We've weighed the opinions of our columnists and network of industry experts. The results are in, and you're holding them in your hands - the winners of our annual Standing Ovation Awards for best presentation products of the year. As usual, this year's crop of winners set the standard of excellence much higher than the year before, or the year before, or the year before that. Indeed, the technical innovations and design improvements demonstrated by this year's top products were impressive. We can't thank everyone who deserves it, but our congratulations go out to everyone who helped make these products what they are today - winners.
Projection and display
Model upgrades and new features—not revolutionary leaps—dominated projection and display in 2005.
Few people will remember 2005 as a year of dramatic change in the projection and display industry. Despite a handful of notable exceptions, the projectors and flat-screen displays introduced over the past year were steadfast product-line upgrades. Nice, for sure, but nothing revolutionary.
On the upside, the industry matured quite a bit this year. Companies from InFocus to Epson to NEC jumped off the microportable bandwagon to focus on meeting-room projectors or portables with more brightness and features. Value projectors — those sub-$1,000 SVGA models everyone was talking about last year — were also de-emphasized in 2005, as margins and profits became increasingly thin for many companies.
Several significant new features became common on business projectors this year, including quick startup, quick shut-down (called "unplug-and-go" by several companies), auto-image setup and advanced color-correction modes. A few new models sported light sensors, which allow a projector to detect a room's ambient light and automatically make image adjustments. Security was another big theme, with password protection, time-out functions, and onscreen company logo identifiers becoming more common, even on lower-price models.
Brightness also crept up, with 2,000 ANSI lumens becoming more the standard on portable models. The resolution ante was upped as well, with companies including Canon, Dell and Hitachi unveiling affordable SXGA+ projectors.
In the display world, Samsung started off the year showcasing its humongous 102-inch plasma display at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. This 1,920 x 1,080-pixel screen, which is perhaps better measured in feet (4.2 feet high and 7 feet wide), has yet to make it beyond Samsung's testing labs, however. LG Electronics was one company that managed to ship a larger-than-life plasma: its 71-inch MW-71PY10, a $75,000 model. Big, yes — and very cool.
Sub-$1,000 projector: BenQ MP610
BenQ's 2,000-lumen projector can be found for prices as low as $729 on some Web sites. The 6-pound, DLP-based unit has SVGA resolution (800 x 600 pixels) and a 2,000-to-1 full-field contrast ratio. BenQ ships the MP610 with a remote control, a VGA cable and a soft carry case.
Price: $750. Contact: BenQ Corp., 866.700.2637, www.benq.com.
Runner up: Xerox DP820 Price: $999. Contact: Xerox Corp., 800.275.9376, www.xerox.com.
Microportable projector (less than 4 pounds): Dell 3400MP
It's tiny (2.4 pounds), it's bright (1,500 lumens), it's inexpensive ($1,299) and it puts a nice, crisp image on the wall. What more could you want? Oh, and the company throws in a nice projector case as well.
Price: $1,299. Contact: Dell Inc., 800.757.8434, www.dell.com/projectors.
Runner up: NEC LT20 Price: $1,495. Contact: NEC Visual Systems, 800.632.4636, www.necvisualsystems.com.
Portable DLP projector (4 to 8 pounds): NEC LT35
Calling it the "world's first truly automatic projector," NEC designed the LT35 with autofocus, auto-image-adjust, auto-source, and, well, basically auto-everything. Its specs — 4.4 pounds, XGA resolution, 3,000 lumens — aren't too shabby either.
Price: $2,195. Contact: NEC Visual Systems, 800.632.4636, www.necvisualsystems.com.
Runner up: Dell 2300MP Price: $1,299. Contact: Dell Inc., 800.757.8434, www.dell.com/projectors.
Portable LCD projector (4 to 8 pounds): Panasonic PT-LB30NTU
A nice short-throw lens, 3,000 lumens of brightness, wireless capability and several extras make the PT-LB30NTU an admirable traveling projector. The 5.7-pound, LCD-based projector has XGA resolution and features a technology that boosts contrast to improve the look of an image in a lit-up room. And you can project a 100-inch-diagonal image from less than 10 feet away.
Price: $3,799. Contact: Panasonic Corp. of No. America, 800.528.8601, www.panasonic.com/projectors.
Runner up: Canon LV-7245 Price: $2,499. Contact: Canon U.S.A., 800.652.2666, www.canonprojectors.com.
Conference/classroom projector: Hitachi CP-SX1350
With high detail and high brightness, the CP-SX1350 is a perfect projector for sharp corporate presentations. Its specs include SXGA+ resolution (1,400 x 1,050 pixels), 3,500 lumens of brightness and a 1.5X-zoom lens.
Price: $5,145. Contact: Hitachi America Ltd., 800.225.1741, www.hitachi.us.
Runner up: Toshiba TDP-TW300U Price: $3,200. Contact: Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., 800.316.0920, www.toshibadirect.com.
Large-venue projector: Christie Digital LX66
Christie Digital's LX66 proved an admirable projector in the Presentations lab last spring, blasting nearly 6,500 ANSI lumens on the screen with the help of its dual 300-watt lamps. In our tests, projected data and photographic images were near perfect, and, as we wrote in the May issue, video tests were "lucid and beautiful."
Price: $18,995. Contact: Christie Digital, 866.880.4462, www.christiedigital.com.
Runner up: Digital Projection Titan 6000SX+ Price: $29,995. Contact: Digital Projection International, 770.420.1350, www.digitalprojection.com.
Large-venue projector, widescreen: Sanyo PLV-WF10
The PLV-WF10 has WXGA resolution (1,366 x 768 pixels), dual 250-watt UHP lamps, nice speakers and a slew of AV connections for any type of installation. It's also 4,000-lumens bright and has the company's Real Color Manager system, a set of tools that provides white balance, color separation and gamma correction. We gave this projector a nine out of 10 in the Presentations lab.
Price: $12,995. Contact: Sanyo North America Corp., 888.495.3452, www.sanyolcd.com.
SXGA+ projector: Canon Realis SX50
The Realis SX50 gets extra brownie points for being the first projector to combine LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) imaging technology and SXGA+ resolution (1,400 x 1,050 pixels) with an affordable price tag. The result is a high-detail projector that doesn't skimp on color or brightness, with 2,500 lumens of lamp power and images that projected pretty, bright and clean in the Presentations lab.
Price: $3,999. Contact: Canon U.S.A. Inc., 800.652.2666, www.usa.canon.com.
Runner up: Dell 5100MP Price: $3,499. Contact: Dell Inc., 800.757.8434, www.dell.com.
Most innovative projector: Mitsubishi PocketProjector
In a year of lackadaisical projector development, Mitsubishi went out on a limb with its tiny, LED-based PocketProjector. The 14-ounce, battery-powered projector fits in a pants pocket and is perfect for those intimate presentations in the booth at your local coffee house.
Price: $799. Contact: Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America Inc., 888.307.0349, www.mitsubishi-presentations.com.
Runner up: Plus V-339 Price: $1,995. Contact: Plus Vision Corp. of America, 866.427.8855, www.plus-america.com.
Plasma display: LG Electronics MW-71PY10
Though other companies have shown bigger prototypes, LG Electronics calls its 71-inch MW-71PY10 the world's largest "in-production" plasma display. It ain't cheap, but for anyone who wants the biggest and the best, this humongous flat-screen display provides 1080p resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) and a 1,200-to-1 contrast ratio for deep, dark blacks on the screen.
Price: $75,000. Contact: LG Electronics, 800.243.000, www.lgusa.com.
Runner up: Panasonic TH-65PHD7UY Price: $10,000. Contact: Panasonic Corp. of No. America, 800.528.8601, www.panasonic.com
LCD display: Samsung SyncMaster 460PN
This LCD display comes with 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution and dual inputs to accommodate either an analog or digital signal. It has an 800-to-1 contrast ratio, a 170-degree viewing angle, plus extras such as picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture technologies to let you display a presentation slideshow next to a video clip or perform other content combinations.
Price: $6,999. Contact: Samsung, 800.726.7864, www.samsung.com.
Runner up: Sharp PN-455 Price: $9,595. Contact: Sharp Electronics, 866.484.7825, www.sharplcd.com.
RP display: Brillian 6580iFB
The 1080p-resolution 6580iFB is an LCOS-based rear-projection display perfect for detailed graphical presentations or HD video. Brillian says the display's pixels have a 90 percent fill factor, which eliminates any perceptible screen-door effect. The 65-inch display is only 21 inches deep and can be mounted in-wall or on a stand. Price: $9,999. Contact: Brillian Corp., 602.389.8888, www.brilliancorp.com.
Runner up: Sharp 65DR650 Price: $21,000. Contact: Sharp Electronics, 866.484.7825, www.sharplcd.com.
Other Standing Ovation Award Categories: Delivery, Digital imaging and Software.