It is big, it is clever, it is portable
Review Some portable projectors are intended for home cinema enthusiasts. Others are targetted at business users, trainers and travelling presenters. With the LV-8300, Canon could well be having a creditable crack at satisfying the needs of both types of buyer.
Moving pictures: Canon's LV-8300 comes complete with its own shoulder bag
Although the projector is bigger and more expensive than your average 720p/1080i device, it offers up-to-date native WXGA widescreen resolution, is uncommonly easy to use, and looks very much like a consumer durable sitting on your desk... or coffee table.
Actually, the LV-8300 is not as large as it first appears: it's only 11cm high and 32cm wide. Rather, the shiny white plastic casing that slopes saucily over the top and front of the unit makes it seem bigger. Even the foot-long depth is misleading, since a significant part of this is taken up by a tough curved handle moulded into the casing at the back. Business travellers should note that the unit weighs a reasonable 3.3kg and comes supplied in a carry bag with shoulder strap.
The lens sits under a large, curved dust cap. Zoom (1.2x) and focus are adjusted manually using rings around the lens, and the image size is impressive for a non-conference projector. Even at a modest living room throw distance of 3m, the LV-8300 produces an image more than 2m wide and 1m high. Move the unit just 1m away from your wall, and you can watch a manageable 0.5 x 0.3m projection. Take it to a school hall, set it back 10m from the screen and you will project a massive 6.5 x 4m image.
In small-to-medium sized venues, such as boardrooms and classrooms, this produces quite an impact and at 3000 lumens, the projection is bright enough for this type of partially lit environment too. The device can be switched to a quiet mode that dims the lamp a little and reduces the fan noise, and this would be recommended in all small-to-medium venues. At full pelt, the fan noise is too distracting for entertainment purposes. The contrast ratio is rated at 500:1.
Image size and optical zoom are adjusted manually at the lens
One of the most attractive features in the LV-8300 is its WXGA (1280 x 800-pixel) native resolution. This is virtually meaningless if all you want it for is HD TV, but it makes a subtle but important difference when playing back 16:9 DVDs at full-screen: you get a bigger image. It's good for travellers, too, because the WXGA resolution directly mirrors that supported natively by vast numbers of notebook PCs in the real world. No more fiddling with display properties to get the two screens in sync -- just plug it in and go.
Real world vs tech spec
David makes excellent observations about digital home cinema based on the published technical specifications, and I am grateful to him for taking the time to put me right on a few things.
One thing reviewers are not allowed to do is make value judgements based on the tech spec. We have to review the product in front of us, and if it performs differently to expectations, then so be it: we write up what we experienced, not what manufacturers want us to believe. That's what reviews are for.
For example, a contrast ratio of 500:1 is not as impressive as, say, 15,000:1, agreed. However, I don't agree that this particular projector was inappropriate for home cinema 'in any way, shape or form'. I tested it at home, and I was successfully able to watch a film in a way, in a shape and, yes, even in a form.
For big-number contrast ratios to offer discernible benefit to the naked eye in a home cinema setup, you would need to achieve complete black-out conditions. For more information on display contrast ratio and the manufacturers' numbers game, see www.practical-home-theater-guide.com/contrast-ratio.html.
Some other explanations and corrections...
WXGA gives you a bigger image than XGA. Sorry if this was ambiguous.
Progressive scanning: David's comments about digital inputs are true. But I had to test this projector across a variety of devices with different formats and resolutions, both digital and analogue, from skanky old camcorder s-video to DVI-A/D/I.
David also makes a very valid point regarding the DisplayMate test. The fact that the issues were all to do with analogue interfacing had been unintentionally omitted and this now been rectified.
The analogue input was tested for text legibility and movie performance as a matter of course. I was unable to see the fine detail problem in the normal course of video performance, only in the testcards. The image was not 'murdered' or 'awful', otherwise I'd have said something to this effect in the review.
"...like a futuristic, one-eyed sandwich toaster."
Is there something about the future that you know and are not telling us?
Even Nostradamus appears to have missed the rise of the mutant, cyclopean sandwich toasters.
Oh my god! Make it stop!
You need to do some research.
"The contrast ratio is rated at 500:1."
Saying that a projector with a rated contrast ratio of 500:1 is targeted at home theater in any way, shape, or form is ludicrous, whatever the manufacturer spec sheet tells you to write. 500:1 was lousy seven years ago, and it's -abysmal- now. Tolerable for powerpoint but nothing beyond.
"One of the most attractive features in the LV-8300 is its WXGA (1280 x 800-pixel) native resolution. This is virtually meaningless if all you want it for is HD TV, but it makes a subtle but important difference when playing back 16:9 DVDs at full-screen: you get a bigger image."
You get a bigger image? How? 16:9 is 1280x720; 1280x800 is 16:10. DVDs are 16:9 - as you correctly point out - so having a 16:10 panel will either give you no advantage over a 16:9 panel, or distort the image whilst making it marginally bigger - which is an awful, pointless thing to do.
"Overall, image performance is good and we perceived no flicker when projecting movies and animations. This will be due to the progressive scanning."
What?! Of course it's progressive; there IS no 'scanning' with an LCD panel! A lack of flicker could mean that it deinterlaces a 480i input correctly, but I'm guessing you were using a DVD player on a laptop, or component / DVI output from a standalone player - which would always be progressive anyway. It has nothing to do with the projector!
"However, torture-testing the LV-8300's capabilities using the industry-standard DisplayMate utilities revealed that the projector can sometimes struggle with ultra-fine, pixel-width detail."
So, it's a 1280x800 projector which is incapable of displaying every pixel of the input? If you can't get the clocks to display pixel-for-pixel, a 1280-pixel-wide image could easily only be resolving 640 pixels worth of real data. It's probably somewhere in between - but if this is truly an insoluble problem, it means the projector doesn't even meet its own spec! That's hardly something to gloss over in a sentence - it would murder text legibility for presentation use and be awful for movie watching, even off regular DVDs.
In short... please, Reg readers, take this interview with a grain of salt. And to El Reg - find someone who understands the raw basics of display devices. Things will be less embarrassing for all of us that way.