4 mini projectors: A show wherever you go

With one of these palm-sized LED projectors in your bag, you’re always ready to give a quick presentation or show a video.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Rif6 Cube

The smallest and cheapest of the four mini projectors tested, the Rif6 Cube looks more like a toy than a way to put an image onto a screen. While its image brightness and quality can't compete with other LED projectors, it can create acceptable images and can run for more than an hour on battery power.

Rif6 Cube mini projector Rif6

At just 2 x 2 x 1.9 in. and 5 oz., the aluminum Cube is miniscule compared to the likes of the Optoma. It uses 5-volt USB power, so a laptop can power the Cube. Its included AC adapter is small and has a pair of USB outlets, so you can also charge your phone. With an astounding half-pound travel weight, you might not even notice it in your briefcase or shoulder bag.

While it doesn't include a bag or lens cap, the Cube is the only projector of the four to include a tripod, although it lacks a tripod screw underneath. Instead, you attach the tripod with a set of jaws that hold the projector steady. The Cube can't correct for keystone distortion, so it needs to be set up perfectly level.

One side of the Cube houses a microSD card slot and a focus wheel; however, the wheel doesn't permit you to make fine changes to the focus. The other side has a headphone jack as well as reset and power buttons. You'll need that power button, because the device's remote control can't turn the projector on; it does turn the projector off and allow a small range of operational adjustments.

The Cube doesn't offer wireless connection but has a Mini HDMI input that you can use with MHL-equipped phones and tablets. You can slide a microSD card into the projector for viewing JPEG images, MP4 video, MP3 audio and TXT text files, but it doesn't support Office or PDF files.

Under the skin, the projector has a DLP imaging chip that can't compete with the others; with just 854 x 480 resolution, it makes do with images that have less than half the number of pixels that the others project. The Cube offers three preset projection modes (Dynamic, Mild and Standard), but it's hard to tell them apart.

Startup is fast: Just tap the power button on the Cube's side and 4 seconds later, it's projecting. Rather than aiming for hundreds of lumens, the Cube has a spec of 50 lumens, barely what a flashlight puts out. In my tests it actually overshot the spec, with 62 lumens of light delivered to the screen in Dynamic mode. Still, it's the lowest amount of light of our four mini projectors.

Not surprisingly, its images appeared very dim with washed out colors and an overall blue tint. They also had the most pronounced screen-door effect of the four, where everything looks like it's viewed through a grid. Open the blinds on a sunny day and the image almost disappears.

Its single speaker often gets overwhelmed, with audio that breaks up. Although it was able to project a 48-in. image from 49 in. away, the Cube is more appropriate for projecting 36-in. or smaller images.

I ran the Cube on its battery for 1 hour and 13 minutes of video watching. You can't, however, charge the projector while it's operating, and it lacks anything as basic as a battery gauge. Its fan, while a relatively quiet 39.7 dBA, has an annoying high-pitch whine.

Bottom line

The Rif6 Cube may come up short in terms of brightness, resolution and overall image quality, but the tiny projector still impresses: It's amazing that something this small and light works at all.

Which mini projector is for you?

The fact that these tiny projectors work at all is testament to recent advances in LEDs and DLP imaging chips. All four projectors are adequate for small groups, although each had its pros and cons.

For instance, the tiny Rif6 Cube is inexpensive at less than $300, and because it's one of the smallest and lightest projectors around, you can easily carry it with you at all times. On the downside, in a well-lit room it delivers washed out and dull images.

Also $300, the Miroir MP150W is for when flexibility counts. It can run on its battery for over an hour and a half, and it connects to a variety of devices with cables or wirelessly, but its image quality is ultimately disappointing.

At around $400, LG's Minibeam PH300 has an excellent focusing mechanism for some of the sharpest images around, and it offers the bonus of being able to tune in and project broadcast TV. That said, its brightness is lacking.

The most conventional and costly ($550) of these four unconventional projectors, Optoma's ML750ST is the clear winner here. Its short-throw optics means that you can have a 48-in. image with the projector just 26 in. from the screen. The images it produces are bright and clear with the best color balance of the four. It lacks one thing that could have made it a better mini projector: a battery that could have freed it from being chained to an AC outlet.

4 mini projectors: Features and specs compared

  LG Minibeam PH300 Miroir MP150W Optoma ML750ST Rif6 Cube
Dimensions 2.4 x 4.6 x 3.3 in. 1.0 x 5.3 x 3.3 in. 2.1 x 4.4 x 4.8 in. 2.0 x 2.0 x 1.9 in.
Weight / Travel weight 1 lb. / 1.3 lb. 0.6 lb. / 0.9 lb. 1 lb. / 1.8 lb. 0.3 lb. / 0.5 lb.
Native resolution 1280 x 720 1280 x 720 1280 x 800 854 x 480
Light output rating / test results 300 / 180 lumens 200 / 152 lumens 700 / 601 lumens 50 / 62 lumens
Contrast ratio 100,000:1 400:1 20,000:1 1,000:1
Distance to create 48-in. (diag.) image 65 in. 68 in. 26 in. 49 in.
Ports HDMI (w/ MHL), antenna, USB, audio out HDMI, USB (power only), audio out HDMI (w/ MHL), VGA (cable included), USB, audio out HDMI (w/ MHL), audio out
Wireless connectivity No Yes Yes, with Wi-Fi adapter No
SD card slot No No MicroSD MicroSD
Speakers Mono Stereo Mono Mono
Battery life (continuous video play) 28 min. 94 min. N/A 73 min.
Noise level (full power at 36 in.) 38.6 dBA 41.0 dBA 45.5 dBA 39.7 dBA
Warranty 1 year 1 year 2 years 1 year
Retail price $400 $300 $550 $290

How I tested

To see how these mini projectors compare, I gave them each a workout that ranged from projecting a variety of media to accompanying me on a one-day business trip.

After measuring and weighing each projector, I attached it to a small tripod. I plugged each projector in and let those that had batteries charge up. Then, I turned each one on and worked with its control panel and remote control. (The Miroir MP150W didn't include a remote control.)

I created a 48-in. plain white image and measured the distance between the projector's lens and the screen. Next, I measured the length and width of the image and calculated the conversion factor for a square meter. With an ExTech EasyView 31 light meter, I measured the output in lux of each projector in nine equally spaced locations. By normalizing the readings to a square meter with the calculated conversion factor, the reading is converted to lumens (lux per square meter).

Next, I set up a Tenma 72-942 sound level meter 36 in. from the side of the projector where the fan is located. I took three separate readings and averaged them for the projector's noise rating.

To judge each projector's image quality, I watched some movies, online videos and presentations, and used a StarTech HDMI pattern generator to project standard images. Those that had batteries were set to play YouTube videos continuously while a stopwatch monitored the run time.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon