Buying a Portable Projector? Start Here

By Heather Baldwin

Your new budget includes $25,000 to outfit your sales team with portable projectors. Now what? Do you know what to look for, or what all those numbers and terms like ANSI lumens means? If not, you’re not alone. As with every industry, there’s a lot of terminology specific to the projector market and it can be downright confusing to the unsuspecting buyer. So Selling Power went to Dave Dicklich, CEO of ProjectorCentral, to learn which, out of all those terms and numbers listed in a projector’s manual, mobile sales reps should care about when buying a portable projector. The list is refreshingly short.

Weight. If you’re on the road a lot, schlepping a projector in and out of your car, in and out of client offices, up and down stairs, don’t buy a unit that is more than 5 pounds, says Dicklich. Sure, you can buy a product that weighs less than 3 pounds – today there are 21 such featherweights on the market – but there’s a trade-off between size and weight: the lighter the projector, the louder the fan is likely to be. Dicklich recommends sales reps stick with a product with a fan that is less than 35 dB, but says even then you should turn on the projector to hear the fans’ pitch. Even a fairly quiet fan can be annoying if it’s high-pitched. ProjectorCentral’s database shows there are 85 products available that are less than 5 pounds. For a list of the most popular, including links to specifications, reviews and more, click here

Brightness. Here’s where ANSI (American National Standards Institute) lumens come in. The bottom line is this: the higher the number, the brighter the projector. For mobile reps who are presenting in a variety of ambient light conditions and to a variety of audience sizes, brighter is better. Dicklich recommends looking for a projector in the 1,000- to 2,000-lumen range, depending on your typical presentation setting. Keep in mind, he says, that lamps lose 50% of their brightness over the course of their life. So if you start with 1,000 ANSI lumens, you’ll be down to 500 by the time the lamp needs to be replaced. If this is an issue for you, look for a projector with an economy or lamp-saver mode. When you’re in an environment where you don’t need the projector’s full brightness, you can activate this feature and save about 20% of your lamp, says Dicklich.

Contrast ratio. This number, which is presented in ratio form, is simply the contrast between your whitest white and your blackest black, as measured by a light meter. So if the contrast ratio is 1,000:1, it means the white is 1,000 times whiter than the black. The higher the number, the more shades of color you’ll get, which is important if you’re using a lot of graphics. But keep in mind that the higher the amount of ambient light in the room, the less contrast you’ll get onscreen, regardless of the projector’s contrast ratio.

Resolution. The terms VGA, SVGA, XGA and so on refer to a projector’s resolution, or the number of pixels on the screen. The more pixels there are the sharper and cleaner the image is going to be. For most sales reps, an SVGA (800 x 600 pixels) or XGA (1,024 x 768) product will meet budget and picture quality requirements. If you’re presenting data on spreadsheets or photos where image detail and quality really matter, resolution is important, so look for an XGA projector. If most of your slides are bullet points, an SVGA projector is fine.

Other features. Not surprisingly there’s a seemingly endless list of new features in today’s projectors. Once you’ve nailed down the brightness, contrast and other specifications you need, you might want to consider things such as memory cards, which let you download your presentation onto a small card and leave the laptop at home; wireless networking capabilities, which are great if you present in a team environment; Internet access with a built-in browser; and mouse control so you can control the presentation wirelessly.

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