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  Mitsubishi X80U 10/10. Date Posted 27/08/2002.

This Mitsubishi X80U projector comes from the huge Japanese corporation who make everything from cars to televisions. At 3.5 kg, this is almost certainly aimed at the portable projector market and is exactly the same size as the Infocus LP350. Like most other projectors of this price (around three thousand pounds depending on where you buy it), it employs LCD technology, rather than CRT technology (or the newer DLP system) to produce its picture. Although LCD is currently in battle with DLP (the new Texas Instruments developed projector system), there are still far more LCD projectors around than DLP ones.

The projector has a native resolution of 1024x768. The bulb has a 2000 hour life, like most of its competitors. and it produces a huge 1500 lumens, more than nearly all similarly priced projectors. Consequently this projector is very bright. Even in the daytime, it can cope with a lot of ambient light, without ruining the picture. Certainly on most cloudly days I could use this projector without closing any curtains, on the projector's maximum brightness setting. At night time however, the picture proved to be very vivid on the lower brightness settings. Even when projecting on a wall, it was reasonably bright. Changing the brightness, contrast and other settings is very easy to do through the menu system. The menu bar only occupies the top corner of the screen, so it does not occupy a large area of the screen. At the side of the unit are the various ports used to connect the X80U to its sources. It accepts S-Video, composite and computer video signals. In addition there is a USB and serial port to connect to your computer. You can then control your computer's mouse through the X80U remote. The remote also has a laser pointer, ideal if you plan to use this projector to make presenations. However, there is no DVI input, for digital computer graphics cards or HDTV. This DVI input is of little use in Europe, but in the USA, where HDTV is taking off this omission may put off potential buyers. However, it should still be possible to connect an HDTV decoder via S-Video.

I tested the X80U by connecting it through the S-Video port to a high end Panasonic VCR, which was in turn connected to a Sky Digital box, a Hotbird Digital box and a DVD player. When viewing digital TV, the quality of the X80U was brilliant, not quite as good as my Bang-Olufsen television, but certainly far better than many other projectors. DVD pictures were even better. Analogue television signals were also accurately reproduced, but were obviously not as good quality as the digital sources. In general the picture was slightly sharper and more TV-like (and a touch more pixelated when viewed close up) than the Infocus LP350, which produced a more film-like smoother picture. When sitting at least one metre away though, there was no noticeable pixelation. There was also no "chicken wire" effect, which has always plagued LCD projectors, even when the picture was made two metres across. The "chicken wire" effects occurs when the spaces between the LCD's pixel are large. The colour reproduction, when compared to the B&O TV, was also quite impressive, although it did need a bit of configuration through the menu to try and optimise the colours correctly. The projector is cooled by a large (and noisy) fan at the side of the machine. It is better to have a fan at the side of a machine rather than the rear, since you can place it closer to a wall, without closing off the fan's ventilation. Like all projectors you have to be it into standby for several minutes before turning off mains power, to give the fan time to cool down the bulb.

If you want a very bright projector for a reasonable price then the Mitsubishi is worth a look. At £3000, it may seem expensive, but compare this to many large screen television which cost about the same and produce a considerably duller picture. In addition I found that the Mitsubishi could produce a much a larger picture than the Infocus, when the distance between the screen and the projector was the same. It is more expensive than its chief rival, the Infocus LP350, but you do get an extra 300 lumens, and as a result a you also have a slightly more vivid picture. At the end of the day, it will come down to personal preference which projector you choose, since both are (virtually) faultless.