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The Next Step in Mobile Projectors
on December 23, 2011
Mobile projectors are still what I would consider bleeding edge, both in the sense that they are relatively new and in the sense that they are still not quite ready for a mainstream audience. However, the MP225 is a substantial step in the right direction.
There are few instructions with this unit, because there are almost no options. Plug the device into either an i-device or a computer via the overpriced VGA cable, which I purchased for this review, and you are ready to go. Component cables are also available for purchase separately. The MP225 was detected flawlessly when I plugged it in and I was ready to go. The only buttons are for volume, power, and battery, the latter of which displays remaining battery life on the screen.
Before speaking about picture quality, I would like to clarify that the way we perceive lumens is not linear. You may look at the 32 lumen rating vs. a similarly priced normal sized projector with lumens in the thousands and think it will be impossible to see. This is not the case, because as you increase lumens, you need a greater and greater lumen increase to be able to detect an increase in brightness. This relates to how our eyes work. For a mobile projector, 32 lumens is very impressive by current standards, and a substantial step forward for the technology.
So, what does that increase do? If you spend an equivalent sum of money on a standard projector, you will have an image bright enough to use with the room lights on and the windows open, which is ideal for both work and home use (unless you are a vampire). Unfortunately, the MP225 is only visible in a well-lit room when projecting a very small size image. If you have a laptop, for example, using the laptop screen would be much better. However, turn the lights off and this projector works shockingly well. The specs say that the projected image can be a maximum of 80" diagonal. Taking into account the 800x600 resolution, that means around a 64" (5.3') horizontal size.
As a side note here, this aspect ratio is 4:3, emphasizing the intent of this for business presentations over entertainment, though it can certainly do both well and handles motion nicely.
I used a tape measure to project an 80" diagonal image. In order to get this size, the projector sat around 8' from the wall. With the lights on, the image was almost impossible to even detect. However, with the lights off, the image was just a little washed out, which is very impressive for a mobile projector! At this size, the text is fuzzy even at the best focus level, and it gets terrible at any larger size. Perhaps acceptable for watching a movie, but not for Powerpoint. The colors are good overall, but lean a bit brown. This is particularly evident with skin tones. It's likely that this could be corrected if there were calibration options, but I could find none.
As a final note on the picture, there is an important issue which has yet to be addressed in mobile projectors in my experience. For using them in random places like the oft mentioned hotel room for presentations, it is important to have versatility in where the projector is placed. For standard projectors, there is keystoning (manual and/or digital) to correct for the distortion of placing the projector at a vertical or horizontal angle to the wall. Some even have lens shift features. With the MP225, these features are completely absent, so for a given size image, the projector needs to be in a very exact place and angle. The little kickstand is nearly worthless for this, so I recommend buying a tripod. Any standard camera tripod will work. This required accessory substantially hurts the portable nature of the product.
The battery is awesome. It makes up a large portion of the projector's size and weight, but it is worth it. The 2-hour spec was almost exactly true in my test. This means that you aren't tethered to a wall socket.
The projector is all plastic, but does not feel cheap. 3M sells a carrying case, which may be a good idea if you plan to travel with it a lot, but it should stand up to normal handling.
The MP225 is bright enough to project a high quality image that will work well for both presentations and entertainment in a dark room. We are still far from the point of convergence, where all projectors shrink to a mobile size, but the long battery life and simple setup of this 3M unit show that they are still the company to beat. Unlike some previous products in this category, the niche audience this is aimed for will find this projector a valuable tool rather than solely a fun gadget. Just make sure that this product is what you are looking for before you buy it. It will not replace a normal projector. Then again, neither will a normal projector replace this.