Canon’s Xeed range is one of the first to take advantage of LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), a promising technology for projection. The flagship SX6 offers a 4:3 resolution of 1400 x 1050 – one of the highest we’ve seen from a projector – and a super-bright 3500 lumens. You also get a powered 1.7x zoom, powered focus, an HDCP-compliant DVI interface and Adobe RGB support. It all comes in a 4.7kg chassis that can just about be considered portable, and there’s even a high-quality padded carry case in the box for the occasional trip.
Considering these specifications, Canon’s claim of 31dBA in quiet mode is remarkable. The low-humming fans are audible from 50cm away in a quiet room but disappear completely when further away or if there’s other noise in the room.
There are inputs for DVI, VGA, S-Video, composite and 3.5mm audio jacks, plus VGA out, USB type B and eight-pin mini-DIN. There’s a DVI-to-VGA cable and a VGA-to-component converter, but, oddly, no DVI cable.
The compact remote is responsive and the intuitive menu makes adjustments simple. Dedicated buttons for zoom, focus, keystone and input are handy, but the full menu offers far more, including dynamic gamma and colour-wheel settings, where you can alter the hue and saturation of red, green, blue, cyan, yellow and magenta. The Auto button automatically adjusts focus, vertical keystone and even tone – you can project onto any colour and the SX6 will perform auto white balance to ensure colours appear correctly – and it really works. You can also manually apply horizontal keystone correction up to +/-20 degrees. With the 1.7x zoom, you can project a 40in image from just 1.2m away.
The SX6 supports 720p and 1080i HD formats. 720p streams are upscaled to fit the 1400-pixel width, while 1080p streams are downscaled. Viewing high-definition video in Movie & Photo mode, it’s clear that the SX6 is outstanding. Even in a well-lit room (so long as direct sunlight isn’t hitting the screen), images are of superb quality. Highlights show no clipping, dark areas retain detail and movement is smooth too. While colour can’t rival plasma displays for saturation, vibrancy or evenness, it’s much better than the majority of LCD or DLP projectors. Black level naturally suffers unless you’re in a pitch-black room, and even then it’s difficult to see subtle changes between the darkest greys. But, again, compared to LCD projectors, it’s an excellent performance and it’s almost impossible to see the black bars on widescreen video.
In Presentation mode, some colour accuracy is traded for brightness – useful when subtle differences in colour aren’t important. For when they are, you can use the remote to switch to Adobe RGB or sRGB modes. The remote also has forward/back buttons and a right-click button, although you’ll need the USB cable installed for these buttons to work.
To power down, unplug the SX6 and its fans use onboard power to cool the lamp for around three minutes – another neat time-saving feature.
Ultimately, the Xeed SX6 is a fabulous projector. It’s only real disadvantage is cost – both to buy and run. With lamps lasting just 1500 hours and replacements costing $580, running costs are more expensive than most at 39c per hour. If you need the brightness, high resolution and the time-saving automatic features, it won’t disappoint.
Liquid Crystal on Silicon
In order to create a high-resolution, yet compact and affordable projector, Canon has had to look beyond traditional methods and towards LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) – tipped to become the next big thing.
It’s a reflective technology like DLP but uses liquid crystals applied directly to the surface of a silicon chip instead of individual mirrors. As the crystals move, light is either reflected from the mirror below, or blocked. Crucially, it avoids the lattice-like grid which is easily seen with LCD and, as there’s no spinning colour wheel (the red, green and blue portions of the image are recombined using a prism) there’s no DLP rainbow effect when you scan your eyes across the image. The result is images as smooth as silk with non-jagged diagonal lines, sharp text and fine detail. It also allows smooth gradients and subtle differences in colour to be replicated.
There are single-panel LCoS designs, but the Xeed SX6 uses three panels – one each for red, green and blue. Light from the lamp is directed to the panels using a proprietary system, which Canon calls AISYS (Aspectual Illumination System). This ensures both high brightness and contrast by accurately controlling the polarised light horizontally and vertically. It also allows for a compact design – and therefore projector – due to the proprietary lens, reducing the distance between the lamp and LCoS panels. Canon avoids reduced contrast (caused by the light seepage from the wide beam angle) by using a barrel-shaped compressor lens, which fires a specific amount of illumination onto the LCoS panels. Since the light is polarised, illumination in the vertical direction is used as a focal light to create high brightness, while light in the horizontal direction is flattened to nearly parallel, keeping contrast as high as possible.
This Review appeared in the November, 2006 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing