is also a cover to access the clock battery and the built-in speaker is at the rear edge of the projector.
The CP-AW250N features a fairly complete a collection of inputs and outputs. Starting on the top row, from left to right, there is a USB Type A jack for PC-free presentations, an RJ-45 jack for a network connection, a USB Type B jack for using the remote as a wireless mouse, an HDMI input and two VGA computer inputs. Below that are an RS-232 serial control port, a computer monitor output, a microphone input, two audio inputs and a stereo audio input, stereo audio outputs, S-video and composite video input jacks. Below all that is a Kensington key lick slot. To the left of the input panel are an AC power connector and a security bar. All of these connections can be covered up by an included cable cover that covers the entire right side of the projector for a clean appearance.
Hitachi CP-AW250N Remote Control
The CP-AW250N’s remote control is a small, black remote with gray buttons (except for the Power button which is red) and white lettering. As most of the buttons are also the same size, this makes them difficult to find in a darkened room. On the plus side, the buttons are appropriately grouped and cover the usual most-used functions. In addition to menu access and navigation (which are grouped nicely at the bottom of the remote), there are buttons to select between video and computer sources, digital zoom, focus, magnify, image blanking and freezing, audio volume and mute, aspect ratio, page up and down (when using the remote as a PC mouse) and keystone correction. Of particular note are two buttons labeled “My Button”, which can each be programmed with a custom function selected from a list in the menu.
As is usually the case with multimedia projectors, the buttons are not backlit or even glow-in-the-dark, as backlighting can often be distracting in a darkened room.
Hitachi CP-AW250N Setup & Menus
As is typically the case with any short throw projector, placement and setup is critical in achieving a properly projected, sharp image. This is even more critical with an ultra short throw projector like the CP-AW250N, where even the slightest movement of the projector can result in a radically distorted image. So, if the projector is not permanently mounted and just placed on a table or movable cart, the presenter should allow plenty of time for setup. First, there is no zooming ability other than digital zoom (which just reduces the display size in steps from full to 80%), so the projector must be placed at the precise distance from the screen to achieve the proper image size. Second, the projector must be at the proper height to match the screen. Lacking lens shift, height adjustment is achieved via the two adjustable feet. While it’s typical for projectors in this class to only have one or two adjustable feet, a projector this dependent on setup should have adjustable feet at all four corners. In addition to the height adjustment, the projector must also be oriented square with the screen to provide a proper rectangular image.
As the setup procedure can be time consuming, Hitachi has equipped the CP-AW250N with an advanced form of keystone correction called “Perfect Fit”. Instead of the usual horizontal and vertical adjustment, “Perfect Fit” breaks the image down into separate corners and sides that can be independently adjusted. In theory, affecting smaller areas of the image should result in less of a negative effect on the overall image. In practice, this system worked quite well. After roughly trying to square the image, we touched up a few corners and sides with the “Perfect Fit” adjustments and found that it had much less of an effect on overall picture quality than standard keystone adjustment.
Bringing up the menu, the CP-AW250N starts out in an “Easy Menu”, from which the user can choose one of seven Picture modes, as well as perform other setup functions (like the aforementioned “Perfect Fit”). Then, by selecting the “Advanced Menu”, the user can fine tune the picture to their liking. Here there are all of the usual picture adjustments (contrast, brightness, color, tint and sharpness), as well as a number of advanced adjustments seldom seen in this class of projector. There are six preset gamma settings (which provide different levels of the brightness of blacks and grays) and each can have its own custom setting with eight steps of adjustment. This is matched by six color temperature settings (each offering different balances of the levels of red, green and blue in all shades of gray) and six custom color temperature settings (each using one of the presets as a starting point for individual RGB gain and contrast adjustments). While proper adjustment of the custom gamma and color temperature settings require professional calibration, just having a number of gamma and color temperature settings can come in handy to optimize the display. This is particularly helpful for images with dark scenes (where the gamma control can improve shadow detail) or with whites and grays that look too red, blue or green (RGB gain and contrast). In addition, with both the custom color temp or gamma settings, you can display a nine or fifteen-step gray ramp that allow you to adequately “eyeball” a decent series of grays. As you can mix and match each Picture mode with these gamma and color temp settings, this allows the presenter to select modes that fit best with his or her particular presentation. This level of control is rare even in home theater projectors and is a welcome feature of the CP-AW250N.
For classroom presentations, three of the CP-AW250N’s picture modes are color profiles for the standard board surfaces, including black, white and green. For mid-sized to larger rooms, the presenter can plug a microphone into the CP-AW250N’s microphone input to take advantage of the 10-watt built-in speaker.
Below, the Hitachi CP-AW250N projector in blackboard, whiteboard and green board mode.