Panasonic PT-LB20u Portable Projector review

Panasonic’s PT-LB20U Projector Review: High performance, in an affordable, under 5 pound portable LCD projector.

Also discussed, is the wireless networking version, the LB20NTU projector.

Here are some of the highlights of the Panasonic PT-LB20u projector:

  • Two computer inputs (one can be assigned to be a monitor out, instead).
  • Component video can be brought in through either RGB (computer) inputs
  • Blackboard mode, for projecting on colored or dark surfaces
  • Daylight mode automatically adjusts color/brightness/contrast to compensate for ambient light (more on this – in depth – later)
  • Fast power-on, power-off, only seconds to power up, and it can be immediately unplugged when you are done
  • Auto setup, including auto keystone correction and image adjustment to lighting conditions
  • An exceptional 3 year warranty

Projector Overview and Physical Tour

Panasonic had great success with its line of LB10 series projectors, which they have replaced with the PT-LB20u and other LB20 series projectors. This year, they reduced the number of projector models in this series from 5 to only 3 models, by cutting the prices so much on the 2000 lumen versions that they had to drop the less powerful 1600 lumen versions (such as the LB20VU), because the pricing difference was so slight that the lower powered versions weren’t sellable.

Quicktip: For those of you who have read the review of the slightly larger, more powerful, and more expensive LB30NTU. You will find that some of the descriptions of features in this review are identical, or near identical to those you read in the other review. In describing features like “Daylight View”, or the Menus information, it seemed wasteful to me to re-write whole sections from scratch when those features are in realitiy, indentical, and perform identically on both Panasonic projectors. I also used many of the same images where appropriate.

Here we review the flagship (and volume leader) of Panasonic’s lightweight projector line, the PT-LB20u, with XGA resolution, and 2000 lumens. The rest of the “LB20″ line now consists of an SVGA version (PT-LB20SU), and a second XGA resolution model with wireless networking, the LB20NTU.

First a note on pricing, Panasonic’s LB20U LCD projector is normally seen advertised online at $1399 or less, but Panasonic has been offering a $200 mail in rebate continuously almost since the day they launched this projector. The net result – the least expensive, sub 5 lb. 2000 lumen LCD projector in its class.

Projector Layout and Tour

The LB20u is an LCD projector that is physically smaller and lighter than Panasonic’s more powerful LB30 series projectors (3000 lumens). Although the LB20u is not the smallest LCD projector with 2000 lumens (at this time, Epson holds that honor with their Powerlite 750c), it is not much larger, and sells for less. The footprint of the LB20u is smaller than a standard sheet of 8.5×11″ paper.

We’ll start the tour from the front, as usual. The Panasonic LB20u projector features a resessed zoom lens for protection when moving it around. The zoom has a ratio of 1.2:1 or 20% adjustment. This is a pretty minimal adjustment range, but also very typical of sub- 5 pound projectors. More range in the zoom means a bigger, heavier lens… Focus and zoom control of the lens is done by manually rotating (from the top) the two separate adjustments on the lens barrel. There is Infra-red sensor for the remote control on the front. To adjust the two adjustable front feet, there are releases for each on the sides right up against the front.

Where’s the Control Panel? On the top of the projector you will find only 3 buttons one sensor and 3 “idiot lights”. The large button is the Power switch, and next to that, the input switch, and lastly, Auto Setup. Like the LB30NTU (previously reviewed) projector, in fully automatic mode, the LB20u will automatically locate a signal source, and select it when you power up. When two or more sources hooked up and powered on, the projector will remember the last source used, and try that one first. The Auto setup button will select a source, auto adjust the keystone correction, and make sure the source signal is correctly displayed. You will only need this if you don’t get a perfect image when changing sources, since the projector will normally “auto adjust” the initial source, when powered up.

The small sensor (above, to the left of the power button), is for the Daylight view mode which I will discuss later. The three indicator lights: The left most indicates if one of the RGB computer inputs, is in use, the center one is the lamp indicator, and the one of the right is a temperature light to warn if the projector is overheating (clean your filters).

One feature that seems to be missing is a menu button and control panel to navigate the menus. In reality the LB20U, relys on the credit card sized remote for that access, but don’t worry about losing it. You can still access the menus, and navigate them from a tiny Menu button and matching, tiny joystick, on the back panel next to all the inputs.

Why not a bigger control panel on top, as found on most projectors? Panasonic touts that this is as easy, and as automatic a projector as you will find, and that for normal operation all you really need to do, is turn it on and present. (And to switch your sources as necessary). If you need them, though, full menus and controls are there to give you the same flexibility found on other competing projectors.

The rest of the Panasonic’s projector back panel houses the following inputs:

Two RGB (computer) inputs – from the menu, you can set RGB 2 to be an output instead, if needed. There is also the usual S-video and composite video inputs. There is a single pair of audio inputs (Left, Right) to be shared by whatever sources you have that have audio. (If you routinely have audio coming from your computer, and also use a video source with audio, you may want to get “Y” adapters, so both can be hooked up at once. Or you could put the computer’s audio into the left and the video gear’s audio into the right (or the other way around). Just remember not to have them both playing (with audio) at the same time. The Panasonic LB20U projector’s remote will control the volume coming through the small internal speaker. There is no separate audio output. . Lastly there is a serial (DIN plug) for RS-232 command and control, allowing remote monitoring and adjustment of the projector.

Many businesses and schools will find this lcd projector as an ideal, low cost choice for permanent installation, while other users may even mount it, but occasionally take it down for portable use. At only 4.7 lbs, it is a small enough, and light enough projector for presenters seeking a medium powered projector for in-house or fully portable usage.

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