Mitsubishi's XD250U, their brand-new DLP XGA classroom projector, can be summed up in one word: more. It has more lumens, so you can light up a larger screen or leave more room lights running. It has more ports, so you can connect all of your sources more easily. It has a 6,000 hour lamp life, for more presentations before you need to perform maintenance. And it has a ten-watt speaker, for more pure sound power. The only thing that's "less" is the price, at only $899.
High lumen output. The XD250 is rated at 2700 ANSI lumens, and we measured a maximum output of 2470 lumens on our test sample using "Presentation" mode. This makes it one of the brighter projectors in its weight class, and gives it enough power to light up a big 120" diagonal screen in moderate ambient light. In fact, as long as you do not have ambient light falling directly on the screen surface, the XD250 should be able to handle most any projection environment.
If 2470 lumens is too bright for the classroom, low lamp drops output 22% to 1935 lumens. For better color accuracy and saturation, users might want to use "Theater" mode, which tops out at 928 lumens in high lamp mode. Alternately, if you like the characteristics of Presentation mode, but want to drop the brightness, the XD250 has User settings, which allow you to take a preset and tweak it to your liking. In particular, you can use this to adjust BrilliantColor, which has a drastic effect on image brightness. Using Presentation mode as a basis, lumen output ranged in intermediate steps from 2470 to 959 just by changing the BrilliantColor setting.
Good brightness uniformity. The picture from the XD250 has a smooth and uniform quality, thanks to its 78% brightness uniformity. On a 100 IRE white screen, users may notice some difference in brightness between the top and bottom of the image, but this difference all but disappears during normal use, such as photography or PowerPoint content.
Excellent connectivity. The XD250 has an impressive array of connections. For video, it has two VGA inputs, an HDMI input, composite video, s-video, and a VGA monitor passthrough. In a ceiling mount, this allows for a very flexible setup where one VGA input and monitor passthrough are attached to the teacher's computer, one VGA input is left open for a laptop, and the HDMI input can be run to a DVD player for in-class video. If used on a rolling cart, the availability of both analog and digital inputs should make life easier for teachers attempting to connect their equipment.
For audio, the XD250 has two 1/8" audio inputs, a pair of L/R RCA audio inputs, and a 1/8" audio output. Like the XD221, reviewed last month, the XD250 has Mitsubishi's new "Audio Mix" feature, which allows two audio sources to be played simultaneously over the projector's ten-watt speaker. So, for example, a teacher could play a movie and narrate over any particularly important parts. This does require the addition of a microphone, which is not included.
The XD250 also has RS-232C serial and RJ-45 wired networking ports, which introduce new ways to monitor and control the projector. With RS-232C, you can link the projector to a PC, allowing it to be controlled completely from that computer and eliminating the need for a remote. With wired networking, you can accomplish much of the same, but you can do it from much farther away - across the building or across the world.
Low maintenance. The XD250 is a DLP projector, and as such has a filter-free design. Aside from changing the lamp, you do not need to do much to maintain the projector. Mitsubishi does recommend occasionally vacuuming any residual dust out of the air vents, so it is not entirely maintenance free.
The lamp itself has a life of 6,000 hours when in eco-mode. No, that is not a typo - Mitsubishi claims that their lamp will not burn out for six thousand hours. If a school day is six hours long, and a school year lasts for 180 days, the XD250 could run in eco-mode for five and a half years before requiring a lamp replacement. Replacement lamps, by the way, are $299, which works out to a per-hour operating cost of less than a nickel. With school budgets being cut left and right, planning for the future is more important than ever - and the XD250U will likely still be running when your current students have long since graduated.
10-watt speaker. The XD250 has a ten-watt speaker, which is among the best in this class of projector. The speaker is easily loud enough to reach every student in a medium or large classroom, or even a small lecture hall. One thing you will want to avoid is placing the projector too close to yourself or the audience if you plan to use the speaker; it is loud enough to cause great discomfort at full volume.
Security. Aside from the Kensington and cable locking points, the XD250 has a choice of three password functions. Users can select from a "Display Input" password, a "Menu Access" password, and a "Splash/ID Screen" password. Perhaps the best part, though, is that these passwords must be input from the remote, as the projector has no hardwired control panel to speak of. Aside from buttons for power on/off and source, the top of the case is bare.
Color brightness. The XD250 has a 2x-speed, six-segment color wheel, and one of those segments is white. As such, whenever the white segment of the color wheel is active, white portions of a projected image will appear to be much brighter than colored portions - twice as bright, in fact. This is especially apparent if you have a colored square in the middle of a white field, or vice versa - the disparity in brightness is distracting. However, when using the XD250 with PowerPoint presentations or text documents, this disparity is much less visible. In fact, as long as you do not plan to use the XD250 solely for the display of photography, there's little cause for concern.
Poor remote control. The remote control is covered in tiny buttons which are labeled in equally tiny type. It appears that Mitsubishi uses this same model of remote for several projectors, as some of the buttons do nothing at all. Since the projector has no hardwired control panel, this is somewhat annoying. After a few weeks, though, users should become accustomed to the remote, or be able to badger their IT staff into hooking up RS-232 functionality.
The Mitsubishi XD250U is a powerful bundle of classroom performance. It brings together high lumen output, great connectivity, and almost zero maintenance in an affordable package that's perfect for classroom use. With several extra features like Mitsubishi's Audio Mix and password protection, the XD250U is a great value at $899.
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