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Six Portable Projector Comparison - Image Quality

Posted on August 14, 2006 by Art Feierman


Overall all six projectors perform as advertised with an easy to read image, including small type. Of these the Optoma TX-700 produces a slightly softer image than the others, but still is easily readable on type as small as 8 points - smaller than you are likely to use in meetings or formal presentations (typical Powerpoint presentations use mostly 18 to 48 point type.

The two LCD projectors, "appear" a little sharper overall, but that is normal, and caused by the more visible pixel structure, as much as anything else, but it does provide that "razor sharp" feel. Again, though, all produce a more than good image sharpness.

The Epson Powerlite S4, remember is a lower SVGA resolution projector, the other five are all XGA (including the one WXGA ( widescreen XGA), the HD4000.

Many buyers of the S4 are schools standardized on SVGA resolution computers. Most of the rest of the world uses XGA as the current standard. When the Epson S4 is fed an XGA source, it uses compression technology to squeeze it to fit, so you see the full "page". This degrades the image quality slightly. Very small type starts getting a bit ugly and a little hard to read (8 to 10 point), from an XGA source.

Of course with a typical laptop, you can set it to output SXGA even if it's XGA or higher resolution. If you are using presentation software, like Powerpoint, everything scales, and things look very sharp. If, however you are feeding traditional meeting materiels, like spreadsheets for example, to output SVGA you would be displaying significantly less rows and columns, and that is easily detrimental. Instead you can always output the XGA, and suffer the slight compression technology losses.

I should note, that the SVGA projector market has remained strong for years, but is now starting to diminish. The advent of under $1000 XGA projectors has lowered the price spread between SVGA and XGA to as little as $200, but more typically $300. Most XGA users should be spending the extra for XGA native projectors, for a host of reasons.

Color Handling

This "separates the men from the boys" or to be politically correct - the kids from the adults.

Historically LCD projectors have had a major advantage in color handling over single chip DLP projectors. LCD models traditionally produce bright rich colors - all colors, including red and yellow. By comparison, DLP projectors have been known for struggling with bright reds and yellows. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by how good, overall this new crop of four DLP projectors did. While none of them rose up to match the two LCD projectors - the Panaonic LB60NTU and the Epson S4, three of the four came very close.

As a result five of the six models should, in terms of colors go, should be fine for all but the most incredibly critical color demands. The weakest of the six, the Optoma TX-700, still performed significantly better than the vast majority of DLP models just a year or two old. That said, if you need that really bright red or yellow, it does come up short.

Please see the Pie Chart and color bar examples in the individual reviews, but to "give you a taste" here are the best - the Panasonic LB60NTU, and the worst - the TX-700 on those Yellows and Reds:

As you can see, there is a real difference, most notably on the yellow slice, but it should not be a deal breaker on the TX-700 for many.

Color Handling slideshow

Color Handling

Optoma TX-700

Color Handling

Panasonic PT-LB60NTU and PT-LB60U

Projector Brightness

There were some big surprises here, as we tested each of these projectors for brightness. I have listed the projectors here, in order of brightness - from the brightest to least bright. After the projector name there are two numbers. Claimed is the manufacturer's claimed brightness on their spec sheets.

Tested Claimed
InFocus IN26 1221 lumens 1700 lumens
Mitsubishi HD4000 1341 lumens 2000 lumens
Optoma TX700 1883 lumens 2200 lumens
Epson Powerlite S4 2221 lumens 1800 lumens
Panasonic PT-LB60NTU 2231 lumens 3200 lumens
Dell 2400MP 2357 lumens 3000 lumens

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