3M MPro110 Pico Projector Review

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$359
Editors' rating:
The Pros

Extremely small and light; Can run on an internal battery

The Cons

Extremely dim; Low resolution; Hard to focus; Gets very warm

Verdict

This pocket-size projector impresses with its small size but is otherwise a work in progress.

The 3M MPro110 pocket projector is so small and light that it could easily fit into an actual shirt pocket. Even with its included rechargeable battery, this device weighs just a few ounces and is barely larger than the remote controls of many other projectors. What would you use this tiny projector for? 3M offers several potential scenarios, including projecting videos or slideshows from your cell phone or camera, as well as for traditional laptop usage (if in a very dark room.) Sadly, this innovation feels more like a proof of concept than an actual projector.

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Design

If we weren't aware of this device's amazing internal components, we might confuse the MPro110 with a toy. At 2.0 x 4.5 x 0.9 inches and weighing just 5.6 ounces, it's about the size and shape of a power brick for a mini-notebook. The only control is a small button-size focus wheel that seems much too loose to work well. In fact, tilt the device up or down and you can hear the focus lens slide in and out.

The MPro110 features a very tiny LED lamp and image engine that 3M introduced in January. These components are so small that many industry observers speculated they could someday be incorporated into a cell phone.

The projector includes only two small inputs, both proprietary and designed to mate with special cables that can connect to standard 15-pin VGA and RCA composite video ports. The video connection worked well, but the thick and somewhat stiff cable made precise positioning of the lightweight MPro110 difficult.

The MPro110 does not elevate its image. This means that unless you place the MPro110 on the edge of a table, the bottom part of the projected image will be splayed out on the table surface in front of the device. However, a small screw hole on the underside of the projector will allow you to connect it to a standard tripod mount.

Performance

3M lists few specifications beyond the impressive size and weight--and for good reason. This device had the unenviable distinction of achieving some of the lowest performance scores we have ever measured. The image was so dim, it scored just 9 ANSI lumens. The contrast ratio was a likewise deplorable 48:1. At this brightness, it is impossible to get a halfway useful image larger than about 18 inches diagonal, and that's with the room lights turned way down.

3M does not list a native resolution for the MPro110, but we obtained our best results with our laptop set at low 640 x 480-pixel (VGA) resolution. At least, we think that is the best result. The image is so dim, small, and hard to focus with the flimsy focus wheel that it is quite difficult to be sure when the image is at its best.

Despite the "Pro" in this device's name, it is clearly not appropriate for business use. In fact, the only possible use that we can envision is as a mobile projector for movies stored on an iPod. But even that is problematic: The internal battery lasts only about 30 minutes, less than 3M's claim of 40 to 60 minutes.

Verdict

With the MPro110, 3M certainly achieved a technological success. We look forward to seeing the second or third iteration of this design, particularly one with an onboard flash memory drive for showing laptop-less slideshows. For now, however, we suggest any potential buyers spend a few dollars more and opt for the larger, but much more useful,Dell M109S.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
Projector Resolution 640 x 480
Contrast Ratio Less than 500:1
Brightness Less than 2000 Lumens
Video Inputs Composite
Cool Down Time 0 seconds
Input Terminals RGB-In
Input Terminals Composite Video
Projector Technology LCD
Size 2.0 x 4.5 x 0.9 inches
Weight (projector/travel): 5.6 ounces/12.6 ounces
Company Website http://www.3m.com