Tiny three-pound microprojectors make sense for those who spend as much time traveling as giving presentations, but these lightweights run out of steam in large rooms with big screens to fill. For them, you need a heavyweight projector, such as Sanyo's PLC-XP56, which is one of the brightest projectors in its class and, with a $699 attachment, can project images off a corporate LAN to lower the anxiety of roving presenters. With an expected street price of $6,000 (it lists for $9,995), its colors aren't as accurate as we'd like, but it's worth the cost if you need a bright image and sharp focus.
Measuring 6.6 inches high by 12.6 inches wide by 16.9 inches deep and weighing just over 20 pounds, the Sanyo PLC-XP56 is about the size and the weight of a carry-on suitcase. The boxy silver body will fit well in any business conference room, and the pull-out handle allows you to lug it around as needed. You can set it up on a desk or mount it to the ceiling.
The back of the Sanyo PLC-XP56 has a large plug board for connecting a variety of computers and A/V equipment. The inputs include those for analog, digital, S-Video, composite-video, and component-video signals. The machine has a pair of audio minijack inputs and a serial port, but it comes with only VGA and AC cords, so you'll have to round up the other cables on your own. Although the PLC-XP56 also has projection modes for movies, graphics, and just about every parameter, its standard mode will suffice for most business uses. Inside the projector are three 1.3-inch XGA active-matrix panels and sophisticated optics that can fill a 48-foot-diagonal screen with a very bright image. The PLC-XP56 can project a 4:3 aspect ratio as well as a wide-screen 16:9.
To make the PLC-XP56 a truly networked projector, you'll have to pay $699 for the Sanyo PJ-Net Organizer Plus POA-PN02 networking module. It's a little awkward and complicated to set up: you'll need to manually configure the projector's IP address with the remote control, which is frustrating and time-consuming. Once on the network, the PLC-XP56 can lift images--and only images--from an FTP site; however, you'll need to preconvert them with the included Sanyo Network Viewer software. You'll also need to transform PowerPoint presentations into a series of images without audio or transitions. Despite this drawback, the rudimentary LAN access should go a long way toward easing the anxieties of mobile presenters fearful of forgetting the slide show. In addition, with any networked computer, you can check to see if the PLC-XP56 is in use, how it's connected, how hot it is, and how many hours the lamp has been on. The best part is that you do all this through a Web browser, so compulsive administrators don't need any special software to scrutinize the projector and, say, remotely turn it off.