Spotlight: Small, Svelte Digital Projectors

We found a wide variance in the size, shape, and design of ultraportable digital projectors. Hewlett-Packard's Mp3130 (left) is a rarity, with its upright design. Both the NEC LT10 (right) and InFocus LP120 (center) are supercompact, but the former's sleek, short-depth form is more eye-catching.
We found a wide variance in the size, shape, and design of ultraportable digital projectors. Hewlett-Packard's Mp3130 (left) is a rarity, with its upright design. Both the NEC LT10 (right) and InFocus LP120 (center) are supercompact, but the former's sleek, short-depth form is more eye-catching.
Know how many times we've seen the term "lightweight" applied to a laptop PC--even ones that weigh 12 pounds? About as often as we've seen the term "portable" attached to a data projector. A projector's portability really comes into question when you're carrying it (along with your laptop and luggage) through airport security, at which point you'll wonder, "Portable relative to what--a cinder block?"

However, we discovered seven digital projectors weighing 4 pounds or under (without cables and other connectors) that live up to their billing. The PC World Test Center examined models from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, InFocus, NEC, Optoma, Plus Vision, and Xerox to see how they stack up at displaying everything from PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets to DVD movies. We liked the 2.2-pound NEC LT10 the best, due to its combination of terrific overall image quality and easy portability (it's about the size of the latest Harry Potter book).

If we look at factors beyond size, however, our runner-up, the Dell 3300MP, provides the best value, and is a well-rounded alternative for budget-conscious buyers. The 3300 MP ties the HP model as the heftiest base unit, at 4 pounds, and with all of its accessories it's also the heaviest of this group, exceeding 8 pounds.

All seven of the models we tested employ Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing technology to project images. TI's single-chip DLP engine requires less space than an LCD engine does, enabling the production of increasingly miniaturized projectors. For example, the smallest projector we reviewed was Plus Vision's 2-pound V3-131, which stands just 1.4 inches tall and measures 6.2 inches wide by 8.2 inches long.

The superslim Plus Vision V3-131 (left) achieves its small size thanks to its pop-up lens mechanism; by contrast, Dell's 3300MP is big and boxy.
The superslim Plus Vision V3-131 (left) achieves its small size thanks to its pop-up lens mechanism; by contrast, Dell's 3300MP is big and boxy.
The projectors we tested were rated at brightness levels from 1000 to 1800 ANSI lumens (an industry-standard measure). The InFocus LP120 and Plus V3-131 are rated at 1000 ANSI lumens, and the NEC LT10, Optoma EzPro 725, and Xerox DP 1011 are rated at 1100 lumens. Those brightness levels are sufficient for use in small conference rooms (typically ones that accommodate 10 to 15 people at the table), either in darkness or with moderate ambient light. But larger rooms, small auditoriums, and situations with a lot of ambient light call for a model with a higher lumens rating. The Dell 3300MP, at 1500 lumens, and the HP Digital Projector Mp3130, at 1800 lumens, both fared better than the other models in this review when viewed with the lights on.

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