Affordable Projectors for Home or Office

Tests of InFocus's LP290 and Lightware's Legend LS-8 projectors find their quality on par with other products that cost thousands more

By Richard Jantz

Buying a portable data projector to show slides at a business meeting or to watch a large-screen movie used to be a very expensive proposition. But two new units, the LP290 from InFocus and Lightware's Legend LS-8 bring the cost of mobile presentations down without sacrificing picture quality (other reviews and more information on using data projectors as home theater equipment may be found at "The Living Room Screening Room" ).

The InFocus LP290 offers rich, color-saturated images for small to medium-size conference rooms at a competitive price. This 5.7-pound LCD unit provides a native XGA (1024 by 768) resolution that matches the typical resolution of the large-screen notebook PCs that it has been designed to accompany. Delivering light output rated at 1100 ANSI lumens (the ANSI lumens rating describes relative brightness), the LP290 includes both a zoom lens and a remote for controlling the projector and the PC.

Best of all, the estimated street price of the LP290 is $3499, which is about $1400 less than competing LCD projectors, such as the 6-pound Epson PowerLite 715c, whose estimated street price is $4879. (Note that the Epson projector's 1200 ANSI lumens rating does indicate that it is slightly brighter.)

Economy-minded buyers who want an even lighter projector and can get by with SVGA (800 by 600) resolution--which is common for many older laptops--may prefer the Legend LS-8. This ultralight Digital Light Processing unit weighs only 3 pounds, and it features 800 ANSI lumens light output (enough for small- to medium-group presentations), as well as a standard remote for projector and PC control.

The LS-8 costs just $1795--less than half the cost of such similarly designed 3-pound models as Plus's $3995 U3-880. It is the first 3-pound projector to drop below $2000, and you don't have to give up any features for that price.

EASY SETUP. I tested shipping versions of both projectors and found each of them easy to set up and use with a laptop computer for displaying either PowerPoint presentations or cable-TV source images.

The LP290, however, produced a brighter, more color-saturated picture; images from PowerPoint slides and TV commercials displayed warmer, more vivid colors and crisper details than did images shown on the LS-8.

The LS-8's fixed-focus lens also required me to set it up at a specific distance to fill the screen, which was less convenient than using the InFocus projector's zoom lens.

Lightware's economical and compact LS-8 may be just the ticket for delivering both business presentations and home theater entertainment if your budget is limited. If you need more flexibility and precision, however, the InFocus LP290 is worth a look.

From the October 2001 issue of PC World magazine