Well we all do it, we skim down for a quick peek at the conclusion to see what the bottom line is, right? So let me save you the trouble and get right to it...
LG's latest entry into the burgeoning micro-portable niche, the HS200, is nothing short of amazing. Besides its array of innovative features that include embedded DivX, USB inputs, and wireless FM for your audio feed, you get user-friendly ergonomics and a 30,000 hour lamp life. This highly adaptable LED-based miniature projector boasts a lumen output between 20 to 100% greater than the most recent projectors in its genre. What does that mean in real life? Well, in the old days I was very content using a Dream Vision DL 500 rated at 400 lumens that sold for $6,000. Comparatively, this teeny weensy HS200 blows its doors off. If this is but a hint of what is to come using LED lamp technology, what can I say, LIFE IS GOOD.
Lamp Life - Green with Envy: With LG's 30,000 hour LED (Light Emitting Diode) lamp there is little need to ever have to replace it. That represents quite a value considering the price of the projector is not much more than some projectors' replacement lamp cost. The HS200 will produce a very respectable picture quality for let's say 20-40 years depending on your daily usage! Not only that, by consuming less electricity and not containing any mercury, it's greener too.
Portability: While it won't fit in your pocket, the HS200 is very portable. The unit itself weighs 1.7 lbs; fully accessorized it tips the scales at a scant 4 pounds. It measures 2.0 inches high x 4.6 inches deep x 6.1 inches wide, about the size of a good novel. As an alternative to lugging around DVD players and even laptops, you can use its USB flash drive and its embedded FM transmitter for a genuine portable projection experience.
Connectivity: This is where the HS200 excels. It has practically every connection you could possibly need: USB, RGB/component, HDMI, composite, and a 1/8 audio output jack. It also includes a USB device that is a snap to set up and operate. Once attached it automatically activates a DivX Home Menu. Then sit back and watch your slide show, perhaps add some mood music, play a game, or even share you favorite flick. It's really that simple.
Control: Another attribute is how much adjustability is available on this mini sized projector. The advanced control in the picture section was especially advantageous in dialing in just the right picture quality for theater reproduction, as is the blank mode for presentation applications. I found the full screen mode in the photo section using the USB interface to be exceptionally beneficial. Even the LED mode options allowed for three levels of brightness. The menus were easy to navigate and utilize.
Image Quality: While not a behemoth in lumen output compared to conventional projectors, at 200 lumens it represents an improvement over other micro-portables. So how does this translate to real world applications? On a 90-inch screen in a light controlled environment it produces a high quality picture with decent punch, color saturation, and clarity. Where there is ambient light, if you limit your image size to 35 - 50 inches maximum, you can still expect reasonable performance.
Surprisingly Quiet: A typical issue with miniature projectors is fan noise. This is not as bothersome with the HS200. Even when it is on full light output (presentation mode) fan noise is tolerable. On lower output settings (movie mode) it is barely perceptible.
Security: The unit comes with a Kensington security system connector if you plan to leave it somewhere unattended.
Not Too Bright: Lumen output is a limitation with current LED lamp technology. Though the HS200 is at the top of the heap in its niche, 200 ANSI lumens is paltry compared to traditional portable presentation projectors. For about the same money you can purchase a 4 lb. SVGA projector that puts out over 2000 lumens. The big difference is lamp life and lamp replacement cost. Your decision may boil down to a choice between lumen output vs. lamp life.
Installation: Like most of the LED-based projectors in this class, the HS200 has a fixed focal length and no lens shift capability. So it requires some effort to set up. Positioning is a matter of location, location, location, as the distance between the lens and screen determines image size. In order to project onto an 80-inch diagonal screen, you need a hair over 7 ft of throw distance. Mounting on a tripod (not included) allows for greatest flexibility both in terms of height and distance positioning. Then again in a pinch, your coffee or conference table will suffice.
If you place the projector flat on a conference table, the bottom edge of the projected image will be level with the table. So you either need to use a tripod or tilt the projector upward if you want the image higher on the wall.
Resolution: When projecting material in its SVGA native resolution you can expect more than an admiral performance, with clear text and graphics. However, despite its ability to display resolutions as high as 1152x864, if you feed it resolutions higher than SVGA you will experience some loss of detail due to compression algorithms.
Sound Quality: Even though this projector has an integrated speaker system accompanied with basic balance and treble adjustments (via its FM wireless function) do not expect concert hall performance. The sonic quality is more analogous to the fidelity of a laptop computer. With that in mind, there is a 1/8-output jack that lets you hook up either a set of headphones, some self-powered speakers, or perhaps a home theater receiver, which I highly suggest for theater and gaming. The stock audio is adequate for close proximity presentations.
The Case of the Missing Case: Considering that the HS200 primary market is portability, I was surprised to find out that it did not include a case. LG tells us that they will also market the LG HS200G in the United States. This is the same model as the HS200, but with a case, for a few dollars more.
Laptop DVD Compatibility: LG's owner's manual states: "This projector may not support output from laptops when the laptop screen is on." We could not display a DVD movie (using the stock RGB cable) with two Toshiba laptops, one older model and one more recent. No matter what we did, it simply would not play movies. That said, our review model worked flawlessly with numerous other brands of laptops that we tried.
Who Would Use It?
Perhaps it is better to ask, "Who wouldn't use it?" Seriously, in LG's brochure they list applications such as home theater, pubs and bars, retails displays, camping and gaming. During my review I put it through several uses including:
Home Theater: For small dark rooms with a decent screen, or even a white wall, it produces a very nice video image. Color saturation is very good to excellent. One nifty advantage is to be able to use the headphone output with a great set of wireless headphones.
Gaming: Using our family's Wii as a source and plugging the audio output into a set of amplified JBL speakers, our cottage gaming experience was an absolute blast. We played tennis and golf on an 80 inch + image, and everyone enjoyed the experience.
Business Presentations: Excellent choice, it's light, reasonably bright, and quiet enough, not to mention the excellent connectivity and wireless capability.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles and, okay, Boats: We tried it out on my friend's 40ft SeaRay. This was a novel application; using his ASUS Laptop as a source we projected the image onto a Masonite board painted with GOO Systems paint. We were both blown away!
The LG HS200 is very portable, puts out a great image, and is quiet as a mouse. It is ergonomically well-designed, simple to use, with a host of input options. It provides an economical and enjoyable viewing experience for a variety of uses. Finally its LED lamp will last so long it has the potential of becoming a family heirloom. If you are looking for a small, convenient projector at a modest price that you'll never have to replace the lamp on, the HS200 might be exactly what you've been waiting for.