Technology Tuesday: Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector

Handheld projectors, also called pico projectors or pocket projectors, have sure made a quantum leap in the last couple of years. Many had relatively dim pictures or images that were not very crisp and were really only suitable for projecting in near darkness on a surface not very far away. Having experienced a few of these first hand, I really wasn’t expecting much with the Brookstone Pocket Projector. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how will it stacked up against full size projectors and how fantastic the picture was.

Pocket projectors are great for travelling, impromptu presentations, sharing content trapped in your mobile phone or tablet or even off your laptop when you have something great to share and don’t want everyone looking over your shoulder. Yet, without a bright, crisp picture, there’s really no point in even bothering. Fortunately, the Brookstone Pocket Projector stacks up quite nicely to many full size projectors and is worth considering when deciding on purchasing a projector.

[Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector]

Brookstone? Yup. While Brookstone seems to be known mostly these days for random junk & assorted cheap gifts (pillows and barbecue sets!), make no mistake about it: this is a high-end product and most certainly not a “toy.” Frankly, the Brookstone name threw me at first without having a name like Samsung, Canon, Epson or Hitachi attached to it.

In a nutshell This is a rechargeable and highly portable mini-projector that can project 1080p HD video in images up to 60″ diagonal from 5′ away from any HDMI source as well as most smartphones & tablets. The super bright LED lamp can last a couple of hours on a charge and  can of course also be plugged into AC power for longer viewing sessions. Built it speakers provide sound. Retailing for $299, it is a bit cheaper than many other pico projectors and a great value considering replacement bulbs for full size DLP projectors can run $150-$200 alone!

Size, weight and design This projector is only slightly larger than a deck of cards and about the same weight. (3.9″ x 3.8″ x .9″ and just 8 ounces) Build quality feels very sturdy and its metallic grey top looks really sleek. On the bottom, four rubber feet offer such great traction that you can practically put it on a sloped surface nearing 90 degrees. There’s also a mini-tripod thread for easy attachment to devices like Gorillapod if so desired. The sides offer the focus wheel and the power button as well as heat-vents while the back has the HDMI connection, power connection, audio out jack and a USB port. Oddly, the USB port is provided exclusively to charge other USB devices (so it offers portable power in a pinch) – HDMI is the only input accepted. Touch sensitive buttons on top adjust sound and mode.

Picture Quality I had a tough time testing this projector out at full size image as I don’t have any uninterrupted wall space in my house big enough to accommodate the massive picture. However, when I was able to get to my office and use the conference room’s white board, I was thrilled at how crisp & bright the picture still was at 60″ and normal lighting conditions. I got this image about five and a half feet from the screen. Focusing was easy and quick with the focus dial. No need to dim the lights for this projector! While 1080p videos can be projected, the native resolution is 854 x 480 (WVGA).

I then tested the projector against a white sheet on the side of my house at night. The image size was well over 100″ and still crisp, vivid colors and bright! This will be perfect for summer movie nights and such an easy, quick and portable set-up. Paired with my desktop speakers with sub-woofer, the sound was just incredible coming from the audio-out. A true “drive-in” experience without having to go anywhere!

I watched a handful of things and each gave great results. YouTube videos at high-def looked just as good as my laptop and perhaps even better. Concert videos, movies, TV clips and short videos I had recorded from my phone all looked great. Similarly, Power Point slides and documents were crisp and legible- no doubt high quality enough for a business presentation. There is even a “Document” mode that seems to make a slight difference in a brighter picture.

Sound Quality One of the nice features of this projector is the built in speakers that some projectors do not offer. The speakers are only 1W each, so don’t expect it to fill a lecture hall, but it is certainly adequate for such places as a small meeting room, dorm or space with only a few people watching. Fortunately, when bigger sound needed, there is an audio out connection on the back of the unit to connect external speakers. The only glitch I had with the projector was connecting to a laptop and getting the audio to work on Windows 7. After a little Googling, I found that a driver issue necessitates either logging-off and logging-in again or rebooting after connecting an HDMI cable to a projector. While this is a minor annoyance and inconvenience, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Sound from other devices, like mobile phones or Boxee streamed immediately and pristinely without a problem.

[Back of Projector with power, audio out, USB charging port and HDMI input]

Battery, Heat & Fan Noise Battery life is very good at about two straights hours (3800 mAh capacity). The recharging is really quick and you can run the unit from AC power. Odd feature is that it has an USB port to charge other items. So of course if you take advantage of that, don’t expect the same battery life. It gives off very little heat and is easy to handle even after extended viewing. Unlike other projectors I have used, the fan is virtually silent.

What’s Included The projector comes with an HDMI cable as well as micro and mini USB adapters for connection to smartphones or tablets. (Apple products require an Apple digital AV adapter which is not included). A cloth carrying pouch fits the projector nicely but doesn’t have room for the AC cord if you wanted to bring that along as well.

Drawbacks There are a couple of things that could be improved:

  • There’s no adjustable feet so if you are not projecting off of a perfectly flat surface or take advantage of the tri-pod mount, you’ll have to prop the projector up with something and fiddle until you are happy with picture output.
  • Not many settings: you can adjust the volume & focus and toggle between two different presentation modes (regular & document). That’s about it. There’s no keystone correction, color adjustments or anything else.
  • HDMI input only. There’s no SD card slot, VGA or any other input. Without using various adapters (like VGA -> HDMI) that are available or the included USB adapters, HDMI is the only input.
  • No low battery indicator: You’ll only know when the projector dies! Might be a bit of a buzz kill in the middle of a big presentation.

Bottom Line This is an extremely high quality and highly portable projector making a nice choice for those that need a device small enough to fit in a shirt pocket yet not sacrificing the quality of a full sized projector. Perfect for smartphones, tablets, laptops or any device with HDMI output, this projector will provide crisp, bright images at 60″ and even much larger if dark enough. It also offers built in speakers. A fantastic device for sharing pictures at a party, gaming, movie watching, presentations, travelling or any other time you need a projector. Don’t let the Brookstone name fool you- this is an awesome projector!

Brookstone 1080p Pocket Projector $299

Be sure to tune in next week where we’ll highlight a slew of great gift ideas for the music lover in your life all for about $50 or under.

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Hidden Track Technology Tuesday

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the review, I’ve been looking at this model and the aaxa OEM250 and still can’t decide on if built in battery is more important to me or is brighter lumens and better connectivity better suited for me. In your review when you say 2 straight hours of battery life is that of video play back or just on? I guess 2 hours is enough for most movies and definitely for presentations…

  2. Hank- that’s AT LEAST two hours with full brightness. I have used for movies, hockey games and football games without an issue with battery.

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