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Bright Lights

Today's midrange portable projectors can make your presentations shine.

You're about to give a stirring business presentation to a conference room full of potential customers. You don't need a whiteboard or an overhead transparency. You're up with the times. You've gone digital. With multimedia. In full color. You flip open your laptop, power up your presentation program and say, "Squeeze in here. No shoving. Can everyone see OK? Great. Let's begin." Not likely. It's time for a portable projector.

Sales pitches and presentations by on-the-go entrepreneurs or their employees are the top business use for portable projectors. When you're trying to win over new customers, it's critical that the images projected on the wall are of professional quality. A good projector will also be right at home in the office conference room for board meetings or employee gatherings. Most come equipped with inputs designed to handle laptops, desktops, Macs, PCs, VCRs or DVD players.

Portability pays off, but first it's going to cost you. We've included sub-$4,000 budget and midrange portable projectors, but prices can jump well past $5,000 when you get into the higher-range models. Low-cost projectors will satisfy most business needs, but sometimes the features of more expensive devices will justify the upgrade.

Of course, the whole point of buying a portable projector is portability. Assuming you're already hauling around a laptop, briefcase, cell phone and accessories, you don't want your projector to feel like an added cinder block. The projectors in our chart range from the featherweight 5-pound Hitachi CP-X270W to the somewhat heftier 9.3-pound Epson PowerLite 600p. Any heavier than that, and you might want to consider hiring a pack mule to move all your equipment around.

Resolution is the most noticeable specification when it comes to projectors. The main types in the midrange are SVGA (Super Video Graphics Array) and XGA (Extended Graphics Array). SVGA offers a resolution of 800 x 600, equivalent to what most computer monitors are set at. XGA has a finer resolution of 1,024 x 768, equivalent to what most notebook displays are set at. An XGA projector like the Hitachi CP-X270W or the Sharp PG-C20XU will do a better job with images like spreadsheets and detailed graphics, but you won't notice much difference with your typical PowerPoint chart presentation.

Next in line on the specs sheet is brightness. Given in terms of lumens, a light measure, the brightness will affect what kind of lighting conditions the projector will work well under and how large a room it can handle. A higher lumens rating, like that sported by the 1,700 lumens Epson PowerLite 600p, is suitable for even large, well-lit rooms. The trade-off for the high lumens rating is a higher price tag and final weight.

Other features to look out for are keystone correction and audio. Keystone correction involves adjusting the image to account for the projector being at an angle. It changes the keystone-shaped projection to the standard rectangle. The InFocus LP280, for example, features digital keystone correction. Most projectors have built-in audio suitable for small rooms. For more involved presentations, look for audio outputs that allow for external speakers.

As with many technology buys, it's helpful to see what you're getting first. Working with a local dealer will be an advantage here. Narrow down your suspect list through price and specifications, and then ask to see the projectors in action, side-by-side. Try to mimic the lighting and room conditions you expect to be working under as well as the type of images you expect to project. Look for strong color, good contrast, sharpness and adequate brightness, and you'll be well on your way to wowing the customers on your next road trip.

Shopping List
Where's the overhead projector? Who's got the markers? Pack your own portable projector and quit worrying.

PRODUCTCONTACTBRIGHTNESSBRIGHTNESSWEIGHTFEATURESSTREET PRICE
Epson
PowerLite 600p
(800) GO-EPSON
www.epson.com
SVGA1,700 lumens9.3 lbs.Two-year warranty, SizeWize resizing technology$3,548
Hitachi
CP-X270W
(800) 225-1741
www.hitachi.com
XGA800 lumens5 lbs.Tw0-year warranty, manual focus, digital keystone correction$2,500
InFocus
LP280
(800) 660-0024
www.infocus.com
SVGA1,000 lumens5.7 lbs.Two-year warranty, digital keystone correction$2,099
Optoma
EzPro750
(888) 289-6786
www.optomausa.com
SVGA1,600 lumens6.4 lbs.HDTV ready, Digital Light Processing technology$3,595
Sharp
PG-C20XU
(888) GO-SHARP
www.sharplcd.com
XGA1,000 lumens5.7 lbs.Three-year warranty, wireless mouse remote, digital enlargement$2,899

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This article was originally published in the February 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bright Lights.

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