ZTE's quirky Projector Hotspot offers Wi-Fi, battery power, and big images in one (hands-on)

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January 8, 2014 4:17 PM PST / Updated: January 23, 2014 5:00 PM PST

LAS VEGAS -- We've heard of a lot of odd things here at CES before, and this year is no different. Case in point: the ZTE Projector Hotspot. Part charger, personal hot spot, and image projector, this device is one of several products (including the Grand S II and two Nubia handsets) that ZTE is showcasing at this year's conference. Though no official pricing has been announced yet, the Chinese mobile company confirmed that the Projector Hotspot will be available in the US later this year.

Design Physically, the square-shaped device measures a little less than 5x5 inches and weighs 0.88 pound. When I held it in my hand, it was surprisingly light-weight, and there's a small stand at the bottom that lets you prop the device upward. This also allow the internal fan to aerate the insides.

On top is a 4-inch colored touch screen, which has a 800x480-pixel resolution. Below that are hot keys that control the Projector Hotspot. These flush buttons include the familiar Back, Home, and Settings keys that are common on Android handsets (more on this later).

Because the unit can also charge other smartphones and tablets, there is a USB port on the back of the device. There's also a headset jack for audio output and an HDMI port, so you can connect your gaming consoles and project your games as well.

Key components and features The Projector Hotspot can beam 120-inch images and videos on nearby surfaces, and has 1080p input support.

Though this ability understandably comes in handy during professional meetings, one can also project videos during social gatherings like dinner parties and camping. (It may, however, come off awkward in a nightclub.)

The hotspot's OS is based on Android 4.2, and up to eight users can connect to its 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi network with 4G LTE data speeds. A 5,000mAh battery inside keeps the unit chugging along, and it also has a headset jack for audio output.

ZTE Projector Hotspot
The ZTE Projector Hotspot can beam 120-inch images. Lynn La/CNET

Sharing content doesn't stop with just the projector, however. Along with the aforementioned HDMI port, the device has mirroring capabilities with Wi-Fi Display and Bluetooth as well.

When I took a quick look at it, the familiar UI did set the device's learning curve low, and Android users won't have to learn how to navigate some new proprietary software. The feedback was clear, but at 120 inches, the experience wasn't as "immersive" as I thought it would be. True, it's still much bigger than a smartphone screen, but it isn't exactly the best thing to put on for a movie night.

Outlook The ZTE Projector isn't the first time we've seen a two-in-one projector hybrid. Samsung, for example, had the Galaxy Beam, which doubled as a projector and a smartphone.

True, the demand for such a product isn't exactly white-hot, but because this is first time we've seen a portable Wi-Fi unit attached to a projector, the device is compelling nonetheless. It'll be interesting to see what US carriers will offer it, but until then, tell us what you think. Is this something you'd be interesting in purchasing once it hits our shores?

Check out more of CNET's CES 2014 coverage.

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About The Author

Lynn La is CNET's associate editor for cell phone and smartphone news and reviews. Prior to coming to CNET, she wrote for the Sacramento Bee and was a staff editor at Macworld. In addition to covering technology, she has reported on health, science, and politics.