When presenting the company's multimedia road show, a good LCD data projector is a necessity. We evaluated two that deliver a native XGA resolution (1024 x 768). The two units -- Hitachi's CP-X325W and the InFocus LP350 -- both support computer and video inputs, provide internal audio systems, and offer wireless mouse control. Additionally, both include power and data cables (Hitachi includes cords for the U.S., Britain, and Europe) and soft-sided, zippered carrying cases. The manufacturers' suggested retail prices for the Hitachi and InFocus are $7,995 and $6,999, respectively.
The Hitachi CP-X325W is a feature-packed projector, especially for its size. It measures a mere 3.75 x 11.75 x 9-inches (HWD) and weighs in at just over 7 pounds. The CP-X325W supports the simultaneous connection of two computers with audio programs and offers automatic switching between its S- and composite video inputs. There's even an internal 1-watt/channel amp and stereo speakers.
Hitachi includes a hefty infrared remote control with the CP-X325W. Dedicated buttons allowing access to so many functions via remote is convenient, but it took a while to master the busy (24-button) controller.
The CP-X325W delivers an amazingly bright, 1,400-lumen picture, allowing it to be used even in barely darkened rooms. Noise isn't a problem with the CP-X325W. The internal fan is very quiet during operation. The small, top-firing speakers produced adequate volume levels for a small room. As expected, the sound gets distorted at higher volumes.
While we were impressed with the unit's bright image, its contrast left a bit to be desired, especially in comparison to the InFocus unit's image. This was most noticeable in images containing a number of fine lines and shading.
The InFocus LP350 projector is a sleek, dark gray unit that measures about 3.5 x 11 x 11-inches (HWD) and weighs around 6 pounds. The unit delivers a 1,300-lumen image and has a 400:1 contrast ratio (versus the Hitachi's 200:1 ratio). These numbers mean that the InFocus projects a slightly dimmer image -- especially in large or bright rooms -- but delivers better image detail.
The LP350 has inputs for one PC with sound as well as S- and composite video. Its connection ports are located on the side of the unit, permitting the rear to be covered entirely with grillwork, that conceals the ventilation fan and internal speaker. A 2-watt internal amplifier provides sound reinforcement. While it isn't exactly hi-fi quality, the LP350 pumps out plenty of clean sound to fill a small conference room.
We appreciated the simple design of the InFocus remote control. It offers controls for entering and exiting standby mode, switching between video and computer sources, and accessing the extensive on-screen menu. Also, InFocus separates the zoom and focus knobs, rendering it impossible to accidentally move one control while adjusting the other on the LP350.
For connecting multiple data sources concurrently, the Hitachi CP-X325W has the edge. Additionally, it's slightly brighter and offers a better bundle of power and data cords than the InFocus unit. For overall image quality, color rendition, and price, however, we favor the InFocus LP350. While this unit is slightly larger than the Hitachi, it is a bit lighter. Both of these projectors are built to endure the rigors of the road and come with a 2-year manufacturer's warranty on parts and labor.