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Six Digital Projector Comparison- Overview

Posted on March 12, 2007 by Art Feierman

Specs Preview

Digital Projection Specs
Native Resolution
Brightness (Manufacturer Claim)
Zoom Lens Ratio
Lens Shift
Lamp Life

This review has just been posted (8/13), Additional links, additional proofing, and minor changes and additions will be completed over the next few days.

We recently completed individual reviews of six projectors brought in from six major manufacturers, for a comparison review. In this Comparison, we will look at how these six, often very different, projectors, stack up. The goal is to help you decide primarily what type, or class, of projector will best serve you, rather than which is the best overall projector.

The six projectors cover a wide range of capability, and price. All weigh in, between four and seven pounds, so are true portables. Four are DLP projectors, and two are LCD projectors. From a price standpoint, the least expensive, sells for less than $700, and the most expensive between $2500 and $3000.

Here are our contestants - with a brief description -, which for no particular reason, are presented to you from least expensive to most:

Epson Powerlite S4 An entry level SVGA resolution LCD projector
Optoma TX-700 An entry level XGA projector - smallest and lightest of the six
InFocus IN26 Another entry level XGA DLP projector - big on ease of use
Dell 2400MP A more powerful XGA DLP projector, with an almost entry level price
Panasonic PT-LB60NTU (and "U"), XGA, wireless networking (NTU only), very bright
Mitsubishi HD4000 Widescreen; WXGA, DLP projector, dual use - biz or home

I'm not going to attempt to duplicate the ton of information found in the individual reviews, but rather focus on the similarities, differences, and what type of users they would best serve.

Six Digital Projector slideshow

Six Digital Projector

Epson Powerlite S4 LCD projector

Six Digital Projector

Optoma TX-700 DLP projector

Six Digital Projector

InFocus "Work Big" IN26 DLP projector

Six Digital Projector

Dell 2400MP DLP projector

Six Digital Projector

Panasonic PT-LB60NTU LCD projector

Six Digital Projector

Mitsubishi HD4000 widscreen DLP projector

Digital Projector Comparsion: Physical Attributes

Portability - Size and Weight

From a physical size standpoint, the Optoma is the smallest and lightest at 4.5 lbs. The others all weigh between 5.5 and 6.5 pounds and have roughly the same size footprint. The Panasonic's footprint is a bit larger (as is the Mitsubishi), but the Panasonic is the least tall.

All are easily portable enough to travel with regularly, although heavy travellers, can opt for a number of projectors a size or two smaller than even the Optoma, although typically not as bright, and definitely more expensive per lumen. We had intended to have seven projectors, the smallest and lightest was a no-show, the brand new, under 3 pound, BenQ CP120.

The Optoma, even in it's shoulder case (which is not much larger than the projector), has to be regarded as a very small package, one that not even the most frequent flyer could object to. it's case has about half the size and bulk of any of the other projectors, in their cases. This makes the TX-700 a favorite for those needing a bright XGA projector but demand one that is very small, light and portable.

The Dell, InFocus and Epson are a size larger. Two of them, the InFocus and Epson should be very popular in K-12 schools where really small size is considered a liability, as in very small projectors are too easy to steal. Sad but true. The Dell projector will appeal to those wanting a still very portable projector, but seeking maximum lumens. The Panasonic projector is only slightly larger, but represents the most advanced projector in a number of ways. Lastly the Mitsubishi HD4000 is one of the very few widescreen format (1280x768) WXGA projectors to reach the market, and is as small as any without spending 3 times the price. It is still, easily, a highly mobile portable projector.

Ceiling mounting the projectors

All six can be ceiling mounted. Several however has some extra features that may make them more desireable in some permanent situations:

All of the projectors but the Mitsubishi have at least a small internal speaker. When it comes to sound, however, the InFocus and the Panasonic are the only two with audio out, to drive external powered speakers. The Panasonic also offers three sets of stereo audio inputs, while the others all have just a single stereo audio input. Only having one set makes life a bit more challenging when wiring them up if you want separate audio sources, say one coming in from a computer and another from a video source. The Panasonic's audio output, is also variable, allowing you to control the sound levels of the external speakers from the Panny's remote control.

For example, the NTU version of the Panasonic, the PT-LB60NTU offers advanced wireless networking which may have great appeal in corporate boardrooms, allowing multiple laptops and desktops to be interfaced simultaneously. It also means the projector can be set up through the wireless network to advise IT of problems with the unit, such as lamp failure, overheating, etc.

Another feature that might be critical for some (ceiling mounting or otherwise, is having a monitor out. You normally need this for working with desktop computers, so that the user can have the image on the projector, and on the monitor on their desk. Of the six projectors, only the Mitsubishi lacks a monitor out.

For further flexibility some projectors are equipped with two computer inputs, so two computers can be hooked up at the same time. In this case, there is a lot of variation, especially since a couple of these projectors also have digital inputs.

Only the Panasonic LB60NTU and LB60U have two traditional analog computer inputs, although if you need the monitor out, that is a shared connector with computer two - so you can have two inputs or one in, one out.

The Optoma TX700 and the Mitsubishi HD4000 offer digital inputs. In the case of he Optoma, it has a DVI-I connector (which can be used for a digital input - or as a 2nd analog computer input, or for component video). That actually makes the Optoma the most flexible of the group, in terms of inputs. The Mitsubishi comes very close, since it is the only one with a dedicated component video input. It just can't have two analog computer sources, but it does have an HDMI digital input as well.

If you are permanently mounting, only the Mitsubishi has a 12 volt trigger for controlling a properly equipped electric screen.

All six projectors do have some degree or another of command and control via a computer (powering up/down, changing menu items). I did not review the capabilities, so cannot advise which are easiest to setup and use. All six also have standard S-video, and composite video inputs, so no issues there.

There are also some differences in lamp life and filter changing, that relate to cost of operation, and convenience, but those will be discussed in the General Performance section.

When it comes to mounting these projectors, the lens, and screen size determines how far back the projector must be.

Lenses - relating to table setup or ceiling mounting

The Epson S4, for example, lacks a zoom lens, requiring the most critical placement for mounting. Of the others, they all have a relatively short amount of range to their zoom lenses, with the Optoma TX-700, and InFocus IN26, offering the least range - 10%. The remaining three all quote a 20% zoom range (1.2:1) - the Dell 2400MP, the Panasonic PT-LB60NTU (and the PT-LB60U), and the Mitsubishi HD4000.

None of these projectors offer interchangeable lenses - that class of projectors tends to start around $3000 and are much larger, and weigh in from abut 12 lbs.

Another lens related issue, is whether the projectors sit closer or further away. Most projectors today, go for a fairly short throw - placing them closer to the screen. Here are the minimum and maximum distances for each, based on a 100" diagonal screen with a standard 4:3 ratio. In the case of the Mitsubishi, the numbers are for a 100" diagonal 16:9 widescreen ratio screen.Distance is measured from screen to front of the projector.

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