So far, with one or two honourable exceptions, the burgeoning pocket projector market has felt a little half-baked. Depending on which brand you're talking about, you've either got projectors that try so hard to produce good pictures that they forget about delivering practical designs or features, or you get projectors so obsessed with being small or cramming in features galore that they forget to pay attention to picture quality. It's rare to find a pocket projector that manages to combine both attributes together. But that's precisely the feat 3M's new MP180 just about manages to deliver.
One of the many things that's had the gadget fraternity buzzing about the MP180 ever since it was first announced around six months ago becomes obvious as soon as you look at it. For there, occupying a good proportion of its top side, is a 2.4in colour LED screen. What's more, it's a touch-sensitive screen, meaning you can access the MP180's features just by tapping gently on the onscreen icons. Introducing smartphone-like control to such a portable device feels wonderfully appropriate.
The whole form of the MP180 feels natural, actually. Its finish is tactile and just 'rubbery' enough to stop it slipping too easily through our eternally clumsy fingers. The lens is at the front and the main connections are at the rear, which helps the projector maintain balance and a straight line at the wall/screen better than if it was forever having its petite form pulled sideways by side-mounted connections. It weighs just 338 grams. And finally, while not being in the same league of tininess as Optoma's PK101, it's still diddy enough to fit very comfortably into a typical jacket pocket - especially given its elongated, rectangular shape.
Connections are straightforward and remarkably flexible. The projector's back end houses a simple but tight-fitting DC input, a mini USB port, and a VGA/AV port that can take a variety of different connectors via adaptor cables. Supplied as standard are a D-Sub adaptor and a composite video/stereo audio adaptor. Plus you also get a USB cable, a soft carry pouch, a battery, three Female RCA adaptors (giving you a means of extending the very short supplied composite/stereo audio cable), a soft carry pouch and even a surprisingly robust little desktop tripod.
Optional cables include an Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod connector, a car charger, and a component video adaptor.
There are a couple more interesting connections down the projector's side, namely a slot for adding a microSD card, and a headphone jack. The latter of these is self-explanatory - but actually the best way to get really good sound out of the MP180 - while the former lets you add extra storage capacity to the already impressively large 4GB built into the projector's chassis.