The advent of pico projectors is not exactly what we call treading on fresh ground; in the past two years or so, they have gotten a fair bit of attention. Nonetheless, we have to say that 3M's MPro150 comes with significant improvement over its predecessors. Here's our case for 3M's latest, third-gen pico projector.
We were pretty impressed with how the MPro150 managed to stay sophisticated, sleek and yet professional-looking at the same time. Physically, it looks almost identical, with the exception of some changes to the controls, to its immediate predecessor, the MPro120. Both sport a simple, matte black body and the location of the controls are similar, as can be seen below:
At 0.98" x 5.1" x 2.4" and 160g, the miniscule projector is the size and weight of a dated mobile phone (think back to the early 90s) that fits nicely into our hands. Each retail set comes with a comprehensive set of accessories that complement the device's portability: a complimentary 2GB MicroSD card, a black pouch, a table-top tripod, an assortment of power, AV, USB adapters and cables. For those planning to port their documents from their Apple products (iPhone/iPod), you can easily purchase an optional adapter cable for users to share or consume their content on a comparatively bigger platform.
As seen from above, a navigational panel is placed on the left profile of the gadget. It is pretty self-explanatory here: you press the left, right, up and down to move to what you want played, the middle button serves as a select/confirmation button, and on the right, back and power button. Near these controls, on the right, is a small SD slot that's well camouflaged from an undiscerning eye.
Input/Output ports, however, are found at the rear of the device; they include the headphone jack, VGA A/V input, USB and charger port. On the bottom of the device, there's a hatch that will bring up a mini kickstand that proves useful enough for propping the projector on the table during a presentation. At the front, focusing can be done via the scroll wheel beside the device's lens.
The selling point of the MPro150 is that it's a self-sufficient device. The hassle of carrying extraneous devices is almost eradicated, and you can beam your presentations and other supported documents from the device itself. The device functions very much like a USB thumbdrive, to be more accurate, a portable media player (PMP). Simply connect your PC to the pico projector via USB with the projector powered on (the light will flash green), and plonk in your chosen documents. Anything in mainstream formats such as .doc, .ppt, .xls, .txt, .pdf, .bmp, .jpg, .mp4, .mp3, .amr, .aac and H.264 (the MPro150 does not support newer Office file formats like .docx, .pptx or .xlsx) are supported.
You retrieve and play your documents like how you would on a typical PMP - there's a simple enough menu to navigate, with tell-tale icons that easily pinpoint you to where you should go. These icons take up most of the real estate on the startup menu, with a thin strip of icons indicating level of brightness, volume and battery life.
With a rated strength of 15 lumens using an LED light source, it is a significant leap from 12 lumens (MPro120) and even more from MPro110's 10 lumens. For best results, you have to be looking at a good distance of 1 to 1.5 metres, in a dark room. Under these conditions, it performed exceedingly well provided that the image size was kept reasonable - contrast and brightness levels were definitely good enough for reading text clearly.
Of course, when we attempted to push it to its maximum display size of 50-inch, it displayed results that lacked sharpness and details, but nonetheless, discernible enough. However, even in a well-lit room, the MPro150 projected decent performance especially so for photos, videos and presentations. Text, however, did not fare as well. Audio-wise, the gadget displayed average volume performance and clarity; the room has to be very quiet for audio to be heard clearly.
3M has mentioned that the MPro150 should last up to 120 minutes (double the duration of the MPro110), and impressively, it managed to run for about 160 minutes on a single full charge while playing a video clip at maximum volume and brightness. However, it took slightly longer than 3 hours for the device to be charged fully, so do bear in mind to bring the charger along at all times.
The newest kid on the block, the MPro150 impresses us, but yet still leaves us feeling that it is merely a hint of better things to come. With a rather steep price of $727, it is purely reserved for those who really need a portable projector, like businessmen or traders. While it can double up as a PMP, the short estimated battery life of 2 hours is a drawback since most full-length movies can't be played to completion unless hooked to a power source. With possible nifty additions like an extended battery life, Bluetooth and perhaps even Wi-Fi capabilities in future models, the pico projector segment will have a good chance of soaring to greater heights. For the moment, there's the 3M MPro150 pico projector.