Toshiba SW20 review

Price when reviewed

Toshiba’s SW20 is aimed at the budget and education markets, yet it offers something usually found in projectors twice the price. The ‘W’ stands for wireless, meaning you can minimise cable clutter and switch presenters easily. There’s a PC Card slot in the projector and a bundled 802.11b Wi-Fi card. Alternatively, the slot can read from compatible memory devices for notebook-free presentations.

Toshiba SW20 review

There’s also a generous range of connectors, with two input D-SUB ports and one for monitor output. There’s S-Video, and RCA connectors handle composite video and audio in/out. The audio input for the 1W speaker is a 3.5mm mini-jack, and there’s another for output too.

All this looks great on paper, but the reality is disappointing. The wireless link isn’t as effective as the Sony VPL-CX75’s, with High-speed mode noticeably sacrificing image quality. High-quality mode improves the image but it still appears slightly blurry, and causes mouse movement to appear jerky. However, Toshiba says the SW20 will also take compatible 802.11g PC Cards, boosting the link from 11Mb/sec to a theoretical 54Mb/sec.

Resolution is 800 x 600 pixels – not uncommon at this price. Higher-resolution inputs are translated down, but the result is poor. Text sent at 1,024 x 768 or higher looks awful, and that means setting your notebook to the lower resolution for each presentation. It’s crisply defined at 800 x 600, but inconvenient, and you can’t fit a great deal onscreen. The upper-left and right edges of the image are also slightly clipped, making the top droop on either side. Focusing was sharp at the top right but less precise elsewhere, though the low resolution effectively magnifies small font sizes, keeping them legible.

The True Colour menu option worked well, improving colour balance and bringing yellows into line. But the big problem was that black came out as dark grey. Closer inspection revealed it to be swarming with flecks of noise too. Adjusting the brightness a few notches rid this completely, but shifted the noise band up into grey – it’s a matter of moving it to the point where it has least impact. Colour progression from light to dark was smooth, but due to the high noise level, dark colours lacked depth.

Configuring the projector is initially confusing too, not least because there are two menus. Setup includes puzzling items such as Clamp 1 and Clamp 2, which have unsatisfactory explanations in the manual; the everyday Menu jumps between two layouts as you navigate.

Adjusting the lens focus makes the assembly wobble slightly, and the barrel sits proud of the case where it could get accidentally damaged. The budget carry bag’s absence of protective padding won’t help either. Fan noise is quite acceptable for the price you’re paying, but the projector emits a faint buzz on bright white images. And when it’s time to pack up, the SW20 has a lengthy three-minute cool-down cycle.

The Wi-Fi feature seemed a remarkable inclusion at this price, but in the end we wished the money had been spent elsewhere – in areas that would improve image quality. Ultimately, unless you’re desperate for wireless operation at under £1,000, the SW20 is a disappointing package.

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