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Rear-projection systems are great tools for making presentations, but they're also costly, heavy, and difficult to set up. Sony's KL-W9000 LCD Projection Data Monitor combines the best aspects of rear-projection monitors and LCD projectors, while eliminating the major drawbacks of each.
Rear-projection monitors offer excellent image contrast by fully enclosing the path between the internal light source and the rear-projection screen. However, most use three CRTs that must be continually realigned. In the KL-W9000, Sony has replaced the CRTs with LCDs, eliminating alignment hassles.
The $6,599, 50-inch KL-W9000 and its $5,299, 37-inch sibling, the KL-W7000, feature a 16:9 aspect ratio?great for watching letterboxed home movies, but it wastes screen space when you're viewing most computer images. Both also use a staggered pixel pattern, which reduces the sharpness of projected data but produces smoother-looking movies. The KL-W9000 weighs in at about 107 pounds?much lighter than systems that use CRTs. Setting it up is no more difficult than installing a multisynchronous monitor.
Since the Sony monitors are based on LCD technology, we compared the KL-W9000 with the Epson PowerLite 5500C, our Editors' Choice among ultraportable projectors (see " Traveling Light," January 1999). We subjected both to our full battery of tests for projection systems.
In a dark room, the Epson projector had a much brighter, clearer image than the Sony monitor. Both looked fine when displaying large type in a PowerPoint presentation, but the KL-W9000's staggered pixel pattern made normal-size text, such as what you might see in a Web browser, difficult to read.
When showing movies from a DVD player, the KL-W9000 produced smoother images than did the Epson projector. The projector's image looked sharper, but its rectangular pixel pattern was distracting when we watched movies. With the lights switched on, the KL-W9000 was the clear winner?its enclosed light path allowed it to display a high-contrast image.
Sony's built-in sound system does a great job of reproducing soundtracks with high volume and clarity.
Despite the KL-W9000's great movie-playing performance, Sony is marketing it as a data monitor, and we can't excuse the staggered pixels. Still, if you're willing to view data in larger type sizes, the KL-W9000 is a terrific conference room display.
RATING: PROS: Lighter than most rear-projection monitors; 16:9 aspect ratio and several zoom modes support letterboxed movie viewing. CONS: No TV tuner; S-Video inputs available only on rear of monitor. COMPANY: Sony Electronics (201/930-1000, http://www.sony.com ). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $6,599.
February 1999 page: 54