Compact. Portable. Good range of connection ports. Includes padded protective case. Built-in rechargeable battery. Solid data image quality.
Poor video quality, with oversaturated colors and frequent rainbow artifacts.
- Bottom Line
The AAXA M5 Mini Projector is a good choice if you need a highly portable projector strictly for data presentations, as its video is usable only for very short clips.
By Tony Hoffman
The AAXA M5 Mini Projector ($599) is a very compact mini-projector that is geared toward businesspeople who need to give presentations while traveling. The M5 is easy to set up and use, it offers multiple connection choices, and its data image quality is good. The Achilles' heel of this small projector is the quality of its video, which is only watchable for short clips due to oversaturated colors and frequent rainbow artifacts. But if your presentations are data based, it's worth considering.
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Design and Features
The M5 is a DLP projector with an LED-based light source with a rated brightness of 900 lumens and a claimed lifetime of 20,000 hours, so the lamp should last as long as the projector. It has native WXGA resolution (1,280 by 800 pixels).
Black with white trim, the M5 is handsome. Viewed from above, it resembles a square with rounded corners, similar to but slightly larger than palmtop projectors we've tested. At 1.8 by 6 by 6 inches (HWD), it can barely fit into my fully outstretched palm with fingers splayed. It is lightweight at 2 pounds and quite portable, and comes with a rigid, foam-lined case. It includes a sturdy mini-tripod. A built-in rechargeable battery provides up to 70 minutes of operation between charges when used in Eco mode, according to AAXA.
Connectivity and Navigation
There is a nice set of connection choices on the M5. On back are ports for HDMI, VGA, and composite audio/video, as well as an audio-out jack. On the right side are a port for a USB thumb drive and a slot for a microSD card, labeled with the outdated "TF-card" nomenclature. (SanDisk originally called its microSD cards TransFlash, or TF for short.) That side also houses the On-Off switch and a tiny metal focus wheel with which I found it difficult to focus the projector precisely.
When you turn on the M5, you see a Home screen that offers six choices: Videos, Music, Photos, Text, Settings, and Input Source. You can navigate between them by using arrow controls either on the top of the projector or on the credit-card-size remote. If you press the OK button when one of the first four choices is highlighted, you can then choose between Micro [SD] Card and USB [thumb drive] and run content stored on the selected device. For Input Source, you can choose between VGA, HDMI, and RCA [composite audio/video], and project content plugged in to the respective port.
I tested the M5 from about 6 feet away from the screen, where it threw an image of about 48 inches (measured diagonally). There was some degradation in image quality with the introduction of ambient light; the image looked considerably better at about 40 inches.
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Based on my testing using the DisplayMate suite, the M5's data images are of a quality suitable for typical presentations to small groups. Text quality was reasonably good; black text on white and white text on black were both readable at sizes as small as 9 points. Colors were bright and for the most part looked realistic, though I noticed a minor color balance issue in that some white backgrounds looked slightly greenish. The projector has relatively poor dynamic range, as pale grays tended to show as white. When I switched from a VGA to an HDMI connection, which usually improves dynamic range, it was even more pronounced. You should avoid using light shades of gray in presentations you intend to show with the M5.
I saw occasional rainbow artifacts—little red-green-blue flashes—in some bright areas against dark backgrounds in the M5's data images. This so-called rainbow effect, which is frequently seen in single-chip DLP projectors, is less of a problem with data than with video. Even people sensitive to the effect shouldn't be bothered by it when watching the M5's data presentations.
Video and Audio
Rainbow artifacts appeared more frequently with the M5 than is usual in DLP projectors, and they'd likely be distracting to people at all sensitive to the effect. Reds and blues were significantly oversaturated in all color modes. I wouldn't recommend using this projector's video for anything but short clips. Audio from the dual 1-watt speakers is faint, usable only if your audience is sitting very close to the projector. I recommend connecting a pair of powered external speakers to the projector's audio-in port if you want louder or better-quality sound.
The AAXA M5 Mini Projector's good data image quality, wide range of connection options, and compact, lightweight frame make it a good choice as a portable projector for use in data presentations. It fared poorly in projecting video, however, with oversaturated colors and significant rainbow artifacts. The InFocus LightPro IN1146, our Editors' Choice LED-based WXGA projector, has similar brightness and port selection, but is better rounded overall, with solid data and usable video image quality. But the M5 is at least as good if you know you will use it strictly for data presentations, and it costs a lot less.
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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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