HP spotlights lightweight projectors

Focusing on products instead of merger talk, Hewlett-Packard will launch on Monday two lightweight digital projectors.

Targeted at mobile professionals, both products are scheduled to begin shipping April 15. The HP xb31 will carry an estimated retail price of $3700; the sb21 will sell for $2500.

The products represent HP's first foray into the burgeoning mobile projector market. Compaq, whose merger with HP is pending, already markets a line of lightweight professional projectors.

"The digital projector market is one of the fastest-growing areas in IT right now, with a 20 percent growth rate," says Stephen Brown, manager for digital projection and imaging operations at HP. It's a $4 billion annual market, and HP has decided it is time to bring its talents to the table, he says.

"We have a huge strength in imaging and image science," he says. Combined with the company's "deep understanding of optics" and its knack for notebook products, HP expects to fast become a contender in the mobile projector business, he adds.

Brightness Counts

The xb31 projector weighs in at 3.5 pounds and includes a 150-watt lamp rated to produce 1500 ANSI lumens, which HP claims is best in class.

Most mobile projectors rate between 700 and 1500 ANSI lumens, the industry-standard measure of light output. A 700-lumen projector is adequate for use in a small room with the lights down. A 1200- to 1500-lumen model, on the other hand, is suitable for use in large rooms with an office's low, ambient lighting.

The xb31 uses Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing technology, and has an 1800 to 1 contrast ratio that offers a stunningly clear image, he says.

The xb31 projector also offers a 1024-by-768 XGA resolution, an optical zoom lens, a projector range of 36 feet, and an adjustable image size of 28 to 295 inches (diagonal).

The most likely buyer of the xb31 is an executive who wants a top-notch image from a projector they can move from office to office within a building, Brown says.

Smaller, Lighter

HP's sb21 makes its svelte sibling look chubby. Weighing in at a mere 2.2 pounds and sporting dimensions of just 8 by 5.5 by 2 inches, Brown says it fits in the palm of his outstretched hand. HP claims the unit's size is best in class, although Plus Lightware offers a 2-pound projector.

The sb21 uses a 120-watt lamp that produces 1000 ANSI lumens. (Plus Lightware's product produces a lesser 700 ANSI lumens). The HP projector offers a maximum of 800-by-600 SVGA resolution, includes a digital zoom feature, a projector range of 36 feet, and an image size of 25 to 300 inches. It also uses TI's DLP technology and offers 1800 to 1 contrast.

The sb21 should attract a user who's on the road more, traveling from client to client. The projector is so small, Brown says, that "it almost fits in the pocket of a notebook carrying case."

The xb31 and sb21 share a host of features, including automatic image synchronization, auto image resizing, optimization for use with HP OmniBook 6000- and 500-series notebooks, and wireless remote controls.

Both projectors also include a two-year limited warranty.

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