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Samsung SP-P400B Portable Projector
For certain environments, projectors have always been favoured over other display technologies (plasma, CRT, LCD) for two reasons. One: their relative cost for the size of screen you get is usually far better, and two: they are portable. Whether in a school, office, or house, it's infinitely easier to move a projector from room to room than a TV. However, while they've always been more portable than TVs, the essential mechanics of a projector has meant they need to be at least a certain size to function effectively.
However, recent developments, in LED technology in particular, have enabled projectors to shrink in size to the point that they're now truly portable. No longer do travelling sales executives have to worry about working out how to use the projector at a client's office; they can now pop their own projector in a bag along with their laptop. Likewise, you no longer have to rely on your friends having a big screen to watch the match, now you can bring your own with you.
Or at least that's the vision being sold by the makers of these new portable projectors. As John proved when he looked at the Optoma Pico PK101, though, there's only so small you can go without performance being compromised too much.
Enter, then, the Samsung SP-P400B. It's not truly pocketable like the PK101, but with dimensions of only 14cm x 14cm x 7cm and weighing only 1Kg, it's plenty small and light enough to take with you in a small rucksack or laptop bag and not end up with a cripplingly sore back as a result. Furthermore, with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels and a set of LEDs that combine to produce 150 lumens, it should be able to put in a decent performance.
First impressions are very positive. The SP-P400B's attractive curved figure and glossy black finish is perfectly complemented by the chromed lens cover, while the mesh sides are an ingenious solution to maintaining maximum airflow without compromising the overall look.
There's further good news thanks to the set of touch-sensitive buttons that adorn the top. They're not backlit but they're embossed and the layout is simple enough to feel your way around in a darkened room.
One problem we did notice was the lens cover, which was rather too easy to flick open. Normally this wouldn't be a problem but considering that the SP-P400B is likely to find itself stuffed in a bag while on the move, some more secure protection for the lens would seem a must.
Connectivity is also another poor area as video inputs consist only of VGA and composite. Despite its business orientation, not being HD, and it only having two puny 1W speakers, the single cable easiness of HDMI would have been a very welcome addition. Especially as most standalone AV equipment won't have a VGA output so you'll be left using composite, which no-one should have to do. There is at least a headphone jack for quiet personal viewing.
Setup is also another area where the SP-P400B falls down. With no optical zoom, the only way to increase or decrease the image size is by shifting the projector back or forth. In an office environment this probably isn't a huge problem but if you're setting it up to watch a film at a friend's house you may be struggling to find somewhere to put the SP-P400B (without resorting to precarious box-based balancing acts) to get the right image size, especially as it's quite long-throw. There is at least a focus wheel on the side to ensure that your images are sharp, no matter how large or small they are.