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Six Portable Projector Comparison: Summary, Pros, Cons

Posted on August 14, 2006 by Art Feierman

Why review these six digital projectors?

It's important to understand how I ended up with these six projectors. Mutliple projector reviews can be done one of two ways:

I could compare a number of very similar projectors that are direct competitors of each other, or I could choose a cross section demonstrating a wide range of capabilities. Unlike other comparsion reviews I have done in the past, I have chosen the later - most of these projectors fit different types of buyers (including budget constraints.

Four of these six projectors have received our Hot Product Award. Since I selected these projectors as not direct competitors, I had hoped to end up with all six having performance that would give them all the award. To win the award, the basic concept, is that a projector needs to be sufficiently good in a number of areas, that it would make a top or excellent choice for at least a significant, if small market segment.

INote: There were originally to be seven projectors, BenQ was unable to deliver their new sub-3lb. wireless portable projector in time, and Optoma could not deliver their new widescreen EP1690. Fortunately Mitsubishi jumped in with their HD4000, a competing widescreen projector to replace the EP1690, which is still on my short list to review.

At this point, I'm not going to go into a feature by feature summary, with the Pros and Cons, but rather Summarize each projector, as to where it sits in the field, and what type of users it should attract. I've placed them in order of typical selling price, starting with the inexpensive Epson.

Epson Powerlite S4

The Epson S4, a true entry level projector really does not compete with the other five, except that many buyers will need to decide to go with an SVGA projector, or spend another $200-$300 for an XGA model. The S4 will be extremely popular with K-12 schools. It will also attract other buyers that are on a really tight budget, and those who are, that are mostly doing things like Powerpoint presentations, with large type and graphics, will hardly notice the slight degradation due to the lower resolution of the Epson. The fact that Epson has an excellent warranty, plus their almost legendary reputation for reliability and support in the projector industry, should provide plenty of piece of mind.

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The Epson S4 has no zoom, a relatively minor drawback, since they devised their digital zoom in and out, to serve as an alternative. Since the image quality loss is minimal, especially if you are already starting by feeding it an XGA signal, it is a reasonable solution. And, the digital zoom has more range than the optical zoom on any of these other projectors.

The Epson's strengths include tons of brightness - even more than they claim, brilliant colors, and a razor sharp image, when dealing with it's native SVGA resolution. Epson's remote is one of the most full featured, and the Epson has a pointer system, and remote mousing. Hard to beat features, and impressive for a sub-$700 entry level projector.

And on the subject of brightness, I seriously doubt that there is a brighter projector at it's price point.

The Epson is a solid choice, and easily earned it's Hot Product Award.

The next three in the re view do compete more closely with each other, the Optoma TX-700, the Dell 2400MP, and the InFocus IN26. All are XGA,and all are priced agressively, with the Dell, being the most expensive, but by less than $200.

I'll start with the InFocus IN26, which normally is the least expensive, but only slightly so, compared to the Optoma TX-700, and save the Dell 2400MP for the last of these three.

InFocus IN26

Truely an entry level priced projector, it is normally under $900. It's tested 1200+ lumens makes it more than capable of handling small and medium sized rooms, with full lighting if screen size is six feet or under. It is designed for ease of use, and succeeds.

Teachers will really like it, as will those who dread complicated remotes. Just slap it down on the table hook up your computer or video, powerup and use. Despite the ease of use, there are plenty of adjustments available in the menus, It's just that the appeal of this projector is it's simplicity.

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Color handling is good, it's reds and yellows are better than the Optoma, and just a hair down from the other two DLP projectors. The physical aspects of the projector are typical for an entry level model it's in the 6 pound range and has a footprint of in the general area of 100 square inches, about that of a sheet of standard paper.

As I said, I was hoping that all the projectors would pick up our award. In the case of the InFocus, basically there were two deal breakers - or rather they combined. The InFocus was by far the least bright of the 4:3 aspect ratio (standard) projectors, and the short and very basic warranty. Both the Optoma and the Dell, simply offer more price performance. For example the Dell has a near identical feature set, and is twice as bright for a $200 or so difference.

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