By Richard Jantz Portable projector buyers have two new vendors vying for their business--or at least, vendors new to the projection business: PC giants Dell and Hewlett-Packard. We looked at early shipping versions of units from each company and found them to be worthy, attractively priced entries.
The Dell 3100MP ("MP" is for Microportable Projector) and HP's Digital Projector Xb31 are both made by the same company--Coretronic, a veteran projector maker that also builds models for Compaq and Optoma. The units both weigh about 3.5 pounds, and both use Texas Instruments' small but efficient Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology.
HP BURNS BRIGHTER. The more expensive HP boasts a brighter, longer-lasting lamp (see chart on next page) and a higher contrast ratio than most DLP portable projectors, which means it can produce deeper blacks and richer, fuller colors. And while both models can easily project an image about 35 feet, making them suitable for small to medium-size group presentations, the HP Xb31 can handle a slightly bigger room.
Both projectors come with carrying cases and wireless remote controls. You can connect to a VCR, a DVD player, an HDTV receiver, or a TV tuner. Both have built-in 2-watt speakers, support wide-screen format, and are relatively quiet (38 dBA for the Dell and 35 dBA for the HP).
These projectors are good deals, too. They're as much as a couple of thousand dollars less than some competitors--probably in part because Dell and HP have the clout to command volume pricing for components. Dell customers also benefit from the company's direct-sales model, which bypasses the reseller normally involved in projector sales.
In my tests, each projector delivered crisp and colorful PowerPoint presentations, digital photographs, and TV shows at a distance of 15 feet in a dimly lit room. But overall, the HP projector displayed better color saturation (for example, warmer reds, darker blacks, and more-accurate skin tones) and a wider variety of tonal information than the Dell.
Both projectors are ideal for traveling presenters, and both work as home-theater units (though not as well as more-expensive projectors designed expressly for that purpose, such as the InFocus LS-110). The HP's better image quality and brightness justifies its $1200 premium over the Dell. From the July 2002 issue of PC World magazine