Conference-Room Projectors

Now might be the time to replace your aging projector--or perhaps your butcher-paper presentations are beginning to lose appeal. If you're considering a conference-room projector, the current contenders are brighter than their predecessors, and prices are comparatively lower. Macworld Lab looked at eight that cost less than $7,000 and pack enough punch to brighten even the largest conference room: Boxlight's CP-731i, Epson's Powerlite 5600P, Hitachi's CPX325W and CPX960W, InFocus's Promixa DP6150 and DP6850+, NEC's Multisync LT155, and Philips Electronics' cBright XG1. The Powerlite 5600P offered the best image quality in our tests.

Bright Ideas

When you choose a projector, image quality should be a primary concern; often, the brighter the projector, the better the image. A bright projector can throw a crisp, clear image, even if there's a lot of ambient light in the room, and it can project across a great distance. The brightness of a projector can be measured in ANSI lumens (the American National Standards Institute, a private, nonprofit organization, develops standards for the electronics industry)-the higher the number, the brighter the projector.

For a large conference room (say, larger than 15 by 15 feet), you'll want a projector rated at 1,200 lumens or brighter, and all of our projectors fit this requirement.

Meet the Projectors

These eight projectors all employ triple-LCD technology, which uses LCDs, lenses, and mirrors to combine red, green, and blue light sources. (Another projection technology is DLP [digital light processing], in which a single beam of light passes through a rotating color wheel and is reflected by a digitally controlled panel of microscopic mirrors.)

Only the Powerlite 5600P and the Proxima DP6150 have digital inputs (in addition to analog), but we didn't perceive any benefits in using them. And the Powerlite 5600P sometimes failed to recognize which input setting had been selected.

The projectors feature easy-to-use on-screen menus for adjusting image settings, image position, and geometry. They also include remotes and, except for the Powerlite 5600P and the cBright XG1, laser pointers. The remotes that come with the CPX325W, the CP-731i, the MultiSync LT155, and the Powerlite 5600P all use swiveling selection buttons, which you can use to control mouse movements and navigate the projector's built-in menus. But I preferred the remotes for the cBright and both Proximas--each had a trackball, which felt more intuitive. And all of the projectors have USB ports for easily adding a mouse. The largest projector we tested was the Powerlite 5600P, which measured 11 by 16 by 6 inches, and the smallest was the 8-by-11-by-3-inch MultiSync LT155.

The Image Factor

Out of the box, most of these projectors performed well, but the Powerlite 5600P pulled ahead of the pack, producing bright images with stunning detail. The cBright XG1, in contrast, projected images that were noticeably too red and that lacked some detail clearly visible in the other projectors' output. Using the color and image settings, we attempted to adjust for these problems, but we were unable to produce significantly better results. We found that we could improve the image quality of the MultiSync by making similar adjustments, but we weren't able to improve its output quality enough to raise its test scores from Acceptable to Excellent.

In our gray-scale test, all but the Promixa DP6850+ performed well, but the Powerlite 5600P was the only one that did very well. The DP6850+'s gray-scale image lacked detail.In our text tests, the Boxlight CP-731i and the MultiSync LT155 both did very well, clearly projecting the 8-point characters in our test file. The Powerlite 5600P, producing clear text only as small as 12 points, slipped behind here. For the other projectors, text was fuzzy below the 28-point mark, and difficult to decipher below the 10-point mark.

Despite its lower resolution, text was the only area in which the Powerlite did not excel-even then, it was superior to a few higher-resolution projectors. We highly recommend the Powerlite for most tasks.

The Epson Powerlite 5600P
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