Pure Perfection
Compaq's Dive Into the Portable Projector Market Is a Perfect Ten.
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Compaq's very first entry into the projector market has resulted in the perfect portable projector.

First, let's start with its form factor it's the lightest product on the market, weighing only 4.2 pounds, and it is eight inches tall, nine inches long and three inches wide at its widest point. Constructed of sturdy magnesium alloy material, which Compaq says is 20 times stronger than plastic, it will easily survive even the hellish conditions of the overhead bin.

Most projectors have a horizontal form factor, but the MP1600 has a unique tower (vertical) form factor. This not only makes it easy for users to pack, but also helps bring the lens above the centerline of the viewing screen, thereby reducing the keystone effect seen in many presentations when the projector has to be raised up off the table (as it often does).

I was also very impressed with the MP1600's "stability foot." Touch a button and the foot swivels out from the front of the unit to allow the user to adjust the height of the machine. And the wide, sturdy foot then protects the unit against tipping on its side when it's jacked up. The foot tucks away neatly under the unit when the presentation is finished.

Testing the Waters
The MP1600 is easy to set up - I connected it to an Apple PowerBook, a Dell Inspiron 7000 and a standard VCR with an RCA composite video-out port (using the optional video adapter that was supplied with our evaluation model). Each time, setup was simply a matter of plugging the projector unit into the machine and I was up and running in three minutes flat.

I tested the MP1600 by projecting a DVD movie, a PowerPoint Presentation and assorted video clips and was very satisfied with the images the MP1600 displayed. The chipset automatically adjusts necessary settings to fill the screen and ensure high image quality so users don't need to spend a lot of time mucking around with it.

In my tests the MP1600 got top marks in all of the crucial areas for projectors:

The MP1600's 600 ANSI lumens rating lets users present in virtually all lighting conditions; Corner-to-Corner Uniformity it produced seamless, exceptionally consistent color saturation and graphics; Resolution the MP1600 has a native XGA resolution capability (1024 by 768). Its AutoSync technology automatically scales the presentation to fill the screen whether the information is displayed using VGA (640 by 480), SVGA (800 by 600), SXGA (1280 by 1024) or Macintosh (832 by 624) standards. It has a projection range from three feet up to 30 feet; Contrast text was exceptionally easy to read and images were clean and crisp.

Digital Perfection
The MP1600 features Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology from Texas Instruments, which provides higher resolution and a brighter, sharper and higher contrast level than competitive Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) products. Five buttons on the side of the MP1600 allow for easy adjustment during presentations-Xan on/off button with standby feature, three buttons that adjust the MP1600's menu features and an autosync button. With a touch of the menu buttons, a user can digitally manipulate the screen color, contrast and keystoning or zoom into specific items on an image. The autosync button automatically chooses the best image settings for a user, and the stand-by button feature can be utilized for time-outs or question-and-answer sessions. The machine has several nice management features one allows users to easily determine how much bulb life is left. It will also notify the user with a warning signal when bulb life is low. Average lamp life is 1,500 hours of usage.

With the addition of the optional small video adapter on the back of the projector, the Compaq MP1600 allows presenters to easily toggle between computer and video without having to interrupt the presentation to set up a separate video presentation. The small module easily snaps on and off the back of the Compaq MP1600. It also includes an indicator light and is compatible with both composite video and S-video.

The unit comes standard with a carrying case custom designed for the MP1600 projector. The wide-spined case is designed to fall open when unzipped so that the user need not remove the projector to use it. The carrying case has a compartment for holding connection cables, the video module, extra lamps, the owners' manual and other accessories. Also included is a CD with a presentation application, a multilingual users guide, a quick setup guide, VGA and DFP cables, a lens cleaning cloth, a lens cap and a handle.

Compaq backs the MP1600 with a two-year, worldwide limited parts and labor warranty. There's also a two-year Advanced Unit Replacement service, which includes a next business-day exchange of a defective unit and two-way shipping and handling (North America and Europe). Toll-free, round-the-clock support is provided by a live technical support hotline.

The price of the MP 1600 is $4,499. For more information, contact Compaq at www.compaq.com or call (800) 888-5858.

The Pen is Mightier Than The Keyboard

It's hard to connect to an audience when you're stuck at a computer keyboard. Portable projectors like the Compaq MP1600 let a salesperson deliver a PowerPoint or other computer-based presentation to a large group of clients, but the tradeoff is that the presenter may end up spending more time interacting with the hardware than with the customers.

A variety of presentation remote controls are available to overcome this problem. They range from simple controllers with one or two buttons to devices that look like they could command a 747. The FreedomWriter from Interlink Electronics is one of the more versatile, offering plenty of functionality with an intuitive interface.

Incorporating Interlink's VersaPad input pad, FreedomWriter supports hand-written input via pen stylus or finger. You can use the touchpad as a cursor controller to run a presentation or navigate on the Internet or other browser-style applications. A pressure-sensitive navigation bar aids in panning and scrolling, and eight programmable buttons can be used to give quick access to specific software features.

You can also use the pad to draw freehand, underline or highlight information on a presentation screen, an effective technique for keeping the audience focused. You can even input text using CIC's JOT writing recognition software (included) or an onscreen virtual keyboard.

I found the FreedomWriter pad somewhat bulky, especially compared to simpler presentation remotes, but the rounded shape is easy to hold. The touchpad worked very well--it's much more precise and most users will probably find it more intuitive than the thumbpad controllers used on most presentation remotes.

The graphics tools are typical of those offered with many presentation controllers, and the drawing and highlighting capabilities are especially effective in conjunction with the pen controller. A set of buttons on the FreedomWriter unit makes it simple to switch between cursor control and graphics mode.

Text input was less acceptable. The JOT character recognition is slow and relatively inaccurate, while the on-screen keyboard covers up a good portion of whatever other material is on screen. If you frequently need to input text remotely, consider one of the wireless keyboards offered by Interlink and other manufacturers.

The FreedomWriter uses advanced infrared technology for a communication range of up to 40 feet. Unfortunately, the device is not compatible with the infrared ports built in to most laptop computers. The infrared receiver must be plugged in to both the serial and mouse ports on the host computer. Installation of Interlink's driver and utility software was straightforward.

If you need a presentation remote with a little more versatility than the usual handheld controller, or if you need more precise cursor control, FreedomWriter is worth a look.

Price: $199.95. Contact Interlink Electronics at www.interlinkelec.com or call (800) 340-1331.

--Larry Tuck

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