We had absolutely no preconceptions about what to expect from LG’s HS102 ‘pocket projector’.
The HS102 sets a good early tone, though, with its design. For as well as being genuinely small enough to fit into a coat pocket, its polished black finish, angular lines, red-lit buttons and silver trim make it very easy on the eye.
The only issue we’d take with the HS102’s design is that no cover slides over the lens when you turn the projector off, leaving it open to damage during transit. Though to be fair, the lens is quite deeply recessed, which should help it stay out of harm’s way.
Pocket projectors to date have underwhelmed with their connections, but the HS102 isn’t actually too bad on this front. The main projector body enjoys a VGA PC port, a headphone jack, a 3.5mm AV input, an infra-red controller port, and a USB port. This USB is unusually helpful, too, in that as well as JPEG photos, it can play MP3s and even DivX video.
On top of all this, the HS102 ships with two key adaptors: one that converts composite video and stereo audio inputs into the projector’s 3.5mm AV jack, and one that allows component video signals – even HD ones – to squirt into the VGA port.
HD into pocket projector does go
This is arguably a moot point given that the HS102’s native 800x600 resolution means it’s not HD Ready. But the simple fact is that HD sources really do look crisper on the HS102 than standard definition ones.
The sharpness of the HS102’s HD pictures is just one of a number of picture strengths. Images are also likeably bright, for instance. And the HS102 claims a decent (for pocket projectors) light output of 160 Lumens, which proves sufficient to deliver a picture of at least 60in across that’s genuinely quite dynamic in a dark room, and even watchable in a little ambient light.
We should add here that you might not easily be able to get a 60in image in your room given that the projector sports no optical zoom, meaning you have to manually move the projector forward and backwards to adjust the image size.
But the projector’s throw distance is pretty short, so you don’t need a room the size of the Sydney Opera house to get the biggest images the HS102 can manage.
Colours on the HS102 impress, too, looking genuinely rich and generally quite natural, while objects move across the screen without significant blur.
Unfortunately, a rather limited black level response means that dark scenes on the HS102 look notably greyer, flatter and shorter on background detail than they do on Samsung’s rival pocket projector.
This is true even if you use the projector’s Film mode – a feature that proves LG has both living-room and boardroom ambitions for its pint-sized machine.
The mouse that squeaked
One further weakness of the HS102 is its sound. It obviously makes sense for pocket projectors to produce sound, otherwise you’d have to somehow rustle up an external audio source to go with its pictures. But the 1W mono audio engine of the HS102 is pretty hopeless, failing to produce sonics that in any way match the scale of the images the projector can deliver, and succumbing to teeth-grinding distortion all to readily.