SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I faced the challenge of upgrading a conference room in a historic building built almost a century before the first PowerPoint presentation. I had the perfect plan. The only thing I didn’t have was the perfect equipment. Now, after testing Ricoh’s recently released PJ WX4130N Short Throw Projector, I realize that I had hatched my refurbishment plan a few years too soon.
The options available to me at the time were to install a projector above the screen, hang a projector from the ceiling, or ditch the projector idea altogether, remove the screen and mount a 60-inch television (or larger) on the wall. The first two options would have required extensive rewiring and would have detracted from the room’s aesthetics. The third, which we ultimately chose, involved significantly more cost. And our investment in the television and wireless presentation equipment was limited to that one room. If the conference room was in use and someone needed access to the equipment, they were out of luck.
BEST OF BREED
I’m sure Ricoh didn’t have me personally in mind when they were developing their entry into the short throw projector market, but they sure did design their product to meet the challenge I had faced. Had the PJ WX4130N been available at the time, it would have been the perfect solution. Ricoh’s projector wasn’t the first entry into the short throw space, but it’s likely the most unique. Unlike those of its rivals, Ricoh’s device is a vertical unit with an enclosed mirror. Competing projectors typically resemble a standard projector equipped with an external mirror that is exposed to dust, scratches, etc. And weighing in at a relatively light 6.6 pounds, the Ricoh device is extremely portable. The unit’s physical attributes—combined with its performance—are what set it apart from the pack.
Thanks to Charles Hammond and Karl Kuelz of Ricoh USA, I had the opportunity to test-drive the projector in a real-world setting. Being relatively unfamiliar with short throw projectors, my first question when they arrived at my office was, “Is this device sexy enough to cajole 1,000 words out of me?” That question didn’t shake their confidence, and their device quickly drew me in. In less than a few minutes, they powered up the projector a mere 5 inches from the screened wall of my firm’s training room. And, voilà, directly above the unit was a crisp 48-inch picture. More amazing, when they slid the device back 5 inches, the picture grew to approximately 80 inches, with little noticeable change in clarity. As they walked me through the projector’s features, the hurdle of meeting my word count quickly disappeared.
BELLS AND WHISTLES
Ricoh makes both a traditional and networked version of the projector. I tested the networked model, as denoted by the N in the model number. The unit is equipped with a 2,500-lumen lamp. For the informed projector buyer, this number may seem low, but don’t be dismayed—the brightness of the unit’s picture was truly impressive, even in our well-lit training room. Ricoh’s mirror design supports uniform brightness of the picture, from top to bottom and side to side. With a 1280-by-800 native resolution, the projected image is near full high-definition quality. Colors appeared natural and vibrant, and text was sharp and easy to read. The Auto Keystone feature takes the hassle out of adjusting the image as the projector is moved for the desired picture size or position. The unit is also equipped with a modest 2-watt internal speaker. It won’t rock the house, but its output is sufficient for a small to midsized conference room.
Connectivity is another strong suit of the device. In addition to traditional VGA, HDMI and composite inputs, users can connect to the device through a wired or wireless LAN connection. Using the LAN connection and proprietary software, the projector’s settings and even its on/off function can be managed from a networked computer. I was particularly intrigued with its wireless option, given the promise of one fewer cable to carry around and untangle. Using the software provided on the companion CD, I was able to quickly connect my laptop and projector over a wireless network. I tested a standard PowerPoint presentation, an MP3 file and a DVD movie over the connection. The PowerPoint presentation was responsive, with little delay between my clicks and the on-screen changes. The MP3 file and movie challenged the connection, with noticeable pauses and skips. Thus the wireless feature’s sweet spot is the traditional, one-dimensional presentation. The projector’s onboard USB port supports viewing of JPEG and MPEG2 files from a thumb drive or digital camera. Using the Ricoh Smart Presenter application, a presentation can be shared wirelessly with the projector and up to 10 iPads, creating a collaborative meeting environment. One limitation with this feature is that the presentation has to be in PDF format. For larger audiences, up to four projectors can be linked for simultaneous presentation.
Given the fact that the projector is at the front of the room, fan noise and heat from the device are not issues as they are for traditional projectors sitting amidst participants. Another plus of having the projector against the wall is that the presenter is not blinded while trying to engage the audience. Placing the projector beneath a white board creates an interactive presentation. Start-up is quick, producing an image in three seconds, and the unit can be quickly shut down or placed in standby mode. The projector comes with a remote and wireless mouse receiver.
THAT’S A WRAP
If your firm wants to equip a conference room with a quality projector without having it sit in the middle of the table or incurring the cost of permanent installation, the Ricoh PJ WX4130N Short Throw Projector should be included in its due diligence. At $1,900, the projector is more expensive than traditional projectors of similar quality and slightly more than other short throw units, but the unit’s design, performance and networking capabilities are worth the additional investment.