InFocus LP340 projector

As technology grows more powerful, it also becomes more affordable. While Moore’s Law usually refers to processors, InFocus Corp.’s LP340 projector shows that the theorem applies equally to data projectors.

The LP340’s street price of $5,101.51 puts it in the entry-level category for data projectors. Yet its overall performance is roughly comparable to projectors that sold for $11,000 a mere 18 months ago, such as Toshiba’s TY-G7U, which we reviewed in May 1999. In fact, the LP340, which uses Texas Instruments’ Digital Light Processing technology, is one of the best overall values we’ve seen in a long time–both for a data projector and a home theater projector. InFocus’s other projectors are primarily aimed at the corporate/professional presentation market, but the LP340 also offers good video performance at a price approaching consumer levels.

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At 1300 ANSI lumens, the LP340 is easily the brightest projector in its price range. With 1000 to 1100 ANSI lumens a common brightness level for projectors selling for $10000 or more, that’s a huge plus for the LP340. Although significantly bulkier and heavier than products like InFocus’s sub-5-pound LP335, the LP340’s 6.7-pound weight keeps it portable enough for you to easily take it on road trips or from room to room. Its 2000-hour estimated lamp life is standard for projectors in its class.

The LP340 has a native resolution of 800-by-600 (SVGA), but will scale up to XGA (1024 by 768) and down to VGA (640 by 480). When we had it project Netscape 4.75 and Internet Explorer 5.5 browser windows and Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files from a Fujitsu S series notebook, an IBM ThinkPad 390 notebook, and a Compaq Presario 5868 desktop system, we found the scaling acceptable, though we’ve seen better. While we found most of the text readable, we also saw noticeable incomplete characters in the VGA and XGA modes. For most presentations, though, users should find the image quality more than adequate for the job, especially at the LP340’s native SVGA resolution.

Yet the LP340 really shines at video reproduction. We tested composite video via TiVo, consisting of both a “live” (cached) broadcast and programming recorded at the Medium quality level from a Hughes DirecTV satellite receiver. With both, the color accuracy, brightness, and contrast of the LP340’s composite video display were all very good. The image was a bit softer than that received from an S-Video source, but that’s to be expected since composite video never looks as good as S-Video. Still, only occasionally did we see the horizontal scan lines you see on televisions and on CRT-based rear-projection big screens; we saw them only in scenes with lots of movement. Although we saw some color banding (the display of solid blocks of color), most of the time it was barely visible.

S-Video images from a Pioneer DVL-919 LaserDisc/DVD player were bright, sharp, and a joy to behold. But what really took the cake was how well the projector handled High-Definition TV feeds. While we did notice some of the same horizontal scan-line artifacts present in the composite video mode, overall we found the brightness, detail, and overall rendering of HDTV programming to be in the same ballpark as native XGA projectors selling for $4000 more, which we consider exceptional for projectors in this price range.

Like InFocus’s other HDTV-compatible projectors, the LP340 senses a Digital TV signal and automatically shifts into the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio that’s the standard for HDTV sets. The LP340 uses the same remote control and menu system as the rest of the InFocus line, duplicating the functionality, though not the layout, of the controls on top of the projector. (The remote also doubles as a Universal Serial Bus mouse.) The built-in speaker provides AM radio-quality monophonic sound, pretty standard for projectors in this class.

As entry-level projectors go, the LP340 offers a lot of bang for the buck. While not featherweight, it is light and small enough for you to easily move around, and it does an excellent job of rendering text and graphics in the SVGA resolution that many notebooks use by default. Plus, you’d be hard-pressed to find another projector in this price range that is as bright or does as good a job with S-Video and HDTV.

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Prices listed are in Cdn currency.