Now that tablets and smartphones are major tools in a road warrior's arsenal, it's time that projector companies recognize this fact. With a built-in battery and included micro- and mini-HDMI adapters--and an HDMI cable--the $299 Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector will connect to any device with those ports, so you can leave that laptop at home. Read on to find out if this pico projector should come along for the ride.
Small and square, the Brookstone projector measures just 3.9 x 3.8 x 0.9 inches, and weighs a scant 8 ounces. It's even smaller than the Acer C120 projector (4.7 x 3.2 x 1 inches), though both weigh about the same.
In addition to its small size, we like the overall look of the Brookstone projector. The top of the device is a metallic gray plastic that does a fair job of hiding fingerprints. A small touch-sensitive circle lights up, along with volume controls on either side when the projector is turned on.
The black sides and bottom are vented; along the right is an on/off switch, and the back has a full-size HDMI port, USB, power and an audio jack. The left side has a small scroll wheel for adjusting the focus.
Included with the Brookstone projector is an HDMI cable--a rarity for projectors--as well as microHDMI and miniHDMI adapters, so you can use this device with tablets that have those smaller connectors. iPad users, however, will need to purchase a $40 adapter.
Unfortuantely, the projector only accepts input via HDMI, so you can't use it with just a USB stick or microSD card, as with the Aaxa P4-X.
The Brookstone's on-screen interface is pretty minimalist, and is closer to the nonexistent one on the C120 than that on the P4-X. When the projector is on, pressing the circle lets you switch between two modes, Standard for video, and Presentation for text. And that's it. The touch button was fairly responsive, as were the two volume controls.
When looking at a document, Presentation mode increased the contrast so that black text stood out more, but the difference between it and Standard mode were minimal at best. However, when watching a trailer for "The Hobbit," Standard mode displayed colors more evenly, and performed better in darker scenes. For example, a dwarf that would be swallowed up by darkness in Presentation mode could be clearly seen in Standard.
Inside the Brookstone projector is a DLP LED lamp rated at 85 lumens, almost identical to that in the Aaxa P4-X. Using an AEMC lightmeter, we measured an average brightness of 82 lux at a distance of six feet. That's below the Aaxa (89) lumens, as well as the Acer C120 (94 lux) and the Asus W200 (98 lux). It was also uneven: The middle of the image was a bright 132 lux, but the upper left corner was just 32 lux.
At six feet, the Brookstone projector beamed a 50-inch image, compared with 44 inches for the P4-X and 49 inches for the C120. Colors were fairly balanced, too. The grass of the Shire in a trailer for "The Hobbit" looked pleasingly green and lush, as were the reds and oranges in the fires of Mordor.
When connected to our original iPad running iOS 5, the projector would only display a YouTube clip after it had started streaming, and would only show photos stored on our iPad when we started a slideshow. However, when we hooked it up to our iPhone, which had been upgraded to iOS 6, the home screen, as well as any app we opened, was projected onto our wall.
While not impressive by any means, the dual 1-watt speakers in the projector kicked out fairly loud audio for something their size. We could easily hear that sonorous song in the trailer for "The Hobbit," but it was quite tinny.
Heat and Noise
Unlike many projectors this size, the Brookstone device remained relatively cool. After 15 minutes, the hottest spot, on the top near the lens, was 96 degrees Fahrenheit. That's nearly 20 degrees cooler than the P4-X. Even better, the fan, while noticeable, wasn't overly loud.
Brookstone claims the 3800 mAh battery in its projector should last 2 hours on a charge, and in practice, it lived up to that claim. That's about 30 minutes longer than the Aaxa P4-X. However, there's absolutely no warning when the battery is running low, which is a drag.
Yes, you could use a phone or tablet with other projectors such as the Aaxa P4-X. But, the full-size HDMI port as well as the included HDMI cable and adapters that come with the $299 Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector make it that much more convenient to use with your mobile device. While we wish we could adjust more settings, and had more inputs like the Aaxa P4-X, we like that the Brookstone projector lasts longer on a charge and runs cooler (and quieter). All told, those who plan to use their phone or tablet to give a presentation or watch a movie in their off-hours will like the Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector.