Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector review: Tiny pico projector plays big

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The Good The Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector is very compact, produces a decent picture, and is simple to set up and use. Its built-in rechargeable battery delivers 2 hours of projection time and can also charge portable devices via the integrated USB port. The product also ships with two HDMI adapters (for smartphones and tablets) and a short HDMI cable.

The Bad It's somewhat pricey at $300; it doesn't work out of the box with Apple iOS devices, meaning an adapter is required; it doesn't have a memory card or USB slot for playing digital files without an external device; and the built-in speakers sound tinny.

The Bottom Line While it has a few small shortcomings and is somewhat pricey at $300, the sleekly designed Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector is one of the better 2012 pico projectors.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7

Tiny, pocket-size projectors -- often referred to as picos -- have had a bumpy start on the market, but they've started to hit their stride, as evidenced by Brookstone's $300 HDMI Pocket Projector. Although it has some drawbacks, they're fewer and less severe than those of previous models I've reviewed, which makes this one of the better pico options -- for the moment anyway.

One of this projector's big strengths is its design. Measuring 0.89 inch by 3.9 inches by 3.8 inches (HWD), it weighs around half a pound and is truly pocket-friendly so long as you aren't wearing tight pants. It's about the same size as an Apple TV streaming-media box.

The compact projector weighs half a pound. Sarah Tew/CNET

Sitting there alone, the projector looks quite sleek with its glossy, slate-colored finish (yes, you'll have to wipe the fingerprints off after handling it if you want to keep it looking shiny).

It's a shame it has to be cluttered up with cables and power adapters, but it does have a built-in rechargeable battery that delivers about 2 hours of battery life. A USB port on the back can be used to charge a smartphone, and there's also an auxiliary input for adding an optional speaker to augment the sound.

The projector does have two built-in 1-watt speakers that produce enough sound to make your videos watchable, but even a tiny wired or wireless speaker will deliver significantly more sound. I combined the JBL Micro Wireless Bluetooth speaker with the unit and it really improved the movie-watching experience.

You get a few accessories, including a Micro- and Mini-HDMI adapter. Sarah Tew/CNET

Around back you'll also find an HDMI port, which is not surprising considering this is called the HDMI Pocket Projector. Obviously, you can connect the projector to any video source that has an HDMI-out option; Blu-ray players, as well as many smartphones, tablets, and laptops, would fit the bill.

To help pair your device with the projector, Brookstone includes a couple of adapters for smartphones and tablets along with a short HDMI cable. I got it working with a Kindle Fire HD, a Blu-ray player, and an Android phone. But if you own an Apple device, you'll need an Apple Digital AV Adapter -- that's $40 for the 30-pin version or $50 for the Lightning version. Alternately, you could hook an Apple TV box to the Brookstone, and wirelessly send video from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch via AirPlay mirroring.

The back of the unit.

A couple of other small things worth mentioning: There's a threaded hole on the bottom of the projector, so you can mount it or attach it to a tripod. Also, you focus the picture using a small ring on the left side of the device. It isn't terribly precise -- and it takes some fiddling around to get the correct focus -- but it works.

Brookstone includes a cheap nylon sack to store the projector in. It will prevent the device from getting scratched up, but otherwise it provides minimal protection.

The projector has a pretty basic feature set and keeps things very simple, which some people will like and some won't. The only two physical buttons on the device are the power on/off switch and the focus ring. In terms of picture tweaks, you can only switch from "presentation" to "standard" mode. Touch-sensitive buttons on top of the unit allow you to adjust volume levels -- I kept it at 100 percent.

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