The $499 Sanyo PDG-DSU20N isn't some barebones, flimsy device. It's a slick, well-designed projector that can belt out more than 2000 ANSI lumens. That's an astonishing 4 lumens per dollar. And Sanyo has even included a small user manual--printed on paper (gasp!).
Spartan, But Functional Design
Of course, this is a budget model, so it has some trade-offs. The connector panel is remarkably sparse, offering just the bare minimum: VGA, composite, S-Video and audio. Also, it's not exactly an ultraportable model; Sanyo lists its weight as 5.5 pounds, but it tipped our scales at 6.1 pounds. In its full travel configuration with cables and remote, the weight rounds off to 7 pounds--still portable, but your shoulder will notice.
When we first saw the tiny, credit-card-size remote, we sighed; such tiny devices usually get that way by shedding features. But this little remote actually has some useful buttons. First there is an Eco button that lets you quickly switch to low-power mode, quieting down the fan noise and prolonging lamp life. Then there is a pair of Page Up/Down buttons to navigate through PowerPoint presentations. Note that, to get those buttons to work, you'll have to supply your own USB cable to connect your laptop to the projector. However, the PDG-DSU20N comes with VGA cables.
Sanyo PDG-DSU20N Performance
At 2172 lumens, this budget model was almost 10 percent better on our tests than the advertised 2000 lumens and surprisingly close to the 2500-lumen InFocus IN15, which sells for three times as much. The contrast ratio was also good, at 505:1.
Of course, you can't expect everything for $500. For example, the SVGA resolution may be too low for some presenters who use high-res graphics. Color accuracy was not noticeably good or bad. And we disliked the design of the control buttons atop the device, where the all-important power button is poorly marked and easy to miss. The same button on the remote control is not well marked, either.
We grew impatient with the leisurely cooldown time: 1 minute 33 seconds for the cooling fan--which was not noticeably noisy--to shut off. And finally, we experienced a strange compatibility problem. For some reason, the Sanyo did not recognize the SVGA signal coming from one of our standard test systems, a Dell Latitude laptop. When we switched to XGA resolution or used a Gateway notebook at SVGA, there was no problem.
Can a $500 projector get the job done? Yes, especially when bundled with an amazing three-year warranty. For buyers on a tight budget, the Sanyo PDG-DSU20N is hard to pass up. Just be wary of the compatibility issue we discovered.