Product Roundup: Newest Projectors Lighten Up


Weighing as little as 2.1 pounds, these units are tiny but tough


When serving on-the-go road warriors, VARs have some new ultraportable projector options to offer their customers. Indeed, the marketplace now offers something for everyone--from the sub-3-pound ultraportable projector to the heftier up-to-6-pound models, which offer a slimmer price point while still being completely portable.

"From the beginning, projector users have been concerned about the weight of the projector, so it has been a race between manufacturers to shove the most electronic innards into the smallest possible form factor," says Eric Haruki, research manager of displays and projectors at market research firm IDC. "The very smallest projectors are a niche category that appeals to traveling businesspeople who are willing to pay a premium for portability."

According to Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC, nearly 1.5 million projectors shipped in the United States last year, for a total revenue of nearly $2.6 billion; of that, 80,200 units were sub-3-pound projectors, for a total revenue of just more than $152.2 million. Still, through 2008, this product category is expected to grow more quickly than the overall projector market--with a 56.4 percent CAGR for unit sales vs. a 22.9 percent CAGR for the overall market. Hand-in-hand, revenue for the sub-3-pound models is also projected to grow faster than the overall market, reaching $529.8 million in 2008 (a projected CAGR of 36.6 percent), compared with $2.9 billion for the overall market (a 3 percent CAGR).

Today, only a few manufactures are making the very smallest projectors. For example, in June, ViewSonic started shipping its PJ255D microportable (DLP) projector, which weighs 2.1 pounds and offers 1,024-x-768 native resolution and a 2,000-to-1 contrast ratio. The $1,999 PJ255D offers brightness of 1,100 lumens, as well as a one-touch setup button. The unit can display HDTV signals, as well as other video and data sources.

Gaining Weight

At this point in time, the 3- to 5-pound segment of the ultraportable projector market is, perhaps, the most substantial one for solution providers, touting richer features than its smaller counterparts. In 2004, 275.4 million units shipped in the United States, for a total market of approximately $475 million, according to IDC. By 2008, 684.9 million units are expected to ship in the United States, for total sales of $650.6 million. That's a CAGR of 25.6 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively.

One new offering, also from ViewSonic, will be introduced this month: the PJ400. At 4.8 pounds and $899, this model is aimed at cost-conscious users. The unit supports a resolution of 800-x-600 SVGA, 1,500 ANSI lumens of brightness and a 300-to-1 contrast ratio. The projector integrates a number of more advanced video features, including integrated motion adaptive de-interlacing technology, progressive scan and 3:2 pulldown, and can display HDTV signals.

In addition, ViewSonic's PJ400 provides a whisper mode, which reduces the noise output and extends lamp life up to 4,000 hours.

Also in this category is BenQ's latest offering, which began shipping last summer--the Micro Series PB2240. This projector weighs 4.8 pounds and provides a number of video system input/output configurations, including NTSC, PAL, SECAM, EDTV and HDTV (1080i, 720p, 576p, 480p and RGBHV). The DLP-based digital projector features a native resolution of 1,024-x-768, an ANSI brightness rating of 2,000 lumens and a 2,000-to-1 contrast ratio.

Ultraportable Heifers

A number of manufacturers also have introduced ultraportable projector models that are still slightly heavier and a bit pricier, but include more robust setup and video features. In October, for example, Sony introduced the SuperLite VPL-ES2 LCD mobile projector, which weighs 6.1 pounds. The unit integrates 1,500 ANSI lumens brightness and an auto-setup feature that automatically adjusts lens, tilt, input search, keystone and pixel with the touch of a button. This model costs $1,100.

Also from Sony are two other ultraportable projectors, each weighing in at 6.5 pounds. The $3,000 VPL-CX75 features wireless capabilities, so that presentations can be delivered and controlled via an 802.11b wireless-network card. The LCD projector delivers a brightness of 2,500 ANSI lumens and features an autofocus lens. It also provides the option of using a USB adapter or Sony's proprietary Memory Stick flash media for a quicker connection to a PC.

The $2,200 VPL-CX70, meanwhile, integrates three LCD panels with single-lens projection to offer users 2,000 ANSI lumens brightness. Both units provide one-touch automatic setup that performs vertical and horizontal keystone correction.

"The ultraportable or compact projector appeals to sales and training people who are doing a lot of presentations," says Sander Phipps, project manager for projectors at Sony, adding that ease of use and setup are key differentiators between products. "We are also finding that a lot of corporations will buy these projectors as a shared resource--so that they can buy a couple of projectors and move them between meeting rooms as needed. Today, they can outfit a sales and training team with a laptop and projector that was three times the price five years ago."

For its part, Toshiba's Digital Products Division introduced the T90 projector series, which, like ViewSonic's PJ255D, is based on DLP technology. The 6.2-pound base model, the TDP-T90U, is priced at $1,899 (ESP) and includes only the basic features; the 6.3-pound TDP-T91U, which costs $2,099 (ESP), enhances the base model with a detachable document camera that can be used to incorporate 3-D objects and hard-copy material into presentations. Both projectors display 2,000 ANSI lumens, native XGA 1,024-x-768 resolution and a 2,001-to-1 contrast ratio. They also offer three video-input sources, plus a one-touch auto-set button, remote control and automatic keystone correction. *

Hailey Lynne McKeefry of Professional Ink (www.professionalink.biz) is a freelance writer based in Belmont, Calif.