Microvision Pico Projector – Review
July 2011 - We have just finished checking out the Microvision ShowWX+ Laser pico projector. We were first exposed to this model at the E3 conference where it was shown in a darkened area and had exceptionally high brightness and viewability for its size. We were very excited to be able to get a hold of a unit and try it out.
The test unit we got comes with an iPod/iPhone/iPad connector cable, a composite video cable, a charger, a battery and the projector. We additionally tested the product with the optional VGA connector for the laptop doc. The first thing that was noticeable, was the charger came with 4 international travel plugs in addition to the US outlet.
The unit is the same form factor and size as a typical smartphone (iPhone, etc) and very easy to operate. The basic setup is plug in the cable and turn it on. The unit has an autofocus system, so what ever size image you create, it is always in focus. We tested the image on both screens and flat & textured walls and found it always clear from a 6" image to a 90" image. In daytime, with a standard mini-blind shaded room, the image was light when over 75", however in the afternoon without direct light entering the room and at night, (dimmed overhead lighting) the image was surprisingly viewable and was as bright as most consumer level projectors from 2008/2009. The image being WVGA (848x480) showed more resolution than those projectors, and compensated for brightness loss. We were able to test the image up to 62" on a standard gain of 1.0 screen, it was very sharp, and the focus worked well.
The testing was targeted at video playback, business presentation playback, photo projection and game play. On videos the product was automatic and worked great. As soon as you launched a video - whether from YouTube, or from a link embedded in a site or an email, the Apple products responded by turning on the video display circuits and showing the video through the projector. The composite output worked well showing the results directly from an SD camcorder, including adjusting the frame size to the 16:9 aspect ratio.
For photo projection, we tested on several products - iPhone, iPodTouch and a digital camera. On the Digital Camera, we used the composite video output. It did a good job of scaling the image on both a 7MP and a 10MP camera. On the iPhone the still photos were projected with the unit. On the iPodTouch, the video port was not enabled when you select photos at the bottom of the deveice, hence the images did not show. The solution to this, is to download and use a free app called Pico Snaps - (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slikc-picosnap/id389416777?mt=8) Which has a photo viewer and enables the video output port. With this application, the images viewed fine, although a bit slower to browse through.
For business presentation playback, we were unable to locate an office product for the Apple products that would automatically enable the video/display port. As a result, the presentations were either saved as images and stepped through the slide viewer, or if it includes animation, it is saved as a video and played. The new developer kit that is out, should allow new business applications to directly support the product and not lock out the display port in the future.
The gaming application was very hit and miss. For those products that enabled the display port, the games automatically worked with the projector and create a console like experience with the handheld product. Unfortunately, the majority of games did not enable the use of an external display on the Apple products, and hence the project went to auto-shutoff. Once again, the new developer kit, and the need to cross platform develop for Android devices, is allowing more gaming products to be “projector aware” and allow for the shared view experience.
All these tests were performed with one charging session of the battery. We were able to use the product for 100-110 minutes without recharging. We did recharge before the next testing, so we are not sure of the full battery time, but we can verify the 90-120 minute claim.
We also tested the product with the optional VGA connector for use with a laptop. The installation of the projector into the dock was easy and very solid. The VGA connector out the laptop worked normally for laptop display, external display or both. The WVGA resolution, while fine for showing photos, YouTube videos and Powerpoint, was a bit low from the standard 1600x1280 displays that are on most laptops today. This really changed the icon and screen size per the automatic screen adjustment settings in Windows. It is best to start the application then enable the VGA display socket. In combination with a netbook or small screen laptop with a VGA plug, it is a great presentation tool.
Overall the product performed very well and there were no comments of visual errors or idiosyncracies with the images. The primary limitation was on the Apple platforms, some older software and applications were not aware of the projector being connected and were developed without enabling the port, and there is no way to manually do so. The new developer kit is addressing this issue. We are looking forward to the next version that will support a mini-HDMI plug, which should bring a large usable device audience (smart phones, tablets, netbooks, cameras, video recorders, media players and gaming consoles) as that seems to be the direction as the default plug for consumer products. Most of the systems with HDMI do not require the enable port mode control, so the applications should be project compatible at initial offering.