Roger Frost finds little to complain about in the latest InFocus projector, apart from the fact that it may be too good
A couple of years ago projectors like this were unaffordable, or at the very least the price was pretty painful - today, however, there's little excuse to not want the InFocus LP600. It feels very complete with a gamut of sensible features and its movie and PC images are both good. This well thought out package emerged as a winner at the 2005 Educational Resources Awards.
You can connect pretty much anything you need to the LP600 - a desktop and laptop together, plus a video and a DVD. You can use sockets that pass signals through to a monitor and speakers, so once it's fixed to a ceiling pole it's unlikely you'll need to disconnect anything.
But then again, with a squat shape and reasonable weight (2.4Kg) the LP600 makes a good portable. It has a rubberised case that's not just a fashion statement - it's grippy, not slippy. Furthermore, its colour-coded cables will reassure even the most hands-off teachers.
What also helps is "keystone" which automatically squares up the picture, based on the angle at which you've set the projector. On top of this, you will find a chunky zoom lever, and a very likeable "video mute" button to freeze the screen so you can fumble on the computer unnoticed.
A remarkable extra is that you can plug in a USB flash drive full of photographs and it will switch over to project them. This trick once required a geeky PC storage card, but here you can simply use a regular pen drive. This is a really easy way to show snaps of a school trip because you don't actually need a computer at showtime. If you show a PowerPoint round your locality you could dispense with the PC by saving the slides as pictures. The software to do this is included, but you can do this quickly without.
It's always wise to check specifications so that you know that the projector is suited to how far you need it to be from the screen. You should check the brightness too - technology agency Becta recommends a minimum of 1,500 lumens, and the LP600 offers 2,000 lumens at full brightness, which is ample. You can run the projector in "whisper-mode" to drop the brightness to 1,500 lumens and save on lamp life. But then why buy a sports car and drive it like a hatchback?
If there is anything to caution over, it's that projectors are becoming unnecessarily good - much like hi-fis, printers and cameras before them.
The InFocus LP600 screen resolution is XGA (1024x768) and most classrooms manage well with SVGA (800x600). If they adjust the PC to match this, then they save money too. However, since the higher resolution already matches what PCs normally output, it is a sweet convenience.
This leaves little to not like: the manual is mediocre while the onscreen menu is nested and irritating. But that's as much help as I can be in putting you off wanting a model as good as this.
InFocus LP600 DLP Data Projector
A 2,000 lumens and XGAresolution data projector.
Price: pound;1,021 plus VAT
Tel: 0800 0286470
Suppliers: SCC, Computacenter, Reflex, PC World Business
Fitness for purpose ****
Ease of use ****
Quality ***** Value for money ****