Packard Bell iView

  • Editors' rating
    7.2 Very good

Pros

  • Lens shift facility
  • low cost.

Cons

  • Noisy
  • small zoom range.

Packard Bell's iView projector offers many features that make it suitable for entertainment use, yet isn't the most versatile unit in our group test. It won’t necessarily be a movie buff's first choice, but its low price makes it suitable for people seeking an affordable all-rounder.

This 1,000 ANSI lumens LCD projector has a native resolution of 800 by 600 pixels. The contrast ratio of 300:1 is one of the lowest in this group test, so you’ll probably need to lower the ambient light level in the room to get the best from the iView. Although a native resolution image is sharp enough, the pixel boundaries are easily visible -- something you’d expect to see in an LCD projector of this resolution. Both focus and zoom are manually operated The zoom ratio of 1:1.1 is the lowest of the projectors in this group test, so you won’t be able to alter the image size much. This could be a problem if you have a very small or large room and can’t place the projector in the best position for whatever reason.

The iView is the only projector in this group test to have two-dimensional lens shift capability. Lens shift allows you to move the image up, down, left or right along the projection surface without causing keystone distortion. This is because the projection lens is moved sideways relative to the image source, which keeps the distance between the source and the projection surface equal at all edges of the image. The facility on the iView is slightly limited, in that you can only move the lens in a triangle, with the top point not being much higher that what could be considered the normal projection position. This means that the positions you can shift the image to are limited to below and to the left and right of the normal position. However, this is still better than no lens shift at all, and the downward shift means you can place the projector on a shelf above the viewers’ heads and get an image at eye level. You can also select which portion of the image area will be used when in wide-screen mode -- top, middle or bottom -– so that if the lens shift alone isn’t enough, you can further alter the image position.

All the iView’s inputs are analogue, but it does handle a variety of signals. VGA, S-Video and composite inputs are all provided, and component video inputs are handled via the VGA input using an adapter cable. You can choose between automatic source detection, or manually specify the format if you want to avoid the slight delay detection causes. An RGB-out socket is provided should you want to connect a monitor as well.

The input connectors are on the front of the unit, and its fan exhaust on the left-hand side, so there should be no problems with placing the projector next to a rear wall. There are a couple of grilles, so you shouldn’t place the iView hard up against a wall -- a couple of centimetres gap will be fine.

There are infrared receivers on the front and rear of the projector, and we had no problems operating the remote control from anywhere around the iView. The control itself is quite a simple affair, with no functions outside those related to the projector itself. The iView has a picture freeze function, as does the Philips Monroe, but on the iView it’s directly accessible from a button on the remote control, as is the image aspect ratio.

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At full brightness, the iView has a noise level of 38dB, which is among the highest for the projectors in this review. You can reduce this noise level by using the iView’s 'economode' feature. This lowers the light output, and reduces the fan speed and hence the noise level. If you’re using a dark room for viewing rather than just lowering the light level by drawing the curtains, for example, you can use this feature to reduce the background noise from the projector.

The iView is an excellent, low-cost way of starting in home cinema, especially if you’re not too bothered about true wide-screen resolution. You can shove it on a bookshelf or something similar and still get its best image quality, so it shouldn’t get in the way in a busy living room. The resolution and lack of dedicated component video inputs may put off more serious movie fans, but for 4:3 films, gaming and other uses the iView will do just fine.

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