Year-end Budget Eaters: Better Projectors

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- If you have any budget left over this year, may I suggest betting it on a better business projector.

I am not sure how this happens, but every year, it does: You claw and scrape your way to December and darn it if there isn't some money sitting somewhere that, if you don't spend, will either get sucked up by a project you don't want to do or get declared as profits and be lost as taxes you don't want to pay.

So this time of year I like to have an intriguing techno idea in my pocket to turn these fallow funds into productivity. My vote for 2011 is to invest in one of the emerging family of better projectors. Today's upscale business projectors are small, light and can be fabulously interactive. And they can put some zip in your collaborative juices, improve the punch of your sales team and turn that wasted conference room into a multi-use space.

Here are three budget-eating projectors for the end of 2011:

Epson Brightlink 455Wi Interactive projector ($2,199)
Oh, this is a crafty idea. Mount a traditional, short-throw interactive projector directly above a table. Then set it all up to project an image across the entire surface of that table and allow a team to work together on single horizontal surface. For about $2,200, the Espon 455Wi renders just such a near-PC-quality image of roughly 60-inches diagonal, or about the size of half a conference table, which is what you want. PC and Macs are supported, as are most networking standards.

Be aware, Star Trek this thing is not. You will still need to interact using a pen, which I find clumsy. And it will take time to learn how to use the thing properly. Don't expect just to boot it up and have your problems magically solved. But if you want to turbo-charge your brainstorming next year, try turning your conference room into a conference table. It's pretty darn slick.

Runco LS-1 DLP Projector ($3,995)
It's a point of endless debate among projector and TV geeks whether Runco displays are worth the tens of thousands they can cost. But that debate will probably fade with the roughly $4,000 LS-1. The LS-1 is a full-HD, 1080p, 10,000-to-1 contrast ratio DLP projector that produces a simply stunning, high-quality image for the money. Sure, the LS-1 is clearly aimed at the consumer market. But the overall image power and the ability of Runco electronics to adapt to different types of digital output make it perfectly suitable for your conference room or sales setting. With quality this high, your big idea will look sexy indeed.

InFocus IN5318 ($5,999)
If there is an ultimate business projector right now, it might just be the IN5318. The specs on this thing are off the chart: 4000 lumens -- that's multiplex bright. So-called native WUXGA resolution that's more than even the best HDTVs. It comes serious short-throw options for smaller rooms, including lenses you can change yourself. There is support for essentially any imaging and network standard, no filters to clean or replace and it all comes in a enclosure that fits inside an average ceiling tile. That means this is a first-rate, best-quality presentation and sales tool that does not require the cost and complexity of professional projection support staff. And that means if you are doing any sort of events or larger sales presentations, you can do the projections yourself. That's some serious value.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.