Highly Recommended Award
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There are plenty of small, light projectors out there for mobile presentation use, and there are likewise plenty of bright, high-resolution projectors for large-venue installation. Sometimes, though, you need something in between. That's where the Christie LWU420 comes in. This WUXGA (that's 1920x1200) projector has some of the features of large-venue machine, such as a long-throw 2.0:1 lens with manual lens shift, and a cornucopia of connections ranging from humble composite video to HDMI and RJ-45 wired networking. But it is also portable (or at least luggable), weighing only sixteen pounds and featuring a sturdy carry handle. If you need a high-resolution, bright, flexible projector that travels well, the LWU420 is a great choice.
Applications / Best Uses
The LWU420 is the ideal projector for the presenter who needs more power and resolution than the typical mobile projector can provide. Presenters with high-resolution material might be dissatisfied with the performance of lower-res 1280x800 projectors, which will compress higher-res material with a loss of precise detail. Others might not care for the screen size limitations placed on them by smaller projectors with limited lens ranges. Rather than compromise on one or both of these factors, presenters could invest in a projector like the LWU420.
The image created by the LWU420 is bright, sharp, and high in contrast. The high native resolution makes high-resolution photographs positively sparkle with detail, and edge-to-edge sharpness is impeccable. Color in Normal and Cinema modes is life-like and vibrant; Cinema has a stronger warm cast than Normal and is more appropriate for film.
The LWU420 is a serious projector, and those displaying Powerpoint presentations or spreadsheets will likely not need the high resolution and brightness offered by this projector. For a very specific subset of presenters, though, having a portable package that acts like a large venue machine is invaluable.
Thanks to the flexible zoom lens, the LWU420 has a wide range of viable throw distances for a given diagonal size. For a 120" diagonal image (or 63" height by 105" width), the LWU420 can be placed anywhere between 12' 7" and 25' 2" from the screen. With the LWU420's lumen output a larger image is certainly possible; a 150" diagonal image can be projected from 15' 9" and 31' 5". However, given the limited space available in many conference rooms, it might be difficult to give the projector enough room to work.
The lens shift range is relatively small, and the projected image can be placed such that the projected image appears completely above the lens centerline or two-thirds below it. Lensing like this is ideal for a rear shelf mount due to the limited vertical shift range. A ceiling mount is workable though many instances will require the use of a drop tube.
WUXGA resolution. The big deal here is the LWU420's high resolution, leading to an exceptionally sharp, clear data picture. At typical presentation image sizes and viewing distances, pixelation is a non-issue. Even on a 120" diagonal screen, one must be standing almost nose-to-nose with the screen surface to make out any significant pixelation.
Placement flexibility. It is rare, generally speaking, for a non-interchangeable lens business projector to have the kind of extensive lensing found on the LWU420. Featuring a 2.0:1 manual zoom lens and both vertical and horizontal lens shift, the projector can be placed in a ceiling mount or on a rear shelf without difficulty.
Portability. The LWU420 weighs just under sixteen pounds and has external dimensions of 6.5" x 19.4" x 17.2", so you might be asking exactly what about it is portable. For starters, the LWU420 is a WUXGA projector, and as those go the LWU420 is relatively small and light. Secondly, it has a sturdy carry handle and a good solid lens cover, so it's easy to pick up and bring along. It's more "luggable" than anything else--it is something you can bring with you if you need to, but it is primarily a fixed-installation business projector.
Color. Data projectors are not often known for their accurate color, but the LWU420 is better than most. In Normal mode, which is the brightest operating mode intended for use on a white screen, color is well-balanced with no obvious biases. Color saturation appears vibrant, neither weak nor overdriven. If you plan to use the LWU420 for color-intensive applications such as photography review, some fine-tuning can help to bring color even further in line with applicable standards, but the out-of-the-box performance is excellent.
Contrast. The LWU420 uses an inorganic LCD light engine. Inorganic LCD panels differ from organic LCDs in several ways, but one of the most significant is the rest state. When powered off, inorganic LCD panels default to closed (no light transmitted) while organic LCD panels default to open (all light transmitted). What this means in practice is that projectors using inorganic LCDs tend to have slightly superior contrast to those that do not. Indeed, the LWU420 has a 1000:1 contrast ratio while many LCD projectors have contrast rated in the hundreds. In use, the LWU420 has solid black levels and well-defined shadow detail that make photographs pop off the screen and detailed technical diagrams easy to read.
Connectivity. The LWU420 sports one of just about every input under the sun. In the video department, it has HDMI, VGA in and out, 5-wire RGBHV, YPbPr component, s-video, and composite connections. For audio, it features two 1/8" inputs, one 1/8" output, and a set of RCA stereo inputs--as well as audio over HDMI, of course. Data connectivity consists of a wired networking port, USB-B, a 9-pin control port and a 1/8" remote control port, used to extend remote range through the use of a direct wired connection or IR receiver. One of the few connections not present is DVI, but simple DVI-to-HDMI adapters are inexpensive and widely available.
Stereo speakers. With dual 8W speakers, the LWU420 has about the best onboard sound system one could ask for. Onboard speakers are limited by several factors, among them cost and physical size. The speakers on the LWU420, while relatively powerful, suffer from the same tinny character inherent to most (if not all) small speakers when driven at high volume. Considering the ability of the LWU420 to project onto a large screen in a large room, an external sound system is recommended for audience sizes over 20-30 people.
Three-year warranty. The LWU420 comes with a three-year warranty on the projector itself as well as a 500-hour, 120-day warranty on the lamp. What's more, Christie has an express replacement program of sorts, guaranteeing "a replacement of equal or like product the next business day free of charge for a two-year period." The catch is that, unlike several other manufacturers' express replacement plans, one must first call their dealer, who will call Christie and arrange the swap. Still, the user only has to make one phone call to begin the process, and a replacement projector is a replacement projector.
Lumen output. Though the LWU420 has a specified maximum output of 4,200 lumens, our test sample measured a maximum of only 3,243 lumens--a 23% shortfall from spec. This was also measured in blackboard mode, which is not a preset one would use unless one were projecting directly onto a blackboard. Given the prevalence of screens and lack of blackboards in most conference rooms, it is far more likely that a presenter would use Normal mode at 3220 lumens or Dynamic at 2,540 lumens. Normal has better contrast and color saturation than Dynamic as well as higher lumen output, so the usefulness of Dynamic is somewhat limited. If projection on a write-on board does appeal, Greenboard mode at 2,585 lumens and Whiteboard at 1,742 lumens might appeal. This is still a lot of light; 3,220 lumens in a mode with solid color balance is nothing to sneeze at.
Lens shift range. The placement flexibility of the LWU420 makes it a great choice for ceiling or rear shelf mounting, which is where most people will have the projector installed. However, the limited lens shift range makes the LWU420 difficult to use on conference room tables, which can make setup slightly trickier if you intend to bring the LWU420 with you to make an off-site presentation. Since the lens shift cannot bring the bottom edge of the projected image above the centerline of the lens, the projector can place the image too low when it is being used on a low table, causing a visibility problem for the audience.
Cost. WUXGA projectors have never been cheap, but $8,995 is a lot of money, even so. At least one competing model exists for less than half the cost of the LWU420, though it lacks some of the LWU420's more advanced features--most notably the flexible lensing, more powerful speakers, and extended warranty. That in itself is worth a premium to some folks, especially the one-day replacement turnaround, which can be a lifesaver to presenters who cannot afford to miss a day. Institutions will find value in the flexible lensing, since it means one model of projector can be adapted to many different rooms.
Combine the best features of large-venue and portable projectors and you get the Christie LWU420, a WUXGA powerhouse with flexible lensing, a bright high-resolution picture, good contrast and color, and the ability to take it all on the road. Lumen output is not quite as high as expected, with a 23% shortfall from specifications, and the usefulness of the lens shift function could be improved significantly with a slight range expansion. But as a hybrid product, the LWU420 shines. If you need the ability to display highly complex material at full resolution outside of a dedicated viewing environment, the LWU420 is the way to go.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Christie LWU420 projector page.