Projectors lighten up at Comdex

A little more than a year ago the first 3-pound ultralight projectors using Texas Instruments Inc.'s Digital Light Processing technology appeared. This week at Comdex companies displayed even smaller projectors that shatter the 3-pound barrier, as well as a few noteworthy but slightly heavier models.

Small, expensive projectors are targeted at mobile professionals who want a device that projects their business presentations sharply but doesn't unnecessarily weigh them down.

These projectors won't. Lightware Inc.'s previously announced 2-pound projector is now shipping. Compaq Computer Corp. is showing its second generation of 3-pound data projectors. Toshiba Corp. has two new units on the slightly heavier side, and Sony Corp. offers four, which it bills as simple-to-use devices for conference rooms or classrooms.

Ultraportables appear

Lightware partnered with Plus of America to provide the US+$2295 Plus Lightware Series V-807. This truly compact, silver-hued unit measures just 5.6 inches wide by 7 inches deep by 1.8 inches high.

The V-807 is targeted squarely at the mobile presenter. Its 700-lumen brightness and its SVGA (super video graphics array) resolution represent the bare minimum specifications you'd probably want for presenting in small to mid-size conference rooms. In spite of its size, this model offers a selection of powerful features: four-way horizontal and vertical digital keystone correction (a technology that adjusts for distortion that appears when the projector is not exactly perpendicular to the screen), a short-focus lens, Digital Video Interface, picture-in-picture, and High Definition viewing.

Compaq's MP2810 keeps the unusual upright-design of its sibling, the MP2800. However, the 3-pound MP2810 improves upon its predecessor by upping its brightness to a brilliant 1300 lumens--unusually high for this size and class of projector; however, it still offers XGA resolution (1024 by 768 pixels). The list price on this model is $4999--about $700 more than the price of the MP2800.

Larger units

Sony introduced four new projectors at Comdex, which range in price from about $2250 to $4700. The lightest, at 4.6 pounds, is Sony's top-of-the-line VPD-MX10, which is about the size of a notebook computer.

The VPD-MX10 is the first sub-5-pound model from Sony. It uses a DLP (digital light projection) chip, and it features XGA resolution and a rated brightness of 1000 lumens. This $4500 model offers digital keystone correction, a DVI (Digital Video Input) port for connecting directly to a PC, and a built-in scan converter (which means it can be used with various video input signals ranging from RGB video to SXGA PC video). It also provides a Memory Stick slot, so you can easily run presentations of still images without having your notebook on hand.

The $2250 entry-level VPL-CS4 is a bit bulkier at 5.5 pounds, and it has a flip-up front cover that protects the projector lens when you're on the go. The other new models are the $3700 mid-range VPL-CX4, and the $4700, 7.4-pound VPL-CX11.

Toshiba introduced a unit that's slightly larger, but still under 6 pounds. The company touts its TDP-T3 Digital Projector as well suited for classroom use. Priced at $4499, the TDP-T3 has a snap-on expansion module that can connect the projector to DVD (digital versatile disc) players, HDTV (high-definition television) receivers, camcorders, or other consoles.

The Toshiba TDP-T3 also uses TI's DLP chip, and you can vary the projector's brightness settings between 16000 and 2000 lumens. It has XGA resolution, a built-in audio system, a wireless remote, and a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port; it weighs 5.7 pounds without the module. The projector measures 10.25 inches wide by 11 inches long by 3.34 inches high.

Tom Spring of PCWorld.com contributed to this report.

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