Toshiba S30U SVGA 3LCD Projector
$1,423 MSRP Discontinued

The Toshiba TLP-S30U LCD projector is designed for the presenter who wants a lightweight, mobile solution at an attractive price. At only 4.8 pounds and dimensions of 3.0 x 10.9 x 7.8, this sleek, bright, versatile projector is as light as any LCD projector currently offered. In the sub-5 pound category it competes with 70 other projectors of which 11 are LCD based.

With a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $1,423 and a street price of $1,099 the Toshiba TLP-S30U projector is the least expensive LCD projector in its weight class at the time of this posting, although there are DLP products at a lesser price. However, before you make any decision based on price, we'll give you a feel for the performance and features offered by the Toshiba S30U.

The Toshiba TLP-S30U, hereinafter referred to as the S30, offers SVGA (800 x 600) resolution. SVGA is the lowest resolution currently offered for data projectors and its primary benefit is cost. If your need is presentation material and video, SVGA will serve you well. However, if your presentation need is text and data or you want a higher quality video experience, higher resolution will noticeably enhance the experience. At present the average cost difference between SVGA and XGA (1024 x 768) projectors in the 4 to 5 pound class is about $1500.

The S30 includes a 1.2x manual zoom lens that allows you to adjust the size of the projector image by 20% at any given distance. A nice thing to have if you're a mobile presenter.

Other features of the S30 are support for composite video, S-video, and HDTV compatibility (1080i, 720p), an Automatic Digital Keystone Correction (+/- 15 degrees) to automatically square up an image when your projector and screen do not line up properly, 10X Digital Zoom and Pan that let's you zoom in on any presented material, and a monitor loop-through for local viewing of data.

Ambient Noise
As is common with small bright portable projectors, there is generally more fan noise than a comparable projector in a larger box. The S30 is no exception. However, as with most projectors today, an economy mode fan is offered that reduces lumen output by about 20% and reduces fan noise accordingly.

The S30 uses a high-pressure mercury vapor lamp with a 2000-hour life. Replacement lamps list at $439 with the street price at about $388, pretty expensive for a projector in the $1,100 price range. Operating the lamp in Economy Mode will increase the life of the lamp and help reduce your operating costs.

The connector panel includes ports for computer control of the projector using an RS-232 cable (cable not included), audio input (mini-jack) that drives a 1-watt speaker, video (RCA), and S-Video (cable not included). There is also an external monitor connector for local viewing on a monitor and an RGB/Component video connector. This latter connector is dual purpose and allows either a direct connect of your computer or component video using a HD-15 to component video adaptor that is not provided.

S-video is a better signal source than composite video for image quality; however, since all video devices support composite and only some support S-video, manufacturers tend to provide only the composite video cable. This is a practice that should change as most users seeking projection equipment have access to better quality video. In any case, if you have an S-video source, get the S-video cable. You'll get a better image.

Out of Box Experience
In addition to the cables mentioned above, the S30 includes a remote control, a user's manual, a Quick Guide, a power cable, a soft carry case, and a CD-ROM (manual). An optional Presenter's Remote that includes mouse control, laser pointer and the usual menu controls is available from Toshiba for $139.

The Quick Guide includes a cable diagram making setup easy. The manual focus ring gave a crisp image corner to corner and the1.2x manual zoom lens provides the ability to adjust the image size up to 20% at any given distance. If you're a mobile presenter, you'll appreciate having a zoom lens when it comes time to set up quickly in a room where you don't have a lot of options.

The projector is capable of a maximum image diagonal of 300 inches at 36 feet. As an SVGA projector, it exhibits the usual "screen door" effect at close viewing; however, it diminishes quickly as you move back to a more normal viewing distance. If you're watching a movie and your viewing distance or vision is such that you can still see the screen door effect, make the image slightly out of focus. This works well with video, but not data; although the screen door effect is less of an issue with data. We hooked up to a notebook computer and found that the S30 delivered a quality image without further adjustments whether we were running graphics or data. We tested composite video, S-video and component video and once again confirmed that if you want a good video experience, use the component input.

We could get a good image in any mode, but composite video in general lacks the signal quality to deliver a great image and in the case of the S30, the green is a little strong which is common among projectors that are trying to increase lumen output. To deal with it we went to economy mode on the lamp and then turned down the brightness and reduced the green level slightly. Color balance and sharpness seems to be a personal preference, so we tweaked it to our liking. We made manual adjustments to the image quality to better understand the performance characteristics of the projector, but the truth is it shouldn't be necessary.

As always, S-video is a better signal source than video, but component video was a plug-'n-play. If you're serious about your analog video quality, regardless of the projector, get the component video cables. LCD projectors generally have good color saturation, but lack high contrast as is evidenced by the 400:1 contrast of the S30. This can cause some loss of some detail in darker images, but still delivers an engaging image.

At 38dB the fan is a bit noisy in full lamp mode, but likely not a problem with a room full of people during a presentation. However, when you're watching video use economy mode to improve the image and reduce the fan noise to a less noticeable 35dB. There is some light leakage to the rear of the projector that could be a slight distraction if the projector is on a table directly in front you. This is not unusual for a bright projector in a small package.

Remote Control
The TLP-S30U remote control is a full size remote with a lot of features. It includes buttons for projector power (on/standby), menu selection and navigation, volume control, mute, freeze, source input, auto or manual keystone correction and volume control. While digital keystone correction is a handy feature for quick setup, keep in mind that all digital keystone corrections introduce some image artifacts that are noticeable in data mode when viewing text and less noticeable when doing large text presentations.

The remote control also includes a "call" button that displays settings and status information of the source you are viewing, an "auto-set" button that automatically adjusts the image for optimal viewing and three buttons related to resizing the image. Although we found the small "reference bump" helpful in orienting your hand position in a dark room, the remote had an uncomfortable feel in your hand and controls for the menu were not always intuitive. As a presenter, mouse control was one feature we would have liked. If you're a presenter and want to control your presentation remotely, we suggest you consider buying the Presenter's Remote for $139.

The projector has a front and rear I/R receiver that allows the remote control to operate well when pointed at the projector from a range of up to 20 feet. It also performed well when bouncing the signal off the screen.

Three separate menus allow access to Image Adjustment for each of the four image sources (computer, component video, S-video, composite video), Display Settings for choosing items such as your language of choice for the menus, and Default Settings for selecting things such as economy lamp mode.

The Toshiba TLP-S30U includes a 2-year projector warranty with the option to purchase a 1-year extended warranty for $359 or 2 years for $529. The lamp warranty is the typical 90 days and replacement lamps are listed at $439 and sold at a street price of around $388.

The S30 lives up to Toshiba 's "plug and project" marketing claim. It plugs and plays very well with data and component video, but we found some tweaking was necessary to optimize the image quality when using composite and S-video sources.

The remote control takes some getting use to, but offers good functionality. The packaging is slim and attractive and at only 4.8 pounds, it is easy enough to transport with or without the well-designed carrying case.

As a light, bright, and highly portable projector, the S30 is ideal for schools that want to share a projector or mobile presenters looking for a versatile solution. It includes a zoom lens and auto keystone correction, two features that aid rapid setup in less than perfect conditions. We would have preferred to see the Presenter's Remote included with the product, but overall this projector provides great value for the price point.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Toshiba TLP-S30U projector page.