InFocus IN1100 projector

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This versatile 1.25kg DLP projector is among the first to support DisplayLink, which allows mobile professionals to ditch the VGA cable and send video via a USB connection.

The IN1100 from InFocus is a compact and lightweight XGA (1,024 by 768) DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector that's well suited for use by mobile professionals. Apart from its portability and solid image quality, the IN1100 benefits from a new technology called DisplayLink, which uses USB to transmit a digital video signal from the computer to the projector.

The InFocus IN1100 is a compact 1.2kg single-chip DLP projector.

The IN1100 measures 21.08cm wide by 18.29cm deep by 6.35cm high and weighs 1.25kg, so it's pretty travel-friendly. The projector comes with its own (small) shoulder bag, in which you'll also find USB, VGA and power cables, an infrared remote (with two AA batteries) and a quick-start guide.

The projector itself is a functional-looking device with a grey and black plastic casing, fan intakes and vents to the sides and front, 12 control buttons on the top and connections plus the power socket at the back. Focus and zoom rings for the lens live in a recess on the top, and there are two adjustable feet at the back plus one at the front.

The IN1100's DLP projection engine uses a single 0.5in. XGA DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) chip, a 5-segment colour wheel and a 165W lamp — or 132W in low-power 'Eco' mode. The brightness rating is 2,100 Lumens in High Bright mode (1,550 Lumens in Eco mode), while lamp life is estimated at between 3,000 hours (High Bright) and 4,000 hours (Eco).

DisplayLink uses a USB connection to deliver a digital video signal to the projector.

DisplayLink technology, which is currently supported by Windows Vista and XP SP2 (a Mac OS driver is in beta), lets you dispense with VGA and DVI cables — an important consideration for mobile professionals — and use a USB cable (with a Mini-USB connector at the projector end) to carry the video signal. When you plug a DisplayLink-compliant device into a suitable computer, the driver software is automatically installed, icons appear on the Taskbar and Start menu and the device should simply plug-and-display from then on. The Taskbar applet lets you set the projection resolution, duplicate or extend your desktop, or display a blank screen if necessary. You can also power the projector on and off, use an on-screen replica of the physical remote control and specify whether the projector should output sound as well as video (if it supports USB audio). DisplayLink can handle up to six display devices, although this is more relevant to monitors than portable projectors.

If your system doesn't support DisplayLink, you can use a conventional VGA connection. S-Video and composite video inputs are also provided.

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As well as a Mini-USB port for the DisplayLink connection, the IN1100 has VGA, S-Video and composite video inputs, with component video available via an optional VGA-to-component adapter. There's also an audio input jack at the back, although you shouldn't expect much from this projector's 1-watt mono speaker.

We set up the IN1100 using DisplayLink, which installed and worked without any trouble on a Sony VAIO VGN-UX1XN ultramobile PC running Vista. Although the IN1100 supports 16:9 and 5:4 aspect ratios as well as its native 4:3, it couldn't cope with the UX1XN's non-standard 1024 by 600 native resolution, so we had to reset the computer's display to 800 by 600. As far as image size is concerned, InFocus quotes a range of 21.6in. to 241in., and to get a mid-range 120in. display you'll need to place the projector at least 4.7m from the projection surface — this is no 'short-throw' unit.

Image quality is much as you'd expect from single-chip DLP projector — which is to say, pretty good, but not perfect. Brightness and contrast are both good (especially in High Bright mode), colours are strong and there's less 'screen door effect' (visible pixellation) than in many LCD-based projectors. However, the bane of single-chip DLP systems, the 'rainbow effect', is present: this is where separate red, green and blue colours are perceived when the eye pans across an image, or when video is displayed. The severity of this effect varies between observers and plagues some kinds of images (white on dark backgrounds, for example) more than others, so it's worth checking before you buy to see if it bothers you.

The IN1100 has a good selection of buttons on its top surface, a number of which are replicated on remote control.

There are plenty of controls, both on the projector itself and on the remote. The top of the projector has 12 buttons: power; auto image; presets; vertical keystone correction (up/down); menu; menu navigation (up/down); menu select; volume (up/down); and image source. The remote has a power button at the top, with the 4-button menu cluster close beneath in a diamond formation. The rest of the buttons are in a 3x3 grid: volume up/down/mute on the left; custom (status info by default), screen-blank and auto image in the middle; and source, presets and resize (toggles between native 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio) on the right.

For around AU$1400, the InFocus IN1100 gives you an eminently portable projector based on proven DLP technology that delivers decent image quality. Its unique feature is DisplayLink, which for a new technology works remarkably smoothly. Anything that lets a mobile professional ditch a cable from the travel bag has to be applauded.