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Projectors for the traveling accountant

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One of the benefits of being a product reviewer is that I get to see and test a lot of new products, and if I think they are interesting and useful to someone in practice, I'll talk about them here. Recently, I put a new projector from Viewsonic to the test and I thought you might be interested. I’ve been looking at Viewsonic products for decades. The company is well known for display products, both monitors and projectors, and I’ve generally been happy with the quality and value of the products I’ve reviewed.

Recently, I had the opportunity to test one of the vendor’s newest projectors, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January and which just started shipping a few weeks ago. The M1+ is a pico projector. Pico projectors were popular several years ago and then pretty much disappeared from the scene. The idea behind them is simple: Using a lower output lamp/light source in a small case, a pico can project a fair-sized image in a darkened room. At the time, they were marketed primarily as entertainment devices to show movies and other images on the wall or ceiling, or outdoors on the side of the house. These lower output projectors seem to be making a comeback, and as before, are often targeted at the entertainment market rather than at business users.

The M1+ isn’t targeted to any specific market. I reviewed it as an entertainment device elsewhere, but it’s a very apt piece of equipment for someone who has to make last-minute presentations on the go. It’s very small for a projector, measuring only 5.7 x 5 inches and 1.6 inches high. The weight is only 1.7 pounds, but these measurements are without the power supply, which is a small laptop-style external device, so the M1+ is not quite as portable as it seems. It’s way easier to travel with than a standard video projector, but unless you have a pretty large laptop case, you’re going to have to carry it your roller bag or other carry-on luggage.

Little projector, big image

The M1+ is a short throw projector. That means that it doesn’t have to be terribly far from the screen or other projection surface to create a large image. I tested it with a distance of three feet from the screen and the image size was a 36-inch diagonal, about the size of an average flat-screen TV. Placing the projector further back, you can get up to about a 100-inch diagonal with the projector eight feet away from the screen.

But there is a significant trade-off — image brightness. Today’s business-oriented projectors have a brightness of between 2,500 and 3,500 lumens, which is a measure of light output at the source. The M1+ has a light output of 300 lumens. That’s a considerable difference, especially when you consider that lumens are a logarithmic measure, not a linear one. So a 3,000 lumens output is considerably brighter than just ten times the 300 lumens output of the M1+. Still, the projector gives off a quite watchable image in a room that is only moderately darkened.

The M1+ has lots of other nice features. It offers a host of inputs, including USN-C and USB 3.0 ports, which can also be used to charge other devices such as your phone. There’s also an HDMI input that you can use to mirror your laptop. Viewsonic gives the internal lithium ion battery a six-hour life at the projector’s eco setting. In real-life terms, it works out to about two and a half hours at the brightest output setting. The light source is an LED array with an estimated 30,000 hour lifetime, and the projector itself has a three-year warranty. Other features include a small remote control and a lens cover that can also serve as a stand. And topping it off is a set of Harmon Kardon internal speakers. The free WPS Office is built in, so the projector has no trouble with Word, Excel or PowerPoint files.

The M1+ isn’t inexpensive, with a street price of about $340. Still, given its convenience and very viewable output, it’s worth a close look if you frequently need to give an on-the-fly presentation.

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