The world is discovering LED lights, and for good reason. They last 25 times as long as regular bulbs; they use a fraction of the power; they don't get as hot, and they're very rugged. They're cropping up everywhere: in homes, flashlights, car headlights, flat-panel TV screens, movie lights and Christmas lights.
And now, finally, projectors.
Projectors are amazing these days — the ones in corporate boardrooms, the ones in home theaters and the ones that fulfill both functions. But most still have a regular old light bulb inside. A very, very bright one that gets very, very hot and costs very, very much to replace — maybe $300 or $400. And that's after about 2,000 hours of use.
If you could replace that hot, expensive bulb with LED lights, you'd use half as much power, so you'd be polluting less. Because it would need less cooling, your projector could be much smaller and lighter.
Above all, you'd never have to replace the bulb. The LED projectors in this roundup are rated at 20,000 hours or more — at least 10 times the life of a regular bulb.
I tried out seven LED projectors priced at $1,000 or less. Each comes with a carrying case and remote control. Each offers every conceivable input — VGA so you can plug in your laptop, HDMI for Blu-ray players and game consoles, USB and memory-card slots (so you can project PowerPoint files, and slide shows and movies without even needing a computer). All produce a 1,280-by-800-pixel image. A few, with the purchase of a Wi-Fi adapter, can display videos and slides wirelessly from a phone, tablet or laptop.
These projectors tend to fall into two categories, mobile projectors and business projectors. Here are the best.
Mobile LED projectors
Dell M115 ($520): At about 4 inches square and 13 ounces, this 450-lumen model is the smallest and lightest projector in the roundup. You could cover it up with a hamburger.
And yet this tiny, black plastic Dell is among the best mobile projectors. The picture is bright and the colors are true, especially in the dark. The buttons on the projector light up when you touch them, which is useful, but their labels are dark gray on black, and therefore pretty much impossible to read. The slot accommodates only Micro SD cards, not standard ones. And a remote is $25 extra (booooo!).
InFocus IN1144 ($540): It's another small black box — very small — this time offering 500 lumens and a good picture. At 1.8 pounds, it's got more than twice the heft of the Dell. The LED lasts 30,000 hours, the company says. A good package.
LED business projectors
Casio XJ-A141 ($1,000): This projector creates a cinematic 2,500-lumen image, ridiculously bright and true, even when the lights are on.
This baby rocks. It's loaded with features — Eco mode, automatic keystone correction, password protection, auto-on when you plug it in — and it looks slim and fantastic.
David Pogue is the New York Times' tech columnist. He can be reached at davidpogue.com or @Pogue on Twitter. See full columns at fresnobee.com/pogue.