- Compact and reasonably priced.
- Low contrast ratio
- menu system is difficult to navigate.
If you want a decent all-rounder of a projector, you’re prepared to dim the living-room lights a little, and -- most importantly -- you don’t want to break the bank, then Canon's LV-S1 should be on your shortlist. Although it's not ideal for watching wide-screen movies, it offers a relatively inexpensive way of getting bigger images. However, there are similarly priced and specified projectors available, so shopping around is advised.
Canon’s LV-S1 is a compact SVGA (800 by 600 pixel) projector, with a brightness rating of 1,000 ANSI Lumens. The contrast ratio of 300:1 is the equal lowest in our group test, although at short projection distances we still found the image to be crisp and clear -- even in an artificially lit room. However, bright lighting or a sunlit room wouldn’t be the best place to use this projector: you'll need to close the blinds or curtains to get the best results from the LV-S1.
This is the second smallest projector in this review, measuring 26 by 23 by 7.9cm. Its relatively small depth means you could place the LV-S1 on a bookshelf and project onto an opposite wall. The inputs are on the right-hand side of the projector, and the power inlet towards the rear at the right, so you’d need to leave some room either side of the LV-S1. The hot air is blown out of the front of the unit, allowing you to place the LV-S1 close to a rear wall. There is a single grille on the rear of the unit, so you'll need to leave a small gap behind it.
The LV-S1 has the shortest throw and one of the smallest maximum screen sizes of the projectors in this group test. Although you'd be unlikely to need more than an 8m throw at home, the small image size could be an issue if you want large pictures from a short throw. Conversely, if you’re stuck with a long projection distance but don’t want to fill the entire wall with the image, the LV-S1 could well suit you.
Canon's product only has analogue inputs, but it does have most of the ones you’ll need -- VGA, S-Video and component video. It can also accept composite video, but this shares a phono socket with the component inputs. We don’t imagine this will present much of a problem, however, as you’re unlikely to want to use composite video input over component input.
The LV-S1’s remote control is a rather nice flat unit made of translucent plastic with a silver control panel. It replicates all the controls on the projector itself, adding controls for digital zoom, freeze, a screen blanker labelled 'no show', among others. Although there’s only a single infrared receiver at the front of the unit, we were able to use the remote control from behind the projector with few problems.
The on-screen menu is a little difficult to navigate at first, since you’re presented with icons for each function, but only a label for the currently selected option. There isn’t even a label for each menu, so until you’re used to the position of each option, you’ll have to work your way through until you find the adjustment you’re looking for. You can access some functions -- such as digital zoom and keystone correction -- directly from the remote control, so you may not have to wade into the menu system too often.
You can select wide mode for the picture, which assumes a 16:9 aspect ratio, but since this is an 800 by 600 projector, even a 480-line wide-screen image won’t be at native resolution. We were able to feed the LV-S1 a 1,600 by 900 screen resolution via the VGA input from a PC, although we got better image quality with a 1,280 by 768 signal -- even though this isn’t a true 16:9 image. When in wide-screen mode, the centre portion of the projection area is used for the picture.
At £1,599 (ex. VAT), the LV-S1 is reasonably priced, if not the cheapest projector in this group test. Although the component video inputs make hooking it up to a DVD player easier, the LV-S1's relatively low native resolution means that wide-screen images are not necessarily getting the most detail. You should also bear in mind that some similarly priced projectors, such as Packard Bell’s iView, have one or two extra features missing from the LV-S1.