Marrying wireless networking and a computer projector is an idea that will make sense to anyone who has seen an executive fumbling around to connect a laptop to a projector. These people will know just why Toshiba's SW20 is likely to sell well.
The company is not the first to offer this combination, and there are several adapters out there that allow a standard projector to be linked up to a wireless network. But there is a lot to be said for the convenience of providing wireless connections out of the box, and Tosh-iba has sensibly opted to add these connections to a mid-range projector, not just to more highly specified units.
As a standalone projector, the SW20 offers SVGA resolution rather than the XVGA of top-of-the-range alternatives. But it is a relatively compact unit finished in smart silver, and has the build quality buyers expect from Toshiba.
This is a projector designed for meeting rooms rather than for home cinema buffs.
Plug in the SW20 and the results are good - solid but not spectacular. The brightness is fine for presentations, and it copes well enough with DVD playback. The image has reasonable contrast, and the remote control provides plenty of options for fine-tuning.
But to discover the SW20's full potential, you need to remove the VGA cable. Computer monitor cables are bulky, awkward to use and usually quite short. This makes connecting a projector to a computer far more of a chore than it should be. One option is to invest in a purpose-built audio-visual room, with all the wires hidden behind the scenes. The other is to do away with the wires altogether. This is Tosh-iba's approach.
Instead of scrabbling around for a video cable, simply turn on a wireless-ready laptop - the SW20 uses a standard 802.11b WiFi connection - and whatever you need to watch will appear via the projector's beam. It is even possible to move the laptop or the projector around without losing the picture.
Executives who are worried about electronic snooping need not be: their PowerPoints are safe from prying eyes as the SW20 supports encryption.
However, there is one snag: the SW20 needs a special software driver to work with a computer. This is fine for permanent set-ups, but visitors will have to install the Toshiba software before they can use the projector with their machines, at least in wireless mode.
This makes the whole notion less practical than it could be. Most corporate IT policies do not allow staff to install unauthorised software on their machines. And were it allowed, they might not have the knowledge, or their hosts might have mislaid the installation disk.
A better solution would be to build the intelligence into the projector itself, so there is no need to install software on the host computer. The Toshiba SW20 is good. But it would be premature to throw away the video cable that comes in the box.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: price, build, wireless support
Cons: needs software installed on host PC
Price: £998 ex VAT