Pico projectors seem to catch on these days, but they aren’t exactly taking over the world by storm. The good people over at 3M has sent us a MPro150 pico projector, and after playing with it for some time, I would like to pen down my two cents’ worth and hope that it will help you decide on whether this is the pico projector for you, assuming you were looking for one in the first place. First of all, I must say that technology has certainly advanced at a crazy pace – ask anyone whether something like this is possible a couple of decades ago and they will probably laugh in your face, thinking that you have escaped from a mental asylum while letting you know that there is as much chance of that happening as with a multi-touch glass display used for computing. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty right after the jump, eh?
First off, the hardware specifications. The 3M Mpro150 pico projector is a looker for a device of its size, and you will marvel at how light it is compared to a regular projector, although they cater to very different markets. This slim and light LED-based projector comes with 1GB of internal memory to get you started right out of the box, while there is a microSD memory card slot which helps you carry a whole lot more files just in case – although I suspect most folks will use this to store their music since the Mpro150 is full well capable of doubling up as a portable MP3 player, although I would recommend wearing a pair of headphones with this since the built-in speakers are literally nothing to shout about.
It has a USB port that allows for USB charging as well as data transfer when hooked up to a computer, while the battery in my tests ran for slightly more than 3 hours when displaying simple, basic documents. It has built-in support for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, PDF, MP3 and MP4 files, so you know just what kind of file formats you can transfer to it before carrying it over to the next room for a presentation without the need for a computer as a middleman.
While it is nice to carry around something this small, be assured that you will need a really dark room with its blinds drawn down and lights turned off if you were to make any headway with its 15 lumens (maximum brightness, adjustable downwards on-the-fly) of brightness. The buttons are rather hard to press IMHO, but they will respond even if there is some lag involved. Texts are displayed crisply, and so are photos (as sharp as VGA resolution at 640 x 480 pixels can get you anyways) despite the latter taking slightly longer for the projector to load. One pet peeve that I have is this – there is no remote control included. If you were to be making a presentation of a PDF or PowerPoint file, then chances are you would do better engaging your audience while being more animated speaking instead of returning to the Mpro150 from time to time to press a button to move to the next page or slide, which is where the remote control works great.
Video file format support is lacking, doing only the basic MP4, where it does not even come with the capability of handling 16:9 aspect ratio, which means you’re stuck with 4:3 all the time. There isn’t any chance to forward or rewind your video either, which basically gimps its video playback capability. At least there is an adjustable tripod for you to get started without having to rely on books or other everyday items to prop up the MPro150 when you’re doing some playback on it!
The built-in fan will also kick in after a few minutes of operation, but it doesn’t make that much of a noise to distract you from your presentation or movie. One interesting way of getting a secondary display would be to hook it up to your computer and extend its display, letting your kids enjoy their favorite YouTube video on the wall in a far larger view while you work on your noteobok. Expect the 3M MPro150 to retail for around $400, which is pretty pricey, hopefully the next iteration will be a whole lot better, weeding out the weaknesses while moving on to the next level. Get this only if you want something basic and do not have a wide range of file formats (especially video) to play back.