- Review Price: £520.00
Digital projectors, once the sole preserve of boardrooms and rich playboys’ home cinema rooms, have hit the mainstream. Like flat panel monitors a few years back, prices have been coming down steadily across the board and we have now reached the point at which ordinary people with ordinary bank balances can afford to buy one. If you want hard evidence you only have to take a look at InFocus’ X2 projector. It may hail from one of the biggest names in projector manufacture around, but one of these machines will set you back a mere £520 including the VAT. That’s about as cheap as digital projectors get right now – it’s cheaper than a lot of larger wide screen TVs and much less costly than a big gas plasma screen.
But is it any good? Well, perhaps understandably, the X2 is hardly what you’d call top of the range. In fact there’s only one model lower than it in InFocus’ range of digital projectors. (No prizes for guessing the name of the bottom end projector). It doesn’t look anything special when you take it out of the box either. It’s a pretty chunky beast – about the size of a shoebox but an inch or two deeper. And it weighs a fair bit too at just over 3kg. Not likely to be the next big thing in travelling presentation chic then, and a bit of a monster next to InFocus’ tiny LP120 which weighs in at a svelte 0.9kg.
Neither is the specification anything to write home about. The brightness rating at 1600 lumens is pretty much the base level these days as is the resolution. At 800 x 600 the resolution achieved by the 0.55in DLP chip is lower than average and means that irritatingly, if you’re going to use it to present with, you’ll probably have to choke down your screen resolution every time you connect.
A quick survey of connections reveals a pretty bog standard array. You get a DVI port (the projector comes supplied with a DVI to VGA conversion cable), an S-Video input, a VGA pass-through, composite video out, plus phono stereo input and a 3.5mm audio output socket. Component video is available via the DVI port but you have to buy an extra cable for that, which will set you back £22 (inc VAT).
Unusually there’s also a 12 volt DC power output available. This can be used to supply power to your screen if you have one that is controlled electronically. Additionally the DVI port can be used to connect Infocus’ 802.11b wireless module – the LiteShow – which enables you to project presentations from a suitably equipped laptop without having to plug directly into the X2. With such a low standard price tag you might expect performance compromises and to a certain extent these expectations are met. The first thing we noticed was that X2 is a tad noisy, and watching video is best done in ‘whisper’ mode which knocks the brightness level down to 1100 ANSI lumens. Set it up in a room with plenty of ambient natural light in this mode and you’ll need to draw some curtains if you don’t want to end up with a squint.
The quality using the standard composite and S-Video inputs isn’t wonderful either – you’ll have to buy the component video to DVI cable to improve the experience. But then the X2 isn’t really targeted at the home video market and those after the very best in cinema performance probably won’t be putting a projector without a DCDi processor on their shortlist anyway.
A bigger problem for the X2 is that achieving a good level of focus across the whole screen at once proved tricky, even at relatively small screen sizes. Data presentations on the X2 appear both bright and crisp, but getting a pin sharp image in one portion of the screen invariably meant having to leave another region ever so slightly blurry. The best compromise we found was to leave the top left corner a bit fuzzy with around 90 per cent of the rest of the screen well focused.
On the positive side, there was very little evidence of the rainbow effect seen with many DLP projectors, (as your eyes move across a large screen area, it’s sometimes possible to see a momentary flash of red, green and/or blue) which can be awfully distracting when watching video footage. This is a major bonus. Lamp life is also impressively long at a massive 4000 hours, so it’ll be a fair old while before you have to dig into your wallet for a replacement (£257 inc VAT). And it’s a projector that’s extremely easy to set up and use, with a readable, simple menu system and all functions accessible from the array of buttons on top of the machine.
There’s no doubt that the X2 is a bargain buy at just less than £520, but with competition beginning to hot up at this sort of price point it’s not the only cheap projector around. It’s also a shame that InFocus hasn’t seen fit to supply a component video adapter with the X2 because at these prices, however hard InFocus attempts to market it at businesses, home users are always going to be interested.
And therein lies the rub. The X2’s big problem is that there are other projectors that offer the same or better specification for around the same price. Acer’s PD116 for instance is an 1800 ANSI lumens projector that is both quieter and comes supplied with the adapter cable for component video connection. Toshiba’s TDP-S25 is likewise better specified with an 1800 ANSI lumens brightness rating.
The X2 is certainly worth a look for businesses looking for a cheap alternative to a plasma screen for small to medium-sized meeting rooms, or home users after that home cinema experience on a budget, especially considering the lack of rainbow effect. Its focus niggles and lack of component video input as standard, however, means we’d have to recommend checking out a few more alternatives before make your decision.
Score in detail
Image Quality 6