Projectors for Everyone

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NEC's LT35 projector.
Photograph: Geoff Spear
If you give PowerPoint-style presentations, a digital projector can help your work look polished and professional. But in the past, a model matching the resolution of your laptop's screen and suitable for both work and play cost big bucks. Not anymore.

The first wave of sub-$1000 units with native 1024 by 768 (XGA) resolution has arrived, a significant quality upgrade from the lower-resolution 800 by 600 (SVGA) products that dropped below that same price level last year. The Epson PowerLite 76c, the Microtek CX6, the Hitachi CP-RX60, and the Sharp Notevision XR-10X--all of which make our chart--are versatile portables that match up well against our top-rated projector, the NEC LT35, at less than half the price.

These lower-cost newcomers may not have all the extras you'd find on a high-end business model like the NEC, but they do offer a reasonable mix of power and performance, whether you want to deliver a presentation in a conference room or view DVD movies in the family room.

To find out how well these bargain-priced XGA projectors would perform when tested alongside other portable models, we rounded up a total of 16 business projectors from over a dozen manufacturers. The PC World Test Center examined units from Canon, Dell, Epson, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, NEC, Microtek, Mitsubishi, Optoma, Panasonic, Plus Vision, Sharp, and Sony, and rated how well they displayed various images. (Click here for complete test results and a review of each model tested.)

Ultraportable, light models from HP (top) and Plus Vision.
Ultraportable, light models from HP (top) and Plus Vision.
The 16 projectors we corralled for this roundup represent a range of shapes, sizes, and designs. The smallest we reviewed are two sub-3-pound models: HP's diminutive MP2210 (which finished in tenth place) and Plus Vision's slender, seventh-ranked V-339. The heftiest products, at 8.6 pounds each--Canon's Realis SX50 and Sharp's XR-10X--are over twice the size of the supercompact ones. Each supports native XGA (or higher) resolution and weighs less than 9 pounds. And while none of these models is intended strictly for home theater use (see "Home Theater Wonders" for more), all of them may be used for at-home entertainment as well as for work.

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