As noted, one of the interesting features is the Swivel's ability to project an image on a ceiling by tilting the front of the projector straight up at a right angle. This feature doesn't work well at all if you have tall ceilings, but those with shorter ceilings (less than 8 feet high) might find it alluring. The picture isn't great, but the chances are that this functionality will be a big hit with your kids and their friends. You should just be aware that the tiny integrated speaker isn't terribly loud, so you need to sit near the projector to hear the soundtrack of a movie. You can attach external speakers or connect headphones if you want better sound. It's also worth noting that, although the projector runs quietly, it does get rather warm at the front.
We've seen a few other pico projectors in action and the image quality, particularly in terms of brightness, is similar for all of them (this model's rated at 8 lumens). For comparison, we put the Swivel up against the 3M MPro120, which costs about £280, and has a higher resolution (640x480 pixels), better battery life (4 hours versus the Swivel's 2), and brightness levels (it's rated at 12 lumens on its 'high' setting).
We found the Swivel's picture to be slightly better than the MPro120's, with slightly deeper blacks (the Cinemin uses DLP technology rather than the MPro120's LCoS). The MPro120's picture was a tad sharper but we preferred the colours produced by the Swivel. It's also worth noting that, to get the picture to display correctly, we had to set our iPhone to display in wide screen for the Swivel and 4:3 for the MPro120.
We weren't incredibly impressed with either projector, but we think WowWee has done a better job of making its projector consumer-friendly, particularly with the inclusion of the Apple adaptor and swivel mechanism. Ultimately, at this stage, pico projectors make some sense for parents and business travellers who want to watch an iPhone or iPod movie on a screen that's larger than that of their laptop, although the prices put the units beyond the impulse-purchase category.
There's something cool about the concept of carrying around a tiny, portable projector, and creating an instant mini cinema. But just keep your expectations low as far as picture and sound quality are concerned -- and make sure to watch in a darkened room. If you do that, you'll probably be happy with the WowWee Cinemin Swivel. The technology is advancing and we expect that next-generation models will offer improved performance and, ideally, lower prices.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet