Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector review:

Tiny pico projector plays big

As previously mentioned, you can use the projector as a battery charger for your smartphone or tablet via the USB port. It makes more sense to use this feature while you have the projector plugged in with the included AC adapter, but I could see some someone pulling the projector out of the bag to juice up a smartphone in a pinch.

Some pico projectors like the AAXA P4X allow you to play videos and photo files from flash media, no external device required. Unfortunately, the Brookstone doesn't offer that option; there's no built-in memory or memory card slot. So you're stuck with using an external video source.

This model also can't match up to the $300 3M Streaming Projector, which comes with a removable Roku Streaming Stick that features built-in Wi-Fi and access to hundreds of Roku "channels" like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Amazon Instant, and HBO Go. That 3M isn't as small as this Brookstone -- it can't fit in a pocket -- but it's arguably a better all-in-one entertainment choice. (You can also use external HDMI video sources with the 3M model.)

Let's start with the resolution. While Brookstone says this projector accepts a 1080p signal, that 1080p signal gets downcoverted to the projector's native resolution of 858x480 pixels. In other words, the wording on the box is misleading ("Projects up to 1080p HD images up to 60 inches diagonal"). So it takes a Blu-ray picture and downconverts it to slightly better than DVD quality (480p is 720x480). While that's not bad, it's not HD, so the picture will seem a little soft if you're used to watching HD.

But resolution aside, I thought the image was pretty decent. Colors were well-saturated and looked fairly accurate, with pretty natural skin tone colors. I wasn't blown away, but for a tiny little projector it delivers a very acceptable image.

As with all projectors it really helps to have a darkened room, especially when projecting images larger than 40 inches (I went up to about 50 inches). But the projector is bright enough (85 lumens) that you can get a passable image in a more marginally dimmed room -- particularly if you don't go too big, and if you project on a clean white wall or screen.

As for battery life, this Brookstone is rated at 2 hours, which is what I hit in my tests. That's better than the AAXA P4X (75 minutes) and the 3M Streaming Projector (around 100 minutes), but it would obviously be better if battery life approached 2.5 or even 3 hours, so you could get a longer movie in. Of course, if you're mainly using the projector for presentations (it's certainly capable of displaying a PowerPoint with reasonable sharpness), that 2 hours should be plenty. And you can always plug it in if you have a wall outlet nearby.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the projector runs fairly quietly and doesn't get too warm.

Close-up of the lens. Sarah Tew/CNET

I've had some serious reservations about most of the pico projectors I've reviewed in the past. The Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector still comes with a few caveats given its the price, but as these tiny projectors go, it's one of the better ones.

Yeah, it would be nice if the resolution were higher, battery life were better, and the price were closer to $200. But it's a very compact product that produces a decent picture and is relatively easy to set up and use. That makes it something I can recommend.

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