Smart Beam Pico Projector

Posted on 4th November, 2013

Smart Beam Pico Projector

The Smart Beam from Innoio is a portable 'pico' projector. We decided to put the Smart Beam through its paces to see if it lives up to the claims.

I've often thought it would be great to have a portable, compact projector to use for business presentations, but most of them are just too big to lug around with a laptop computer, and usually require a separate power supply. So when the Smart Beam pico projector from INNOIO hit our desks I was very keen to give it a go.

It’s advertised as an RGB LED-powered DLP projector. At $449 RRP (but currently on sale at $349 including matching tripod, usb charging cable, and HDMI cable), it's not the cheapest micro projector, but at 129grams, it certainly is the smallest and lightest in the under $500 micro projector price point.

First impressions – well it certainly is really small – only 4.5cm cube, and surprisingly heavy to the feel. I guess there’s a lot to pack in there, and it feels quite strong. The lens focus is a mechanical adjustment “thumb wheel” on the side. It has only 2 sockets on it - Micro USB for charging, micro HDMI for input.

In the main package was the projector unit itself, a clear rubber vibration-reducing sleeve, AC charging adapter, Micro-USB to MHL cable for Android phones and Samsung Galaxy S3 adapter plug. Extras supplied with the unit were HDMI to MHL cable, USB charge cable and a universal tripod – similar to desktop tripod for GoPro, etc. which grips the Smart Beam firmly.

For the initial test I just plugged it into my Samsung Galaxy S2, turned it on and voila! An image of my phone’s home screen appeared on the wall opposite. From 4m away, the image size is about 1.5m diagonal, and switched automatically from portrait to landscape, as determined by the phone settings.

The picture isn’t very bright, 35 Lumens according to the spec, but in a darkened room it is adequate for presentations and casual viewing.

I arranged for the loan of a projector screen, with some gain in the surface. Connected to the Phone, and opening a movie the projector came to life – the image was quite clear and it wasn’t too hard to forget this came from a tiny block.

The only let-down here was the internal speaker – sure it had one, but it’s so small it made listening a bit difficult unless you sit right next to it. The volume control on the phone worked, but was best left at maximum. No external audio connections means there is no alternative to external sound. According to the documentation, if you use it with an apple product, there is no volume control either.

The internal 2300mAh Li-Po battery lasts for over 2 hours – long enough to watch all but the most epic adventures, and certainly long enough for most short presentations. It even keeps the phone charged whilst connected.

About to embark on a YouTube adventure, I discovered my WiFi connection no longer functioning. I unplugged the Smart Beam, and the phone’s WiFi resumed. There was no mention of this in the trouble shooting in the supplied documentation, so after a quick scramble on the internet, I found this is a common problem for MHL devices used on Android devices.

After more research, I should point out this is not a product issue, but more of a MHL technology issue. It seems that DHCP compliance is not maintained when using WEP/PSK security on Wireless 'N' connections. By changing the WiFi router to WPA2 security the connectivity problem is resolved. Alternatively, changing the wireless N to “B only”, also works fine. This is a wider issue with WiFi standards and various router hardware and firmware, and has only recently been enforced in iOS and Android devices. The MHL requirement for this compliance is varied across different device manufacturers.

Once I had resolved the above issue, I also connected the Smart Beam Pico directly to a DVD player with the supplied HDMI cable to watch some movies. Whilst not excellent in terms of detail, it was certainly as good as one of the movie samples I found on the internet.

The connection of my PC, also via the supplied HDMI cable is where the unit began to struggle with resolution. At only 640x480 native resolution (4:3 aspect) I found that it was really missing some detail when given some graphics in widescreen format – the Smart Beam really struggled with text readability, and it was a bit slow in refresh on some small animated graphic scenes.

All up, this is a great unit for basic connection to your android smart phone for brief office presentations, or for watching a movie in a dark room. Certainly it is not designed as a replacement for a decent home cinema projector, or for a brighter mains-powered data projector, but quite capable given it's very small footprint.

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Posted in: Technology Visual Projectors
Tags: pico projector  smartbeam 

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