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Multimedia Projectors 
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
One of the biggest advances in projector technology came from the new digital technologies of the mid 1990s. Texas Instruments developed Digital Light Processing (DLP), and integrated it into a projector. DLP technology is based on its Digital Micromirror Device (DMD), a dime-sized switch that controls the placement and intensity of projected light with more than 480,000 mirrors. With a DLP-based display, you have a virtually unlimited range of colors, with saturation and clarity that gives you clear, bright video images on par with 35mm slide projectors.

Multimedia Projectors  
We’re going to focus here on the multimedia projectors. These machines have been developed to satisfy a more and more demanding electronic world. As new ideas are formulated in every corner of our technologically-advanced society, more efficient methods of presenting these ideas have become necessary. That’s why there’s been such a recent windfall of multimedia projectors. They provide a wide variety of ways to present these ideas – through video and audio, all enhanced by computer technology.

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
Let’s examine some of the more popular features and how they affect the workings of a multimedia projector. First of all the power of the projector measured of the lumens (a measurement of light) is important because it specifies how bright the projected picture will be. 500-1000 ANSI lumens will usually be enough for a conference room or boardroom with dim light. However, as rooms get larger more power will be needed. For a very bright room, or for a large auditorium, you’ll need at least 1500 lumens to display a viewable image.

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
To give you a quick sense of what’s available these days and their prices, I’ve chosen a few examples of models from various manufacturers:

3M’s Digital S10c
  • Brightness: 1200 lumens
  • Resolution: SVGA (800 x 600)
  • Contrast Ratio: 400:1
  • Weight: 6.6 lbs
  • Street price: $1,100

Other Features

  • Swivel base makes setup simple
Toshiba TLP-S10U
  • Brightness: 1200 ANSI Lumens
  • Resolution: SVGA (800 x 600)
  • Contrast Ratio: 400:1
  • Weight: 4.8 lbs
  • Street price: $999
Toshiba TLP-S70U
  • Brightness: 2000 ANSI Lumens
  • Resolution: SVGA (800 x 600)
  • Contrast Ratio: 400:1
  • Weight: 4.9 lbs
  • Street price: $1,400
Hitachi CP-S210W
  • Brightness: 1200 ANSI lumens
  • Resolution: SVGA (800 x 600)
  • Contrast ratio: 300:1
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs
  • Street price: $1800

Other Features

  • HDTV theater ready
Epson PowerLite 730C
  • Brightness: 2000 ANSI lumens
  • Resolution: XGA (1024 x 768)
  • Contrast Ratio: 400:1
  • Weight: 4.3 lbs
  • Street price: $2300

Other Features

  • Automatic keystone adjustment detects the projector's tilt and digitally adjusts the image's shape, so the image never appears stretched or out of shape.

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.

About The Author

Gareth Marples is a successful freelance copywriter who enjoys working from home. He provides valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing lcd projector reviews, slide projector bulbs and digital cameras reviews. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.

This article on "How Projectors Work" reprinted with permission.

© 2004 - Net Guides Publishing, Inc.

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