Many business people have access to a projector, but if you ever take it home for some after-hours movie thrills, you'll find most models aren't up to the challenge. They may be bright enough to show presentations in a well-lit room, but they fall to pieces when challenged with video playback. Enter the knight in shining armour: DLP technology is gradually killing LCD off with cheap prices and excellent video capabilities.
Toshiba's hybrid device is just one of these projectors -- something you can carry around for Powerpoint presentations during the day, and then whip out for a movie when you get home. If you approach the TDP-S25 with this attitude, you're going to love it -- around £750 gets you something that fits the bill perfectly. It may not blow the competition away in either category, but we can't think of a better opportunity to take advantage of that company expense account.
The TDP-S25 isn't small or particularly quiet, but it looks modern and up to the job of serious projection. It has been finished in silver, so it'll match most of your consumer electronics gear, and it has all the necessary buttons lined up across the top. The main problem is that it's bigger than most dedicated business projectors. If you're taking the TDP-S25 and an average laptop on a long trip, you're in for a backbreaking time.
The projector suffers from being a jack of all trades, though. Home cinema users are going to be the most disappointed, because the TDP-S25 doesn't have modern AV connectivity. If you view the TDP-S25 as a business projector that you might occasionally use in the home, you'll be onto a great purchase -- but don't expect the video performance or connectivity of a £1,000-plus DLP projector.
If you're a PC user, the connectivity is much better. Two VGA inputs is over the top, but if two people are making a simultaneous presentation, there's no need to swap VGA cables. However there's only one PC audio input, so you would have to share it, which doesn't make much sense. There's also a VGA output, so you can loopthrough to a monitor -- but we can't see why you'd want to.
Things take a turn for the worse when you take the projector home and try to connect the DVD player. With only composite and S-video on offer round the back, the best you can service the projector with is a seriously below-par picture quality. Composite is muddy and lacks colour depth and S-video only improves the detail level.
We hate to be AV purists, but Toshiba needs to offer component inputs on its projector, and unless you're prepared to buy a component-to-VGA adaptor from a specialist electronics dealer, there's no way you can provide an agreeable picture from anything other than a PC. The logical conclusion is that you should invest in a media PC, but neither this nor the VGA converter is a realistic solution for most users.
This is a sub-£1,000 DLP projector, so you can't expect much in the way of bonus features. Another indication that this is a business projector at heart is that you can flip the image round for rear projection, for example if you're making a presentation on stage. Of more relevance to home users is that you can ceiling-mount it and flip the image upside down. While the projector is clearly meant to be portable, it's good that you can use it in a traditional home-cinema setup.
Our projector began to produce an unpleasant melting-plastic smell after half an hour's use, which might have been because it was a brand-new model. You can turn the fan up from standard to high to increase air circulation in the projector, but doing so raises the operating noise past an already high level. You can also change the lamp power from standard to low, but this reduces the brightness, and it's not too bright to begin with. If you want to keep an eye on what's going on inside the projector, you can call up Status mode inside the main menu system, which will even tell you how long you've used your current lamp so you know when to replace it.
The projector also features a rudimentary mono speaker which is more use for the business user than in a home cinema. It's tinny and lacks any vocal clarity or bass. As it's a bonus feature of the projector and not meant for serious use, we can't really knock it, and it might prove useful if you're ever stuck for speakers. You also get a remote control, VGA cable and power cable. Like the projector itself, the remote is a little too big to be carried around comfortably.
You can make a fair few adjustments to the picture, especially given that this is a budget projector. There are modes to increase the perceived brightness level and you can alter the blue, red and green levels of the picture. You can also change the aspect ratio of widescreen material -- since this is a 4:3 projector, you'll need to decide if you want your movie with large or small black bars at the top and bottom. This is another reason for home-cinema enthusiasts to dismiss the projector. The throw ratio isn't that great, either.
The projector can also cycle through its inputs until it finds a signal and power off automatically if it doesn't detect anything for a set period of time.
For a cheap projector, the Toshiba punches its weight, thanks to the highly dependable DLP chipset. It's good at reproducing colours, particularly through VGA, and motion is beautifully smooth. If you're using S-video or composite, colour reproduction is dull, but the picture is still smooth. Cheaper projectors can usually be identified by their lack of contrast depth and the TDP-S25 is no different. We tested Ronin, a particularly dark film, and there was a painful lack of detail to the streets of Paris at the beginning of the film. It also falls down on brightness, which will be very important to the business user whose main environment is a well-lit room.
The speaker is next to useless for movie viewing. We thought that the speaker on the Archos AV480 was bad, but this thing takes the biscuit. It's only meant to be used as a business aid, though -- perhaps if you're one of those people that like to do PowerPoint presentations with sound effects.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide