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Home / Tips and Tricks / A pico projector that fits in your pocket – Review Geek

A pico projector that fits in your pocket – Review Geek



Rating:
5/10
?

  • 1 – Absolutely hot garbage
  • 2 – Sorta lukewarm garbage
  • 3 – Badly flawed design
  • 4- Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 5 – Acceptably imperfect
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great, but not top notch
  • 8 – Fantastic, with a few footnotes
  • 9 – Shut up and take my money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $ 150

Projector with the lens cover folded down.
Viewsonic

Do you want a big screen TV but don’t have the room or the budget for one? Viewsonic’s M1 Mini is a tiny pico projector that literally fits in your pocket and can project a large image in a dark room. It lacks some features from its big brother – the M1 + – but at $ 150, it’s also less than half the price.

Here’s what we like

  • Tiny – fits in your pocket
  • Comes with three different color shells
  • good sound
  • Affordable

And what we don’t

  • The resolution is only 854 x 480
  • Must be used in a dark room
  • No charger / power supply included
  • No tripod mount
  • The battery has a maximum shelf life of 2.5 hours

Waiting! Is that a projector in your pocket?

Pico projectors – small portable video projectors – were popular about a decade ago. Then they disappeared for a while and are now experiencing a renaissance. The Viewsonic M1 Mini, the little brother of the M1 + that we recently reviewed, is the latest addition to the Viewsonic family of video projectors.

In some ways, the M1 Mini is similar to the larger and brighter M1 +, but it’s not just a shrunk version of the more expensive Pico projector. For less money, you get fewer features and less flexibility. But for many, this isn’t a deal breaker.

When Viewsonic named the projector, it hit the nail on the head. The M1 Mini is really a very compact unit that is only four square inches tall and one centimeter high. There is a pop-up color swatch on the top of the projector that allows you to swap the teal-green swatch that comes standard with the projector for a gray or yellow swatch that comes with it. I don’t really know why they did this, it seems like giving a pig lipstick (with apologies to Miss Piggy). Others that look pretty seem kind of pointless as all they do is change the color of the top of the projector.

Inside the case there is a 50 lumen LED light source, a battery with a maximum playing time of 2.5 hours and a really good sounding 2 watt JBL loudspeaker. You won’t blow up the neighbors holding an outdoor movie night, but it sounds great indoors.

A fold-down lens cover doubles as a stand for the projector and, like its big brother, can be lifted up to provide a convenient handle. Unfortunately, the tripod mount that the M1 + offers is missing from the bottom of the projector, a feature that is painfully overlooked. With a tripod, you can easily position the projector at a 90-degree angle to the projection surface. With the M1 Mini, you need to find a way to lift the projector so the image does not appear level with the floor or is inappropriately distorted. The vertical keystone function is good, but it does not make up for an image that is far too distorted due to the angle between the projector and the screen.

Here a port, there a port

With the M1 Mini, which is so compact, there isn’t much space for sockets or controls. The front of the projector contains only the lens. The manual focus wheel is accessible from the right side of the projector (when viewed from the front). You will need to focus the image depending on how far the M1 Mini is from the surface you are projecting on. The projector has automatic vertical keystone correction, which is very helpful because sometimes you cannot position the projector exactly perpendicular to the surface.

Picture shows USB connections
The right side contains micro-USB and USB-A ports.

There is a small slide switch on the back to turn the projector on and off. Unlike the M1 +, moving the stand up or down does not regulate performance. You must therefore be careful to turn off the projector after viewing, otherwise the stand may block the cooling vent of the device.

The connections are divided between the left and right side panels. Seen from the front, the right side wall contains two connections. Both are USB ports, with one being a micro USB and the other being a type A USB. You can input video either through or through the HDMI port on the left. The micro-USB port also serves as a power-in port, and Viewsonic offers a USB-to-micro cable. However, it does not provide a power supply for wall wart. You have to provide this yourself. You can input videos through the USB type A port while charging the projector through the micro USB port. However, if you are using the micro USB port for video, then you should use a charged battery as it cannot be used for both charging and video input at the same time.

The picture shows the HDMI input on the left side of the projector.
The left side has an HDMI input.

For my tests, I used video from a number of sources, including a flash drive, Amazon Fire TV Stick, USB DVD player, and laptop, with no issues playing video from either of these sources. In another test, I connected the M1 Mini to an HDMI video output on a laptop and projected the laptop’s screen. Again, no other problem than the image brightness.

As with other pico projectors I have tested, I projected the image from a distance of about two meters from a large piece of white foam board and also tested the projection against a wall painted light blue. The difference in image brightness was immediately noticeable, with the image projected on the wall becoming noticeably darker, but still acceptable in a completely dark room. At eight feet away, the picture was roughly the size you would get on a 32-inch television.

Not too bright

The M1 Mini can actually project an image up to 100 inches in size. Note, however, that the larger the image you are projecting, the less bright the image will appear. You can blame physical inverse square law for this. The light output also contributes to the lack of brightness. Viewsonic rates this as 120 lumens, but in ANSI measurements the output is just under 50 lumens. It’s just not very bright, and when you’re projecting against a dark surface, the image is almost unrecognizable.

That sums up two more points. The first was mentioned above – even a moderate amount of light in the room will completely wash out the image. The other problem is the surface you are projecting onto. While white, like a white wall or sheet of white, is preferable for the best image, I have obtained an acceptable image projected onto a light blue wall without noticeably distorting the colors in the projected material. The limited optical resolution of only 854 × 480 also reduces image sharpness and clarity on higher resolution source material.

Not quite perfect

Man lying on pillow with tiny projector next to hiom on floor
Viewsonic

I like the M1 Mini, but there are a number of places it lags behind the M1 +. Most noticeable are the brightness of the image and the resolution.

I’m also not very happy with the short 2.5 hour battery life, especially with a lot of movies approaching or exceeding this length. When you think of projection Avengers: EndgameYou’d better have a battery pack or an electrical outlet handy, which defeats the whole purpose of a projector with so much portability. Even with a nearby socket, you will need a wall wart because Viewsonic does not include a power supply with the projector.

The source of your video footage is also an issue, especially if you’re looking outside. Unless you want to use a power cord for a laptop or Fire TV Stick / Roku, you are likely limited to video on a flash drive or a battery-powered device like a phone or tablet with an adapter between the two device and projector.

Finally, I really miss the tripod mount that the larger and more powerful M1 + has. The M1 Mini’s flip lens cover / stand doesn’t give you anywhere near the flexibility to mount the M1Mini at 90 degrees from the surface you are projecting the image onto. This is somewhat offset by the projector’s automatic vertical keystone correction, but the correction can do so much to correct a large deviation in the horizontal angle between the projector and the viewing surface.

All of this doesn’t mean the M1 Mini isn’t worth considering. But think carefully about what, where and how to use it. It’s a cute and not too expensive projector, but for many it makes more sense to spend more money and get more flexibility and ease of use.

Here’s what we like

  • Tiny – fits in your pocket
  • Comes with three different color shells
  • good sound
  • Affordable

And what we don’t

  • The resolution is only 854 x 480
  • Must be used in a dark room
  • No charger / power supply included
  • No tripod mount
  • The battery has a maximum shelf life of 2.5 hours




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