Cast a Giant Shadow
Today's Projectors are Brighter, Lighter and Less Expensive
Ancient stories tell of the Grecian army that lined up its troops before dawn, and with the sunrise casting each soldier's long shadow down in the valley below, made the opposing force think they where up against a race of giant warriors. In terror, they fled in hasty retreat. Perhaps even before that, when cavemen cast hand puppet shadows on cave walls by firelight, man has always been fascinated by the projected image. Today's projectors are a far cry from those times and offer something for almost any application or budget.

The two most important objections to mass adoption of video projectors, cost and weight, have been addressed. What once cost $5000 three to four years ago can now be had at around $1000, and the long sought-after hurdle of producing a portable projector weighing under five pounds has also been overcome. From Fortune 500 corporate boardrooms and small businesses to classrooms and high-end home theaters, video projectors are better and cost less than ever. When it comes to selecting an effective video projector there are three key factors; reliability, size/quality of the image and unit portability.

There are four different categories of projector offerings -- Home, Portable, Fixed installation and Large Venue. With a growing number of American homes having 5.1 surround sound audio and DVD video, along with falling projector prices, many consumers are looking at projectors to provide a superior home theater experience. Now that the 5-pound barrier has been breached, rugged mini-projectors weighing 3 and 4 pounds are growing in popularity providing sales people on the road with the ability to give high-quality video and graphic presentations. Two of the most popular areas that have adopted the new generation of video projectors are boardrooms and classrooms. Installations of handsome projectors abound, and because they don't need to be portable, optimum results can be obtained. Projectors are mounted on ceilings, in cabinets, inside disappearing desktop pop-ups and other locations in the business, retail or educational environments. Lastly, more and more large nightclubs, concert tours, television shows and even motion picture theaters are looking at projectors as a way to achieve what video monitors and noisy film projectors cannot.

Epson PowerLite 735c
The new Epson PowerLite 735c is the lightest 3-LCD projector on the market at 4.4 pounds and is one of the first with 802.11b wireless technology. Users can wirelessly connect to the Web and up to four projectors simultaneously to a network or simply one standalone PC running a presentation.
One of the most popular projector manufacturers is Epson, with a product line that's in a variety of different markets and typical of most of the major manufacturers. "The Epson 'Value Series' provides users with extraordinary value, without sacrificing quality or performance and are targeted at cost conscious customers and are most popular among the education and home theater market," explained Aaron Marinari, Senior Product Manager at the company. "The 'Commuter Series' targets business professionals whose presentations take them on the road. These projectors are compact and lightweight, making them easy to transport. For those customers looking for a powerful solution that can be used in various environments, from conference rooms to large auditoriums, Epson offers the 'Portable and Installation Series' of projectors," he said.

Epson is typical of the big manufacturers like Sharp, Panasonic, Sony and others that are designing high quality products with long-term serviceability in mind. This is important both in the fixed installations market and the growing mobile (under 5-6 lb.) product category. Design characteristics such as the dual-lamp redundancy and long-life lamps featured in the iQ LongLife Series of projectors from Barco Corp. are typical of this trend. After all, if you need to install a projector in a hard-to-reach location like a 20 foot ceiling and a bulb goes out, it's not going to be easy to replace it -- certainly not in the middle of a presentation. Add to the lower cost and better quality the ability to connect directly to the internet and the best gets better.

So what to look for when buying one? "Although brightness and resolution are important factors, decisions are not based solely on these two factors anymore. Customers tell us it's more important than ever that they clearly identify their professional needs and desired real world applications before choosing a projector, because applications are becoming much more complex. The return on investment is important," said Thomas Van Den Driessche, International Product Manager at Barco, a leading projector manufacturer for the high end and large venue markets. "Ease of use and reliability are also key considerations when making an investment in a projector. With the introduction of an integrated server within the projector, a large fleet of projectors can be fully controlled over the network from a single central IT Help Desk, allowing for uninterrupted and efficient meetings, saving time and money." he said. Like many manufacturers, Barco offers a range of projectors from 1,800 up to 17,000 ANSI lumens (which is the measurement system used to gauge projector brightness) with resolutions from basic XGA up to the new super-sharp UXGA models.