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Sony has put its usual sleek, stylish spin on a product and come up with the VPL-CX5 projector. Slimline, lightweight and bright, it also includes a Memory Stick slot, allowing you to give presentations without a notebook. Although the styling and some of Sony's publicity may suggest that this is a home cinema projector, its feature set makes it far more suitable for presentation work.
This XGA (1,024 x 768 pixels) LCD projector features a motorised lens cover and tilt mechanism. The built-in automatic lens cover means you'll never lose the lens cap, or forget to remove or replace it. The tilt mechanism can be connected to the VPL-CX5's digital keystone correction feature to give automatic correction -- assuming the projector is on a level surface and your projection screen is vertical. You can control the tilt mechanism from buttons on top of the projector or using the supplied remote control. The VPL-CX5 remembers its last tilt position and reverts to it when switched on.
The VPL-CX5's 2,000 ANSI Lumen brightness rating is high, but this isn't the first projector we've seen with this level of light output. It is, however, the most compact unit with this brightness that we've seen. This doesn't come without a trade-off, though. The fans needed to keep the 165W bulb cool produce a massive 43dB noise when the projector is working at full brightness. Drop the light output down to 1,800 ANSI Lumens and the noise drops to 38dB, but this is still noisier than some projectors we've reviewed.
The high brightness means the image is clear even in a fully lit room, and on a less-than-ideal projection surface. The 'screen door' effect common to all LCD-based projectors is clearly visible, and we noticed a certain amount of flickering in the projected image. The zoom ratio of 1:1.2 and smallest possible image size of 40in. means that if you're stuck with a large projection distance, you may end up with a larger than ideal image.
There are minimal controls on the projector itself. Instead, you have to use the remote to access most of the available options. We found the remote control tricky to use from the side of the projector, and got no response trying to bounce the infrared beam off the wall in front of the unit. This won't be a problem for someone presenting from the front next to the projected image, but for a home installation this isn't really suitable. When the projector is connected to a PC using the supplied USB cable, you can use the remote as a mouse.
Two applications are provided with the projector: Projector Station for Control uses the USB connection to the VPL-CX5 to give you limited control over its operation; Projector Station for Presentation allows you to download images to the built-in Memory Stick reader for later playback. An 8MB Memory Stick is supplied with the projector.
Projector Station for Control doesn't allow you much control over the projector -- there's nowhere near the full range of features available. What is does give you is the ability to assign programs or other files to the two function buttons on the remote control. You can then launch presentation software, for instance, with a single button press, which is much easier than using the mouse function on the remote.
Projector Station for Presentations allows you to convert images -- either a series of single images or a PowerPoint slide show -- to the optimal format for this projector, and store them on a Memory Stick in the projector. You need to have PowerPoint installed to be able to use PowerPoint slide shows with Memory Stick -- PS for Presentations can't do the conversion on its own. If you do convert a slide show, you'll lose animations and other effects you've put in -- you get a series of static images instead.
The VPL-CX5 is reasonably priced for its resolution and brightness, and looks a lot better than some projectors on the market. However, its aspect ratio, noise level and limited range of inputs make it less suitable for home use than some dedicated home cinema projectors. Its Memory Stick presentation facility and light weight mean that, although not the most compact projector on the market, the VPL-CX5 is still portable enough to use on the road, especially if you leave your notebook behind.