Recommended Mobile Presentation Projectors

Evan Powell, June 19, 2002

UPDATE (6/19/02): The outstanding Epson 730c, the world's first sub-5 lb. 2000 ANSI lumen projector, has begun shipment this month and is being added to our "Recommended" list for mobile projection. See the review of the 730c. EP

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In January and February we took a long hard look at the current crop of mobile presentation projectors on the market. We put them through their paces in our test lab and came up with the cream of the crop-products that stand out above the rest in their respective price/performance categories as the best the industry has to offer today. We are giving enthusiastic "buy" recommendations on the outstanding projectors featured in this article.

How we made the selections

Evaluating dozens of projectors side-by-side and coming up with the best products in the group was largely a process of elimination, based on various performance factors. Here are some our general observations:

ANSI Lumen Ratings. Due to the highly competitive nature of the industry, specifications are a key battleground. People tend to buy based on specifications and ratings since there is no other method of comparison. And the "ANSI lumen" rating that indicates total brightness is one of the most important specifications that influences buying decisions. A few comments must be made here.

First, it is not uncommon for individual samples of projectors to vary from their official ANSI lumen ratings by as much as 20% due to tolerance variations in the production of lamps, optics and electronics. So taking a lumen reading on an individual projector and publishing the number as the "actual lumen output" to be expected from any sample of that particular model is misleading and irresponsible. So we don't publish those particular statistics.

Nevertheless, it is common knowledge that many (but not all) manufacturers tend to publish ANSI lumen specifications that are "best case" numbers. Sometimes they are even inflated unrealistically beyond best case. Our review confirms that this practice is still alive and well in the projector industry. Our ANSI lumen measurements tended to average 20% to 25% below the official rating for the product, with a few products measuring 35% or more below their official ratings. We had a couple of products rated at 2000 ANSI lumens that measured below 1300. They do not appear on the recommended list.

Though some vendors publish misleading specifications in this regard, others do not. The Epson 51c, rated at 1200 ANSI lumens, actually measured 1211 in our study, and was the only product we found that measured higher than its official rating. By comparison, units that compete with the 51c that are also rated at 1200 ANSI lumens tended to measure in the range of 850 to 1000 lumens-well outside the range of results that can be expected from production variances.

Products that were more than 30% below the rated lumen output were automatically disqualified from the recommendations. Products that measured less than 30% below their rating were judged based on a value assessment that factored their measured light output, image quality, and other performance characteristics vs. selling price, and how that value compared to other products in the price range.

The bottom line is this: manufacturer's specifications can be anywhere from accurate to bogus, depending on the degree to which the individual manufacturer is committed to publishing accurate data. There is no regulatory body that ensures their accuracy, and buyers should be cautious about making purchase decisions based on published specifications.

Review Contents: Selection Criteria Criteria Continued Recommended XGA Recommended SVGA