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WowWee Cinemin Swivel review: WowWee Cinemin Swivel

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The Good Compact pico projector with 480x320-pixel resolution (HVGA); swivel design; integrated speaker; quiet operation; rechargeable battery delivers up to 2 hours of battery life; protective carrying case included, along with adapters for iPod/iPhone and computer hookup.

The Bad Not terribly bright or sharp picture, particularly when you expand the screen size; speaker could be louder; VGA adapter not included.

The Bottom Line Though its spec sheet doesn't quite measure up to that of competing pico projectors, the WowWee Cinemin Swivel's unique design and its inclusion of an adapter for iPhones and iPods make it an appealing choice.

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6.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6

WowWee's Cinemin Swivel is one of the more distinct pico projectors on the market thanks to its swiveling design, which allows you to project images at various angles, including straight up at the ceiling.

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 (WowWee says the Cinemin Swivel can project an image from 8 inches to 50 inches). The key to these pint-size projectors is that they use an LED light source that's very energy efficient. Pico projectors come in different shapes and sizes; most cost between $300 and $400, and they currently sport resolutions up to 640x480 pixels, though the Cinemin Swivel only offers 480x320 pixels or HVGA resolution. This model uses DLP technology for projecting an image. That's the same technology employed in many rear-projection TVs, but projected on an external wall, movie-theater-style, instead of the backside of a TV screen.

The Cinemin Swivel is similar in size to competing pico projectors, but the 3M MPro120 is slightly smaller and more compact. Weighing in at 6.4 ounces and measuring 5 inches by 3 inches by 8.5 inches, the Swivel model does indeed fit in a pocket (or easily slips in a laptop bag) and comes with a protective sleeve.

The projector is designed to sit on a flat surface, then tilted slightly upward (yes, there's a hinge in the middle of the projector that allows you to tilt the front up). Like other pico projectors, this one doesn't have any keystone settings, so getting a perfectly rectangular image does take some tinkering, and you do have to play around with the focus as you move the projector around.

The Cinemin Swivel can use any video source with a composite AV output, such as most portable DVD players; invest in a separate $40 VGA adapter, and you can use a laptop as well. But WowWee has made a conscious effort to market to iPhone and iPod (with video) owners, bundling in an Apple adapter cable. The adapter comes with a short, detachable foot-long AV cord that connects your Apple device to the projector. There's also a port on the adapter that allows you to connect your iPod or iPhone to your computer via USB and charge it at the same time. The Cinemin Swivel runs for about 2 hours on its removable lithium ion battery; it can charge via USB as well.

It's hard to recommend the Cinema Swivel for business use because the picture isn't really bright or sharp enough to project a decent-size image in a room with any lights on (you're better off using a laptop). But we could see how it would make sense for certain basic business presentations--for instance, projecting photographs or short videos to illustrate a point. Though the picture won't blow anybody away, the tiny size of the projector might impress some folks and score you some points.

Like other pico projectors, this one does best in the dark, and in a blackened room, you can project an acceptable image up to about 26 to 32 inches in size. 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.

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