Many new products announced at INFOCOMM are just now hitting dealer shelves. And the price impact of the hottest new machines is beginning to spread throughout this category. Prices are falling and there are deals to be found for buyers with just about any application need.

Two earthquakes are hitting the XGA market. The epicenter of one is in the 5 to 7 lb. weight range. Suddenly, 1000 ANSI lumens is no longer enough-1300 ANSI lumens is what you can get now for the trouble of carrying that much weight. The second shaker is in the entirely new category of the mini-projectors. The arrival of 3-lb units that put out 800 ANSI lumens offers a whole new option for mobile presenters that want to do their workouts at the gym rather than on their way to a sales call.

1300 ANSI-lumen machines now under 6 pounds

Leading the charge in redefining the 5 to 7 lb. XGA market is the Plus U2-1130, a 5.7 lb DLP projector rated at 1300 ANSI lumens. That's more light per pound than any other unit in this weight class. The U2-1130 produces its 1300 ANSI lumens from a 150-watt lamp that must be replaced every 1000 hours. At a release MSRP of $6,995, and street prices well below that, it sets a price/performance benchmark that will influence pricing throughout the category.

InFocus has ante'd up an answer to the U2-1130. The InFocus LP350, just beginning to ship, is another DLP-based product rated at 1300 ANSI lumens, and carries essentially the same initial MSRP ($6,999). This product has a hot 270-watt lamp which will throw off more heat in a small conference room than will the U2-1130. But the lamp lasts 2000 hours and saves the user a little money on lamp replacements over the life of the system. The weight is rated at 6.7 lbs, but add another half-pound if you want to factor in the Cable Wizard connector. So it's a little heavier than the U2-1130. However, given the marketing muscle of InFocus, the LP350 will have a very large presence in the market.

Both of these products will shake up pricing in the 5 to 7 lb. weight class for XGAs. But they will also influence XGA prices across a broader spectrum as discussed below.

Meanwhile ... the 3-lb Mini-Projectors are arriving!

The most novel development in the projector market this year is the announcement of projectors weighing only three pounds. They are now beginning to appear. Leading the pack in price/performance among the mini-projectors is the NEC MultiSync LT150, which will start showing up in dealerships within the next few weeks. The LT150 is a 3.3 lb DLP projector with NEC's proprietary Vortex imaging system and an onboard PC card slot that eliminates the need to carry your laptop. Presentations can be loaded and played directly from the PC card. Another unique feature is that it will handle up to a UXGA signal, whereas the other 3-lb units will take only SXGA.

The LT150, like the other new 3-lb units, puts out 800 ANSI lumens. There is no zoom lens, but with the wide angle fixed-lens configuration, you only need to move it a short distance up or back to effect a significant change in image size. All things considered, this is an ideal solution for many mobile presenters. Initial MSRP at release is $7,295.

The primary competitor to the LT150 is the PLUS U3-1080. PLUS manufactures the light engine that is found in the LT150, and uses the same engine in its own product. The U3-1080 differs from the LT150 in that it has PLUS electronics rather than NEC, and it lacks the PC card slot. The casework is different of course, and it weighs slightly less at 2.9 lbs. At release it is priced just under the LT150 with an MSRP of $6,995.

PLUS also markets this product through several OEM partners. The unit is or will soon be available on the market as the Mitsubishi Mini Mits X30, the Philips UGO X-Lite, and the Sharp Notevision M10X. The advantage to you, of course, is that you have more options for shopping and getting the best price and service/support arrangements from the dealer of your choice. There may be different warranty and support arrangements among the various brands, so it pays to shop around.

The Impact on the XGA Market

These new releases will affect pricing on most XGA products currently on the market. Of particular note, the until-now popular InFocus LP335 and the Epson PowerLite 710c find themselves in a bit of a no man's land. At 1000 ANSI lumen units, they don't have the horsepower to dominate this category any more. We believe that consumers will exhibit a strong preference for 1300 lumen machines in this weight class now that they are available. Thus, watch for consumer demand to wither and prices to drop on the LP335 and Epson 710c. Depending upon how far and fast they drop, you may find some excellent buys on these units.

Better deals for cost-conscious Home Theater buyers

Home theater buyers looking for deals have some new opportunities now. With the radical drop in the weight of machines capable of putting out 1300 ANSI lumens, products of the same lumen output in the 12 to 15 pound weight class will also see a drop in consumer demand. However, 1300 lumens is just about ideal light output for home theater, and some of these machines are terrific for home theater enthusiasts.

In particular, keep an eye on the just recently discontinued Mitsubishi X250. This 1300 ANSI lumen LCD machine is the little brother of the 2000 lumen X300, and at its current street price it is among the strongest price/performers for home theater under the magic $5,000 barrier. Though it is discontinued, there are still some units left in the marketplace if you look around. As they are being liquidated, prices for the X250 will be better than ever. Ignore the MSRP; check current dealer quotes on the X250 or get competitive bids on this gem and you may find some excellent deals on the units that are left. Don't waste any time on this however--he who snoozes loses.

2000-lumen portable light cannons also affected

The new releases in the ultra-portable category will affect prices on larger units as well. The large group of portable light cannons in the under 15-lb, 1800 to 2000 ANSI lumen range that came onto the market in the last nine months are now under some serious price pressure. Since 1300 lumens is plenty adequate for many average size conference rooms, this new breed of ultra-portables will carve a big slice out of the demand for projectors that are somewhat brighter, but double the weight and heretofore notably more expensive.

At the same time, the 1800 to 2000 ANSI lumen machines are also being marginalized by the newer and brighter 2400 to 3000 lumen products in the same weight range. However, the increased brightness of the latest models is overkill for many conference room and classroom applications. A unique opportunity for great deals is at hand for buyers with these applications.

Bottom line: it's an excellent time to buy a conference room projector. The 1800 to 2000 lumen projectors in the 12 to 15 lb. weight class which are ideal for many conference rooms and classroom are being squeezed at both ends competitively. The result: prices on these units are at their lowest levels ever and the buyer is in a superb position to deal.