3M Micro Professional Projector MPro110

Pico projectors are the new buzz word in mobile projection technology. Does this one from 3M live up to the hype?

The first big problem with the MPro110 arises from its tiny size, low weight and, to a lesser extent, the short length of the VGA cable supplied in the box. Where standard projectors have enough mass to remain where you put them, the 3M moves if you so much as sneeze in its general direction.

As well as being incredibly light it has no rubber feet, which makes it very difficult to position accurately. The result is constant fiddling and refocussing, and the stumpy VGA cable means you'll have to move your laptop as often as you move the projector. The only bright spot is a standard threaded tripod mount on the projector's underside a small tripod is an essential accessory.

The projector's optics prove the second hurdle to practicality, and here the small size begins to impinge more seriously on its usability. There's no vertical shift built into the lens arrangement, so you either need a tall tripod or a very low screen to make the most of your projected image. The throw ratio of 0.53 (width/distance) is also a problem. In order to project a picture larger than your average laptop screen, this means you need to be at least a metre away from the surface you're projecting onto.

The quality of the glass struggles to keep up too. Though it's straightforward to get a sharp, image at the MPro110's native resolution of 640 x 480, which is more than we can say for some other pico projectors we've seen, there are dark patches evident in the corners (vignetting), and pincushion distortion on all sides.

But the final, and most problematic of this projector's foibles is its lack of brightness. The manual claims it will project images up to 70in in size from a distance of 1.8m, but to see anything you'd have to tape blackout material to your windows and project in complete darkness. At closer range, lights need to be dimmed in order for readability to be achieved, and even when you get a bright, watchable image, colours are subdued and highlights bleached out.

It's a shame, but if there's anything the 3M MPro110 clearly demonstrates, it's that pico projector technology is not quite ready for mass market, or even niche, consumption just yet. The idea is a good one and 3M has done its level best to make it an attractive proposition with its rechargeable battery, VGA input and impossibly tiny size.

It's surprisingly cheap too, but the bottom line is that it's simply too impractical to consider splashing 220 on. Adventurous early adopters may be tempted, but unless you want an expensive toy cluttering your shelf after a couple of outings, we'd counsel caution.

Verdict

Impossibly small and with some neat touches, but the MPro110 shows that pico projector technology is not yet ready for the market.

Specifications: Chip technology: 0.47in LCOS chip Resolution: 640 x 480 resolution Bulb type: LED lamp, Throw ratio: 0.53 throw ratio Connectivity: VGA and composite input Features: tripod mount, Warranty: 1yr warranty Dimensions: 50 x 115 x 22mm (WDH) Weight: 160g

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