When LED-powered pocket projectors (sometimes called pico projectors) first appeared a few years ago, they were pretty much pooh-poohed as being cute, expensive and ultimately useless. Time seems to have proved everyone wrong, with many models now available to tempt those looking for the ultimate in portable presentation technology.
3M’s MPro150 uses 3M’s LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) chip technology and is the third model to carry the MPro name, the first being the MPro110 in 2008. This was followed in 2009 by the redesigned MPro120, which looks almost identical to the MPro150.
Apart from the welcome boosting of the LED brightness from 12 lumens to 15 lumens, the biggest change is the addition of 1GB of internal Flash storage and a microSD card slot (a 2GB card comes in the box). This allows you to download files and videos to the projector and display them with no need for a PC, a real boon for those who travel light.
It’s almost idiot-proof to operate, with a four-way paddle for navigation, plus a central pause/zoom/enter button and an exit/back button. The only physical adjustments possible are two levels of LED brightness (we couldn’t tell any difference between them) and volume for the tinny 0.5W built-in stereo speakers.
At the rear there’s a mini-USB port for PC connection, a headphone output jack and a proprietary AV input port; a combined VGA/audio lead (with a miserly short audio cable) and a composite video lead are supplied. You also get a carrying pouch and a handy little pocket tripod with bendy legs. The construction feels reasonably robust, but there’s no lens cover and we found the battery cover detaches rather easily. It’s also surprisingly noisy, with a miniature whiny fan kicking in to keep the innards cool.
We managed 2 hours and 15 minutes of battery life looping a video on a single charge of the replaceable Li-Ion Polymer battery, which confirms 3M’s claims. Projection size was a different matter: 3M’s table in the manual is way off, suggesting a 37-inch throw distance for a 36-inch wide display, whereas we measured it as 55 inches. Maximum diagonal size is quoted as 50 inches, but for that you’d need to be showing videos in a coal mine; plain presentations fare much better at large sizes.
The 640 x 480 (native) display quality is much better than you might expect, although ambient light quickly drowns it and the focusing wheel is a bit hit-and-miss. Colour rendering isn’t very accurate, white backgrounds show some colour banding and videos have a bit of a greenish tinge, but for presentations to individuals or small groups it will get the job done. Combine it with a small desktop projection screen and you have a salesman’s perfect house-call kit.
The built-in Picsel file viewer does a decent job with Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel and Powerpoint, including Office 2007 formats), but there are limitations; not all embedded objects in presentations are supported and for PDFs it’s best to embed fonts due to limited on-board font support. If you’re going to use it in anger, be sure to test your files first before leaving the laptop at the office. Zoom and panning of documents is possible, with four zoom levels.
Videos are a similar story. Although it supports 3GPP, MOV and AVI container formats with MPEG-4 and H.264 codecs, compatibility depends on the exact flavour of codec used for the encoding. Widescreen content is handled well, and audio files in a special folder can be used as background music for photo slide shows.
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