Runs Android with touch interface. Solid specs. Automatic calibration. Powerful speaker with Google Assistant support.
Expensive. Relatively low resolution for the price. Dim. Limited touch interaction when projecting to a wall. Few port options.
- Bottom Line
The Sony Xperia Touch is a projector that runs Android and doubles as a smart speaker. It's a interesting way to consume multimedia content, but its high price makes it hard to recommend over traditional options.
The Sony Xperia Touch is an Android-powered short-throw projector that attempts to meld your home TV, tablet, and smart speaker in a single device. It can project a touch-enabled 23-inch screen on your desk that functions like a tablet, or an 80-inch touch screen on your wall for watching movies. It also has a reasonably solid built-in speaker with support for voice commands. There's no question that it does a lot, but it's just too pricey at $1699.99, especially when an inexpensive pico projector like the AAXA P300 Neo costs as little as $300, leaving you with plenty of money left to buy a tablet and a smart speaker.
Design and Features
The Xperia Touch doesn't look like your standard projector. Most of its body is wrapped in gold speaker grille, with a sleek glass front panel that houses the projector. The back is made of grippy, rubberized plastic and has a microSD card slot. A plastic panel at the bottom can be removed to give you easier access to the USB-C port, which provides 15V of power with the included adapter, and a micro HDMI input for connecting to data or video sources. The grille on top of the projector is punctuated by a black bar, which holds a power button, a microphone, a pair of LED indicators, and a touch bar for volume adjustment.
The Touch measures 5.3 by 2.7 by 5.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 2.1 pounds, bigger and heavier than pico projectors like the P300 Neo (1.2 by 5.5 by 3.5 inches, 12. 8 ounces) and the LG Minibeam LED Projector (1.7 by 6.9 by 4.3 inches, 1.4 pounds). As far as portability goes, it certainly won't fit in a pocket, and even carrying it in your backpack adds some bulk. For the most part, the Touch is something you'll want to leave sitting on your coffee table or kitchen counter, but it's portable enough to grab and carry from room to room.
Setting up the Xperia Touch is the same as any Android tablet, except your primary point of interaction is through the 10-point multi-touch interface that uses an IR sensor to turn a flat surface into a touch screen (more on this in the hardware section). Once setup is complete, the Touch should make keystone corrections automatically, so the only adjustment you'll have to do is position the projector itself. Set it with the black bar pointing up at the ceiling to project down to a tabletop, or with the black bar facing you if you want it to project against a wall.
The Xperia Touch has a 100-lumen LED-based light source that can project a 23-inch screen on a desk or other surface, or an 80-inch screen on a wall, both at a 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution. It's grainy for the size it projects, not to mention the price. It slightly exceeds the sharpness of the 720p P300 Neo, but it can't match the crispness of the 1080p LG Minibeam Ultra Short Throw Projector. If you're planning to use the Xperia Touch primarily as TV replacement, you may be better off getting one of the many affordable 4K TVs that are now available, which offer plenty of streaming options at a much sharper resolution.
Aside from this, the Xperia Touch just doesn't get very bright at 100 lumens. It does fine in a dark room, but if you're in a setting where there's any light at all you'll definitely notice some washing out. Compared with the 420 lumens of the P300 Neo, let alone the 1,000-lumen rating of the LG Minibeam, the Touch just doesn't handle ambient light well.
Image quality is typical of a low-brightness projector. The Xperia Touch's light engine uses SXRD technology, which is Sony's take on the LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) technology we occasionally see in palmtop and pico projectors. Sony's recent SXRD projectors use three LCOS chips, one for each primary color (red, green, and blue). SXRD projectors offer relatively high contrast ratios. Although the Xperia Touch doesn't show the rainbow effect that we often see in DLP-based LED projectors, we occasionally saw traces of color fringing around text and at intersections between bright and dark areas.
There is a Projector Settings app available if you need to make keystone corrections, but we found that we generally didn't need to use it. The one annoyance is that if you move the projector even slightly, it will blink off and on in order to make adjustments, and sometimes it won't turn back on at all, forcing you to do it manually by pushing the power button.
Connectivity protocols are pretty solid, as far as wireless options go. You have Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, letting you stream and download apps without a problem. There's also Bluetooth 4.2 for connecting wireless headphones or potentially even an Android-compatible controller. Like most Android-powered phones or tablets, it can cast to compatible Sony TVs and works with streaming sticks like a Chromecast. It also supports NFC, which can aid in pairing compatible devices.
Aside from the aforementioned USB-C and micro HDMI (HDMI-D) ports, the Xperia Touch lacks any others, which may prove limiting compared with the more thoroughly outfitted LG Minibeam, which boasts an Ethernet port, HDMI ports, and even a TV tuner. That said, using an HDMI-to-HDMI-D cable we were able to plug the Xperia Touch into a Falcon Northwest TLX and seamlessly project the screen. It's an easy, direct way to play content from your laptop, desktop, game console, or other compatible devices.
Hardware, Multimedia, and Battery
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor clocked at 1.8GHz and 3GB of RAM, the Touch has solid specs that put it on par with most midrange Android phones and tablets. In benchmark testing, it scored 5,088 in PCMark's Work 2.0 test, which measures the performance of a range of tasks like web browsing and photo editing, better than the Huawei Mediapad M3 Lite 10 (3,842). You can easily play games like Fruit Ninja and Solitaire without any lag. It was even able to run PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds on low graphics settings, though the controls aren't the most responsive.
Out of 32GB of internal storage, the Touch has approximately 20GB available. If you plan on storing lots of multimedia content, you can always use a microSD card; we tested with a 256GB card that worked without issue.
For portable usage, the Touch has a 1,300mAh battery that lasted for 45 minutes of streaming Wi-Fi video at maximum brightness. Compared with the 2 hours, 30 minutes promised by the P300 Neo, the Touch isn't as reliable for portable use.
There's a 13-megapixel camera set into the black bar on top of the projector. Using the Xperia Touch as a large tablet in desktop mode, it faces upward and is largely useless unless you're keen on taking pictures of your ceiling. When oriented so that it's projecting against a wall, it faces toward you, allowing you to use it for video conferencing. For this purpose camera and video quality is acceptable, though don't expect the sharpest image quality in the lower-light settings you're likely to use it in.
And then, of course, there's the matter of touch interaction itself. In tablet mode, it works fine. The IR sensor picks up your touch with a good degree of reliability, almost like an actual touch screen. And while there's some latency, it's not much worse than you'll experience with the Amazon Fire HD 10.
Touch interaction when projecting to a wall isn't as good. In testing, the projector needed to be placed directly against the wall in order to project upward and recognize touch input reliably. If there's anything between the Xperia Touch and the wall—even paneling—it results in poor reliability. When projecting against a wall, you're better off relying on voice commands.
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Android and Smart Speaker
The Xperia Touch ships running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which is a bit older than we'd hope given the price, though not uncommon for Android tablets. It has a custom Sony skin with some minor visual changes, but it's largely the same Android you'll be familiar with from your phone ot tablet. For better or worse, the interface hasn't been altered in any way to accommodate for projector interaction.
As far as apps go, you'll find the standard array of Google, Sony, and stock Android apps, and you're able to download freely from the Google Play store. There are a couple special additions, though. Aside from the aforementioned Projector Settings which is used for keystone correction, touch calibration, and focus, you also have Board, which is a drawing and note-taking app and widget, and Voice Control, which lets you use the Touch as a smart speaker.
As a smart speaker, you can issue voice commands for the Touch to access your calendar, set alarms, launch apps, and tell you the weather. It's always listening, so you can just say, "Hi Xperia," as the trigger word, then issue your command.
With just a single pinhole mic, however, it often couldn't pick up voices when there was any significant background noise, and didn't work well at a distance greater than 10 to 15 feet. On the plus side, you can replace Sony's default Voice Control with Google Assistant. While it won't fix the shortcomings of the microphone, it does give you a lot more voice functionality, thanks to Google Assistant's wealth of actions.
Audio quality is decent. It has good depth and doesn't sound tinny, but it also doesn't sound as good as dedicated smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Sonos One. If you're using it to watch a movie, you might want to connect the Touch to a louder Bluetooth speaker.
About the Author
Ajay Kumar Mobile Analyst
Ajay Kumar is PCMag's Analyst obsessed with all things mobile. Ajay reviews phones, tablets, accessories, and just about any other gadget that can be carried around with you. In his spare time he games on the rig he built himself, collects Nintendo amiibos, and tries his hand at publishing a novel. Follow Ajay on Twitter @Ajay_H_Kumar.
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