Small and simple, the Acer C120 LED DLP projector is a no-frills device that, while lacking some of the features of its competition, costs half as much. This projector, which can be found for as little as $229 at Amazon, can be powered by USB alone and has the barest of controls. But sometimes that's all you need.
Measuring 4.7 x 3.2 x 1 inches, the C120 is a bit smaller than other mini-projectors such as the ViewSonic PLED W200 (5.1 x 5 x 1.3 inches), and weighs just 6.4 ounces, far lighter than the W200 (14.6 ounces). Still, they're both pretty small and will disappear inside a bag.
The C120 is an exercise in minimalism. The top is a glossy black plastic that's a fingerprint magnet. The sides have a number of ridges running horizontally, and the bottom is a matte black. On the left side is a small focusing wheel, and the right has ports for USB 3.0 and power. That's it. There's no on/off button, no menu buttons, nothing. Some may like this less-is-more approach while others lament the lack of features.
One thing we wish Acer had included was an adjustable foot. All the C120 has is a small flip-out tab that barely elevates the image. However, given the absence of an anti-keystoning feature, you'll want to keep the C120 level with whatever surface you're projecting onto, anyway.
Unlike other portable projectors, the C120 uses USB 3.0, not a VGA port, to connect to a notebook. The projector comes with a USB y-cable, as it requires two USB ports next to each other, which could be an issue on some ultraportables. As soon as you plug it into your notebook, the C120 automatically installs the required software.
While this means the projector will take up two of your USB ports, it also means that it doesn't require an external power source to work. However, one is provided. If you don't use the external power supply--which is the same type used by Acer's netbooks--the brightness is cut in half.
Unlike most other projectors, there's no on-screen menu for the C120. That means there's no anti-keystoning, or settings for brightness, contrast, and so forth. The only controls are within the taskbar on your computer, which lets you mirror or extend your display.
When 6 feet from a wall, the C120 projected an image that was 49 inches diagonally, with an average brightness of 94 lux when using the external power supply. While smaller than the W200, which projected a 78-inch image from the same distance, it was marginally brighter, by about 4 lux. When we switched to USB power, the C120 averaged just 45 lux.
Picture quality was quite good for something this size. While not as rich as the W200, the red Starfleet uniforms and the blackness of space in "Star Trek" showed up well when we played the movie through the C120. We noticed some lag when moving the mouse while playing an HD movie, but it was barely noticeable. The small focusing wheel on the side required a bit of finessing to make sure our image was sharp, though.
After 15 minutes, the top right corner of the C120 was 114 degrees Fahrenheit, and the bottom was 100 F. This despite the fact that the fan on the C120 whirred noticeably, even when we had music playing.
Yes, the Acer C120 may lack a number of features found in other mini-projectors such as the ViewSonic PLED W200 and the ASUS P1, but it's just as portable and, at $229, costs half as much. If all you need is something small and light for PowerPoint presentations, the C120 should fill the bill. Just be aware of its limitations.