Just making a projector amazingly small isn’t enough, as we noted in our recent review of Optoma’s Pico PK101. Call us old-fashioned, but we also like our pint-sized gadgets to perform, too – something the PK101 really didn’t manage, thanks to a pretty devastating lack of brightness.
So it’s with some suspicion that we set about Samsung’s first foray into pocket-sized projection waters, the SP-P400B.
Not quite pocketable
Our mood is hardly improved by Samsung’s claims that the P400B is a pocket projector. While it’s certainly small, it’s substantially larger than the PK101, and only fitted into one pocket we could find: that of a particularly nerdy wax hunting coat.
Still, the P400B will certainly easily fit into a briefcase or rucksack, and its 1kg weight is hardly going to strain your back.
Its body is also quite attractive with its glossy black, sensuously curved case, and although larger than the PK101, its extra size raises hopes that it might also have more power at its disposal.
The P400B’s connections are disappointing, though, with just a D-Sub PC port and a low-quality, standard definition composite video input for receiving pictures.
We guess this just proves how the P400B is clearly aimed first and foremost at the portable business rather than home cinema brigade.
Another concern noted during setup is the lack of any optical zoom. The only way to adjust the image’s size is thus to move the projector forward or backwards – hardly an ideal solution.
The projector does at least provide some vertical keystone adjustment, though, to get the picture’s sides straight. Plus there’s a decent 4:3-ratio native resolution of 800x600 pixels (versus the Optoma PK101’s 320x240), a respectable promised contrast ratio of 1000:1, and a not-disastrous claimed brightness of 150 ANSI lumens.
As with all pocket projectors to date, the P400B uses LED lamps, allowing it to quote a massive 30000-hour minimum lamp life. Or, as Samsung puts it, ‘one lamp, one life’.
Turn on the bright lights
Expecting little, we settled down with a series of PC presentations (woo) and, optimistically, a couple of films. And much to our surprise, the P400B actually proved pretty good.
Brightness levels, crucially, are in a different league to those of the Optoma PK101, presenting an image that has genuine punch and even remains watchable in some ambient light.
This immediately makes the P400B a million times more practical, as it’s genuinely usable in ‘real world’ environments – conference rooms, bars, darkened living rooms and so on.
The extra brightness also allows the P400B to deliver a larger realistic screen size. For where the Optoma became unwatchably dull beyond 30in, the P400B managed a 60in-or-so picture that still retained definition in dark areas and a degree of punch.
The P400B’s brightness doesn’t come at the expense of believable black response, either. Dark parts of the picture are startlingly little troubled by the grey clouding problem found with many budget projectors – even full-sized ones.
More good news finds the P400B’s pictures generally looking respectably sharp, and reasonably low on video noise.
Inevitably, the P400B isn’t the greatest colour performer in the world, with its lack of video processing power leaving shades looking more ‘clumpy’ than we’d like.
There’s quite a bit of colour noise over fine details when watching the composite input, too, as we’d expect. But these aren’t deal breakers given the P400B’s size and money – so long, at least, as you’re not trying to find a home cinema projector for anything more than totally casual use.
If you’ve been wondering how you’re going to get sound to accompany the pictures when you rig the P400B up at home or in the office, now’s probably a good time to reveal that the P400B has built-in audio. A whole 2x 1W, to be precise.
Given the inevitable paucity of power, the P400B’s sound isn’t actually that bad. The soundstage is, at least, clear and detailed – though obviously its lack of power means it can only satisfy the most casual of viewers. Especially as the built-in sound struggles to drown out the noise made by the projector’s cooling fans.