Over the past six years, the popularity of widescreen 16:10 format laptops has risen dramatically while the demand for regular 4:3 laptops has dropped. In 2002, 100% of businesses were using 4:3 laptops but within three and a half years 50% of this market had switched to using widescreen. A massive 95% of consumers are apparently working now on widescreen laptops with the remaining 5% of regular laptop users predicted to fizzle out entirely by 2010. At least that’s what one well-known research company predicted.

The PJ359w (from £600/$754) is a big deal for ViewSonic because it is the company’s first widescreen laptop-compatible LCD projector. Not only that, the impressively ultra-portable three-panel PJ359w features HDMI 1.3 connectivity and supports Full HD signals up to 1080p, making it a fun toy for after-hours videogaming and movie watching.

The projector is certainly small and light (274×205×59mm, 1.8kg) enough to carry comfortably between meetings. ViewSonic also supplies a matching carrying case, remote control and VGA cable (no HDMI cable), so you’re good to go out of the box. The PJ359w is a wholly-black projector that is quite angular in its design. This is a welcome contrast compared to a lot of recent models that sport a more rounded look, but it could be suggested that the design gives the projector a 1980s look and feel. The matt finish doesn’t help either, as most projectors are now finished in glossy piano black or brilliant white plastic. I didn’t have a problem with the design of the PJ359w, and it’s certainly in line with the needs of business users.

Features
One of the biggest strengths of the PJ359w is its short-throw lens, enabling relatively large images to be projected from short distances. For example, from just 1.6m it is possible to achieve a screen size of 50-inches. This is a great feature for those who tend to project in small business meetings, as well as home users who have small living room. It is also relatively bright at 2000 ANSI lumens, which again is good for presenting in the daytime, and a contrast ratio of 500:1. Other core specifications include a native resolution of 1280×800 pixels (WXGA), 1.2x manual optical zoom, 30- to 300-inch display size, and a 35- to 456-inch throw distance.

In addition to two standard VGA input connectors that let you connect two computers simultaneously, the projector provides a HDMI 1.3 port with HDCP to ensure signal integrity for superior HD video and picture quality. There are also composite and S-Video ports for connecting AV devices such as camcorders and older DVD players, in addition to a USB Type-B port and audio in/out ports. The AC adapter attaches to the left-hand side of the projector (the opposite side to the lens), and there’s a mono 1W speaker on the right-hand side. A single fan is at the back of the projector, which is ideal because it means hot air doesn’t blow out onto your audience.

Ease of use
Setting up the PJ359w is a doddle. Two plastic adjustable feet at the front of the model let you adjust the image at awkward viewing angles, and the direct off feature allows you to simply unplug the projector and go without waiting for the usual cool down phase. This feature also protects lamp life from sudden power blackout. The sliding filter cover and simple lamp replacement from the top of the unit make maintenance a breeze, even when the projector is mounted.

A single button turns the projector on and off, and the Input/Enter button along with 4-way control pad let you tweak settings – should you not want to use the remote control. From the intuitive OSD (on-screen display) you can manage a wide range of options including aspect ratio (16:10 native or 4:3), brightness, contrast, gamma, colour temperature, tint, and sharpness. You can also execute automatic keystone correction, toggle picture mode, and alter volume levels. Whisper mode reduces the PJ359w’s operating noise level from 36dB to 30dB, but at the price of brightness. To be fair, I didn’t even notice a drop in noise, but the picture certainly lost its impact. Management features let you view the amount of remaining lamp and filter time.

Performance
The image quality the PJ359w displayed was very impressive. When watching a Blu-ray movie, playing on an Xbox 360, viewing a PowerPoint presentation or even browsing the Web, blacks were rich and deep and colours astounding. There were no distortions in the display and the brightness level was impressive. Text documents were sharp, a vital prerequisite for business users. My only criticism was that I wished the brightness was higher.

Conclusion
ViewSonic’s PJ359w is designed for business and education users, which is evident by the way it looks. Unlike sleek consumer models that have glossy finishes and flashing LEDs everywhere, the PJ359w is very ThinkPad-like in its approach. ViewSonic has done and excellent job targeting this market with a projector that is not only small and light enough not to be a burden, but has practical features and impressive widescreen performance. The PJ359w also has HDMI 1.3 input and an incredible short throw distance.

The PJ359w handles both office and home applications with little trouble and its variety of screen adjustment features let you get the best image quality every time – the auto keystone correction works a treat! It has some nifty features too, including a quick off that shuts the unit down quickly for get up and go situations. If you are looking for a widescreen 1080p projector with good image quality, the PJ359w is very good value. The only disappointment is the lack of DVI and component inputs, but that’s hardly a deal breaker considering adapters are available as optional extras. More significant is the operating noise, which I found to a little too loud for comfort. Nonetheless, the PJ359w is worthy of consideration considering its ease of use and performance.