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Review: 3 tiny projectors light up the big screen

By Brian Nadel
December 4, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Conclusions

The diminutive duo of the 3M MPro110 and Optoma Pico PK-101 represents an incredible step forward for presentation technology, but it doesn't deliver enough light for a business meeting. After all, the last thing you want is to have your audience squinting at your show. Clearly, what they need most is time to evolve, get brighter and add some of the features that presenters expect.

On the other hand, Dell's M109S seems to me to be just right. At less than a pound, it offers enough power for small group presentations and will provide a welcome relief from heavy, clunky projectors that are overkill for most circumstances. It's the clear winner here.

How I tested

To get a good idea how these mini-projectors perform, I gave them each a tough workout that simulates how traveling workers use projectors. After connecting each projector to a Lenovo IdeaPad S10 mini-notebook, I used DisplayMate 2.2 software to project a series of test patterns that help determine how well each device shows a variety of patterns, colors and type.

While displaying the program's white screen in a dark room, I adjusted the projector's distance to create a one square meter image and measured each system's brightness at nine evenly spaced locations on the screen using an Extech 403125 light meter. The brightness given is the average of these readings.

Next, I timed how long it took to start up and shut down the projector, and connected it to a Kill A Watt power meter to measure how much electricity it uses. With the projector running, I measured its maximum temperature with an infrared non-contact thermometer.

I then connected it to a second notebook (a Dell Vostro 1510) and looked at YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations and a large Excel spreadsheet. After that, I played videos from a Flip Mino video recorder and a Coby Tablet DVD player to make sure the projector can work with a variety of sources. Each projector worked with these tests, but I needed to use a scan converter to transform my notebooks' VGA video output into a composite signal that the Pico Projector could use.

Those that can be powered by internal batteries were charged up overnight, connected to a notebook and started while timing it with a stopwatch as it played a series of YouTube videos. When the battery gave out and the projector died, I stopped the timer.

Microprojector specs, features and performance

Specifications

   
3M MPro110
 
Dell M109S
Optoma
Pico PK-101
Dimensions (H by W by D) 0.8 by 1.8 by 4.5 in. 1.5 by 3.6 by 4.1 in. 0.7 by 2.0 by 4.2 in.
Weight 5.4 ounces 12.8 ounces 4.1 ounces
Travel weight 12.6 ounces 22.4 ounces 7.4 ounces
Projection size (diagonal) 6-60 in. 15-60 in. 6-60 in.
Projection distance 12-84 in. 24-95 in. 11-91 in.
AV input connections VGA, mini-video jack w/composite adapter VGA, composite video Mini-USB, mini-video jack w/composite video and audio
Fan No Yes No

Features

  3M MPro110 Dell M109S    Optoma Pico PK-101
Tilt mechanism No No No
Lens cover No No No
Remote control No No No
Imaging technology LCOS DLP DLP
Resolution 640 by 480 858 by 600 480 by 320
Optical zoom No No No
Keystone correction No Yes No
Speaker No No Yes
Battery Yes No Yes
Battery capacity 1,050 milli-amp hours n/a 1,100 milli-amp hours
Battery life 50 minutes n/a 70 minutes

Performance

  3M MPro110 Dell M109S Optoma Pico PK-101
Power use 6 watts 33 watts High: 4 watts
Low: 2 watts
Brightness 8.4 lumens 68 lumens High: 7.9 lumens
Low: 5.1 lumens
Start-up time 15.3 seconds 18.7 seconds 3.9 seconds

Warranty and price

  3M MPro110    Dell M109S    Optoma Pico PK-101
Warranty length 90 days 1 year 1 year (90 days for battery)
Cost of 3-year warranty $135 * $115 n/a
Price $359 $499 $399 ($429 with iPod/
iPhone connector kit)
* Extended warranty for MPro110 available from Office Depot

Brian Nadel, a frequent contributor to Computerworld, is former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.

Read more about Mobile/Wireless in Computerworld's Mobile/Wireless Topic Center.



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