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Sony CPJ-100E



A serious video projector for less than £1000? Youíve got to be kidding... The Sony CPJ-100E is no joke, though it does have its funny side, as Rick Maybury has been finding out



Video projectors are big expensive, lumpy things, right? Normally yes, but in the past two years a new generation of compact single-element LCD projectors, costing less than £1000, have come onto the market,. The trouble is theyíre not really up to serious home cinema applications. The two models weíve seen so far, from Marantz and Citizen, can display images of up to 50-inches across, but because they use relatively small LCD panels, and low power lamps, the pictures tended to look quite coarse, and are only viewable in conditions of near total darkness.


Now Sony have joined the fray with the CPJ-100E. Like the others itís a small table-top design, and it sells for just under £1000. In performance terms it comes somewhere between the two budget models and the cheapest serious home video projector, which is the £1800 Sharp XV-315P. The picture quality of LCD video projectors is largely determined by two factors, the number of pixels in the display element (or elements), and the brightness of the lamp. In this respect the CPJ-100 does quite well; the 1.3-inch LCD panel has 180,000 pixels, thatís more than either the Citizen or Marantz models, and almost two thirds as many as the Sharp 315. The lamp is rated at 55 watts, so the image is reasonably bright, in fact itís still just about watchable if thereís some incident light on the screen. Itís looks even better when shown on Sonyís optional screen  (STJN90), though this adds a further £180 to the price.


The design is very unusual, with almost all of the electronics and projector components built inside a cylindrical housing, about the size of a small milk saucepan. Itís attached on one side to a stand, that allows it to rotate through 90 degrees. This simplifies screen alignment, but more significantly, it means it can project an overhead image, on to a ceiling. This opens up all sorts of possibilities, including the obvious one of watching TV or video in bed. In fact the CPJ-100 doesnít have a built-in tuner, so it has to be connected to a VCR in order to view television programmes, but thatís the way it is with most video projectors. Sony tell us it can be used with the optional tuner available for their TRV series of camcorders, in which case the projector might be of interest to campers and caravanners, though they would need access to a mains supply as the projector has quite a healthy power consumption, and canít easily be driven from a battery.


The projector can handle both PAL and NTSC formatted signals, from composite or S-Video sources; it has a stereo sound system, though the two small speakers, mounted either side of the case, have a fairly limited frequency range, and audio output is quite low, moreover they have to compete with two cooling fans mounted above and below the projector lamp. The bulb has a quoted life of around 400 hours -- it comes with a spare -- and it can be easily changed in just a couple of minutes. The only other item requiring routine maintenance is a removable air filter, which needs to be cleaned periodically.


It has few controls. On the top of the housing there are three buttons, one for on/off switching, the other two are for setting the volume; relative level is shown by a simple on-screen graphic display. On the side thereís a knob, for adjusting image brightness, and next to the AV input sockets (three phono and one S-Video connector) thereís a switch for selecting PAL or NTSC operation. Focus is set manually, by turning the lens barrel.


Itís at its best in near dark conditions, preferably using the high-performance screen, though even on a plain white painted surface brightness, contrast and colour fidelity are still good. LCD projectors often have trouble with subtle shades and tones but this one isnít too bad at all, though reds are a little exaggerated. Patterning, caused by the pixels on the display element are fairly obvious at larger screen sizes, itís a bit like looking through a fine mesh curtain, but on images between 30 and 40-inches across itís not too obvious; slightly de-focusing the image helps a little.


Whilst the CPJ-100E isnít really an alternative to more powerful single and triple-element projectors it certainly has its uses. In the dark, on a good screen it does quite well; coupled to a decent surround sound system, itís just the job for the occasional big-screen presentation, or showing home video movies. Itís also a lot of fun in bed, though finding a suitably firm spot to stand it on can prove awkward...   




The only other Ďbudgetí video projectors are the Citizens 30PC (£800) and Marantz VP500 (£700). The 30PC has a maximum screen size of 50-inches and the 35-watt lamp isnít terribly bright, but the LCD element is only a little way behind the Sony model with 170,000 pixels, so image quality is reasonably good. The little Marantz projector has an even more modestly-powered lamp, rated at just 25 watts. The display is made up from just 100,000 pixels, so the picture is quite coarse, but like the CPJ-100 it can project an image vertically, this time using a swivelling lens. Screen sizes of up to 50-inches are possible but picture quality is fairly average once you get past 30-inches or so. It also does quite well in the bedroom, moreover it can be powered from a car battery, so it might appeal to camcorder owners, who canít wait to get home to watch their home video movies, and donít fancy taking a TV around with  them. The Ďcheapestí home cinema projector, thatís worth considering, is the Sharp XV-315P, though at £1800 it is hardly an impulse buy. Nevertheless, itís capable of projecting an image up to 100-inches across with reasonable clarity in pitch darkness, though itís at itís best on 50 to 60-inch screens where the pixel patterning is less intrusive.




Sony CPJ-100E £1000


Pros:    Simple to use, fairly good picture, swivelling lens great for bedroom viewing

Cons:  No tuner, tinny sound, Ďpixellationí apparent on larger images


Size 123 x 162 x 157 mm

Weight 1.5kg


Telephone Sony (01932) 816000


Performance                  8

Build quality                  9

Value for money 8


Overall Total 88%



R. Maybury 1995 1007



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