But 3M’s MPro120 is a good reminder of why we originally got excited about the whole pocket projector concept. For much like Optoma’s Pico PK101 projector, the MPro120 really is astonishingly tiny, weighing in at a mere 153g.
This is for you, Bond
This is all very good for its James Bond credibility, but it also raises the question of whether the MPro120 can overcome its proportions to deliver pictures that are actually fun to watch.
Before we answer that, though, lets acquaint ourselves with what’s going on inside that tiny MPro120 body. Especially where its so-called MM200 optical engine is concerned.
Unusually, it uses an advanced liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) imager where most other pocket projectors use a DLP engine, and claims to deliver a full colour gamut.
The MPro120 also claims an impressive (and during our tests, reasonably accurate) two- to four-hour life from the built-in rechargeable battery, and can handle a fair selection of different sources via its single little VGA-AV port.
These sources include iPhones, iPods and digital media players, digicams, camcorders, and both Apple and PC computers. Plus, although 3M doesn’t make big deal of it in its marketing material, it can play anything that has a composite video output, such as a DVD player.
Not all of the MPro120’s specifications bode well, however. Its native resolution is a fairly standard – if hardly surprising – 640x480, while its claimed brightness output is just 12 Lumens. This raises severe doubts about the projector’s claim to produce a maximum image size of 50in.
We were rather startled, too, to find that the MPro120 doesn’t ship with a remote control. In fact, it doesn’t even have onscreen menus.
So the only adjustments available to you, via a simple four-way switch on the projector’s top, are the volume from its built-in speakers, and a choice between two brightness level options. At least it doesn’t take long to set up.
While the MPro120 doesn’t ship with any remote, it does at least come with the necessary adaptor cables for getting PC and video/stereo audio into the projector. Plus you get adaptors for extending the video leads if you wish, and a reasonably handy if rather flimsy tripod stand mount.
It’s all so terribly dull, darling
Finally we get to the moment of truth: can the MPro120 prove that really tiny projectors can produce decent picture quality? And the quick answer is, no, it can’t.
Compared with the surprisingly credible picture quality witnessed from recent but markedly larger pocket projectors from LG, BenQ and, especially Samsung, the MPro120’s efforts are hugely disappointing.
For a start, as we’d expected, pictures are extremely lacking in brightness. There’s a bit more illumination than on the similarly sized Optoma PK101, but the picture still looks flat and lifeless, especially if you try and make an image more than around 35in in size and you have any ambient light to contend with.
The MPro120 is also pretty much devoid of contrast, and colours look neither natural with video (everything looks like a different shade of green, mostly), nor at all vibrant or eye-catching.
Other issues we have with the MPro120’s pictures are a rather blurry look to motion, slight colour noise, a generally soft appearance to both video and PC feeds, and lots of ‘light leakage’ resulting in some cloudiness around the supposed borders of the main image.
All in all, things don’t look pretty, forcing us to reflect again on whether it’s really worth making a projector so amazingly small that it doesn’t actually work very well.
The MPro120’s built-in speakers, meanwhile, are predictably flimsy. The two of them only deliver a grand total of 1W of power, after all. Though, to be fair, there’s no bass worth a damn and voices all sound nasal, the speakers are generally very clear and free of distortion.