You know a category is starting to move beyond niche status when Samsung decides to jump in. The SP-H03 pico projector is a compact, well-designed device that would be an excellent accessory for any traveling businessperson who needs to give a presentation during the day, and wants to kick back with a movie at night. And at $299, this pico projector is less expensive, yet more refined than the competition.
While most pico projectors are rectangular, the Samsung SP-H03 takes on a square shape. At 2.8 x 2.8 x 1.5 inches, it's about the size of a White Castle burger, and at 6.4 ounces, the projector itself won't weigh you down. As with most electronics these days, the entire device is black, as is the battery that attaches to its bottom.
The top of the SP-H03 has backlit touch-sensitive buttons that glow brightly when pressed, making them easy to read in the dark. However, there's a slight delay between pressing the buttons and when the projector responds, so you have to be a little patient.
The left side of the projector has a focusing slider as well as a microSD Card slot. On the back is a plastic hatch that covers the 15-pin connector, mini-USB port, composite AV jack, headphone jack, and power.
We like the fact that the SP-H03's power cord is long--12 feet, to be exact, more than twice that of the Optoma PK301--but the power adapter is large (about the size of those you'd find with a netbook), making the total package more cumbersome. Samsung includes a padded case, a 15-pin-to-VGA adapter, USB-to-mini-USB, and a composite-to-3.5mm adapter. The one quibble we have is that the VGA adapter is short; you'll need to provide your own VGA cable.
Unlike Optoma, which licensed ArcSoft's user interface for its pico projectors, Samsung has devised its own. This UI is not only easier to navigate, but it looks more sophisticated. Each menu option--be it for Documents, Music, Photos, or Videos--is written in large text with a slick icon next to it. It even has more options, such as different test patterns that owners can use to calibrate the colors and overall size of the image displayed. However, while the slide mechanism on the side of the SP-H03 worked acceptably, we found it more difficult to make minute adjustments than with the Optoma PK301 and 3M Mpro150.
At 3 feet from our projector screen, the SP-H03 cast an image 28 inches in diagonal, which is 5 inches greater than the Optoma PK301. Its rated 30-lumen output was slightly dimmer than that of the PK301 (which has a rated brightness of 50 lumens). However, in a darkened room, it was just as easy to watch a movie--the greens and blues were deep and saturated in The Departed--even when we moved the projector 8 feet away from the wall.
Videos played back smoothly, whether they were from a notebook or the projector's microSD Card slot. The projector immediately recognized a PowerPoint deck, and played it without issue. That's more than can be said about the Optoma machine, which had problems playing a movie (video stuttered) and recognizing presentation files.
The SP-H03 has a single 1-watt speaker; as with other pico projectors, the audio is puny. You're better off with external speakers, even those from a laptop.
Like most devices of its ilk, the SP-H03 works best in a dark room; when we tried projecting it onto a white wall bathed in sunlight we had to keep the projector pretty close to see the image. In this instance, the Optoma PK301's slightly higher lumens made it easier to see images thrown on the same wall. The 3M Mpro150 was the dimmest of them all, though; we had to bring the projector within 2 feet in order to see images at all.
Samsung rates the battery life of the SP-H03 at 2 hours; we were able to coax 1 hour and 37 minutes out of it before the device conked out, which is about 40 minutes longer than the PK301, but about 40 minutes less than the Mpro150.
The Samsung SP-H03 is a sleek and user-friendly pico projector. It not only outperforms its competitors in terms of endurance and video quality, but, at $299, it's less expensive to boot.