by Gareth Marples
Have you seen the latest in multimedia projectors? It’s amazing what they can do now. You can hook them up to computers, DVDs, VCRs, HDTVs, video games – there are all kinds of electronic possibilities. And there are so many models to choose from now, each with their own “exclusive” features. If you’re considering buying one, you’ll definitely need to shop around. But as you shop, you’ll also need to know what you’re shopping for.
So we’ve put together a simple explanation of multimedia projectors here. We’ll explain some of the more common features so you’ll get a clearer understanding of these versatile machines. And, if necessary, you can refer to our Glossary of Projector Terms for clarification.
DLP Technology, A Whole New World for Projectors
Today's multimedia projectors are far more portable than the old bulky projectors of the past. If you remember the projectors you had when you were in school ( if you’re a baby boomer), you’ll understand the need for improvements in size and weight. And improve they have! You can now get a multimedia projector that weighs just 4.5 pounds. Considering the number of features these machines have, this is pretty amazing.
Many features Mean Many Options
If you’re concerned about the image quality you’ll need to know about resolution and contrast. Resolution refers to the detail of the projected image on the screen, while contrast is the relationship between white and black in the image. Resolution is expressed in pixels, which are the smallest unit that can be displayed on a screen; so the higher the number of pixels, the clearer the image. There are several types of resolution and with improvements in technology, more types are becoming available.
Each type is a factor of VGA (video graphics array). Some examples are SVGA (super video graphics array), at 800 x 600 pixels; XGA (extended video graphics array), at 1024 x 768 pixels; SXGA, at 1280 x 1024 pixels; UXGA at 1600 x 1200 pixels; and the most advanced WSXGA, which splits the resolution into vertical and horizontal – 1920 x 1600 horizontal pixels, and 1080 x 900 vertical pixels.
Contrast, expressed as a ratio between black and white, is important for image and text clarity. The higher the ratio, the sharper the image. Most projectors have a contrast ratio of 400:1, some of the better models go up to 800:1.
Another handy feature is a remote control. You can now get a VirtualMouse which actually becomes a wireless PC mouse. You can right-click, left-click, point or drag. With this feature, you can direct a computer presentation without being tied to the computer. One of the most useful features of the VirtualMouse is its laser pointer, which consists of a little red dot that can be maneuvered around the screen.
For world travelers, an important feature in a multimedia projector is input connections for different types of video formats. Most better models now have video inputs to accommodate the various formats used throughout the world: NTSC for America, SECAM for France, Russia Eastern Europe and some countries in Africa, and PAL for Western Europe, Asia, Australia and certain countries in South America and the Far East. As the world “shrinks”, this becomes an important feature.
Make Sure You have the Basics
These few examples will give you the idea. What you'll find when you start looking seriously is that there are literally dozens of models available. But the thing to remember is, if you do your homework and find exactly the right features to suit your needs, you’ll be happy with your purchase. Hopefully we've laid the groundwork to make your choice easier.