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David Zax

A View from David Zax

A Handheld Projector You Might Actually Want

With built-in Roku, it’s like a portable Internet TV.

  • October 11, 2012

Here’s something you probably didn’t know you wanted. 3M has come up with a handheld projector—or “picoprojector”—with a Roku Streaming Stick built in. That means the $300 device can function as something of a portable TV, with access to Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and the like.

BGR was one of the first to spot 3M’s press release on the topic a few days back. In it, 3M touted a projector “small enough to fit in your hand, yet able to project an image up to 120 inches,” one that was “perfect for family movie nights, sleepovers and evening backyard parties” with its (claimed) two hour and forty-five-minute battery life. 3M also called the device “first-of-its-kind,” promising a shipping date by October 22. (It can be preordered here, for now with a promo offering a $20 credit from Amazon Instant Video.)

The good people of CNET have already gone hands-on with the device, which they grant 3.5 stars out of 5: “very good.” They call it the first mini-projector with “some mainstream appeal.” They also dub it a “well-thought-out gadget” and especially recommend what seems to me the delightful experience of projecting video onto the ceiling while in bed. CNET’s principal quarrels are that the resolution is merely DVD-level, and that the device only puts out 60 lumens. You’ll need to be in a pitch- black room with the whitest of walls if you really want to get up to that 120-inch screen. (Here, a deep dive on their image test data.) The biggest problem CNET identified is that the battery life, in practice, appeared to actually be closer to one hour and forty-five minutes–barely enough for a movie.

Technology Review has written a fair amount on handheld projectors in the past. For more info on the project of integrating them with smartphones, see “The Galaxy Beam: 15 Lumens and a Lot of Cheese” and “In Quest for Smartphone Projectors, a Focus on the Lens.” And for a look at the research that went into the narrowest pocket projector out there—a mere six millimeters thick—check out Duncan Graham-Rowe’s article “An Even Smaller Pocket Projector.”

The 3M projector isn’t cheap, but I like the sentiment at the end of this video: “It’s time to share the big screen together.” In an era in which we would sooner cluster around an iPhone with friends to share a tiny YouTube video than head out to the cineplex for some old-fashioned movie magic, this picoprojector recaptures some of the cinematic experience in a device not so much larger than the gadget in your pocket.

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