Projectors for Everyone

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Vibrant Colors

At their default settings, business-oriented projectors make bullet-point slides and flowcharts pop out as much as possible, since their brightness and contrast levels are optimized for use in a conference room. The trade-off is that such products often sacrifice color saturation, image depth, and accuracy to achieve their higher brightness and contrast. Fortunately, several manufacturers have taken steps to improve the color quality.

Our Best Buy, NEC's LT35, earned the top score overall on both our text tests and our graphics tests. In addition to displaying one of the brightest images (it's rated at 3000 ANSI lumens), the LT35 did the best job of rendering crisp lettering in spreadsheets and a multisize-fonts screen. It also excelled at reproducing vibrant, realistic colors in our test photos (including ones of fresh fruit and of a barn surrounded by amber waves of grain). The unit may have benefited from NEC's Vortex Technology Plus, a proprietary approach to image processing that the company says improves a projector's color accuracy and dynamic range.

The Mitsubishi XD460U came in a close second to the LT35 in our text and graphics tests; its higher price, however, pushed it down to sixth place overall on our chart. The XD460U displayed sharp fonts in a CAD drawing and realistic skin tones in a group portrait. This model's impressive ability to display subtle color shades--especially in nature scenes--is no doubt aided by its use of a five-segment DLP color wheel and its implementation of TI's BrilliantColor image processing, which brightens the highlights and midtones in images without increasing the blacks and shadow values.

Panasonic's LCD-based PT-LB30U finished in a statistical dead heat with the XD460U for second place in our text and graphics tests. This model displayed bright, colorful graphics and crisp text; its ambient-light sensor, dubbed Daylight View, is designed to boost image color in well-lit rooms.

Sub-$1000 models from Epson (top) and Microtek.
Sub-$1000 models from Epson (top) and Microtek.
Another notable performer was the DLP-based Microtek CX6, which matched the PT-LB30U's performance on our text screens. Among projectors whose prices hover near $1000, the CX6 landed in a statistical tie with the Hitachi CP-RX60 and the Sharp Notevision XR-10X on our performance tests. The Epson PowerLite 76c and the nonranking Optoma EP719, by comparison, earned only average scores for their image quality, and neither distinguished itself on our graphics tests. Both the Canon LV-X5 and the Mitsubishi XD205U, though, were lackluster across all of our tests, and missed our chart.

Though the Plus Vision V-339 failed to wow us at its default settings, its innovative Dual Color Mode feature caught our attention. Unlike most DLP projectors that use a single moving color wheel, the V-339 has two color wheel positions. One is a four-segment (red, blue, green, white) wheel optimized for projecting at high brightness and contrast, such as for presentations; the other combines six segments (red, blue, green, red, blue, green) from two color wheels to produce better color saturation and accuracy, such as for movies. In our informal tests of DCM, the color wheel designated for vivid color and video did a great job of improving the quality of moving images, to a level that handily surpassed most of the V-339's DLP-based competition.

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