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Business projectors generally fall into two groups: larger, office-bound devices and those that can easily be carried to business meetings. Sony’s <a href="http://www.sonybiz.net/biz/view/ShowProduct.action?product=VPL-EX4&site=biz_en_GB&pageType=TechnicalSpecs&imageType=Main&category=Portable">VPL-EX4</a> fits firmly into the second category, being small and light enough to lug around with your notebook on a daily basis. It also looks trendy, its silver-and-white design and rounded edges making it stand out from run-of-the-mill business projectors.
Business projectors generally fall into two groups: larger, office-bound devices and those that can easily be carried to business meetings. Sony’s VPL-EX4 fits firmly into the second category, being small and light enough to lug around with your notebook on a daily basis. It also looks trendy, its silver-and-white design and rounded edges making it stand out from run-of-the-mill business projectors.
The VPL-EX4, which measures 30.8cm wide by 26.7cm deep by 9.8cm high and weighs about 3kg, is designed for use by mobile professionals, in classrooms and meeting rooms. Not only is the projector blessed in the looks department, but its short focal-length lens allows large-screen projection from a short distance. For example, an 80in. image (viewable area, measured diagonally) can be projected from a distance of approximately 2.3m (7.5 feet). The actual image size range supported is 101.6cm to 762cm. Your audience will also appreciate the relatively low fan noise, as well as the fact that hot air is blown out of the front of the unit and not its sides.
The VPL-EX4 uses a 3LCD projection engine, the panels having a native resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels (XGA). This is adequate for typical business presentations, but those working with intricate graphics might need a higher native resolution. The brightness rating is 2100 ANSI Lumens (1500 ANSI Lumens in Eco Mode) while the contrast ratio is 400:1. Again, these specs are acceptable for general use, but not really up to scratch for video and other fast-paced multimedia applications.
The projector accepts a decent range of video input signals, including composite, S-Video (Y/C), and analogue RGB/component via the HD D-Sub 15-pin interfaces. In addition, the unit can accept computer signals from VGA up to SXGA+ (1,400 by 1,050 pixels).
Video standards compatibility includes 1080i, 720p, 575p, 575i, 480p and 480i, so you can display the occasional High-Definition (HD) movie after work. It’s worth remembering that the VPL-EX4 isn’t a home theatre projector, and there are much more capable models on the market from Sony and its competitors. If you do need to project HD video on a regular basis, make sure you go for a model with much higher brightness, a bigger contrast ratio, plus HDMI and 1080p support.
The model incorporates a digital zoom (up to 4x), seven picture modes, dynamic detail enhancement for video signals, vertical keystone adjustment, multi-language OSD, RS-232C control, and ceiling-mount options. Unfortunately it lacks digital lens shift and networking support — there’s neither wired or wireless options, which is poor for a business projector. We were also surprised that there's no DVI port, especially as the latest multimedia notebooks include this as standard.
3LCD technology helps to make projected images brighter and more natural, with excellent colour reproduction and smooth gradients in dark areas. The only image quality issue is the lack of noise reduction, which can result in speckling, but you can’t be too hard on a projector from a brand giant that's so reasonably priced. The fact that the projector displays an image in about five seconds after being turned on is also a real boon for anxious presenters. Also important is the unit’s control panel key lock, as well as a password-authentication system and built-in security bar or Kensington lock to help prevent unauthorised use or theft.
Furthermore, the supplied credit card-type remote control unit can be used to adjust such settings as digital zoom and audio volume or to activate Auto Pixel Alignment, picture muting and picture freeze functions. The remote is also effective from several points in a room, since there are IR receivers located on both the front and rear of each projector. In case you’re wondering (and you should be), replacement lamps cost around £235 and should be good for around 2,000 hours, or around 12p per hour.
Sony is clear where it is pitching the VPL-EX4: businesses and educational institutions. In this regard, it’s a very well priced projector that's more than up to the task at hand. It’s nowhere near the most complete business projector on the market, nor is its image quality anything above average, but for under £500 you definitely get a lot for your money.