Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Projector thoughts from PC Magazine

Today PC Magazine published an article reviewing some projectors and started with a review of what factors they consider important for selecting a projector. The author, M. David Stone, suggests that many people don't realize that some of what they consider important criteria are actually not (read the article here,1895,2071665,00.asp ). I have to disagree with him on three of his assertions. First, he says that for most business presentations an SVGA (800 x 600) resolution projector is just fine. I beg to differ. If all you are displaying is text, that may be OK, but today's top presenters are using visuals to support their message which require an XGA resolution projector as the minimum acceptable. I wonder if he has been sitting through too many boring text based presentations and thinks mistakenly that text is what top presenters use. Second, he suggests that if you have a wide screen laptop that you should consider getting a projector that is wide screen. I don't see the need. Wide screen projectors are so much more expensive and if you are going to be in situations where a room does not have a wide screen projector, you need to be prepared to present with a regular ratio projector. I own a wide screen laptop and run it in regular XGA mode so that what I see on my screen is exactly what the projector will see. Third, he says that when buying a projector, brighter is not always better. He claims that staring at a bright image for too long is hard on the eyes. Only true if that image is mostly white. That's why I suggest presenters not use a white background so that they don't tire the eyes of the audience. When you are selecting a projector, he says you need to consider what is myth and what is not. I agree. Don't necessarily believe all you read in the press. Test the ideas against what the real world tells us is true for top presenters like yourself.


Blogger AlfredT said...

I have to say that I agree with Stone on all three counts, at least to the extent that what he says makes sense as a judgement call, rather than one of you being right and one being wrong.

On the issue of resolution, XGA is far above the 480p res that you get with a DVD player over a componant video connection, and that's a fairly high quality image for graphics or even photorealistic images. In fact, it's half way to 720p resolution, which is HD. Granted XGA is a little above 720p, but given that most people without a trained eye -- my wife for example, -- think 480p on a FIOS connection looks just fine, and can't see any reason to go to the HD 1080i channel instead, I'd have to agree that SVGA is more than acceptable for most visuals, unless you have fine detail, as with text, or -- as Stone suggests -- with detailed graphics like CAD-CAM drawings.

On the issue of getting a wide screen projector to match your wide screen laptop, the reason you want to match the two is to have the same aspect ratio on both. If you run your laptop at in reqular XGA mode, many laptops will screw with the aspect ratio, so circles turn into elipses. IN that case, you are NOT seeing the same thing on the laptop that you will see on an XGA projector.

Alternatively, if your laptop lets you ignore the extra pixels, rather than stretching out the image, you're not using your laptop as a widescreen laptop, which is equivalent to not having a widescreen laptop. Besides: what Stone says is that you should *consider* getting a widescreen projector -- not that it's the only choice.

On the issue of brightness, you're taking his quote out of context. Yes, he says is that brighter isn't always better, which is aboslutely true. That's why home theater projectors are generally in the range of about 1000 lumens -- because if you watch movies in a dark room at a typical home theater screen size, you don't want too bright an image. (You don't have to believe me, go check it out at one of the projector specialty sites, like Projector Central). But that's not all he says.

Stone also says, "In general, the more ambient light you have to worry about, and the larger the image, the brighter the projector needs to be." He goes on to say that as a result, for portable projectors that you're going to use with bright ambient light "brighter generally is better." And his main point is, that if you're setting up a permanent installation, you need to match the projector to the screen (which can increase the apparant brightness) and to the ambient light in the room. You can find an useful, and informed, discussion about choosing the right brightnes here:

9:51 AM  

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