Toss the white board. Pass on the handouts. The best way to get your point across when you're on the road is with a portable projector. Today's models are smaller, lighter, more feature-rich and more affordable than ever.
There are many considerations when choosing a portable projector. Since we're emphasizing portability, weight is a good place to start. All the projectors in our chart come in between 3 and 7 pounds. At 6.6 pounds, the Toshiba TDP-S25U is on the heavier end, but at $999 (all prices street), it's also one of the most affordable. The $1,699 Sharp Notevision XR-1X slims in at 3.2 pounds and is small enough to slide into an accommodating notebook case along with your laptop. It's not in our chart, but InFocus also makes the super-slim 2.4-pound LP170 for $1,399. If you're really a hard-core mobile warrior, you might place a premium on shaving off the ounces. Otherwise, a roller case for your equipment should do the job and save your back.
One specification you'll see a lot is ANSI lumens, an indication of brightness. A high number means you can use the projector in a brighter environment like a boardroom, where you have to leave the lights on for participants to take notes. The $2,499 BenQ PB2250 has a brightness rating of 2200 ANSI lumens. That's enough to handle just about any situation. All that brightness can burn through a lamp's life expectancy, but most projectors, including the BenQ, have economy modes to conserve lamp life.
Another consideration is native resolution. Most of the projectors in our chart are XGA (1024 x 768), with a few SVGA (800 x 600) thrown in. XGA projectors, like the $1,799 Hewlett-Packard mp3220, can show finer picture details, but come at a price premium. Compare that to the SVGA ViewSonic PJ400, which comes in at a budget-conscious $899. Another option is the similarly budget-friendly $899 Hitachi Performa CP-RS55, a sub-5-pounder with a handy whisper mode to keep things quiet. Which you choose depends on your presentation needs. Your best bet may be to visit your local retailer or value-added reseller and get an in-person demonstration.
As portable projectors evolve, some higher-end models have developed some handy features to free you from the old laptop ball and chain. The $2,624 Epson PowerLite 745c comes with 802.11g wireless, while the $2,779 Sony VPL-CX75 has 802.11b capability. For a budget wireless solution, check into InFocus' $899 X2. Throw in the company's separate $399 LiteShow add-on for 802.11b, and you come in under $1,500 for a wireless presentation solution.
Some projectors, like the Epson, can also accommodate PC-free presentations through built-in USB and PCMCIA slots, so you could load a presentation on a USB flash drive or external hard drive to really minimize the amount of equipment you need on the road. No matter what your needs are, there's a projector that will fit the bill. There are many options that won't end up breaking your back or your budget.
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