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Mitsubishi XL1U

Portable LCD projector By Dave Nagel
Of the fringe benefits of working as a presenter, we'd all have to agree that taking home the digital projector for the weekend has to be the best. Sure, the travel can be nice (for some). Meeting new people is fine, and having access to the company's notebook computer can have its advantages. But nothing quite gets the butterflies fluttering as getting a hold of an exceptional piece of display technology and watching your favorite movie in its full theatrical glory. Oh yeah, you can get some work done with these things too.

Recently I had the chance to take home (and get some work done with) the XL1U portable LCD projector from Mitsubishi. I have a top-notch ultraportable of my own, but it's always nice to experience the latest and greatest from other manufacturers. Usually I walk away from the experience feeling strongly that my own purchase decision was the right one and that nobody's going to match the capabilities of my unit in its price range. But Mitsubishi threw me for a loop on this one.

At about $2,800, the XL1U offers a level of performance that any manufacturer would have difficulty competing with. It offers 1,000 ANSI lumens of brightness, which I found to be virtually indistinguishable from the 1,200 ANSI lumens of my own projector. The picture was even and bright at a variety of throw distances, all the way up to a 13-foot diagonal image (the maximum size of my matte-finish screen). The image was crisp and clean, even with a standard television signal or a highly compressed MPEG signal through the S-video port. Through the RGB port, the image was about as flawless as you can get at a 1,024 x 768 (XGA) native resolution. (The unit will also handle 1,280 x 1,024 compressed.) It also includes sRGB color profile support.

And then there was component video. I'm guessing that few of you realize that an awful lot of projectors these days can take a component signal through the VGA port. This would explain why it's impossible to find a component to mini D-sub interconnect cable at retail outlets, even ones specializing in home theater. However, the cables are available, which means that through the magic of a modern DVD player, you can watch component video on your digital projector with progressive scan (assuming your player supports progressive scan).

I mentioned that it's impossible to find the right interconnect cable at a retail outlet for this. In my case, making one was simple. I simply called up my friend Paulo, who came over and soldered together the parts I bought at Radio Shack for about $20 to adapt a professional-level BNC cable to component/mini D-sub 15. If you don't have the parts or know-how (or friends) to do this, your other option is to pick up the cable from Mitsubishi for the extremely modest price of $45. If you do have the parts, the Mitsubishi manual provides a diagram from proper connections.

Why do I bring this up? Well, obviously component is going to provide you with a higher-quality image. But more than this, with progressive scan, the picture is going to be nearly pristine right out of the box. In fact, with a component signal (YCrCb, though it accepts others) calibration took about a minute. That is, about 10 seconds to load up a calibration DVD, 10 seconds for the actual process of calibration and another 40 seconds staring at the screen and wondering how the picture could be so accurate with just a tiny adjustment (to the contrast, in my case). After all, it is an LCD. And, let's face it, LCDs don't always provide the most accurate color.

In either S-video or component, tonality was excellent. Gradations appeared smooth, and there were no color blotches, even with tricky images involving human faces in dimly lit scenes and the like.

Overall image quality--color, brightness, contrast, etc.--are easily the most important considerations for purchasing a projector. And in this respect, the XL1U excels. It also excels in a couple other areas as well, including quiet operation, even in full-power lamp mode, and easy, accessible menus. The remote included with the unit is a trigger-style device with a laser pointer. I found the XL1U's infrared port to be sensitive and accurate, even when bouncing it 20 feet to the screen and 20 feet back to the sensor.

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