The 3M Mobile Projector MP300 is my new poster child for products that just miss getting everything right. It’s small, lightweight, bright, physically attractive, and easy to set up. But it’s limited to a single connector—an MHL-enabled HDMI port—which makes it a great choice if you can take advantage of the connector, and completely useless if you can’t.
The single-port design isn’t quite as limiting as it might seem. In addition to letting you connect to image sources with HDMI, Mini-HDMI, and Micro-HDMI connectors, it also lets you connect, using appropriate adaptors, to sources with an Apple Lightning port, a DisplayPort, a DVI-I or DVI-D port, or an MHL-enabled micro USB port, which includes any number of smartphones and tablets. You can even plug in the Roku Stick that we reviewed late last year. In fact, 3M sells the identical projector with the Roku Stick included, as the 3M Streaming Projector ($300 street).
A major catch, of course, is that the choices don’t include either a VGA connector, which is still the ubiquitous choice for Windows computers, or support for USB direct display, which would be a good alternative. Also notable for its absence is a USB A connector that would let you plug in a USB memory key as an image source. That said, however, if you have an image source with a connector you can use, the projector can do an impressive job.
Basics and Setup
The MP300 scores well on portability. It measures roughly 2.0 by 4.3 by 4.2 inches (HWD), but seems smaller, because of rounded edges and tapering, and it weighs just 11 ounces complete with its rechargeable battery. Even with the power block, the total weight is only one pound one ounce. However, you may well choose to leave the power block at home, thanks to a long battery life, at a claimed three and a half hours in Eco mode or two and a half hours in Standard mode.
Like most projectors in its weight class, the MP300 is built around a DLP chip and LED light source, with the light source meant to last the life of the unit. The company rates it at 20,000 hours. The native resolution is WVGA (854 by 480), with input resolutions limited to standard video, rather than common computer, resolutions, at 480p (640 by 480p and 720 by 480p), 576p (720 by 576p), 720p (1280 by 720p), and 1080i (1920 by 1080i and 1440 by 1080i).
Setup is simple. Plug in a cable, point the projector at whatever you’re using as a screen, and focus the image. As is typical for projectors this size, there’s no zoom control, which means you have to move the projector to adjust image size. The focus control earns special mention for being much easier to adjust than with most small projectors.
One potential problem is that although the MP300 comes with an HDMI to HDMI cable, it doesn’t come with any adaptors for other ports, and 3M doesn’t sell any. That means you’ll have to get them elsewhere, which can be more of a problem than you might think.
The connector is on the back of the unit inside a small depression and facing sideways. The positioning lets you plug in a cable—or a Roku Stick—and then close the back cover without anything sticking out behind the MP300. Unfortunately, the limited clearance between the edge of the connector and the body of the projector can get in the way.
In addition to the HDMI to HDMI cable that comes with the projector, I tried four different cables with an HDMI connector on one end and found that two of them wouldn’t seat properly. This would be less of an issue if 3M also included, or at least sold, cables and adaptors that were guaranteed to fit, but it doesn’t. For my tests, I connected the projector to a Blu-ray player, using one of the HDMI to HDMI cables that fit properly.
Brightness and Image Quality
The MP300 is rated at 60 lumens. That’s less than some other, slightly heavier, LED-based portable projectors, like the 300-lumen Editors’ Choice 3M Mobile Projector MP410, and it’s a lot less than typical projectors that use standard lamps, like the 2,800-lumen Editors’ Choice Epson EX3212 SVGA 3LCD Projector that I recently reviewed. As I’ve pointed out in other reviews, however, perception of brightness is logarithmic, so if one projector offers one fifth as many lumens as another projector, you’ll perceive it is as being far more than one fifth as bright.
Based on The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendation for image brightness, a 60-lumen image using a 1.0 gain screen is suitable for a 30 to 41-inch diagonal image at a 16:9 aspect ratio in theater dark lighting, or a roughly 20-inch image with moderate ambient light. For my tests, however, I found the MP300 usable for long sessions at slightly larger sizes as well, settling on a 41-inch wide (46-inch diagonal) image as bright enough for comfortable viewing.
With no VGA port on the MP300, I couldn’t run our standard suite of data image tests. However, the projector scored impressively well on our video tests, despite the low native resolution putting some obvious limits on its ability to show fine detail.
It did an excellent job resisting posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) and a good job with shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), even in scenes that tend to cause those problems. It also did a good job with skin tones, and showed only a minimal level of noise. The quality was certainly good enough to be comfortable to watch for long sessions.
Rainbows and Other Issues
Rainbow artifacts, with light areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows, are always a potential concern for any single-chip DLP projector. Even though I see these artifacts easily, however, I saw very few with most test clips with the MP300. The exception was with a black and white clip, where they showed often enough to be annoying. Even so, unless you’re planning to watch black and white movies or old TV shows, it’s unlikely that you’ll find the rainbow artifacts bothersome.
Also demanding mention is the MP300′s 2-watt speaker. As with the sound systems in most small projectors, it’s essentially useless. Even at full volume, it was barely loud enough to make out words in a quiet room from a foot away. If you need sound, plan on using the audio output port, preferably with a powered headset or speakers.
I’d like this projector a lot better if you could use it with a computer by way of VGA or USB Direct Display. But if you have an HDMI port or other digital video output on your computer, or you don’t need to use it with a computer, that’s not an issue. The projector has a lot to recommend it otherwise, with a usably bright, reasonably high quality image; easy setup; light weight; and long battery life. If you need a highly portable projector for an image source that the 3M Mobile Projector MP300 works with, it’s a more than attractive choice.
|Native Resolution||854 x 480|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||900|
|Rated Brightness||60 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc