In a week when Sony, Panasonic, and NEC all announced new digital cinema projectors with luminous outputs of 10K lumens or more, and in an era when everyone wants 1080- rather than 720-line flat TV screens (although they won’t be able to see the difference when they install their new 42-inch TVs their living rooms), it was refreshing to read yesterday that the North America unit market share for lowly SVGA (800×600) front projectors increased in January.
Senior Analyst and Editor
In their monthly Combined Projector Tracking Services, our friends at Pacific Media Associates (PMA) also reported that while XGA models lost 6 unit share points to SVGA for the month, their unit sales still outnumbered SVGA by 3 to 2. Still, the SVGA increase was significant. " Unit sales market share for the segment was the highest we’ve seen in the past eight months," said Pacific Media VP Michael Abramson.
The reason for the resilience of SVGA front projectors is that they offer good value - and how many pixels do you really need to display a pie chart? Remember that standard-definition TV, which is what most people in North America still watch most of the time, offers an actual resolution that is usually somewhat less than VGA (640×480). SVGA is really enough for most business projection tasks in small and medium rooms, and is even adequate for showing the kids a movie on the living-room wall.
So, how good a value is one of today’s SVGA projectors? Segment-leading Epson’s PowerLight S4 3LCD projector is available directly from Epson for $599 or from Amazon for $549, both prices after a $50 mail-in rebate. Discount internet sites have them listed for $469 or less, after rebate. Output is 1800 ANSI lumens, color management is reportedly excellent, and projector weight is 5.7 pounds. ProjectorReviews.com liked the S4 so much it gave the unit its Hot Product Award. Insight Media President Chris Chinnock was so impressed he actually bought its predecessor the S3 with his own money. The S4 is a lot of projector for $599, and even more for $469. Nor does Insight Media believe projector prices have bottomed out yet. According to our forecast in the Low-Cost Projector Report, a projector like this will probably be available for about $400 in 2008, much to the distress of the projector makers’ bottom lines.
Going to XGA in an Epson product costs another $250. The model is the PowerLight 76c, which has specifications (other than resolution) and general appearance that are similar to the S4, except that it has a mild zoom projection lens, which you forego in the S4. That’s a 40% price increase for a performance boost that many users don’t need and may not even see. Maybe PMA’s report shouldn’t have been so surprising after all.
Now, does that mean I can sell you a 720p TV set? Probably not, but it should.