Innovation in projectors doesn’t bear the same rapid pace as you see in other areas of consumer electronics, but the last few years have been especially exciting for cinephiles at home.
Though the Viewsonic M2 isn’t exactly meant to bring the Godfather to life in your living room, it can serve as an occasional treat for the family if they’ve finished their COVID chores in time for movie time. Its small footprint, easy set-up and maintenance-free LED-based light source means that it can be family-friendly on weekends and an office utility on weekdays. Not that it’s any different these days…
Hello good lookin’
Finished beautifully in a deep shade of copper, the M2 is built well too, especially for something this size and nature. The box also contains a sturdy carry bag, a bunch of different power plugs, USB-C cable and a Wi-Fi adapter that you’ll need to plug into a concealed compartment to enable Wi-Fi. Since it uses LED instead of UHP lamps, it also generates very little heat, stays compact and doesn’t need loud fans to fight the rising temperatures inside the enclosure. A kickstand is beautifully designed and integrated and it gives you a wide range of angles to play with when projecting on different kind of surfaces or screens at different heights. The M2 also has one of the best auto keystone and focusing of any portable projector I’ve seen lately.
It’s quick and works quite accurately, though, there is no manual zoom control so the only way to control the size of the image is to physically move the M2 closer or farther away from the screen. In my listening room, it projected an 80in image from a distance of just over 2mts and for all its typical use case scenarios, it’s plenty big. Connectivity is strong too, with the usual array of HDMI, USB-A, Micro-SD card and even a multipurpose USB-C port that allows you to connect smartphones, accessories or even a power bank if you want to go completely cordless. You just need to be sure the specs on the power bank match the requirements set out by the M2 before doing so though, but it’s a convenient emergency back-up plan. You also do get an audio out if the onboard Harman Kardon designed speaker system doesn’t suffice. Two drivers, forward-facing and powered by 3W amplifiers doesn’t sound big on paper but it actually goes pretty loud to fill up a room with legible dialogue. Of course, the same can’t be said about bass or highs but if you do install the M2 in front of your primary seating position, it does sound like it’s emanating from the screen side, helping with the believability factor.
Unfortunately, all the convenience that the hardware offers, can’t be said about the Aptoide OS which looks like the bombed-out remains of an app store. The only three apps out of the box are Google Voice, Amazon Alexa Control and Viewsonic’s own app that can work as a remote control. I did find Prime Video, which refused to log in despite repeated attempts and Netflix, which for some reason altered the aspect ratio. Even integrating voice assistants will depend on what phone you use (iOS or Android) and works via the Google Home app, while setting up Alexa is a 13-step process! No kidding, check out the screenshot. I eventually found it easier to hit the power button on the remote control!
Similar to a Firestick remote, the bundled controller is standard fare and easy to use, keeping with the nature of the overall product.
Convenience over quality
Being LED by nature, the brightness is always going to be on the lower side compared to traditional UHP lamp projectors but the M2 does a decent job of projecting a watchable image even with some ambient light on in the room, making it usable in a conference room as much as a bedroom. Although its native resolution from the DLP chip is 1080p, it does accept input signals in 4K and even HDR, downscaling them as required. A Life on our Planet, Sir Attenborough’s latest attempt to knock some sense into us mortals looks burnt out with HDR on, signalling it’s incompatibility with Netflix’s choice of HDR encoding. Keeping HDR off through all the inputs and regardless of incoming signal yielded better results but the greens always looked artificial even after spending time tweaking the gain levels. Frame interpolation can be selected in different intensities and can even be switched off completely if you wish and this dictates how smooth your viewing experience is, besides your own preference and definition of what smooth video should be like. It’s best to leave it off for most content besides live sports or gaming.
Using our Arcam Blu-ray player, we fed the M2 an uncompromised 1080p signal to see what it could do and while it presented Deadpool 2 on a larger screen size than any TV could in a given space, it lacked outright definition and I always felt that a manual focus control could yield a bit sharper image. But all of those things would be missing the point of a simple, all-purpose projector so I wouldn’t want to nitpick on the picture quality. It’s bright enough and has a decent colour and enough contrast to enjoy sports or animation on. But when easy tasks like casting from an iPhone start acting up, there’s more reason to worry. Screen mirroring worked fine until the movie started and then it was only audio, strangely. Casting via an Android phone worked more predictably with YouTube played back as was intended.
Eventually, the best way to get an acceptable experience from the M2 was either with an external source connected via HDMI or content on a USB stick. Both built-in apps and streaming weren’t the smoothest or most accurate in their rendition of the video. The Viewsonic M2 has a lot of appeal for someone who wants the occasional family get-togethers and an office workhorse, all rolled into one. Its kickstand can also become a handle to carry around from room to room and its plug and play set-up couldn’t get easier. Being a connected product, I’m sure some of the bugs will be fixed via future firmware updates but as of now, the operating price of almost Rs. 85,000 seems like a lot of money, especially compared to similar products from BenQ and Xgimi that we have reviewed recently.