It’s hard enough to master the personal communications skills in business, like making an effective presentation, without having so-called technological “helpers” get in the way. But the size and complexity of some A-list business-class projectors are daunting to some professionals, who nonetheless realize nothing makes an impression like great images (especially great big ones). The evolution of smart, simple, and scaled-down projectors could solve some of these operational issues, with a footprint often smaller than a paperback book.
We will give you the basics, and tell you what “tech and specs” you need to know. A four-point checklist, handy for comparing models, is followed by short reviews of three top products. We will not suggest any particular models, as we do not believe in a “one size fits all” approach. We start the discussion, you make the decisions.
Pico projector checklist
1. Form/Features: In addition to a small size you want quality construction, of course. Also consider the projection distance and aspect ratio, and look for expandable internal memory, battery life, and audio output.
2. Compatibility: Even if a projector has WiFi, wired connections are far more trustworthy in critical situations. Absent sufficient internal memory, you may need to connect a smartphone, USB drive, or computer rental to give the presentation. You need a projector that works with “your stuff.” Composite, BNC, S-video—you need to know what you’re working with, and how it works.
3. Image: A high contrast ratio, wide range of brightness settings, and sufficient resolution describe the ideal projected image. Of course, that could describe our iPad rentals, so don’t forget image size.
4. Help/Support: Good customer support often makes a good product an excellent one. It doesn’t take long to get ratings on projectors from various customer reviews, reporting services, and user forums—to discover, among other things, how they treat their customers.
Some top picks
Digipro: A weakness in many portable projectors is the bulb, typically 5-10 lumens, not enough for detail. Although it can fit in your pocket, the Digipro puts out 15 lumens at SVGA resolution, rather than basic VGA, making once-illegible maps, schematics, and other details readable.
Favi E3: This device would vault to the top five or so in most anyone’s list, simply for having a bulb with 30,000+ hours of life. But there’s more, such as an even smaller form factor, multiple connection options, a bright and clear projected image, and expandable internal memory. Holy Grail? That’s your call.
Optoma Pico PK320: If you want to know about the few flaws in this near-perfect model, go to the manufacturer site and search a few tech forums. There are no big, obvious deal-breakers, but check it out yourself and see if it passes muster. It’s tiny and well-built, with a super contrast ratio and a big, bold image. It’s as good a choice as either of the above for the title of “standard-setter.”
If you need a full-scale professional projector with more lumens and a bigger picture for an event or large meeting, get help selecting the right LCD projector rental with the proper resolution and brightness for your venue. An experienced CRE Account Executive is ready to help at (877) 266-7725, or you can send a message or use our Quick Rental Quote page. Do it now!
As a two-part article recently explained, there are still some important differences between “business” projectors and those intended for “home theater” use. However, some manufacturers are experimenting with product designs that join the best features of each type into a single device. Perhaps one of the last areas of divergence is the native (or “physical”) pixel count, which affects two very important specifications: (1) the resolution and (2) the aspect ratio.
Simply put, “resolution” is the number of pixels that are packed into the physical dimensions of a projected image or monitor, and “aspect ratio” is the relationship between width and height. A four-foot by three-foot image has an aspect ratio of 4:3, standard for TVs from their introduction until just a short time ago. Now, a projection screen at that ratio could display an image of 800 x 600 resolution, or there could be more pixels packed in for a higher resolution and sharper image in the same dimensions, like a pixel count of 1200 x 900. Both have the same 4:3 aspect ratio, both fit on the 48-inch by 36-inch screen, but the latter has the higher resolution. Of course, CRE rents various sizes of Fast Fold Da-Lite screens to fit all situations.
Wide, wide world
The standard SVGA (800 x 600) and XGA (1024 x 768) business projectorshave a native, or built-in, aspect ratio of 4:3, as well, so the image corresponds to a standard computer screen or “regular” television. Widescreen content, such as DVDs and HDTV programming, has an aspect ratio of 16:9. The best way to handle the widescreen format is to use a projector with a native widescreen resolution, which today is more likely to be a home theater projector (although not for long). This is the only way you can avoid the image stretching, letterboxing, image cropping, or other aspect ratio adjustment techniques that make 16:9 content fit on a 4:3 screen.
Most of the basic business projectors are SVGA and are not up to the task of displaying HD images from your satellite, computer, cable tuner or other HD input. They simply do not have sufficient resolution to do the job right. The two primary HD resolution formats today are 720p and 1080i (1280 x 720 pixels and 1920 x 1080, respectively). An SVGA projector with its resolution of 800 x 600 pixels cannot display either of these formats without downscaling.
Working it out
Even DVD content, which at 852 x 480 has a lower resolution than HDTV, is a bit much for the entry-level SVGA projectors to do a good job. XGA, as its numbers indicate, has sufficient resolution to handle DVDs and can get quite close, needing only narrow top and bottom letterbox bands, to displaying 720p, as well. With just an XGA projector, screen and a laptop rental from CRE, you have a mobile presentation system that can handle a meeting or conference then head home for a DVD movie night with the family.
Widescreen projectors for home and business come in both WVGA and WXGA. Choosing a lower-cost WVGA (854 x 480) projector will save you some money and cover all the bases if you will be watching only DVD movies. For displaying HDTV content, a WXGA (1280 x 800) projector is required. This pixel array will enable you to display any and all HDTV content up to 720p with no rescaling. You will even be able to view 1080i or 1080p material on the more-capable WXGA projectors, but the projected image will need compression so that the 1920 x 1080 pixels in a 1080i or 1080p HDTV image can be scaled into the native pixel array of the WXGA projector.
Ask the experts
Remember, image resolution is only one of many important factors in assessing your projector. Color balance, brightness (lumens), edge-to-edge clarity and other specifications may be even more important at times. Business projectors are becoming more media-savvy all the time, just as business people are becoming as sophisticated as the audiophile and videophile consumers that have driven the advancements in home theater technology.
New business projectors will be debuting in the coming year from leading manufacturers, models that promise to bedazzle and amaze an audience of engineers or CEOs the way that home theater projectors wow the family with Harry Potter movies. Whether you contact one of our expert Account Executives now or later—by e-mail, phone or rental quote request—you will get state-of-the-art advice and equipment for your meeting, conference or presentation needs.
For many professionals, making an effective presentation is a real challenge, and the many tools that have been developed to make presentations easier—particularly PowerPoint and its Mac counterpart, Keynote—haven’t solved the underlying problems. “Desktop publishing” programs didn’t create great newsletter designers in the 1980s, FrontPage didn’t birth great web developers in the 1990s and no razzmatazz software will make you a slick presenter now.
Still, you don’t have to burden your audiences with 94 slides filled with bullets, sub-bullets and big chunks of illegible text. Just learn some important basics about presentations in general and PowerPoint/Keynote in particular. You will soon stand out from the innumerable “presentation pros” who don’t give the slightest nod to basic layout, typography, color schemes or design fundamentals.
The presentation tips, tricks, techniques and tools are divided into three sections: (1) Planning & Preparation, (2) Layout & Copy and (3) In the Spotlight.
(1) Planning & Preparation
Get the right hardware for showing off your software. For a department meeting you may decide to rent a LCD monitor, giving you 40 inches of crisp, clear imagery that everyone in your office can see.
For a larger meeting or small conference session, CRE recommends a projector rental to clearly convey your message. You will need to consider lighting, line of sight and a few other aesthetic factors for maximum effectiveness.
For a large event you may need CRE’s comprehensive general session rentals package. Besides a projector and screen, you may need a sound system, cordless pointer and other technology (like the audience response system rentals for polling your audience) to ensure success. CRE’s experts can help you with equipment placement, lighting, seating arrangements and so forth.
(2) Layout & Copy
Your slides should all be based on a single “template.” You can find these online for free, design one yourself or modify one of the templates that came with your software.
Don’t overdo your slide template with unnecessary visual “bling.” Your template’s job is to frame your content, not distract from it. A solid, unobtrusive background with contrasting text and your company logo in the corner will probably do it. Use your template consistently, in this presentation and in the future.
Remember this math: 1 slide = 1 point. If you are making two key points at a certain point, then you need two slides. This may be a big change for you, but it is very important.
The title should be 36 points and on one line. Use 24 to 32 points for bullet lines. Keep it simple, too—don’t mix typefaces, colors, point sizes or bullet types.
Limit each slide to a maximum of six bullets, preferably fewer, and use a single line of copy per bullet. Eschew sub-bullets entirely, if possible.
Animation, whether Flash or something else, can be a nice touch, but “less is more” applies here in spades. Animation is cool, but often distracting, even irritating.
Mix up the graphics. Use a chart, then for the next graphic use an illustration, then a photo and so on. The audience needs a break from repetitive slides of bulleted text.
Keep your copywriting short, informative and free of “presentation clichés”. Avoid being verbose or repetitive. You want to seem knowledgeable and focused, not longwinded and vague.
Bullets are better as phrases than complete sentences (no matter what’s underlined in green by MS-Word’s grammar checker). Omit final periods and unnecessary words. Example: “We need to forecast the most likely wholesale and retail prices in the future” becomes “Forecast likely wholesale/retail prices.”
(3) In the Spotlight
You will do better if you know your audience. If you don’t, then you need to know something about them. The amount of technical detail you’d give to engineers would certainly exceed what you would share with marketing managers.
A first-rate cordless presenter, like the Logitech model that CRE rents, does triple duty as a cordless optical mouse, a laser pointer for accentuating key points and an LCD timer that vibrates at five and two minutes remaining.
Do not read the slide copy to the audience. This point cannot be stressed enough. Include the key word(s) of the topic as you speak to the slide’s point. Reading the slides shows that you are unprepared, lacking in confidence or not the expert the audience expected.
Presentations can be stressful, awkward and scary—and that’s just for the audience! Seriously, presenters face myriad challenges. CRE’s Account Executives have the expertise to navigate these choppy waters so you can make all the right moves. Fill out the CRE web form for a one-click quote, call us toll-free at (877) 266-7725 or send an e-mail for a response within 4 hours.
Part 1 covered Overview, Brightness, Contrast, Color, LCD or DLP and Portability, while Part 2 concludes with Connectivity, Resolution, HD Issues and Image Aspect Ratios.
Video Projector Connectivity
Although most consumer electronics eventually settle on a “standard” set of inputs and outputs, the confusion in marketing focus between “business” projectors and “home theater” projectors has slowed that process in this segment. It really is important that you understand what I/O your video projector has, otherwise you will find it difficult or impossible to connect. For business use, you will normally connect with a PC or laptop, which CRE rents for just that purpose (among a thousand others). Business users occasionally need to connect a DVD player, too, while a home theater unit needs to be ready for DVD, an iPod or similar “media player,” an HDTV set-top box or a satellite feed.
Connectivity requirements between the two video projector categories we are discussing do, in fact, vary. Most, but not all, business and “prosumer” models support composite, component, S-video and VGA connectivity. (The Glossary of CRE’s home-site article on “A/V Basics” will explain these to you clearly.) Home theater projectors will typically include DVI or HDMI ports, as well, the latter of which is also beginning to show up on business models. In fact, HDMI is the “connection of the future” for audio/video gear.
A new connection type, and most appropriate for business users, is the M1 (or EVC, or P&D) standard, most commonly called M1 or M1-DA. This connector is similar to DVI, which is a digital single or dual link (or analog in the case of DVI-I). The M1 adds USB or FireWire connectivity, which allows you to send commands through the projector’s remote control to your PC. This gives you total control over your presentation—scrolling through PowerPoint presentations, pausing movie streams and so forth.
Best practice? Simple. Always ensure that the projector has the appropriate inputs for your intended use.
Projector Resolutions: SVGA, XGA and Two Kinds of “Widescreen”
Unless qualified beforehand, the term “resolution” means “native resolution” (also called “optical,” “fixed” or “built-in”) and measures the amount of picture detail that the projector supports without having to compress (down-sample) the number of pixels in the video. Compression inevitably degrades the picture quality because it actually “throws out” content.
Resolution is the most important attribute setting business models apart from home theater projectors. Frankly, it is not the amount of pixels but rather their arrangement when projected on a screen like the Fast Fold Da-Lite available from CRE. The height and width of the arranged pixels on the screen gives you both the resolution and the “aspect ratio” of your projected image. For portable projectors the highest resolution available is SXGA (1280×1024), and these units continue to be rather expensive. The most common projector resolutions available in the 4:3 aspect ratio (“old style” TV screens) are SVGA (800×600 pixels) and XGA (1024×768 pixels), although the new-ish widescreen versions (16:9 aspect ratio) of SVGA and XGA formats are becoming more widespread. Widescreen SVGA is known as WVGA, with an 854×480 pixel image, while widescreen XGA is called WXGA and has 1280×720 pixels.
SVGA and XGA projectors are better suited to business presentations, and the higher resolution XGA models are better able to show the fine detail in the content. In most circumstances, especially with text-heavy images, a lower-lumen SVGA projector will do a good job, but an XGA projector is best for presentations that have graphics, software demos or full web pages. This resolution is also a better match for a greater number of laptop computer displays. With the advent of widescreen laptops, though, the widescreen projector formats are also beginning to proliferate, as are more powerful high-lumen models.
If you want the biggest picture possible in your home theater, then get the highest resolution you can afford. You are far less likely to suffer pixelation issues this way. Of course, one can always move farther from the screen to address pixelation, but in a home theater the idea is to move in close for a wider viewing angle and a more immersive theater experience.
There is a great deal of exciting home theater R&D going on today at projector manufacturers. It is not widely publicized, but some of that energy is also going into the development of single units that can handle both business and home theater demands. The industry is also working diligently to bring HD capabilities to projectors—simply, straightforwardly and cost-effectively. Watch for an upcoming blog entitled, “How Projectors Handle HD Content.” After that, and considering the fact you just worked through a college-level course in the last two blogs, you can consider yourself on your way to becoming a true projector expert. Even if you aren’t, you can always contact one of CRE’s projector experts to clear up the confusion for you. At CRE, we don’t charge people to answer questions—never have, never will.
Part 1 includes Overview, Brightness, Contrast, Color, LCD or DLP and Portability, while Part 2 will include Connectivity, Resolution, HD Issues and Image Aspect Ratios.
The popularity of video projectors such as CRE rents needs no explanation, as it is a simple matter of decreasing price and increasing image size. Compared to other big screens—like the plasma screens that CRE also supplies to numerous businesses—a square inch of image real estate is a bargain. Connect a Blu-ray DVD player for the most “movie theater-like” experience in home theater. Hooking up a different high-definition (HD) source, like a cable box or satellite dish, gets you a mammoth 100-inch HDTV for 50-inch-plasma money.
Denizens of corporate boardrooms have already seen enough to know that the new digital multimedia projectors have saved business presentations from the slideshow graveyard. That these new models deliver massive, bright, color-saturated images even in normal room lighting conditions is a dream come true for veterans of the “overhead projector” days. Still, home theater and business projectors have to meet entirely different expectations and work in markedly different environments. Some of the “specs” of home and business models are close if not precisely equal, while others differ dramatically. Let’s take a look.
Brightness as measured in lumens indicates the level of light produced by a projector. Since many presentations take place in conference rooms with standard office illumination, rather than the reduced ambient light of a (home) theater’s “semi-darkness,” brightness is more important for business use. The projected image will look washed out if it is not bright enough.
In small rooms with normal daytime ambient light, a brightness level of 1000 to 2000 lumens is typically sufficient. For safety’s sake, factor into your projector brightness requirement the projected screen size and ambient light level. In home theaters you can pretty much forget all this, as high brightness levels are not necessary. In fact, some home theater projectors allow users to dim the light source when watching in a darkened room, as it helps to produce richer blacks and more saturated colors.
A high contrast ratio of 5000:1 sounds very impressive until you watch a minimal amount of ambient light make the image appear as if it were 500:1 instead. Although a certain minimum amount of contrast is required for the human eye to perceive brightness, high contrast is not an important factor in business use—and is only needed in the home theater if you will completely darken the room during viewing.
The fact is that the eye cannot perceive much more than a 400:1 contrast ratio unless the viewing environment is completely darkened. In addition, the eye’s “contrast sensitivity scale” means that, say, a 1000:1 ratio is not perceived as being 2.5 times “better” or “clearer” than 400:1. You should only pay more for a high contrast ratio in your home projector, and only then when viewing will be done under tightly controlled lighting conditions.
Color and Smooth Video Playback
These attributes are more important to the home viewer. Color accuracy is extremely important for natural skin tones and for achieving “the film look,” characteristics important when viewing movies and TV shows and less so when reading pie charts and graphs.
A projector’s ability to display smooth video playback without “motion artifacts,” in fast-action sports and movie scenes, is certainly important to home theater viewers. Any modern projector is going to do a decent job, at any rate, so spending extra money on these features in a business projector is not necessary.
LCD or DLP
Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) or Digital Light Processing (DLP)—which shall it be? A serious, no-nonsense answer would be, “It depends.” Frankly, both technologies can perform well in both environments, and technological advances have closed the gap that once existed between them. LCD projectors are still the first choice for buyers of business projectors due to their brightness edge over DLP units.
DLP, of course, remains the favorite technology with home theater users due to its “blacker blacks” and “smoother” looking projected images. These characteristics help DLP projectors more nearly approximate the movie theater experience.
Now this is a major consideration when it comes to business projectors. “Small and light” is good, particularly for people who travel to make presentations. Many business projectors weigh but a few pounds and come with carrying cases that hold cables and a cordless presenter, too. In this “lightweight travel” category of multimedia projectors, models typically have integrated speakers, and various option features.
Portability is a complete “non-issue” to the home theater enthusiast. At home, the projector might even be semi-permanently installed into the ceiling, wall or custom cabinetry. The typical home theater projector is never removed from the home—until it’s replaced with a new model, that is.
Watch for Part 2 of this article, appearing on July 16, 2009, which will cover Connectivity, Resolution, HD Issues and Image Aspect Ratios.