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Look Ma, No Wires

Panasonic projector does away with VGA cables, adds wireless and four-way capabilities By Charlie White

Panasonic PT-LB10NTU projectorWouldnt it be great if you could eliminate the VGA cables that are a fact of life when giving presentations using a notebook computer and a projector? If youre having a round-robin presentation where multiple presenters each have a laptop, theres always that awkward pause when its time to change presenters, while the next computer is plugged into the projector. Now theres the Panasonic PT-LB10NTU ($1880 street), a projector that receives signals from up to four laptops at the same time, via everyday wireless 802.11b network cards. The technology works well, but isnt for everybody.

Before we play with the wireless technology that makes this projector unique, first lets evaluate its form factor and performance as an LCD projector. Its an XGA (1024x768) unit, with a pleasingly small form factor its scarcely larger than a typical notebook computer, and at 4.9 lb., about the same weight. I found its deeply saturated colors, a hallmark of LCD projectors versus that other projector technology, DLP, to be rich and pleasing to the eye. Its contrast ratio, while not the highest Ive seen at slightly less than the Panasonic-quoted ?up to 500:1, was still contrasty enough to be in the acceptable range. Its brightness was also in the midrange, where even though it wasnt as bright as the 2000 ANSI Lumens quoted by Panasonic, it was still bright enough to see the screen in a dimly-lit room. According to our precision light metering equipment here at our Midwest Test Facility theater, the brightest point of the screen, using our standard 60-inch diagonal image size and the lens zoomed all the way out, measured 1523 Lumens. The screen appeared to the eye to be evenly distributed with the projectors light, but our light meter told us otherwise. The upper left of the screen, at 1092 Lumens, was decidedly dimmer than the rest, with the top right a bit brighter at 1209 Lumens. Even so, the picture still looked crispy, sharp and evenly lit enough to make its unevenness a non-factor. As a double check, I looked at the gray slide we use to check for hot spots, and saw none. As is the case with all LCD projectors, we all saw the typical ?screen door effect, where if you look closely enough, youll see a delicate latticework effect. I didnt find this to be a limiting factor either, and although it was slightly noticeable, it still didnt make the picture unwatchable. HDTV looked great on this projector, as did the DVDs we watched on it.  Since the projectors native resolution is 1024x768 and operates in progressive scan, its not quite showing you native 720p HDTV, but its close enough to knock at least your shoes off, if not your socks. 

There are other well-designed aspects of this projector that were impressive as well, such as its leveling feet on the front, lens-side of the projector. I liked the way you could push both these buttons as you level the front of the projector and then when you let go, it stays there. This is a much better system than the annoying screw-in feet found on most projectors. Another unusual feature is its ability to keep the fan running even if you unplug the thing. This is an excellent feature, since a projector lamp needs to be properly cooled down or else you might have to pay over $300 for a new one. No, a costly projector lamp is no ordinary light bulb, and Panasonic has installed electricity-holding capacitors to safeguard your lamp investment for you even if you dont. The projector also turns on unusually quickly, leaping to life within ten seconds where youre seeing usable video, with it fully warmed up in about 25 seconds. I also like its tiny remote, about the size of a Fig Newton, which is powerful enough to control the projector and many of its functions even when youre not pointing the remote directly at it. I also found its menu system easy to use, and the remote had its navigation buttons in logical places.

A feature thats becoming more commonplace in most projectors is automatic keystone correction, and this Panasonic unit keeps the record perfect for all the projectors weve tested none of their ?auto adjust facilities have thus far been able to do anything truly useful. Never have I seen an auto-keystone adjustment that didnt need more tweaking. And this units manual keystone adjustment left something to be desired as well, with only a vertical adjustment available and no way to tweak the corners, as is possible with most other projectors in this price range. Even so, its no big deal to adjust the keystone on this unit, with it being the first item on the menu, and helping matters greatly is its aforementioned easy-adjust leveling feet.  

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Related Keywords:VGA cables, presentations, notebook computer, projector, laptop, Panasonic PT-LB10NTU, wireless 802.11b, network cards


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