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  Infocus LP350 10/10. Date Posted 27/08/2002.

When most people think of projectors, they either think of film projectors, like those in the cinema, or CRT projectors. CRT projectors create a brilliant picture, by using three bulbs, one for red light, green light and the other for blue light. The main problem with CRT projectors is that they are not only expensive but very heavy and therefore are impractical for portable use.

LCD projectors were until recently the only alternative to CRT projectors. They were alot cheaper, using only a single bulb and lighter. However, the quality difference between an average CRT projector and a LCD projector was markable. The Infocus LP350 uses new technology developed by Texas Instruments, DLP. In many cinemas, when digital films are projected (like Toy Story) DLP projectors are being used (albeit ones rather more expensive than the LP350). The first thing that strikes you about the LP350 is how small it is in comparison to a CRT projector - I thought the courier had made a mistake when he delivered a parcel so small, I thought could not possibly be a projector. The new LP130, is even smaller! At three and half thousand pounds the LP350 is not cheap when compared to a television but by projector standards it is mid-range and is actually quite good value. You also have to take into account the cost of the bulb, which is several hundred pounds. The bulb lasts for 2000 hours, and the projector has a "hour usage" function which lets you know exactly how long you've been using the projector. It also warns you after 2000 hours to change the bulb. At 2050 hours it will stop working, until the bulb is changed.

The Infocus LP350 is easy to set up. All you need is a large wall, a video source and some way for closing off the light from the outdoors. Then you need to focus it and adjust the zoom for the picture to fit the wall. It has several inputs, composite video, S-Video, audio-in (to use its inbuilt speaker, which is no substitute for a speaker system), analog computer graphics input and DVI input (which is a digital input which can be connected to many newer graphics cards and can accept HDTV input). For American users HDTV is now a reality so this is perfect for you! This digital input means that this is basically a future proof machine.

The S-Video input is the best to use for video (since it offers better quality than the composite input). It would have been nice to have several S-Video inputs, to connect several video sources at once. As it is you'll need to connect your DVD and Sat. box to a video and then connect it to the projector. The video can also act as a tuner to watch television through. Provided you have a good quality video recorder with its own S-Video inputs, the quality difference between connecting a DVD direct to the projector or through the video is virtually identical. The picture quality is outstanding and the brightness (1300 lumens) is more than enough for nearly all users. In fact the quality is almost too good, because it shows up all the imperfections of your source, but not so much that you are distracted by it. It also has a sharpness setting if you wish to blur the image slightly. Watching digital sources like DVD and digital sat, it is perfect, even when the picture is several feet across, so if you buy this, it is well worth upgrading to a digital sat, DVD and D-VHS recorder! Strangely when watching VHS tape, the picture is as good as an ordinary analogue signal, since the lower quality of the VHS tape, seems to smooth out the imperfections - however, it is no way as good as digital. It can also handle computer sources to. The picture through the analog computer input is outstanding and is rock steady (ideal for presentations through Powerpoint), which suggests the DVI input would have been even better. Unfortunately I was unable to test the DVI input, because I did not have the cable. You can also control the computer mouse, through the Infocus remote control, which would be ideal for presentations.

The menu system which controls the settings, such as brightness is very easy to use. It can be accessed either through the buttons directly on the projector or through the remote. It also gives you several size options for the picture, which can change the pictures dimensions to widescreen, native or standard etc. The zoom on the lens can enlarge the picture further. I found that I had to change these settings, whenever I changed sources. Over the few weeks that I had the projector, it proved to be reliable, it took about two minutes to reach full brightness, and never cut out or slightly went out of sync. In order to preserve the bulb life, the LP350 should be put in standby mode for ten minutes, for the bulb to cool, before being switched off. The fan is noisy, but is very effective in cooling the projector. It must be noted that the LP350 needs at least 60 cm clearence between it and the wall for the fan to function effectively.

Put simply, this projector is great. It is small enough to be stowed away when not in use, and you have the added bonus of being able to use it for work (presentations). Many other projectors struggle to handle data and video effectively. This projector handles both equally as well.