Portable projectors aren't new, but the technology is changing.
New contenders from ZTE and JmGO have taken the world of big screen projection to another level by combining several new features into small pieces of hardware that can fit into a briefcase or bag.
The ZTE Spro 2 ($549.99) fits easily in a briefcase, weighing a mere 19 ounces. But don't let its size fool you. This new entry into the portable projection arena is packed with features.
- An HD LCD touch screen
- Android KitKat is built in
- A 2 gigahertz quad core processor
- HDMI and USB ports
- Internal speakers with external and Bluetooth 4.0 support
- Display ranges from 14 to 150 inches
- A micro SD card slot
- Memory is 2 GB ROM and 16 GB RAM
- Miracast wireless display
- 1280x720 resolution
The one we tested also connects to the Verizon network, which means - - - for a monthly fee of $5 - - - it can be used when a WiFi connection isn't available and can become a 4G LTE hotspot, handling up to 10 devices. AT&T and Sprint offer similar plans.
It would be unfair to compare the picture quality and brightness (200 lumens) to a home theater projector, although we were pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the images.
The built-in Android operating system allowed us to download and use tons of video and photo apps and access them on the Spro's LCD touch screen.
Although it can be used to project HD or BluRay movies, the maximum resolution of 720p is a bit of a disappointment, but it's a great tool to have for showing off your favorite YouTube videos and photos of your latest trip on a big screen. Of course it can also be used to show off business-related presentations by linking it to your computer, tablet or smartphone.
We also recommend using the included power supply if your movie or presentation is more than two hours., which, we discovered, is the longest the battery can last without a recharge.
The JmGo View Smart Portable Theater ($385) is a new entry, just having completed a highly successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
Its key features closely resemble the Spro with a few extras. The JmGo raises the ante on brightness at 250 lumens, projects images up to 180 inches and can handle 3D (using active shutter glasses), and a handy remote control can be used to handle focusing and image quality.
Although there's no LCD display on the projector, a full range of Android apps can be accessed on-screen using the View's remote control. You can also control focus and picture size using an Android app that can be downloaded from the Google Play store. For all Appleites, there's an iOS app in the works.
The first thing you notice when taking the projector to out of the box is its odd shape. Basically, its a long cylindrical tube with speakers on each end and an LCD bulb near the middle. Fortunately, it comes with a magnetic stand that keeps it from rolling off the table! On the plus side, its unique design makes you want to show it off to friends and neighbors.
You can navigate the on-screen menus and apps using the remote control, but using an USB or Bluetooth mouse can make the process a bit less cumbersome.
The sound quality coming from its four-watt speakers was surprisingly good, but you can elect to connect it to an external Bluetooth speaker system.
Although we highly recommend using the power cord when watching long movies, we discovered that we could get up to four hours of viewing time using the battery by reducing the brightness of the image.