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PRODUCT REVIEW: Hitachi CP-X03 3LCD Projector

Here at the start of 2008, what I call the I.C.E. Age (Infinite Cycle of Electronics), marches on (thus the word “infinite”). The cycle simply describes the ever-falling-price-to-ever-rising-features-and-performance ratio for all things electronic. Obviously, today’s video projectors (being highly electronic) are no exception. Recently I had the opportunity to spend some “quality time” with Hitachi’s CP-X305 3LCD projection unit. Here’s my story (and I’m sticking to it).

Hitachi’s CP-X305 3LCD projector (approx. $995.00 street, your mileage may vary) is a very capable unit which will effectively meet the projection needs for a wide variety of ministry applications and settings. Weighing in at a highly-toteable 8.8 lbs, the 2,600 lumen CP-X305 has native XGA resolution (1024 x 768) and maximum UXGA resolution (1600 x 1200) along with features and functions we’ve come to expect from current ultra-portable VPUs (6.6 – 11 lbs.) plus several “Hey, that’s-a-sweet-little-feature!” type…uh, features tucked under it’s shiny, silver hood. The first thing I noticed about this unit is its above average connectivity. The CP-X305’s RGB (2), composite, Y/C (S-video), and component video inputs make it very easy to connect and project high-quality signals from your computer(s), DVD player and/or video switcher/scaler. Two 1/8” audio inputs (and one 1/8” audio output) are included plus a USB port and ethernet (RJ-45) port allowing for computer/network connectivity. I like that Hitachi also threw in an RGB monitor out for looping out to a nearby (or not) VGA monitor (or another projector). Nice.

UNIQUE (and/or just downright handy) FEATURES
In addition to the many now-common menu-adjustable video projector features and settings (brightness, contrast, color, keystone, etc.) the CP-X305 offers some unique options. First, you can store up to 4 “memories” of adjustment data for all items in the PICTURE menu. This could make life a bit easier when regularly using the unit in a few different types of rooms/settings (evening service, youth room, sanctuary, etc.). There is “whisper” mode (think low beam) reducing lamp brightness, power consumption and fan noise (although this unit runs plenty quiet even in “Normal” mode). The “Auto Search” feature automatically cycles through the various inputs “searching” for (and finding) the incoming video signal type which helps overcome intense “techno-phobias” experienced by some. And it actually works. As soon as I connected my laptop via the COMPUTER 1 VGA port the CP-X305 selected and projected its input signal. MyScreen allows you to capture an image for use as the BLANK screen and START UP screen which is a great little feature helping to avoid those distracting manufacturer’s logos/names from appearing on our ministry screens. And here’s another nice touch…you can rename each input port with its own (hopefully meaningful) name such as “Pulpit computer”, “DVD 1”, etc. There is even a FILTER TIME meter to help us track how long it’s been (or NOT been) since the filter was changed (as in “37 filter hours ago!”). Changing the CP-X305’s filter is a simple matter thanks to the easily-accessible side-of-unit filter panel. So how about we all agree to make 2008 the YEAR of the FILTER CHANGE. The FREEZE button is always a cool (pun absolutely intended) projection feature and proves very helpful when projecting/presenting without the luxury of a seamless video scaler or switcher which is often the case in mobile or small group projection settings. By connecting the projector’s USB port (B type) with your computer’s USB port (A type) the wireless remote works as a simple mouse and keyboard. You are now free to roam about the room. The remote also includes a very TV-like MUTE button (a good thing) for those rare occasions when you would actually use the projectors not-so-powerful-but-that’s-normal built-in audio speakers.

The unit has the ability to magnify and then scroll around the magnified image which could be helpful when projecting web pages, computer software or any image in which you would like to highlight or focus attention on a portion of the projected image.

The image quality of the CP-X305 did not disappoint and delivered the brightness, clarity and quality expected from this class of projector. Colors were true. Images and text were sharp. Almost every feature and adjustment responded as expected without confusion or delay. Wireless remote commands were processed quickly from the front but were a bit hit and miss from rear-of-projector positions. Although there are two remote frequencies available: MODE 1: NORMAL and MODE 2: HIGH I would have liked the addition of a rear IR remote sensor.

Some may balk at the lack of motorized zoom and focus but controlling both manually is very easy and should not be a “deal-breaker” in almost any application/setting. In a fixed-installation application (ceiling mount, etc.), once set, there is no need to adjust zoom and focus and in portable applications manual adjustments are quick and easy despite our addiction to IR remotes (irrational reliance?!). “Tweak-heads” (you know who you are) will appreciate (no, ENJOY…which is kind of scary) the available advanced adjustments for, you guessed it, tweaking the H phase, color space, video NR and progressive image aspects for a variety of computer and video signal types.

As much as I dislike “It’s ALL good” type of product review articles there really is a LOT to like (and not much to dislike) about Hitachi’s CP-X305 including the, well…included soft carrying case. Sure I would like to see a rear IR sensor, power zoom and focus, and a higher contrast ratio than 500:1, but at about $1k this unit is advances the I.C.E. Age without a hiccup. Forget penguins, the “march of the projectors” make this an excellent time to invest in your ministries next video projection unit and chances are excellent that Hitachi’s CP-X305 will fill the bill nicely.

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