Swiveling lens provides flexibility in projector placement. Rechargeable battery with relatively long life. Projects from a microSD card or wirelessly from a computer, phone, or tablet.
Lacks wired connectivity. Occasional dropped connections in testing. Rainbow effect in video. Soft audio.
- Bottom Line
Lenovo's first projector is palmtop-size and can project wirelessly or from a microSD card. And an unusual swiveling lens system lets you project at an angle.
By Tony Hoffman
The Lenovo Pocket Projector ($249.99), a low-brightness model that can fit on one's outstretched hand, is Lenovo's first foray into the US projector market. The Pocket Projector has a novel approach to lens tilting that gives it a distinctive appearance. Somewhat unusually, it offers no wired connections, either to a computer or a video source. It does support wireless streaming of content from computers and mobile devices, and can display photos and video stored on memory cards. It does a decent job handling both data and video, although we did experience some dropped wireless connections in testing.
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Design and Features
Handsomely designed, The Pocket Projector measures 1 by 4.1 by 3.9 inches and weighs 5.9 ounces. The projector is two-toned; its right side, as viewed from the front, is silver-gray (a color that Lenovo calls platinum), while its left side, which houses the lens, is a matte black. This color scheme is not just cosmetic; the entire left side swivels upward as far as 90 degrees while the right side remains in place, letting you point the lens at any angle between the full horizontal position and the ceiling. This gives you unusual flexibility in the height at which you place the projector relative to the screen.
Swiveling the lens upward reveals a microSD card slot on the left side's inner edge. On the back of the right side are an On/Off button, a headphone jack, and a Micro-USB port to charge the Pocket Projector (a USB cable and wall adapter are included). On top of the right side is a four-way controller with central OK button, plus a backspace button, for navigating the projector's on-screen menus. (The projector does not come with a remote control.) There's a built-in, rechargeable, 5,400mAh battery that, according to Lenovo, should last 2.5 hours on a charge, similar to the results we saw in testing.
With its LED light source, the Pocket Projector has a long rated lamp life, up to 20,000 hours, so the bulb will likely last as long as the projector itself. The light engine uses a Texas Instruments DLP chip. Its native resolution (854 by 480) and rated brightness (50 lumens) are fairly typical of a pico projector. The Celluon PicoPro, our Editors' Choice pocket projector, has a rated brightness of 32 lumens, and the Magnasonic LED Pocket Pico Video Projector is rated at just 25 lumens.
There are no physical ports for connecting the projector to a computer or video source. You can project content either from a microSD card placed in the projector's card slot, or wirelessly from a Mac or an iOS device, an Android smartphone or tablet, or a Windows computer, running Windows 8.1 or later and supports Miracast. From a microSD card (up to 32GB), you can show images in either PDF or JPG format, or video files in a variety of formats, MP4, AVI, MPEG, and MOV among them.
As for wireless connectivity, your computer or mobile device must be connected to a Wi-Fi network. Depending on the computer, phone, or tablet you're connecting to, the projector will either connect to the same Wi-Fi network as your device (as is the case with an iPhone), or directly to the device via a peer-to-peer connection (as is true with a Windows computer).
In testing, I projected photos and videos from a microSD card, and mirrored the screen of both my iPhone and Windows computer in viewing video as well as viewing Office files. I set the projector in a dark room about 4 feet from the screen, where it threw a 40-inch image (measured diagonally), which proved a good size for video. In a situation with a lot of ambient light, optimal image size was about 18 inches.
Video quality is decent for a pico projector, although not as good as the Magnasonic Video Projector or the Editors' Choice Celluon PicoPro. Colors looked reasonably true. At times they were slightly oversaturated, but many viewers prefer colors on the punchy side. I saw rainbow artifacts (little red-green-blue flashes) in the Pocket Projector's video often enough that they would likely be annoying to those sensitive to them. Audio from the twin single-watt speakers is predictably weak; if you want louder or higher-quality sound, you could connect a pair of powered external speakers through the audio-out jack.
The Pocket Projector can be used by businesses as well as consumers. Although I was unable to run our full suite of tests from the computer I was mirroring from; I looked at a variety of Word, PowerPoint, and PDF files. Image quality proved suitable for typical presentations, with black text on white reasonably sharp except at very small sizes. There was a minor color-balance issue; I noticed a slight reddish tinge in some white backgrounds.
When the Pocket Projector was connected wirelessly, I experienced several dropped connections. This happened once with my Windows PC and two or three times with my iPhone. The exact cause of the lost connections is uncertain, as the network I was testing on is usually reliable. Reconnecting is easy enough (the quick-start guide provides instructions to connect to the supported phones, tablets, and computers), but it still is a nuisance.
The Pocket Projector is Lenovo's first projector to come to market here in the US, and it's a good start. It has a swiveling lens that lets you project at an angle, a long life for its rechargeable battery, and it does a decent job in handling both data and video, if you're not too sensitive to the rainbow effect. Its video quality falls short of the Editors' Choice Celluon PicoPro, and it lacks that pico projector's MHL-compatible HDMI port, or any wired connection choice for that matter. But if you're happy with microSD and wireless connectivity, the Pocket Projector is a solid choice.
As Analyst for printers, scanners, and projectors, Tony Hoffman tests and reviews these products and provides news coverage for these categories. Tony has worked at PC Magazine since 2004, first as a Staff Editor, then as Reviews Editor, and more recently as Managing Editor for the printers, scanners, and projectors team. In addition to editing, Tony has written articles on digital photography and reviews of digital cameras, PCs, and iPhone apps Prior to joining the PCMag team, Tony worked for 17 years in magazine and journal… More »
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