Is the iPod dock the digital watch of the Oughties? Back in the early 1980s, cheaper LCD technology meant that anything could have an LCD clock in it -- stuffed koalas, teaspoons, you name it. Here we are, 20 years later, and we now have a budget-level projector with a iPod dock in it. We've had MP3 playing shoes, jackets and backpacks. Do we really need an iPod projector? Read on to find out.
The ViewSonic PJ258D ViewDock Projector looks remarkably similar to a couple of other products which have hit the market recently -- namely the Sony PlayStation 3 and the InFocus IN76. It features a piano black finish and is shaped like the cross-section of an aeroplane wing. It's lightweight at 1.8kg and measures a fairly diminutive 288mm by 190mm by 83mm.
The controls on the PJ258D are a little disappointing, as they're quite small and difficult to read in the dark. Likewise the power button is half the size of most mobile phone keys and can be difficult to locate.
There are two sets of adjustable legs, two at the back and one at the front. The front mounted button is also next to a hot vent so it's difficult to use when it's turned on -- as it would be when you want to adjust it. As three of the four sides feature vents, this also makes it hard to move around on the desk while running, for the same reason.
For a budget projector the ViewSonic has a good number of features. Obviously, this includes the View Dock, which includes the ability to listen to music, and to watch slideshows and movies. The iPod adaptors fit quite a lot better than the ones supplied with Viewsonic's other ViewDock product -- the VX2245wm -- and it is easy to change them out.
Also of note, the PJ258D has a very high brightness of 2000 ANSI lumens, which means it will be viewable in a semi-lit room -- perfect for presentations.
The projector comes with a remote, which can also control the iPod. It is fully featured, and even includes a laser pointer for presentations. The menu and arrow keys are a little close together, but otherwise it's OK.
For a business-oriented projector it features a decent amount of connections including VGA, composite, S-Video, 3.5mm audio-in, and component (with the optional VGA-to-component adaptor).
The ViewSonic also features onboard speakers, which is welcome considering it houses an iPod, but the sound is quite tinny, and there's no audio out for connection to external amplification. There's a manual focus ring and manual zoom, which means you can quickly adjust the size and focus of the image without faffing about in the menus.
The projector will produce a maximum of 1024x768, which means it can reproduce 576p or 1080i, but as we found, not with any level of finesse. Watching a DVD, skin tones in particular end up quite brown and lacking in detail. Movement is also poorly handled, with visible blurring and a hyperactive rainbow effect occurring during faster motion.
In its default setting, the high brightness of the projector works against it in a home cinema setting, with images tending to be a little washed out. However, the Movie mode dampens the excitement levels somewhat while enhancing contrast -- though the skin tone problem is still there.
We weren't too hopeful about the iPod's ability to play movies via the Viewsonic, given the iPod's low natural resolution. But after choosing "TV Out" on the iPod, the results were quite watchable, but nowhere near the level of DVD, obviously. Plugging in a notebook fared a lot better, as static images were reproduced with a good degree of faithfulness and clarity.
ViewSonic has suggested that the projector could be used by travelling professionals who would no longer need to carry a laptop and could simply use the iPod to store their presentations. This would necessitate converting PowerPoint slides to jpeg first, and using the iPod's slideshow mode to view the "slides". Whether people would bother is another question, as they would also lose any animations this way, and would likely have the laptop with them anyway.
The PJ258D does a lot of things right -- it's stylish, ruggedly-built, and light. It'll play from a lot of different sources and gives a good amount of brightness. The problem is that this projector is more of a "proof of concept" than a feasible product. It's the most Frankenstein of consumer goods -- it's all business in the front, party in the back. The iPod dock itself will lure consumers, while its portability and high brightness will attract the corporates. In the end its compromises mean it's really more suited to the business market than the home.