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-- by Marc Spiwak
LCD projectors are great for presenting to large audiences, but they're usually heavy, clumsy and a pain in the back to lug around. The 9.8-pound CTX Opto EzPro 550 won't make your chiropractor rich. In addition, its 6.5-inch active-matrix TFT LCD delivers a true-color SVGA display of 800x600 pixels.
The EzPro 550 is designed to help you conduct presentations, classroom training and meetings. The unit connects directly to notebook-computer, PC, Mac, VCR and video sources, and is packaged with all the cables and adapters you'll need. In addition, the EzPro 550 comes with a rugged carrying case that is roomy enough for a notebook computer.
You must fold the unit's lens down to fit the EzPro 500 into its carrying case. In this state, the EzPro 550 is shaped like a frozen turkey, measuring 6.4 by 10.2 by 12.5 inches. With the lens open, the EzPro projects a full 270 ANSI lumens from a 400-watt halogen lamp. The package also includes three spare lamps: one is held in the projector and two are stored in the case. The unit has a 540W power-consumption rate during normal use and a 20W rate when it's in standby mode.
The EzPro 550 can display a maximum diagonal image of 160 inches (more than 13 feet) from a distance of 240 inches. You can view an average-sized display of 80 diagonal inches at a distance of 112 inches and a 40-inch diagonal display-the minimum supported-from 59 inches away. You must turn off the lights in the room to view large displays, but you can see smaller displays with the lights on.
If sound is part of your presentation, you'll welcome the built-in 3W stereo speakers. There's also a full-function remote control, from which you can adjust keystone correction plus or minus 20 degrees to help eliminate distortion. CTX Opto offers a one-year limited parts and labor warranty for the EzPro 550.
Setting up the projector is a snap; you simply connect a video source to the RGB, composite or S-Video input, and connect an audio source if you have one. The EzPro is compatible with VGA, SVGA, Mac, NEC PC-98, NTSC, PAL and SECAM. There's also a pass-through connector for a VGA monitor-which enables you to project an image onto a screen while viewing it on a monitor-and a stereo audio output for connecting external speakers.
You can raise and lower the picture using a tilt stand and reverse the display for rear-projection screens. Everything is controlled by the remote or buttons located on top of the projector. An on-screen display allows you to make adjustments and gives you access to fancy features, such as 9X zoom and picture freeze. A curtain and a pointer are also available.
We compared the EzPro 550 with the current WinList comparable product, the Proxima Lightbook (see WinLab Reviews, February). The EzPro is slightly taller than the Lightbook-which measures 5 by 9.25 by 13.5 inches-but it's nearly 2 pounds lighter. Both projectors have nearly the same size footprint.
In our tests, the EzPro proved to be a bit brighter than the Lightbook. The EzPro's lamp outputs 270 lumens-which is a little more than the Proxima Lightbook's 250 lumens. Additionally, the EzPro can project SVGA, whereas the Lightbook cannot. That's an important distinction if you normally run your notebook display at 800x600, which many notebooks are capable of doing nowadays.
The two units also greatly differ in their lens angles. From 8 feet away, we were able to project a 6-foot-wide display with the Lightbook. The EzPro needed 13 feet of distance to project the same size display-which could create a problem if you're in a cramped conference room. On the other hand, text projected by the EzPro was more readable than that of the Lightbook, regardless of the display size. The EzPro also has more powerful speakers-3W compared to 1W-and you can hear the difference.
While the EzPro 550 costs about $1,300 more than the Lightbook, it's worth the expense. The Lightbook offers excellent close-range displays, but the EzPro 550 delivers superior text depiction and powerful SVGA support in a lightweight unit. Therefore, the EzPro 550 replaces the Proxima Lightbook on our WinList of recommended products.