Ricoh X3241N XGA 3LCD Projector
Projector Central Highly Recommended Award

Highly Recommended Award

Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.

  • Performance
  • 5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value

If I had to describe the Ricoh PJ X3241N in just a few words, I'd go with lean and businesslike. It's a portable data projector that's light enough to carry on a regular basis, easy to set up, and bright enough that you won't have to worry whether it can stand up to the ambient light in an office you've never been to before.

The PJ X3241N is lean in more ways than one. Weighing in at 4.4 pounds and offering 1024x768 resolution, it's unusually light for an LCD projector. Beyond that, it stands out for its economy of design, while still offering a reasonably full set of features, including, for example, an HDMI port and 1.2x manual zoom whereas most competing projectors have a 1.1x zoom or no zoom at all for that matter. On the other hand, although it offers two VGA ports for input, one of them doubles as a monitor out port, which means you can't plug in two RGB image sources and a monitor at the same time.

The leanness also extends to the projector's looks. Basically, it's a simple black and white box with an unobtrusive cluster of white buttons on white casework. The one key feature that truly stands out is the image that comes out of the lens, which brings us to the businesslike part of the equation.

Ricoh rates the PJ X3241N at 3300 lumens and we measured it at about 2900. Even by today's standards, that's bright for such a lightweight projector. More importantly, it scores well on data image quality. Keep in mind too that because it is LCD based, it eliminates the possibility of having rainbow artifacts. Most of the projectors in this weight class are DLP based, which makes rainbow artifacts a potential issue. This combination of high brightness, excellent image quality, and low weight, plus the fact that it's guaranteed not to show rainbow artifacts, fully justifies the $1,200 street price.

Best Features

Excellent data image quality. The PJ X3241N's data image quality is one of its strongest points, making it more than good enough for any business or classroom use. Colors in our tests were bright, vibrant, and fully saturated; various levels of gray were suitably neutral showing good color balance; and both white on black text and black on white text were crisp and highly readable from 13 feet away even with 7 point text -- the smallest size we test with -- on a 98-inch diagonal image. Also worth mention is that screens that tend to show pixel jitter were nearly as rock solid with an analog connection as with the HDMI port's digital connection.

Highly portable but secure. Small and light enough to serve as a regular traveling companion, the PJ X3241N measures 3.2" x 11.6" x 7.7" (HWD) and weighs only 4.4 pounds. And because it can read files from a USB memory key, you may be able to leave your laptop at home. Ricoh also includes a soft carrying case, so you don't have to buy one separately. For permanent installation, or to secure the projector when you're not using it, it includes a Kensington security slot in the back as well.

Zoom lens. The 1.2x zoom lens gives enough flexibility in image size that you should be able to set the projector in place, turn it on, and quickly adjust the image to a suitable size without having to move the projector at all. At 9.6 feet from the screen, for example, the image size can vary from 80-inches diagonally (65-inches wide) to 98-inches diagonally (78 inches wide), the image size we used for testing.

No Rainbows. The lack of rainbow artifacts isn't usually worth pointing out for LCD projectors, because it's a given with the technology. However, most of the competitors in this weight class use DLP engines, which tend to have the problem, particularly with video images. That makes the PJ X3241N one of the few projectors in its weight class with no rainbow artifacts at all.

Better than par video quality. The PJ X3241N's video quality is usable for long sessions, which is more than than you can say for many data projectors. Count that as an advantage, but only a mild to moderate one, since it doesn't do as well with video as some other projectors in its class. Colors in our tests had the kind of dull, flat look that comes from a low contrast ratio, and the image was notably noisy. On the other hand, I didn't see any motion artifacts, and it handled shadow detail reasonably well, including in scenes that most data projectors have problems with. In addition, the lack of a rainbow effect, makes a big difference for video, since projectors that tend to show rainbow artifacts tend to show them far more often with video than with data images.

 

Test Results and Connectivity

Brightness. The only presets the PJ X3241N offers are for a variety of blackboard modes -- Green, Black, Brown, Blue, and Beige -- and for none of the above. The None option is the brightest mode, at 2905 lumens in our tests, or 88 percent of the rated 3300 lumens. That's easily bright enough for the 98-inch diagonal (78-inch wide) image we used for testing to stand up to any likely level of ambient light. Even the least bright setting, at 2159 lumens, should be bright enough for most offices. Eco mode dropped the measurement for the brightest setting to 2083 lumens. The 28% drop is a fair exchange for increasing lamp life by a third, from a rated 3,000 hours to 4,000.

Minor brightness variation. We also measured a brightness uniformity across the screen of 86% -- a high score. However, the standard procedure for measuring uniformity leaves out the extreme edges of the screen, and there was a visible drop in brightness along the left side in our tests. This isn't much of an issue, however, since it shows only on solid white or color screens. It's impossible to see the difference with the screen broken up by text or graphics.

Connectivity. The PJ X3241N offers a fairly typical set of connectors for a portable projector, with two VGA ports for a computer or component video, an HDMI port for a computer or video source, both S-video and composite video ports, and two stereo miniplugs for audio input and output. Note that one of the VGA ports can also work as a monitor out port.

In addition, there's a USB A port for reading JPEG, MPEG1, and MPEG2 files from a USB memory key or for connecting to either a PictBridge camera for playback or to a document camera. There's also an Ethernet port and WiFi support to let you send data over a network as well as control the projector. Finally, there's an RS-232 port for controlling the projector from a computer or control box.

Limitations

Poor audio. The one definitively weak point for the PJ X3241N is its audio system. The 1-watt speaker offers acceptable sound quality, but the volume isn't enough to fill even a small conference room. If you need audio and expect to have more than two or three people watching, all huddled around the projector, plan on using an external sound system. But to be fair, no sub-5-lb. projector has robust on-board audio, so this limitation is not unique.

Conclusion

The Ricoh PJ X3241N is a particularly good fit as a projector you can carry with you as a traveling companion or transport from room to room. It's also a good fit for keeping in a conference room to connect to as needed, whether you leave it out on a table or store it away when you're not using it. The portability is less important in this context, but the convenience of being able to connect through a wired network or WiFi is potentially more important.

In any of these roles, you can set the projector up quickly and easily, thanks to the 1.2x zoom, smooth manual control for both the zoom and focus, and some small touches like the 10-foot power cord that increases the odds that you can reach an outlet without needing an extension cord. If you need audio, you may have to carry a sound system with you, but that's typical for projectors in this weight class.

Most important for any of these roles are the projector's brightness and data image quality. The PJ X3241N makes no compromises on these two key features to gain portability, which means you won't have to compromise on them either.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Ricoh PJ X3241N projector page.

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