The Gateway Projector 205's simple, boxlike design has stylish flair--a metallic-gold case highlighted with a mirrorlike control panel. The protected location of the lens, recessed more than a half-inch into the front panel, might explain the absence of a lens cap, but in a bag, it could still suffer the slings and arrows of travel. The focus ring is easily accessible. A typical selection of connectors is conveniently grouped on the rear panel.
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The projector is small--about the size of a hardcover best-seller--and weighs only 3.8 pounds.
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The mirrorlike control panel gives stylish flair to the typical X-shaped button design.
The projector measures 9.8 by 6.6 by 2.2 inches (W, D, H)--about the size of a hardcover best-seller--and weighs only 3.8 pounds. Packed with a remote control and cables in the soft but flimsy-feeling case, the weight climbs to a still-feathery 4.9 pounds.
The Projector 205 is less adjustable than we'd like. The front leg does not extend very far and provides only six levels of elevation rather than a continuous range. Even when level, the projected image has a definite trapezoidal, or keystone shape, which the device cannot automatically correct. The projector will automatically search for a connected signal source but only when it is first turned on; otherwise, you'll need to switch to the new source via the Source button on the control panel or via the remote. There is also an Auto button that tells the projector to adjust itself to your laptop's signals, but we think the projector ought to handle this on its own.
Gateway's accessory list includes cables for VGA, S-Video, and composite video. A component-video cable for connecting to video sources, such as a DVD player, via the VGA port is an unexpected bonus; usually it costs extra. The composite-video cable contains stereo-audio connectors, but the Projector 205 has no audio capabilities; Gateway says that this is because the company provides the same cable pack for its Projector 210, which does have audio.
The Projector 205 has a native SVGA resolution of 800x600, but it can accept signals at resolutions up to SXGA (1,280x1,024). The lens offers a relatively large optical-zoom range of 1.3X, but it produces small images. To generate our standard image size of one square meter, we had to move the projector back until it was more than eight feet from the screen. The exact placement of the projector is further limited by its relatively short, six-foot AC cable.
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The Projector 205's ports include a USB connector for emulating a laptop's mouse.
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The remote control includes hard-to-find features, such as a laser pointer.
The Projector 205's ports include composite-video and S-Video, as well as a VGA connector, which also handles component-video connections. A USB connector lets the projector emulate a laptop's mouse. Our test unit featured, curiously, a 6W direct-current external power supply, which is of little benefit to a projector with a 150W lamp. Gateway says that this connector has been removed from the latest versions of the Projector 205.
The included, 6.4-inch remote control includes hard-to-find features, such as a laser pointer, plus mouse-emulation capabilities. Unfortunately, those left- and right-mouse buttons, which will probably be used frequently, are placed in a circular shape, which is stylish but difficult to use. The least-used buttons (digital zoom, antikeystoning, and image freeze) reside in a recessed area on the underside of the remote.
Gateway recommends that the projector's bulb be replaced every 1,500 hours--500 hours sooner than most other low-cost projectors suggest. The replacement bulb for the Projector 205 costs $349. To remove the old bulb, you have to unscrew two screws that secure the lamp module cover and one screw that holds the bulb module in place.
In our brightness test, the Gateway managed 593 lumens, 40 percent below the advertised claim of 1,000 ANSI lumens and the dimmest of those we tested. It is, however, sufficient for presentations in small and medium-size rooms, as well as home-entertainment applications--provided the room is good and dark.
The Projector 205 fared better on our contrast test. Its ratio of 386:1 was far below the advertised value of 1,000:1, but it was still one of the best we've seen for this class. A good contrast ratio is especially important for video, because it enables the projector to display truer blacks.
The Projector 205 also performed well on our image-quality tests. It looked sharp; even tiny text was very easy to read. The projector distinguished 241 out of a possible 255 shades of gray, indicating that it will do a good job handling very light and very dark images. Some grays had a slight greenish tint, however, which was particularly noticeable in DVD movies. Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, for example, did not look quite as healthy as he does on other projectors. In our color-accuracy test, greens shifted slightly to blue and reds to yellow, but blues were exactly right. Overall, we observed an average amount of flicker. Excessive DVD-video action occasionally showed some slight problems, where the projector could not completely keep up with quickly changing images. For example, when a complex background is panned quickly, an astute viewer can spot some small, irregular shapes appearing on a frame or two.
In operation, the Projector 205 is somewhat obtrusive. Its fan registered a relatively loud 39.6-decibel rating--workable if you're talking at presentation volume but a bit loud for movie viewing at home. The air coming out of the exhaust port was a warm 152 degrees F. The projector powers up in a quick 30 seconds, but it takes a little more than two minutes to shut down.
While many projectors enjoy two to three years of warranty coverage, the Gateway Projector 205 has a tepid, one-year Value Service plan that covers parts, labor, mail-in service, and technical support, along with a 90-day lamp warranty. Extending the plan to three years costs an additional $199. For an extra $150 on top of that, Gateway will add an "advanced exchange" feature to the three-year warranty, promising to send out a replacement projector even before it receives back the malfunctioning unit from the customer.
There are two versions of the 45-page user manual for the Projector 205. A printed copy is supplied with the projector, while an Adobe Acrobat version is available on Gateway's Web site. Both adequately cover the basic operation of the device. The Web site also has a FAQ page, a way to e-mail the Gateway technical-support staff, and a 24/7 toll-free support number (although in our test, it was difficult to find someone who handled projectors).