InFocus IN1144 review

The InFocus IN1144 is one of the better choices among lightweight, 500-lumen projectors.
Photo of InFocus IN1144

The InFocus IN1144 ($600 street) is one more entry in a growing category of projectors that includes the Acer K330, the NEC NP-L50W, and the Editors’ Choice 3M Mobile Projector MP410. What defines the category is a sub-three pound weight, a DLP chip with WXGA (1280 by 800) resolution, and an LED light source with either a 300 or 500-lumen rating. The IN1144 falls in the 500-lumen group, along with the Acer and NEC models, and it’s one of the best in the group.

Aside from the brightness ratings, the biggest differences between the 300-lumen models and 500-lumen models in this category are their sizes and weights. The 300-lumen models generally weigh less than a pound by themselves and less than two pounds with their power blocks, while the 500-lumen models typically don’t need power blocks but weigh between 2 pounds 8 ounces and just under 3 pounds. The IN1144 is a little unusual on this score. It weighs only 1 pound 13 ounces, but needs a power block. Even including the power block, however, the total weight is 2 pounds 10 ounces.

Basics
The IN1144 comes with a soft case large enough to hold the 1.7 by 6.7 by 5.4 inch (HWD) projector plus the power block, cables, credit-card size remote, and the optional Wi-Fi dongle ($29 direct). InFocus says you can download both Windows and Mac apps, but no mobile apps,  from its website so you can show images over the wireless connection. For maximum portability, you can also use the projector with just an SD card or USB memory key. The IN1144 can read an assortment of file types directly, including most common image, video, and audio formats as well as PDF and Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.

Setup is standard. In addition to an SD card slot and USB A port for a USB key, the back of the projector offers HDMI and VGA ports plus two mini plugs for A/V in and audio out. The A/V in port can accept both audio and composite video, but InFocus doesn’t provide an appropriate adaptor for video. Also worth mention is a Kensington Lock slot on one side, so you can leave the projector sitting on a conference room table without worrying about someone walking away with it.

As with all the projectors in this category, the IN1144′s LED light source is meant to last the life of the projector, which helps keep the total cost of ownership down. InFocus rates the LEDs at 30,000 hours.

Brightness and Data Image Quality
The 500-lumen rating is obviously far below the 2,500 or 3,000 lumens that’s typical for today’s lamp-based portable projectors. However, perception of brightness is logarithmic, which means you’ll perceive 500 lumens as being much more than one fifth as bright as 2,500 lumens.

I found the projector bright enough to let me run my tests using the 78-inch wide (92-inch diagonal) image size I normally use with standard projectors. However, even with theater dark lighting, the image wasn’t bright enough at that size for extended viewing. If you want to watch, say, a full-length movie, a 55-inch wide (65-inch diagonal) size would be a better choice. With ambient light, you’ll want to drop to an even smaller size.

Data image quality is reasonably good, but well short of excellent. On our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, colors were fully saturated in most modes, with yellow a true yellow, rather than a mustard color, but red and blue a little dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness color model. Color balance was excellent in most modes, with neutral grays over the full range from white to black.

One potentially annoying issue is that I couldn’t get the entire screen in crisp focus all at the same time. I settled on focusing a broad diagonal swath from the upper left corner to the lower right, leaving two corners with slightly soft focus.

The IN1144 also shares one shortcoming with all of the other projectors in this category, with scaling artifacts (in the form of unwanted patterns in fills) at the claimed native resolution. As I discussed in detail my review of the Optoma ML500, this simply shouldn’t happen. However, the artifacts won’t be an issue for most people, since they show up only in patterned fills with closely spaced lines or dots. More important, the scaling doesn’t affect text readability very much, as it does with some projectors in this category. Text was easily readable at sizes as small as 6.8 points.

Video and Other Issues
Video quality for the IN1144 is best described as watchable. I saw a slight loss of shadow detail (detail based on shading in dark areas) and a tendency for skin tones to be slightly greenish in some scenes, but the quality overall was better than many data projectors can manage.

It also helps that the IN1144 doesn’t show rainbow artifacts easily, which is always a potential problem for single-chip DLP projectors, with bright areas breaking up into red-green-blue rainbows. As is typical, the rainbows show up more frequently with video than with data images, but I didn’t see any with data, and saw far fewer with video than I’ve seen with most DLP projectors.

One other plus for the IN1144 is its surprisingly good audio quality. I was able to hear every word of some quietly spoken dialog that’s impossible to decipher with most projectors. Unfortunately the two-watt speaker doesn’t offer a lot of volume, so you may not hear much from more than three or four feet away.

Despite some minor issues that keep it from being Editors’ Choice, most notably the lack of even focus across the entire screen, the InFocus IN1144 stands out from the pack of 300 and 500-lumen projectors. Its balance of brightness, data image quality, video quality, and features—including the ability to read an assortment of file formats from USB keys and SD cards—makes it at least a match for most of its competition, while its near lack of rainbow artifacts makes it far more watchable for anyone who’s sensitive to seeing those artifacts. If you want a projector that’s both highly portable and eminently watchable, the InFocus IN1144 should be on your short list.

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Specifications
Native Resolution 1280 x 800
Video Inputs Component, Composite, HDMI
Computer Interfaces Analog VGA, HDMI
Wireless Connectivity No
Weight 1.8 lb
Rated Contrast Ratio 10000
Engine Type DLP
Type Business, Consumer
Aspect Ratio 16
Rated Brightness 500 ANSI lumens

Verdict
The InFocus IN1144 is superficially similar to several other 500-lumen, WXGA (1,280-by-800) projectors, but stands out for how well it avoids showing rainbow artifacts.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc