Not long ago Mitsubishi turned heads with its amazing one-pound Pocket Projector, but that was more of a novelty than a real business tool. Now the new MiniMits XD80U has arrived, and it's the smallest, lightest, and least expensive full-fledged projector the company has offered yet.
To be sure, the XD80U is quite compact, not much larger than a best-selling hardcover book. The main design element is what looks like a large lens cap projecting from the front panel. By moving a small lever, the top part of the lens cap rotates out of the way. The result is a fairly sturdy solution that cannot be lost.
The remote control is quite small, about the size of a short stack of credit cards. Yet despite this petite profile, the buttons are well placed and easy to push. The bad news is that the most important buttons for presenters--those for advancing a PowerPoint slide show and for activating a laser pointer--are missing.
One perennial knock against DLP projectors is that despite their small size and superior contrast, they do not handle colors well. This model fights this shortcoming by including two color modes: one for business presentations where white might be a dominant color, and a second mode designed to generate more vivid colors for showing DVD movies. In our tests, that second color mode provided a smoother palette for entertainment applications. Unfortunately, the loud fan on the XD80U would cause real problems for any serious cinema fan.
In addition to its intricate lens cap mechanism, the XD80U offers automatic keystone correction. This feature lets the projector immediately sense its vertical elevation angle and automatically apply a digital modification to the image, essentially turning a trapezoidal slide on the wall into a nice rectangular one. Our test unit came with three AC cables: a six-foot three-prong cable for the U.S. and two for Europe. The only other cable was for a VGA connection. When it comes to audio and other video cables, you have to supply your own.
The XD80U performed fairly well when compared with other projectors in its weight class. We measured its brightness at 1372 lumens, almost 10 percent below the advertised value of 1500, but its low-power mode was comparatively bright at 1180 lumens, only 14 percent dimmer than Normal mode. Using our checkerboard contrast test, we saw a contrast ratio of 478:1, one of the lowest in this category. Generally, however, we found the images to be sharp and steady.
The Mitsubishi is fairly fast on its feet. It was ready for action in only 19 seconds. Cooling required 1 minute and 32 seconds, but like a few other new projectors, the XD80U has a quick shut-down feature. Just pull the plug and a small internal battery will continue to cool the projector down. Even in low-power mode, however, that cooling fan was distracting.
Operating costs for the Mitsubishi MiniMits XD80U are a bit expensive. The lamp needs to be replaced after only 1,500 hours, and replacement lamps will set you back $495. This yields a usage cost of 33 cents an hour--one of the highest we've seen. Individual support can be obtained by e-mail or by a toll-free telephone number, but only during business hours.
The best features of the Mitsubishi XD80U are its image quality (including the innovative dual color modes) and its long warranty. Unfortunately, these benefits are offset by a noisy fan that can drown out DVDs. The XD80U is a good ultraportable projector, but the Dell 3400MP, which is lighter, brighter, less expensive, and offers more features, is still our top pick in this class.