At this point, it's unclear whether these miniature projectors are designed for business or entertainment purposes (arguably, it's both). Either way, it's disappointing that 3M doesn't bundle in some sort of adaptor for video-capable iPods and iPhones. An optional Apple adaptor came out recently, but it costs about £30.
Do it for the kids
We used the adaptor to project a few movies from an iPhone, and the picture quality was the same as we experienced when projecting content from a laptop. The big difference is that an iPhone is much smaller, so the whole package is quite compact and road-friendly. Again, although the picture quality isn't great, kids do seem to love having a movie projected on the wall rather than watching it on an iPhone or iPod touch's screen -- or a laptop screen for that matter.
We've seen a few other pico projectors in action, and the image quality, particularly in terms of brightness, is similar with all of them. We compared the MPro120 with the WowWee Cinemin Swivel projector, which ships with an Apple adaptor. Although the Swivel offers a lower resolution (480x320 pixels, compared with the MPro120's 640x480 pixels), is only rated at 8 lumens for brightness, and its battery life isn't as good, we found the Swivel's picture to be better, with slightly deeper blacks. The MPro120's picture was slightly sharper but we preferred the Swivel's colours. It's also worth noting that, to get the picture to display correctly, we had to set our iPhone to display in wide screen with the Swivel, and 4:3 with the MPro120.
The MPro120 has a couple of half-watt speakers integrated into the unit. They provide enough sound to watch a movie (you have to sit close to the projector), but, as you might expect from such tiny speakers, the sound isn't all that good, and it's not particularly loud either. It is slightly better than what you get from your iPhone's speakers, though. If you want to augment the sound, you'll have to connect better speakers to your audio source, or use the ones on your laptop, if they're powerful enough.
There's much to like about the 3M MPro120. It's very compact, offers significant improvements over the MPro110, and projects a passable image as long as you don't blow it up too much. That said, you just can't expect this type of miniature projector to perform as well as a laptop screen or larger, less portable units that cost more and cast a brighter image.
The technology is advancing, however, and we expect that next-generation models will not only offer improvements but also come down in price. Indeed, 3M has already announced a successor, the MPro150. UK pricing is currently unavailable, but this 2010 model adds 1GB of internal memory, a microSD card slot, and a USB input for transferring files from a laptop or netbook, letting you run entire presentations from the projector itself. Anyone interested in the MPro120 should probably wait for that model. At the very least, it should mean lower prices for the MPro120.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet