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Mini-projectors: Tiny size and tiny image quality

The new wave of pocket projects are fun toys, but don't try rely on them just yet for your mobile computing needs.

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3M's MPro110
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LONDON (Fortune Small Business) -- I'm CEO of Playfish, one of the largest creators of video games for social networks like Facebook. Though our studios are spread around the world, we develop games collaboratively and often review them together, running our software over the company intranet and displaying it on computer monitors or through projectors.

So I was excited to hear about the new LED-driven microprojectors. The promise of a pocket-size device for screening our games together sounded too good to be true.

The model I got my hands on, the 3M MPro110 ($359.99), is impressively small. It's about the size and weight of a smartphone and runs on a rechargeable battery.

Out of the box, it took less than 30 seconds to set up. I just connected the (strangely short) USB cable to my MacBook and pressed the power button. Unlike traditional projector lamps, which take time to warm up, the LED lamp made the image visible immediately. I found it simple to adjust the focus by rotating the analog dial.

But the projector's small size comes at the expense of image quality. In a well-lit room, the largest display with an acceptable picture measured between 15 and 20 inches diagonally, with the projector very close to the wall. The image deteriorated rapidly at larger sizes. The graphics were adequate, but even large text was difficult to read.

In a dark room I was able to expand the image to between 30 and 40 inches diagonally, far smaller than the 50-inch maximum touted by the manufacturer. Text became somewhat easier to read, but the contrast was weak and the colors felt washed out. I preferred the image on my laptop by far.

For screening footage from a digital camera or an iPhone while traveling, the 3M MPro110 could be a reasonable solution. But for working around the office, I'll stick with the display on my MacBook.  To top of page

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