Just last spring the notion of a 3-pound projector was an unbelievable concept to most people. Then in May, 2000, PLUS announced their breakthrough 800 ANSI lumen 3-pound models, the U3-880 and the U3-1080. Some people laughed and others scratched their heads. Just how good could a projector that small be anyway? As it turned out, very good indeed.
Now InFocus has made its first contribution to the miniprojector category with the release of the LP130, a 3-pound XGA projector rated at 1100 ANSI lumens.
If you are a mobile presenter, the current crop of miniprojectors gives you a world of flexibility, power, and convenience you've never had before. Here is a run-down of the 3-pound products on the market today, and how the new LP130 stacks up relative to the competition.
Overview of the 3-pound projectors
All of the current 3-pound products feature Texas Instrument's DLP technology. They come in two classes of resolution, the economical SVGA (800x600) and the higher resolution XGA (1,024x768). Beyond that, we can sort them into several categories.
1. PLUS U3-880 and U3-1080. PLUS Corporation builds the light engine for most of the 3-pound units. PLUS markets its own products as the U3-880, which is the SVGA version, and the U3-1080, which is the XGA version. Both models are rated at 800 ANSI lumens which is an amazing amount of light from such a small box. They have 130-watt lamps with a 1000-hour lamp life. They do not have zoom lenses, nor do they have HDTV, 480p, or DVI capability. Contrast ratings are 800:1, which is as high as digital projectors get these days.
2. PLUS Private Labels. Sharp, Philips, and Mitsubishi market the PLUS miniprojectors under their own brands. These private labeled products are technically identical to the PLUS units. The differences are to be found in cosmetic changes to the casework, warranty and service policies, support organizations, sales and distribution, and perhaps pricing.
Mitsubishi originally released their private labeled version of the U3-1080 as the Mini Mits X30. However today it is referred to simply as the X30. Mitsubishi does not offer a private label edition of the PLUS SVGA product.
3. NEC MultiSync LT85 and LT150. NEC offers two 3.3-pound products that look remarkably similar to the PLUS units. The SVGA version is the MultiSync LT85 and the XGA model is the MultiSync LT150. These products are also rated at 800 ANSI lumens with 800:1 contrast ratios.
Many people assume that the NEC products are also clones of the PLUS models. They are not. Although they are indeed built around the same PLUS light engine, the electronics and product design are NEC's. Thus the features and performance of the LT85 and LT150 are notably different than the PLUS products.
Of particular note, the LT85 and LT150 have a CompactFlash card reader for the loading of presentations into the projector, enabling PC-free presenting. They also have NEC's proprietary VORTEX image enhancement which enables them to deliver video that is notably superior to that available on the PLUS units. They have HDTV compatibility (1080i and 720p) which the PLUS units do not officially have according to the specs, although you might get an HDTV picture on your U3 if you try it.
Of particular interest to video enthusiasts will be the fact that the NEC products can take a 480p EDTV signal from a progressive scan DVD player or an external line doubler. No other projectors in the group, including the new InFocus LP130, can do this. For those interested in the highest quality video performance, this is an important feature. (more info on EDTV, line doubling, and progressive scan video).
4. Compaq MP2800. The newly released Compaq MP2800 is listed at 3 pounds. However, within the 3-lb unit there is no video or audio capability. A separate "multimedia module" must be attached to add these features, which brings the weight up to (a still very petite) 3.5 pounds.
This is an XGA resolution product rated at 900 ANSI lumens with a contrast rating of 400:1. We should note that the human eye cannot distinguish between 800 and 900 ANSI lumens, even when shown side by side. So the incremental brightness is not a significant buying factor when the MP2800 is compared to the 800 ANSI lumen products in this group.
The MP2800 has a 1.2x zoom lens and a 120-watt lamp with a 1000-hour life. It is capable of displaying 1080i and 720p HDTV, but it cannot accept 480p EDTV. It does however have a DVI interface.
The MP2800 is the only miniprojector with a "tower" orientation, which means that it stands upright. Some people like this package and others don't. There are no performance advantages or limitations to this "tall and slender" design, so it is really just a matter of personal taste.
5. Proxima Ultralight X350. We may also include the Ultralight X350 in the miniprojector category although it is a bit heavier than the others in the group. Like the Compaq, it features a separate video module which must be attached to provide video connectivity. Without the video attachment the X350 weighs 3.5 lbs, and with it, 4.2 lbs.
The X350 has a 1.3x zoom lens, which is the longest zoom range in the category. Like the new LP130, the X350 is rated at 1100 ANSI lumens. It has a 500:1 contrast rating. It has a 120-watt lamp with a 2000-hour life, double that of the PLUS and NEC products. It has DVI, but it is not HDTV or EDTV compatible.
Enter the InFocus LP130
The LP130 will replace the LP335 (XGA, 1000 ANSI lumens, 4.8 lbs.), as the smallest product in InFocus' line. At 3 lbs, it is 40% lighter than the LP335, and the 1100 ANSI lumen rating makes it a hair brighter.
Contrast. The contrast rating is 400:1. This is very good contrast, but it is low for the category when compared to the 800:1 products from NEC and PLUS.
Zoom lens. The LP130 has a manual zoom lens with a 1.2x zoom factor, same as the Compaq MP2800, and not quite the range of the Proxima X350's 1.3x range.
Some people think zoom lenses are important, but this needs to be kept in perspective. A 1.2x zoom factor means you can adjust the picture size by a maximum of 20%. That means if you are throwing a 60" diagonal picture, the zoom adjustment lets you set the LP130 anywhere from 7 to 8.5 feet from the screen. The "ease of use" factor is that you can set it anywhere in that range, twist the zoom and adjust the picture to the screen size.
With a fixed lens as on the PLUS and NEC units, in order to throw a 60" image you need to place the projector precisely 6.5 feet from the screen. But the fact is that on both of them you have to find the right throw distance for the screen size every time you set them up. And a 1.2x zoom does not give you anything more than a limited range of options in the throw distance.
Lamp life. The LP130's lamp life of 2000 hours is an improvement not only over the LP335's 1000 hours, but over most of the other products in this category. Since replacement lamps for products of this type can run $300 or more, for those planning to put many hours on their projectors it is advisable to calculate the cost of replacement lamps over the expected life of the unit in order to get total cost of ownership.
Compression. The LP130 is a native XGA resolution machine that will display a compressed SXGA (1,280 x 1,024) signal. All other XGA products in this group will also. However, in addition the NEC LT150 will display UXGA (1600 x 1200).
Video compatibility. The LP130 will take both HDTV 1080i and 720p. The NEC and Compaq units will as well, but the PLUS products and the Proxima X350 will not. However, the LP130 is not EDTV 480p compatible.
The LP130 has a DVI interface. So does the Compaq MP2800 and the Proxima X350. The NEC and PLUS products do not.
Digital zoom. The LP130 does not offer digital zoom. All of the others do except the Proxima X350.
Audio. The LP130 is the only product in the group which does not have audio capability, either built-in or available as an accessory module. For mobile presenters who want the option to incorporate video source material into their presentations, this is a serious limitation.
Warranty. One area in which InFocus/Proxima does not lead the industry is in warranty coverage. Warranties on the LP130 and the Proxima X350 are two years. NEC, PLUS, and the private labels from Mitsubishi and Sharp all have three-year warranties.
The LP130 is InFocus' first entry into the 3-pound miniprojector category. Its primary competitive strengths are its 1100 ANSI lumen light output, a zoom lens, and a 2000-hour lamp life. It is possible that its video performance will be seen as a competitive strength as well, although production units are not available yet to check that out. With an estimated selling price of $4,999, it is priced on par with the competition. So there is no significant price breakthrough with this product.
The LP130 will however change the competitive dynamics of the category and cause some repricing by the competition. It should also produce some good deals on the remaining inventory of the LP335 floating around. In particular, here's how the LP130 stacks up against its primary competitors:
LP130 vs. PLUS U3-1080. These products are virtually identical in size and weight. However, the LP130 is somewhat brighter at 1100 vs 800 lumens. That sounds like a lot. But the difference is surprisingly marginal when an 1100 lumen image is displayed next to an 800 lumen image. At this lumen differential you can see the difference, but most people would be surprised that the 1100 lumen image doesn't look substantially brighter.
The LP130 has a 1.2x zoom lens whereas the U3-1080 has a fixed lens. It has a 2000-hour lamp compared to the PLUS' 1000 hours. And the LP130 has HDTV and DVI compatibility while the PLUS does not.
On the other hand, the U3 has digital zoom, component video (480i), audio on board, a higher contrast ratio, and a more attractive price tag. And the PLUS three-year warranty is better than the LP130's two-year.
At this writing the U3-1080 is priced $500 less than the LP130. However, InFocus is a strong player and a release such as this always has a significant impact on the market. So look for some excellent deals to be developing on the U3-1080.
From a competitive perspective, the U3-1080 and its private label equivalents are excellent tools for mobile presentation. And 800 ANSI lumens is plenty of light for most traveling presenter situations. So while the LP130 is a strong competitive entry for InFocus, the PLUS U3-1080 at a lower price point remains competitively quite viable. For specifications and photos, follow these links. Then click on the dealer logos to get current street prices. InFocus LP130, PLUS U3-1080, Mitsubishi X30, Sharp M10X.
LP130 vs. NEC LT150. The NEC LT150 is a more fully-featured offering than the U3-1080 and it sells at a higher price point. So the competitive comparison between the LT150 and the LP130 is a different story. The LP130 has the same advantages in terms of lumen output (1100 vs. 800), zoom lens vs. fixed, and the 2000 hour lamp vs. a 1000 hour lamp.
However, the LT150 offers the CompactFlash card for PC-free use. Those who take advantage of this will save the carrying weight of the laptop, and thus have a much more convenient solution for traveling than the "laptop + projector" combination. Imagine carrying your entire presentation system in just your briefcase. The LT150 and the SVGA version LT85 are the only 3-lb products that offer this.
For those interested in high quality video performance, the LT150 has NEC's VORTEX system, component video and EDTV compatibility, the combination of which produces beautiful video images from DVD. Production units are not yet available to evaluate the LP130's video capability, but the LT150 will be tough to beat in this regard. However, InFocus used some excellent video processing electronics in their LP340 and LP350, and we would not be surprised to see the same high quality video on the LP130.
The LT150 has other advantages over the LP130 which will make a difference to some users. It has digital zoom, audio on board, 800:1 contrast, and it will compress both SXGA and UXGA sources. The LT150 has an elegant, rather "executive" looking case design that will be attractive to many buyers. And its three-year warranty is an advantage over the LP130 as well.
With the LT150's extra features it will continue to compete well with the LP130 and street pricing is expected to be closer between these two models. For current street prices click NEC LT150 then click dealer logos.
LP130 vs. Compaq MP2800 In terms of specs, it's hard to find two projectors more closely matched. Both have 1.2x zoom lenses. Both will compress SXGA. Both have contrast ratings of 400:1. Both take HDTV and DVI. Neither will take 480p EDTV. Both have a two year warranty. And both have a price of $4,999.
The differences are that the MP2800 stands upright and the LP130 sits in a horizontal orientation. And the MP2800 is rated at 900 ANSI lumens vs. the LP130's 1100. Once again, the practical difference between 900 and 1100 is hard to detect in a side by side comparison. You need to have a 30% differential in ANSI lumen ratings before the eye can begin to see the difference.
The MP2800 has the optional multimedia module. If you are presenting with just a data source you don't need it and can leave it home. But if you are using video you can attach the module. One benefit of the MP2800 is that it offers an eight-watt speaker that is more room-filling than the 0.5 watt speakers on the NEC and PLUS products. As noted above, the LP130 has no audio capability.
LP130 vs. Proxima X350. Since InFocus and Proxima are the same company it is not quite right to think of these products as competitors, but rather two different offerings from the same company.Again, the products are extremely similar. Both are native XGA and will compress SXGA. Both are rated at 1100 ANSI lumens, and have 2000 hour lamps, a DVI interface, and a two-year warranty. Neither product can take 480p EDTV.
The LP130 has an advantage over the X350 in HDTV compatibility which the X350 doesn't have. The LP130 also has digital keystone adjustment of +/- 20 degrees, whereas the X350 is only +/- 6 degrees. And the X350 is a bit heavier-4.2 lbs with the video module in place.
On the other hand, the X350 has a 1.3x zoom lens which provides slightly more flexibility in set up than the LP130's 1.2x zoom. It is quieter than the LP130. In fact, the X350's audible noise rating of 32 dB makes it the quietest of all the projectors in this category. (The LP130 is rated at 37dB) And we suspect most people would judge the X350 to be the better looking product in terms of its casework design.
Both products have an authorized internet price (at this writing) of $4,999. Though the X350 has a few advantages, a price of $4,999 is a bit too high relative to the LP130. So we expect that the release of the LP130 will curtail sales of the X350 and cause it to be repriced. For current street prices, click X350, then click dealer logos.
The LP130 looks like a good catch-up product for InFocus. The company needed a 3-lb product in the line. The specifications and price tag of the LP130 qualify it as a good competitive entry and it is expected to do quite well. It is not, however, a product which sets a new price/performance benchmark in the category. Though prices will come down somewhat on the PLUS and NEC products, they remain entirely viable in the face of the LP130's entry.
While the LP130 fills a hole in the InFocus product line with respect to an XGA-class miniprojector, InFocus still has no solution for the economy-minded buyer who wants a 3-lb projector and can get by just fine with SVGA resolution. That niche still remains the exclusive domain of the economical PLUS U3-880, its private label equivalent from Sharp, the M10S, and the more fully-featured NEC LT85.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our InFocus LP130 projector page.