Toshiba TDP-SP1 Data Projector: a budget-friendly beauty

At under $800 the Toshiba TDP-SP1 data projector represents good value for money in the budget projector space. Weighing in at under 2.2kg and complete with carry case the unit is designed to be easily transported and would be suitable for presenters on the move.

The front of the unit has the lens with manual focus and 1.1x zoom. The small zoom ratio is not really of that much benefit as you can achieve a similar result by simply moving the projector a little. The back of the unit has a single VGA input (which means you will need a separate switch box if you are using multiple computers) monitor out S-video and composite inputs plus mini jack stereo audio inputs to drive the tiny inbuilt mono speaker. There is also an RS-232C (serial) cable to allow you to control the projector from the computer as well as a Kensington key lock to secure the projector. At the top of the projector is the zoom control buttons to control the menus keystone and speaker volume power and input switch indicator light and temperature warning lamp.

Setting up the projector was very easy as the unit automatically detected the computer input adjusted the resolution and was producing images in around 33 seconds from plug in. Having access to the digital keystone control directly from the top of the unit is particularly handy as there is no need to navigate menus for basic setup.

If you want to adjust colour select eco mode (reduced brightness in exchange for longer lamp life) and select 16:9 widescreen mode (for playing back of video). These functions are accessible by pressing the menu button or via the wireless remote control. We found some of the menu icons a little small to work out what they were for but a quick read of the manual or play with the controls quickly had us on our way.

While the unit is only SVGA (800 x 600) resolution it will accept inputs up to SXGA (1280 x 1024) and 1080i widescreen video. High-resolution images are either scaled or cropped resulting in a loss of detail so you can’t really use this unit to display large complex spreadsheets or engineering drawings. The unit can scale 16:9 video to display it in the correct aspect ratio but works like an older TV placing black bars above and below the image.

Being SVGA the projector is effectively limited to Powerpoint type presentations and standard definition video but at this price point you can’t expect a high definition projector.

Rated at 2200 lumens the image is not as bright as some projectors on the market but adequate for most use. We tested it at 3 metres and found the image was bright with rich colours even in moderate room lighting. Toshiba claims a contrast ratio of 2000:1 which is typical for projectors in this price range and adequate for video and presentations.

The projector uses DLP technology which provides for excellent colour rendition with a good range of grey scale. However as is common with most single DLP chip projectors it suffers somewhat from the “rainbow effect” when watching high contrast moving video although it was not readily apparent while watching static Powerpoint. Our test unit performed better than some other units we have seen but since the rainbow effect is subjective some members of the audience will notice this effect more than others. While the inevitable screen door effect (thin lines around each pixel) was present it was not really noticeable from normal viewing distance.

The sound from the fan even during full power mode was barely noticeable which is just as well since the volume of the inbuilt speaker (even at maximum) was less than what you would get from most notebooks. In eco mode you would barely hear the unit over room air-conditioning.

The unit is relatively inexpensive and light enough to carry around with you all day. It is great for presentations and showing short standard definition video clips but with a lamp life of up to 2000 hours it could be a little expensive on the consumables.