Review: 3M MPro150 pico-projector

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Short version: Half PMP, half pico-projector, and unfortunately, not quite fully baked. But the next one is going to be awesome.

Features:

  • Tiny, lightweight LED-based projection
  • 1GB of onboard storage
  • MicroSD slot
  • Support for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, MP3, MP4 files
  • Charge and access via USB

Pros:

  • Still a compact, fun projector
  • USB connection is handy
  • Battery actually lasts tolerably long

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support many video formats
  • No fast-forward, rewind, or aspect correction in videos
  • Bigger than its predecessor

Full review:

I’ll keep this short: the MPro150 is essentially the MPro120 with an on-screen menu, internal storage, SD card slot, and support for displaying several file formats. The projector part is almost exactly the same as the MPro120, so head on over to the original review for info on that. I can summarize for you, though: as long as you’re willing to restrict yourself to using it in a dark room or have a very small display size, the MPro150 and 120 are fun and effective. The resolution and brightness are limiting, but you know this isn’t an HD display going in.

The new features in the MPro150 are welcome, but it seems pretty clear to me that the MPro170 (or whatever the next version will be called) will actually be the one to get, at least if you plan on watching any video with this thing.

Let’s be fair, though: the MPro150 supports Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF, BMP, JPG, MP3, and MP4. Sounds like a lot, and if you’re in an office it kind of is. Text is sharp and navigation, while a little slow, is straightforward. You can zoom and scroll easily in any of the Office formats and PDF, and photos were surprisingly sharp and vibrant (if slow to load), though line drawings and diagrams showed pixellation. It should be said, actually, that the whole on-screen display is slow to respond to button presses, though it never “forgot” any that I’d pressed.


(The rainbow effect you see is in my camera, not the projector. Also, you can be significantly further away and get a good image, I just needed it bright enough for the camera)

For the rest of us non-desk-jockeys, there’s no support for many files we get off the internet – FLV, WMV, MKV, MOV, OGG and so on. MP4 is a popular format, to be sure, but not even all the MP4s I threw at it worked. One I’d made and encoded myself with H264 (the MPro’s preferred format) only gave me an error message. I popped on an AVI movie and it played, but was stretched to 4:3, with no way of changing the aspect ratio. Worse, there is no way to navigate within video; you can only pause, play, and advance to the next video. I was looking forward to some Zatoichi projected on my ceiling while lying on my bed, but no.

Sound is, as it was before, tinny as hell but quite loud enough; I played quite a bit of Super Mario Kart on this thing and never felt the need to pipe the sound elsewhere. You might feel differently when playing God of War 3, though. Not of lot of bass — or any at all, really. The fan sounds a little whinier on this model when it kicks in, but I suspect that’s a unit-by-unit variation.

The device itself has gained a little bulk. It’s longer, and they neglected to move the tripod mount back to compensate for it, and consequently it’s more difficult to balance on the spindly little tripod that’s included. I managed, though. The controls are changed to allow for navigation. I found the buttons a bit hard to depress, which can be trouble if you have the tripod in a perfect position, since the pressure of your finger will bend its legs.

Conclusion:

At just under $400, the MPro150 is no bargain. For much less (~$250), you can get its predecessor, which is fine if you’re running video from an external source. If the ability to project Word files on the wall of a dark room is something you really need, then this is your gadget. But if you want to watch movies, or load your old web video collection on a MicroSD card and have it on tap, I’d wait for the next generation. I appreciate 3M wanting to keep it simple, but media management isn’t simple, and I’m guessing 3M will learn a lot from the reviews of this generation and put out a killer product in six months or so.

Product page: 3M MPro150 pico projector

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