Review: 3 tiny projectors light up the big screen

They're small and light, but do ultraportable microprojectors measure up for business presentations?

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3M Micro Professional Projector MPro110

It's not the smallest or the most powerful pocket projector, but at $360, the 3M MPro110 leads on price. However, in my tests it failed to produce an image bright enough for a business meeting and lacked the creature comforts presenters are used to.

Long and narrow, the MPro110 measures a petite 0.8 by 1.8 by 4.5 inches, weighs 5.4 ounces and can be slipped into a shirt or jacket pocket. About one-quarter the size of the Dell M109S, it's slightly bigger and heavier than the Optoma Pico PK-101. Add the AC adapter and connection cables, and its travel package totals only 12.6 ounces -- although unlike the M109S or Pico PK-101, it doesn't come with a case.

In fact, the package includes just the basics, with no lens cover, remote control or adjustable feet for aiming the projector. It also lacks a speaker, optical zoom and keystone correction. However, like the Pico PK-101, the MPro110 has a threaded mount for a tripod stand.

3M Micro Professional Projector MPro110

The 3M MPro110

There are two video connectors: a mini-video jack for a composite video cable that can work with a DVD player or other device, and a proprietary flat plug for connecting with a notebook. Unfortunately, the latter worked its way loose several times during testing.

Inside its silver and black frame, the MPro110 has a 0.47-in. LCOS imaging engine. The resulting 640-by-480 resolution images are cruder than the M109S but sharper than the Pico. 3M rates the MPro110's contrast ratio at a realistic 80:1. While the other manufacturers say their contrast ratios are an order of magnitude higher, to the naked eye they appear to be similar.

The MPro110's projection size matches the Pico's at between 6 and 60 inches (measured diagonally) but works best at an image size of less than 48 inches. It operates from 1 to 7 feet away from the screen. The biggest defect is that the output of the MPro110 is bowed inward along its horizontal and vertical sides, which distorts the image.

The MPro110 was up and running in 15.3 seconds and shut down nearly instantly. It is capable of putting only 8.4 lumens of light on screen, a bit more than the Pico PK-101 but much less than the M109S. This should suffice for a small group meeting in a darkened room, but I found that the image was easily washed out by sunlight or bright room lights. On the other hand, without a fan, the MPro110 was whisper quiet.

Viewers sitting 5 feet from the screen could read 10-point type, and the projector did a good job of displaying colors accurately, although its reds looked like maroon. The image was significantly brighter at the bottom than the top.

Powered by LEDs, the projector uses only 6 watts of power, about the equivalent of a child's night light. It can run on its 1,050 milli-amp hour battery for 49 minutes between charges, or about 20 minutes shorter than the Pico Projector. Unfortunately, it lacks a battery gauge.

The least expensive of the bunch, the MPro110 comes with a disappointing 90-day warranty; 3M doesn't offer an upgrade to three years of coverage, but Office Depot offers a three-year warranty for an extra $135.

This projector gives an inkling of what's possible when you think small. Business users will love the MPro110's size and weight, but will ultimately be turned off by its image quality and brightness.

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