IBM, iLM300

16 Feb 2004

Product: Projector
Price: €2,462

This diminutive IBM projector really makes it possible for busy execs to pack up their presentation and take it to a meeting. There are no shortage of vendors in pursuit of this niche product category but first impressions of the micro-portable iLM300 suggest that IBM have stolen a lead on the lot.

Measuring up at 15.4 x 19.9 x 6.3cm and weighing just 1.1kg, it’s a tiny chunk of technology that comes with its own soft carry case and obligatory connecting leads. As you might expect it’s instantly compatible with IBM laptops – with which it shares the matt black livery – but it’s a doddle whatever piece of source equipment you want to hook up, including home entertainment kit.

Backend socketry is basic and minimal. The M1-DA port handles both analogue and digital signals for PC connectivity and there are composite video and s-video sockets for home entertainment equipment. Last up, there’s an audio input to use the tiny onboard speaker.

The control buttons are reduced to a tiny cluster on top of the machine. The minimalist styling means that they’re small and a tad fiddly, as are the focus and zoom rings for manual picture adjustment. Still, it’s the small price you pay for buying something small. You soon get used to them.

There is a pull-out leg on the underbelly of the chassis for angling the projection. Maximum screen size would be around 3.6 metres (diagonally) from a distance of 6.1 metres. The only other distinguishing physical features are the air vents that occupy three of its four sides. Projectors get hot quickly and have to be fan cooled, but the more air that can circulate around them the better.

The good news is that the onboard fan is quieter than on some models we’ve tested. On the downside, the power-off button doesn’t have a confirm option to prevent you accidentally switching it off. This is becoming a standard feature on projectors. It’s significant because if you do turn it off by accident the fan stays on and it goes through a cooling cycle. You have to wait a while before you can turn it back on – not something you want to happen in an important presentation.

Setting up and adjusting the picture is aided by a menu system which you can access from the infra red remote, which also has a laser light for pointing to key parts of a presentation as well as a volume control for the speaker. A trackball makes easier work of tweaking the settings than the onboard buttons.

It performs admirably, delivering XGA computer screen resolutions of up to 1,280 x 1,024. Use it for a home cinema plugged into a DVD, and the contrast range seemed a tad limited, the picture a little lifeless. And because it’s a DLP (digital light processing) model as opposed to LCD projector, there is the recurring bugbear about the ‘rainbow effect’, flashing colour bars that bother some viewers more than others.

These, however, are minor niggles found on applications that it was not really designed for. Its unique selling point is its portability. With this in mind its performance is more than up for the job and it will find a welcome home in many a busy office.

By Ian Campbell