VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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REVIEW

 

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Video Projector

 

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Marantz VP-500

 

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It might not look much like a video projector but this intriguing little device can throw up an image up to 50-inches across. Apart from the small size -- its footprint is smaller than a CD jewel case -- itís unusual in a number of other respects. First the price; at just £700 or thereabouts it is the cheapest video projector on the market; and it has a swivelling lens turret that turns through 90 degrees, so it could project an image on the ceiling, should you feel so inclined. It works with almost any video system, including PAL, NTSC and SECAM, plus thereís a built-in amplifier and loudspeaker, though with an audio output of only 200 milliwatts itís not much louder than a small transistor radio. It does have a stereo headphone socket though, so it could be used with a set of amplified speakers.

 

Donít get your hopes up. The lamp is only rated at 25 watts, so although it can indeed project a 50-inch picture, itís only viewable in near total darkness, on a high reflectivity screen. Screen sizes of between 20 and 30-inches are closer to the mark, though it still needs semi-dark conditions and a decent screen, to get watchable results. The LCD element has around 100,000 pixels and the image looks quite coarse, colours are somewhat brash but given its size it does surprisingly well. It could be an interesting addition to the bedroom but itís certainly not an alternative to serious domestic video projectors costing £2000 or more.

 

Marantz VP500 £700

 

PLUS:  A real cutie, a most unusual and innovative design, easy to use, and in its own way, quite practical too. Provided your expectations are realistic, picture quality -- on a high efficiency screen in total darkness -- can be reasonable. For the record itís also the cheapest video projector on the market.

 

MINUS: By no stretch of the imagination is this a substitute for a proper video projector, or even a large screen TV. Viewing conditions are prohibitive, and to get the most out of it youíll need an expensive screen. The sound system is just about adequate for close monitoring, but not much else. 

 

MARANTZ HI-FI UK LTD, Kingsbridge House, Padbury Oaks, 575-583 Bath Road, Longford, Middx UB7 OEH. Telephone (0753) 680868

 

Picture quality            6

Sound quality            7

Build quality                8

Ease of use                  9

Features                      7

Value for money 75%

 

CRITICAL CAPTIONS

 

The projector head swivels through 90 degrees, so you could have a picture on the ceiling, handy for the bedroom maybe? Screen size can be anywhere from 3-inches to 50-inches, though you will need a proper screen and a darkened room for pictures much more than 20-inches across.

 

The picture is created by a TFT active-matrix LCD panel with 100,000 picture elements. Behind that thereís a 25 watt halogen lamp. Bulb life is quoted at only 500 hours, which is not very long; it would need replacing twice a year with only modest use of three or four hours use a day.

 

Although the VP500 has a stereo audio input the on-board amplifier is mono, with a relatively puny 200 milliwatts output -- about the same as a small table-top radio -- it does have a stereo output, though, so it can be connected to powered speakers or headphones.

 

It comes in two parts, the upper projection unit containing the lens assembly and loudspeaker can be detached from the power unit in the base. Thereís a threaded collar on the underside, so it can be mounted on a tripod, and a screw hole, so it can be fixed to a wall.

 

VP500 has multi system capability and can work with PAL, SECAM and NTSC formatted video signals; system switching is automatic. It has its own built-in mains power unit, and it can also be powered by a car-battery, a 12-volt adaptor and cigar-lighter plug is available as an optional extra

 

SPECS

Max. screen size:     50-inches

Features:                     multi-system display, built-in amplifier and speaker, swivel lens, detachable projector head unit, tripod mounting thread on base unit

Audio output:              mono 200mW

Sockets:                       video and stereo audio in (phono), headphones (minijack), DC power in and out

 

 

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STRAP

Video Projector

 

HEAD

Citizen 30PC

 

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No, itís not a toy, the 30PC is a fully-featured video projector, but in miniature, in fact itís not much larger than a couple of VHS cassettes stacked on top of one another. Citizen have managed to pack a lot into a very small space. It has twin speakers, an on-screen graphics display, switchable PAL/SECAM operation, even a tiny fan to cool the 35 watt bulb. An optional plug-in TV tuner is available for an extra £70. The single 1-inch LCD element has around 170,000 picture elements (pixels), which is about the same as one of the better pocket TVs. Audio performance is poor, but thatís only to be expected, and Citizen make no claims to the contrary. Itís okay for personal use or monitoring but the sound needs to be piped through a hi-fi amp and speakers for an audience of more than two.

 

Bulb life is quoted at between 300 and 400 hours, which is pretty miserable but theyíre fairly easy to replace and cost around £6.50. The maximum image size is put at 50-inches, thatís just about achievable in complete darkness, on a high-performance screen; in a semi-darkened room 30 inches is about as big as you would want to go. Above 20-30 inches the image starts to looks very grainy -- itís a bit like looking through a vegetable-strainer -- but colours remain bright and well defined. With the optional tuner and a car-battery power cord the 30PC makes a useful travelling companion, for caravanners and holidaymakers, but itís not going to give the big boys any sleepless nights.

 

Citizen 30PC £800

 

PLUS: Just the job for campers and caravanners, who donít want to miss their favourite TV programmes, but donít want to lug a TV around with them. Picture quality is surprisingly good, a certain amount of grain is visible but on screen sizes of 30-inches or less colours are crisp and there is a reasonable amount of detail

 

MINUS: Picture and sound quality are not good enough for home cinema applications, moreover, once you get over 30-inches it needs a high-efficiency screen to be of any use. The quoted bulb life of 300-400 hours is on the mean side. An optional car power adaptor would make a lot of sense.

 

CITIZEN, GB Consultancy, Sterling House, Browning Street, Birmingham B16 8EH. Telephone 021-456 1110

 

Picture quality            7

Sound quality            7

Build quality                8

Ease of use                  9

Features                      8

Value for money 75%

 

CRITICAL CAPTIONS

Itís small, taking up less table-space than a VHS cassette. Itís simple to use too, with only four control buttons and a simple on-screen display showing relative colour and volume levels. A switch on the underside selects PAL or SECAM signal input. Two miniature speakers are built into the sides

 

Inside thereís a 1-inch LCD panel with 170,000 pixels. The light source is mounted behind the LCD, this is a fan-cooled 12 volt/35 watt halogen bulb. Itís a self-contained unit with an integral reflector. Bulb life is quoted at around 300 hours,  replacement bulbs cost around £6.50.

 

Power is supplied by an external 12 volt DC mains adaptor, which means it could also work on a car battery, though the importers do not market a suitable adaptor lead and plug. Connections to the outside world are made via a set of three phono sockets on the back panel, for the video and stereo audio inputs.

 

A pair of extending screw legs on the underside are used to adjust the projection angle. The lens has to be focused manually, by rotating the collar at the front. All other adjustments are made using the blue buttons on the top of the cabinet.

 

Picture quality is not too bad at all, though larger images show a certain amount of Ďpixellationí which some observers have likened to looking through a vegetable strainer. Sound performance is better than you might expect from such small speakers, though it has to compete with the internal cooling fan

 

SPECS

Max. screen size:     50-inches

Features:                     on-screen display, built-in amplifier and speaker, PAL/SECAM compatible, soft carry case supplied

Audio                           stereo 500mW

Sockets:                       video and audio inputs (phono), DC input

 

COMPARATIVE BOX

First the bottom line... If youíre looking for a video projector that will give an acceptable picture more than 30-inches across then keep looking, and reckon on spending at least £2000. Neither the Citizen or Marantz projectors are suitable for home cinema applications, unless your home is a broom cupboard. Of the two the Marantz VP500 is the more interesting design, and the facility to project an image onto the ceiling opens up all sorts of possibilities. The Citizen 30PC has a slightly brighter, sharper picture though, and the sound is marginally less tinny so on balance, itís just about worth the extra £100, though donít forget, you can buy a proper big-screen stereo TV for between £700 and £800!

 

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R. Maybury 1995 0302

 

 

 

 

 


 

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