As display technology has continued to progress, so too has the concept of the outdoor barbecue or the backyard “movie night.” No longer a distant, pie-in-the-sky concept, movie nights have become a popular event from suburban backyards to city parks. This trend has largely been driven by the increased quality of projection technology, which has put high-end video in the hands of anyone willing to invest a small amount of time to learn how to operate a projector.

In today’s world, however, operating a projector is easier than setting up a VCR. User interfaces have become increasingly intuitive, making display technology more accessible than ever before. A major outgrowth of this trend is the emergence of projectors that boast simpler control features, allowing for quick and easy setup and effortless operation.

With summer fast approaching, homeowners will be purchasing projectors for a variety of outdoor events, including movie nights, family reunions and even private corporate events. While the high volume and diversity of projector models available provides a broad spectrum of options for consumers, a close examination of those options is necessary to truly yield the highest return on investment.

For professionals looking to purchase a projector for use in the summer months, a new category of projectors has emerged in recent years. The presence of “dual-use” projectors—ideal for office environments or residential settings—has changed the landscape of the projector market. The development of dual-use projection technology has provided end-users with a display solution for the office as well as the home. As digital lifestyle includes work and play, technologies such as laptops, PDAs, multimedia devices and even networking products have become ubiquitous in the home and office. However, because they’re less portable, display devices have not been included in this crossover category. Simply put, they have traditionally been considered either office products or entertainment products, but not both.

Companies like Hitachi have taken huge steps toward changing this perception by offering dual-use projectors such as the new CP-RX61 model. Until recently, the market has struggled to develop a projector that can be transported from the office to the home and back while maintaining the current standards of quality.

Previously, as the features of projectors have become increasingly sophisticated, the prices of projectors have risen accordingly. As display technology becomes more ubiquitous, however, advanced feature sets have taken a back seat to simplicity. Feedback from consumers has proven that advanced features do not appeal to the working professional as much as straightforward, common-sense usability. For the typical “dual-use” customer, a few key features take precedent in the purchasing decision: quick and easy setup (i.e. “plug and play); a small learning curve; and intuitive controls. Whether it’s in the boardroom or in the backyard, ease of use is the key to bringing high-end display technology to the masses.

This is not to say, of course, that functionality is a secondary requirement of dual-use projectors. Without sharp, crystal-clear images and reliable performance, ease of use becomes an arbitrary benefit. This is particularly true for outdoor applications, where the elements can make for challenging situations. The CP-RX61 features advanced connectivity (including two RGB inputs), optical zoom and unparalleled reliability, providing business professionals with an overall lower cost of ownership. Additionally, the CP-RX61 LCD projector features a brightness of 1,600 ANSI lumens at a light weight of 5.1 pounds, along with vertical keystone correction and a 500:1 contrast ratio.

With regards to performance, display technology continues to improve. The advent of 3LCD technology, for example, has become the display platform for numerous projector manufacturers, Hitachi included. Building on existing LCD technology, 3LCD utilizes three LCD panels to create images that are brighter and natural than previously feasible. The high light efficiency of 3LCD technology is easier on the projector itself, generating less heat than competitive technologies. Additionally, 3LCD has a wider range of color reproduction than other technologies, creating stunningly natural images. Moreover, because 3LCD projectors do not suffer from color breakup, images are significantly less stressful on the user’s eyes.

Because of marked enhancements in usability, performance and reliability, the concept of an outdoor theater in your backyard has become a reality.

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