Product review – 3M MPro110 Pocket Projector

No, the title does not say pocket protector, this review is going to give you a closer look at one of the first pocket projectors in the world.

The 3M MPro110 pocket projector is about the size of a late 90′s mobile phone (4.5″x2″). On the front of the unit is a small lens opening, on the back is where you’ll find the power and video connectors, and on the side is a single power button and a lens focus wheel.

The MPro110 is powered by an internal Lithium-Ion battery pack which should offer enough juice for about an hour of continuous use. Inside the unit is a tiny 3M projection module, which uses an LED light for illumination.

Of course, as regular travelers, you are probably scratching your head wondering just why on earth you would ever consider carrying a pocket projector in your luggage. To answer this, I’ve put together a couple of scenarios where the projector could come in handy.
The first, and probably most logical scenario for the projector is to give business presentations using your laptop or Netbook computer. Anyone out there who has had to drag a projector through the airport will understand just what a pain in the ass it is, not to mention having to deal with the constant threat of the poor projector being damaged mid trip.

The second, and more fun scenario is using the projector for entertainment. The MPro110 comes with connection cables for standard video sources as well as a VGA cable for connecting it to a laptop or other device with a VGA plug.

So, how well does the projector perform in each of these 2 scenarios? This all depends on your expectations. If you turn the projector on with the expectation of getting super bright images like on a normal projector, you are going to be quite disappointed. If you turn it on expecting very little, you are in for a pleasant surprise.

The projector projects its image with a brightness of about 7 lumens. When you compare this against a regular projector which has an average output exceeding 1000 lumens, you’ll understand that the image is not going to be suitable for every situation. First of all, the room really has to be dark, secondly, the image can really only be focused when it stays smaller than about 70 inches diagonally.

Both of these restrictions make finding a suitable wall or screen quite hard, but by no means make the projector useless. In fact, I’m actually very impressed with the results from such a little box.

Looking back at both of those scenarios I mentioned; presentations and entertainment. Giving a presentation with the MPro110 is quite possible, but the room really will have to be dark, and it only makes sense when you have just a handful of people sitting around a table looking at the wall.



(This image actually looks brighter in real life, this game is being projected on a wall and measures 65″ diagonally)

Entertainment is actually where the projector excels. I connected the unit to my Sprint Smartphone running the Slingplayer remote TV application, and within minutes I was watching live TV on a massive screen on the wall. If you find yourself stuck somewhere without a TV, you simply turn on the device and turn any open wall space into your own little movie screen.

Image quality in each scenario is surprisingly good, not “plasma TV” good, but by no means unusable.

This brings me towards the end of my brief review, but not without mentioning some of the drawbacks and flaws of the MPro110.

  • Image quality – I’m going to go easy on the pocket projector, it is after all a first generation device. But it really does have to be pointed out that the dim and low resolution image from the unit will make it useless for all but a small handful of people with a very specific need.
  • Usability – This one annoyed me more than anything else. The projector does not come with a carrying case, lens cover or even rubber feet on the bottom. When you plug the thick video cable in the back of the projector, it slips and slides all over the place. I solved this by carrying a mini tripod, but I can’t help notice this lack of foresight by 3M.
  • Lack of control – The projector has just one button; power. There is no keystone option (for projecting at an angle), no integrated speaker, no brightness or contrast controls and no battery indicator.

I’m convinced that 2009 will bring us more developments in this arena, and I’m not totally disappointed with the 3M MPro110, it really is an amazing technical achievement. But at the end of the day I’m just not convinced there are that many people out there who could really benefit from it.

I’m a geek, and I could see myself carrying this device on a regular basis, and I think many fellow geeks would think like me, but the general public would probably have a hard time justifying the $359 purchase price (MSRP, retail prices are around $300). The future of these devices probably involves the projection hardware being integrated inside all kinds of devices. Just imagine the 9th generation iPod in 2011 being sold with an integrated projector!