by Jeff Harris

Front projectors have traditionally been bulky, complicated, expensive and of limited use because they truly shine only with the lights off. But brighter, higher-resolution display technologies have boosted performance (now you can watch with the lights on) and manufacturers have cut prices, so front projectors are enjoying a renaissance. Here are three that show off the latest trends.

1. Home Theater in a Projector
Delivering home theater anywhere, Optoma Technology’s MovieTime system , HP’s Instant Cinema Digital Projector and RadioShack’s Cinego integrate a DVD player and speakers right into the unit. They aren’t high-definition, and although the onboard speakers are fine, you can also use the audio outputs to connect to an A/V receiver for 5.1-channel surround sound.

Price $1,500
Resolution 854 x 480 pixels
Max. Screen Size 335 inches
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2. Ultimate-Definition TV
Although 1080i (interlaced) is the highest-quality broadcast signal, next-gen high-definition DVD players and videogame systems will output an even better 1080p (progressive) signal. For around $25,000, the Sony Qualia-004 and Fujitsu LPF-D711 take in and send out native 1080p. Or, for half the price, the Samsung SP-H800BE, Hitachi PJTX100 and Toshiba TDP-MT800 will down-convert incoming 1080p material to 720p.

Price $13,000
Resolution 1,280 x 720 pixels
Max. Screen Size 300 inches
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3. Bitsy Beamer
Equally at home in briefcase or jacket pocket, Mitsubishi’s PocketProjector is the first ultra-portable to reach the market (BenQ and Samsung have shown prototypes). All will owe their sub-two-pound body to their LED light source. Given their low light output, which requires a darkened room, these projectors are better paired with a laptop for instantaneous presentations than with a DVD player for watching movies.

Price $700
Resolution 800 x 600 pixels
Max. Screen Size 40 inches
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