Tools Of The Trade: The Toshiba P8 projector

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A small and light projector is a great idea for anyone who makes frequent presentations and cannot,or would rather not, rely on facilities at the venue.

Most "portable" projectors are really best described as luggable - fine if you're travelling by car but not practical for taking on a train or aircraft.

But the Toshiba P8 really does qualify for the portable tag. It weighs just 1kg and packs neatly into the small, supplied carry case - even with its remote control and cables.

Unpack the P8 and what you see is a smart, silver unit that is around two-thirds of the dimensions of a standard small projector. The controls are on the top, and on the back are USB, VGA and S-video ports and a standard composite video input, although there is no audio connection. Toshiba supplies the VGA and S-video leads as standard, but not the USB cable.

Connecting the projector to a laptop via USB does mean, though, that the projector's remote can be used to control the PC.

The P8 is pleasant to use. The picture is XGA standard and compatible with high-definition DVD or TV standards, and the image is crisp and bright. In our test, the P8 handled basic video from a DVD without a glitch, and computer-generated images, such as PowerPoint, with ease.

There are plenty of adjustment options for the image, which can be accessed via the remote control or from the buttons on top of the projector. One of the more useful is "automatic keystone", which straightens the edges of the image if the projector is at an angle. This is a problem that is most acute with small projectors, as they tend to be used nearer to the screen.

The P8 does have a couple of minor drawbacks. The first is that the sensor for its remote control is at the front, and highly directional, meaning that the remote has to be in front of the projector to work reliably. This is fine if the person giving the presentation is standing ahead of the screen, but less useful if someone is driving the projector from the back of the room, as they might be if they are playing audio-visual material, such as DVDs.

The other issue is that the P8 only has an analogue video interface. A digital (DVI) connector would give a sharper image, although an analogue-only input might be an acceptable compromise in return for the P8's portability.

The P8 is also significantly more expensive, at around £1,200, than a standard projector. Ordinary models are available for between £500 and £600, and may well have more features than the P8.

But if portability is the main criterion, the P8 is the model to opt for.

RATING: 4 out of 5

PROS: ultra-lightweight and compact

PROS: no digital input; portability comes at a price

COST: around £1,200 plus VAT