Budget Projectors Deliver Big, Bright Images
If you're looking for a low-priced projector that's suitable for both office and home use, the new Dell 2400MP and InFocus Work Big IN26 are viable choices. Each weighs less than 6 pounds, offers native 1024-by-768 (XGA) resolution, and uses Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing (DLP) display technology. Although both models are designed for XGA notebook users who deliver business presentations, they're also very well suited for displaying DVD movies in your living room.
At $1099, Dell's 2400MP boasts an impressive brightness rating of 3000 ANSI lumens (an industry-standard metric for light intensity), which should provide enough display power to handle large conference rooms, even those with a fair amount of ambient light. The projector's lamp life is 2000 hours, and replacement bulbs cost $399 (typical for other, similarly rated bulbs). The unit also uses TI's BrilliantColor chip, an image-enhancement feature.
The 2400MP comes with a carrying case and a variety of cables for connecting the projector to computer or video sources, including a component video connection for displaying progressive DVD or HDTV sources. The bundled remote control has buttons for slide advance (or page up/page down) and for selecting preset picture modes (such as PC, movie, and game), but it lacks a laser pointer.
InFocus's $999 IN26 projector costs less than Dell's, as does its replacement bulb (a 2000-hour bulb is $249), but the IN26 also carries a lower brightness rating of 1700 ANSI lumens and comes without a carrying case or additional video cables (all except the standard VGA computer cable cost extra).
Although the IN26 is bright enough to serve well in small rooms, it requires lower ambient light than the Dell model for acceptable performance. The bundled remote includes a few handy controls but lacks slide advance and preset picture mode buttons, and it has no pointer. However, InFocus does offer a full-featured remote (including mouse control) as an add-on option.
We evaluated shipping versions of both projectors using a battery of tests--conducted using the projectors' default settings--that involved viewing Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint document test screens, as well as an assortment of still graphics and moving images. In tests comparing the projectors' image quality with that of our baseline unit (an NEC LT35), the Dell 2400MP generally received higher scores, displaying images that were much brighter, sharper, and more colorful than those produced by the InFocus IN26.
I used both projectors to display video input from cable TV and a DVD player. The Dell model displayed excellent video quality when reset from its PC mode to its movie or its sRGB mode. The Dell's high brightness made it possible to show a viewable picture in my living room even during daylight hours.
The 2400MP and IN26 projectors were both easy to set up, adjust, and use, and each includes well-organized menus and controls for tweaking the image. The 2400MP also features automatic keystone correction (which adjusts a distorted image from a trapezoidal shape to rectangular one); with the IN26, keystone correction is manual.
Though both models have built-in speakers, their low-wattage sound is suitable only for adding simple audio effects or low-key music to your presentations.
All in all, the InFocus IN26 is an easy-to-use projector that offers reasonably good image quality and brightness at a bargain price. However, despite its slightly higher cost, the Dell 2400MP's superior brightness and image quality make it the better choice.
Superior brightness and excellent image quality make this a top choice for business and home use.
Price when reviewed: $1099
Current prices (if available)