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3M MPro120 pico projector review: 3M MPro120 pico projector

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MSRP: $385.00

The Good Compact pico projector with 640x480-pixel (VGA) resolution; integrated flip stand and tripod included; two integrated half-watt speakers; quiet operation; rechargeable battery delivers up to 4 hours of battery life; LED light source is rated at 20,000 hours; protective carrying case included along with adapters for computer hookup.

The Bad Adapter cable for Apple video-capable iPods and iPhones is an optional accessory (it isn't included); not terribly bright picture, particularly when you expand the screen size.

The Bottom Line When judged against the low expectations of pico projectors, the 3M MPro120 isn't bad, but it really isn't bright enough for projecting at larger sizes and it should include an adapter for Apple iPods and iPhones.

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5.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5

The MPro120 is 3M's second-generation pico projector and it's a distinct improvement over the MPro110, with a brighter picture, an LED light source rated at 20,000 hours instead of 10,000, and built-in half-watt speakers.

In case you don't know what a pico projector is, as its name implies, it's a miniature handheld projector that's capable of casting a big image (3M says the MPro120 can project an image from 8 inches to 50 inches). The key to these pint-size projectors is they use an LED light source that's very energy efficient. While Pico projectors come in different shapes and sizes, most cost between $300 and $400, and currently sport resolutions up to 640x480 pixels (so we're not talking high-definition). The MPro120 uses LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) display technology; others use DLP. These are the same main technologies employed in rear-projection TVs, but projected on an external wall, movie theater-style, instead of the backside of a TV screen.

We liked the look and feel of the all-black MPro120 and found it simple to set up and use. Weighing 5.6 ounces and measuring 4.5 inches by 2 inches by 0.9 inch, it does indeed fit in a pocket (or easily slip in a laptop bag) and comes with a protective sleeve. You can prop the projector up at angle by flipping open the integrated flip stand (it's just a thin piece of plastic), or you can attach the included tripod to the threaded tripod mount on the bottom of the projector.

Out of the box, the easiest way to set up the projector is by connecting it to your laptop with the supplied computer connector or to a portable DVD player with the supplied composite AV cable (also referred to as an RCA adapter). The MPro 120 also includes a rechargeable battery. Its rated life is 4 hours, but that's at the lower brightness setting, which was really too dim. At the higher brightness setting, we got 2 hours. Fortunately, it can also work under AC power as well using the included wall charger.

Using your computer, you can then project a PowerPoint presentation on the wall, and so long as you didn't project the image too big (more than 26 inches or so), you'll get a passable image, though these types of projectors simply can't compete with full-size projectors that offer significantly brighter illumination and higher resolutions. Go any bigger and you really need the room to be dark and even then you're just not going to get the kind of brightness or sharpness you're used to with your laptop screen or traditional portable projectors.

The MPro120 has two brightness settings: High (12 lumens) and Normal (10 lumens). Most people will stick to the High setting unless you're trying to conserve battery life. Neither setting is terribly bright but we felt OK about the picture in the 24- to 26-inch range. Yes, you can go to as big as 50 inches, but the trade-off to going that large is a more washed-out image; you'll really have to play around with your throw-distance as well as your lighting conditions to find a size and image you're comfortable with.

At this point it's unclear whether these miniature projectors are designed for business or entertainment purposes (arguably, it's both), but either way it's disappointing that 3M didn't bundle in some sort of adapter for video-capable iPods and iPhones. Company reps were nice enough to ship us an optional Apple adapter that came out recently, but it costs $49.99. (Currently, if you buy the MPro120 on 3M's Web site, you get the adapter with the purchase, but the projector costs $349.99--compared with $299.99 on Amazon--so the deal is essentially a wash.)

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