VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

CITI - SLICKER

 

INTRO

Has the home video projector finally arrived? We take an in-depth look at a new 800 LCD projector from Citizen, and assess it's chances as an alternative to the traditional telly...

 

COPY

A couple of years ago LCD video projectors were big news, there was even talk of them taking a slice of the home cinema and big-screen TV markets; needless to say it never happened. 'Domestic' LCD projectors are still far too expensive for general home use, and the picture quality, though improving all the time, is simply not that good, especially when compared with conventional large-screen TV screen, or even CRT-based back-projection TVs. They're back in the news again, though this time no-one is suggesting they're going to replace the big box in the corner...

 

Two new video projectors have recently appeared on the market, one from Marantz, the other one from Citizen, which is the subject of this review. The most obvious difference between the Citizen PC30 and those first generation  LCD video projectors from Sharp and Sanyo is size; this one is no larger than a couple of VHS cassettes stacked on top of each other, yet it can throw up an image up to 50-inches across. The price has come down in size as well, to just under 800, or almost half the price of some earlier models.

 

LAYOUT

The only thing that hasn't undergone any major change is the technology, the PC30 uses a single LCD element, sandwiched between a projection lamp and a lens. The box also contains a couple of circuit boards, a tiny fan and two miniature speakers. Controls are confined to an on/off switch, and three buttons to control brightness and volume; relative levels are shown on a simple on-screen graphical display. Power comes from a plug-in mains adaptor, which is included with the outfit, along with a soft carry case. There's a row of three phono sockets on the back, one for composite video, the other two are line inputs for stereo audio. On the underside there's a tiny switch, to select between PAL or SECAM operation.

 

The PC30's LCD element is only one inch across, it uses a 170k pixel (picture element) display, which in definition terms -- i.e. its ability to resolve fine detail  -- puts it somewhere between the better camcorder colour viewfinders and 2-3-inch pocket TVs, though the number of pixels is only one of a number of factors that influence image quality. Picture size and brightness are equally important and they're largely governed by the strength of the projector lamp. The PC30 uses a 35 watt halogen bulb and reflector, and it looks suspiciously like one used in a number of video lights. The bulbs have a life expectancy of between 300 and 400 hours and can be replaced by the user. The cost of replacement bulbs have still to be fixed but Citizen expect them to sell for around 6.50.

 

PERFORMANCE

As projector lamps go 35 watts isn't especially powerful, and when Citizen talk about the PC30 producing an image 50-inches across they're being a little optimistic and should also say that the picture will only be visible at that size if it's shown on a high-efficiency projection screen, in total darkness. Reducing the picture size helps a lot and a 20-inch image is viewable in a dimly-lit room. At that size the picture looks quite reasonable, colours are bright and fairly well-defined; our sample was able to resolve 230-lines from a static test pattern. Granularity or pixellation was evident, though, and this increases with image size; it's not unfair to say that pictures over 30-inches or so across look as though they're being seen through a tea-strainer, though this wouldn't necessarily be a problem if, for example, it was displaying simple graphics.

 

Sound quality is quite tinny, but that's to be expected with such small speakers, quite frankly we're impressed that it has on-board sound at all.

 

VERDICT

The big question has to be who would want a pocket-size LCD projector costing 800, that produces inferior picture and sound to TVs costing a quarter as much, and can only be used in near-dark conditions? Picture size is the obvious advantage this device has over conventional video displays. We can see the PC30 being quite successful as a low-cost AV presentation tool, for commercial, industrial, educational and club users, showing video material to small audiences on a 30 to 40-inch screen. Portability is another key feature, and it could prove popular with camcorder-owning campers, caravanners and boat owners, though Citizen should seriously consider including a 12 volt power cord and TV tuner in their accessory list. We're still some way away from a viable domestic video projector, but the PC30 brings it one a little closer and in another two years, who knows?.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model               CITIZEN 30PC   

Guide price                  800

 

TV systems                   PAL & SECAM

Image size                   6-50-inches (0.2-1.8m)

LCD panel                    1-inch

No. pixels                    170k

Light source                 12v/35 watt halogen

Lamp life                     300 plus hours

Power source             12 volt DC mains adaptor

 

GENERAL

Sockets                        AV input (phono) DC input (mini-round)

Size (mm)                    164 x 96 x 62  

Weight             420 g

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          6

Ease of use                  9

Performance                9

Features                      8

 

---end---

R Maybury 1994 0405

 

 

 


 

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