Office projectors are getting smaller and more powerful. Here's what to look for, what's essential, what's nice to have, and what...
The Latest in Conference Room Projector Technology
Technology maturation has made Portable projectors, weighing from 3 to 8 lbs., have smaller footprints than the typical laptop, and tiny pocket or "pico" projectors can weigh in at under a pound, though they are not as bright as larger projectors.
Other great new projector features include:
- Remote mouse that frees you from the computer
- Wireless technology that allows input without cables
- iPhone-compatible projectors
- Digital lens shift and keystone correction for more projector placement options
- Lamp-free projectors
- Short throw projectors for use in small spaces
Lumens and Resolution
The two most important factors to consider when choosing a new conference room projector are lumens (brightness) and resolution.
The following table matches up lumen ranges with audience size and light conditions:
|Lumens||Room Size in Terms of Number of People Seated|
|<2,500||Small conference rooms in lights-out conditions (low ambient light levels)|
|3,000||Audience size under 100, some ambient light|
|4,500||Audience size 100 to 200, some ambient light|
|6,000||Audience size over 100, normal to bright lighting conditions|
There are three main projector resolutions used by businesses:
- XGA: 1024 x 760: This is for users without widescreen laptops, or those with existing XGA projector / screen setups. This resolution is starting to phase out with better resolution options coming down in price.
- WXGA: 1280 x 800: This is currently the most popular conference room projector resolution, and is used with widescreen laptops.
- HD: 1920 x 1080: These are popular among businesses that emphasize presentations heavy on graphics and video.
It is important to bear in mind that the quality of the PowerPoint or other document makes a big difference in the quality of the image projected. A great projector can't save low-resolution graphics from looking low-res, even when they're enlarged for a big screen.
- HDMI inputs: Today it's a good idea to choose projectors with HDMI inputs, even if you use computers that don't output HD. If you have HDMI inputs, you'll be able to take advantage of HD output as soon as you have computers that will output in HD.
- Right-size lens: Once you know where the projector will be installed, you need to make sure the screen size you want is possible from that distance away. On some high-end projectors, you can change lenses to allow more placement flexibility. However, if your projector is going to remain in a fixed place, just go for one with a lens that will project at the distance you need for the size you want.
- LCD technology: LCD technology is generally favorable due to its superior color accuracy. LCD is also a must-have if your presentations are color sensitive due to color-coded diagrams, or graphic-design centered.
The final must-have "feature" really isn't a feature at all. Do not forget to order a spare bulb for your projector, or you could be forced to scrap an important presentation or wait while someone chases down a spare.
- Security: When considering your conference room projector, you should ensure that your information remains safe. Some projectors today require security passwords before the information can be viewed. In the same vein, projectors with lock systems help with the physical security of the projector. This keeps unauthorized people from leaving with your projector.
- Wireless technology: Wireless technology allows freedom from all wires except the power source and makes projectors easier to install and easier to switch between multiple PC sources. It also allows presenters to be located away from the projector.
Features that May Be Overrated
- Dual lamp redundancy: Some projectors today offer dual lamp redundancy to spare you the embarrassment of finding yourself with a blown bulb and no backup. Always keeping a spare bulb on hand is a less expensive alternative.
- Optical lens shift: Higher-end projectors may have optical lens shift, which lets you stack projectors in order to double the brightness. However, this shouldn't be necessary in a projector that is destined to stay in the same conference room most or all of the time.
- Interactive whiteboards: These project the computer image onto a touch-sensitive panel where you can use a virtual pen to draw, highlight things, and take notes. While great for brainstorming sessions, they may have limited use in businesses where standard presentations are the norm.
- Voting systems: Some projector systems can be outfitted with voting systems. They provide instant feedback and can do running tallies. While these can be fun and useful in some situations, they may be overrated for the standard office conference room.
Photo Credit: Maff Long