However, once we’d got over the basic fact that the MP180 isn’t going to rewrite the pocket projector picture quality book, we started to reflect on a few positives. Certainly the overall picture standard is a considerable improvement over that of the MPro150 we reviewed a few months back. Sources look much sharper and more detailed for a start – a result down at least in part to the MP180’s higher native resolution. This is, of course, particularly beneficial with text-based presentations.
Colours are also less distractingly ugly than the scarily offkey ones found on the MPro150, and most important of all, the picture is much brighter, meaning it’s possible to achieve a genuinely watchable image at a larger size than you could with the MPro150. Personally from our experiments we’d say you probably need to stop at around 65-70in rather than the maximum 80 claimed by 3M, but even 65in is a respectable maximum size for a pocket projector as genuinely portable as the MP180.
In fact, this is really a key point. For while ‘chunkier’ pocket projectors might outperform the MP180 for brightness and especially contrast, by the standards of genuinely slim pocket models, the MP180 performs rather well.
It’s worth adding, too, that the MP180’s extra brightness means it can be used in brighter environments than the MP150 – though as much darkness as possible is still highly recommended!
The MP180’s built-in speakers, meanwhile, aren’t as bad as you might think from their 2 x 0.75W power rating. Sure, there’s absolutely no bass at all, and even at maximum the volume levels it can achieve are barely adequate for a pretty small room. But the sound is, at least, unusually clear – perhaps as a result of using two speakers instead of just one.
We do have a few other beefs with the MP180, though. First, there doesn’t appear to be any easy way of calling up the main menu on the touchscreen once you’ve started watching something. An ‘instant menu’ button like you get on iPads and iPhones would have been very helpful.
Also, while we initially loved tapping away at the decently sensitive control screen, we quickly found ourselves wishing for a remote control. Yet with the MP180 you can only get a remote as an optional extra.
Finally, the projector does whine a bit, as if it’s working really hard all the time. This is underlined by the fact that it can also get mighty hot. So much so that even the touchscreen panel can feel uncomfortably warm after you’ve had the projector on for a while.
The MP180’s rainbow effect and lack of contrast prevent it from totally winning our hearts. However, provided you’re not intending to watch too many Hollywood blockbusters on it, it’s nonetheless a stunningly designed, thoughtfully conceived, feature-packed, cable-free and above all groundbreakingly flexible pocket projection temptation – one that’s a lot cheaper, quicker to use and easier to cart about than your average laptop.