If you travel through US airports you’ll have noticed a store called Brookstone that sells everything you never thought you wanted, but simply have to have – or gimmicks as I call them when in polite company. Occasionally though, you find something actually useful, and one such example is the HDMI Pocket Projector.

I’ve tried several of these over the years and they’re all fairly useless, but this one is good enough to make it worth considering – certainly for any presentation requirements.

Size matters

It’s really small (3.9″ x 3.8″ x 0.9″ or approximately 10cm x 10cm x 2.25cm) and light (0.5lbs or 225g) so it easily fits into your bag when travelling, and it comes with a charger that’s also pretty small (a bit bigger than a large iPad charger) which has either a US plug or European plug attachment (sorry UK readers, you’ll have to use an adapter, which is a pain).

Picture perfect performance

So far, so average, as it’s the same as all the other pico projectors out there, but the main thing for me is the performance. It’s rated at 85 lumens and to produce a screen at up to 80”, which often means nothing at all, but I’ve found that it gives very serviceable results. The easiest way to demonstrate it is to show it. In these two photos, I’ve positioned the projector to create an image next to a Sony 40” LED TV that’s pretty bright. They are in a fairly light room with a large bay window on a bright day. At 40” it produces really very good results that while not as good as the TV, are still good enough to see images, presentations, and movies very clearly.

Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector 40 Inch Image 02

Taking the projected image size up a bit to 60” doesn’t decrease the quality too badly at all and it’s still very clear and bright enough to see in a light room. It’s perhaps a bit unfair to pitch it against a TV, but that’s the real world. Clearly it’s not as good, but it is actually perfectly usable

Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector 60 Inch Image 02

I found that above about 60” and the image started to become a bit too dim in a bright room, but in a dark room, you can go up to the promised 80” without too much issue. As long as you don’t expect TV brightness, you should be pleased. Yes, a full-size projector produces better results, but neither TVs nor full-size projectors are easy to travel with, or convenient enough to keep with you ‘just in case’. As an example, about three months after buying it, I was due to run a training course in Washington and arrived to find that the venue’s projector had broken the day before. It was a course with 15 people in, so I needed a reasonable screen size, but with the lights turned down, it worked out just fine. Just make sure that your presentations use the right design approach and you’ll be fine.

In the last 18 months, I’ve used it 4-5 times during meetings, training, or seminars, many more as a second screen for my laptop (just projecting as a 20” screen or so onto the wall in front of a desk), and a couple of times to watch movies (don’t tell anyone – I should have been working), and I’ve been impressed with its performance.

Other than brightness, the resolution (1080p) was excellent and there was no issue with image refresh rates or smoothness. There are a couple of different image modes, which don’t really seem to make a difference when presenting. It won’t replace a full-size projector or TV, but it’s a great device when other options are not available or impractical.

It’s all about power!

What I really love about it is the battery. You don’t need to have it plugged in and can have about two hours of projection time before it cuts out (without warning, which is a shame). If your meeting is short, then fewer cables to deal with is convenient. It’s a shame that the projector is charged using a pin charger and not via USB, as you do have to carry around the charger (which also isn’t large, but it’s another thing to remember). There is a USB power port on it, but it’s to charge from, not to, so you can (slowly) top up your phone or tablet from it, which I find a bit pointless to be honest.

Staying connected

The projector is fairly simple, in that it has an HDMI input and that’s it. You get a short HDMI cable with it and an adaptor for microHDMI too. It connects to my laptop easily, and I use the terribly expensive Apple adaptor to link up to my iPad. Easy.

What was that sound?

There is a speaker built into the project, but it’s pretty useless, so try to avoid using it if sound plays a part in your presentations (which often isn’t a great idea anyway). There is an audio out jack so you can connect an external speaker, but that starts to add further bulk and weight. If you must, I like the X-mini speaker range as they produce a good sound, have excellent battery life, and are also small and light.

Stand up and be counted

On the bottom of the projector is a small screw insert, like a standard camera mounting, which you can use to hook it up to a camera tripod to get the best position for it. I use a Joby GorillaPod, which is also very small and neat, and means that the projector can be used in pretty much any environment and you can point it at the right area.

Should you get one?

It works pretty well. It won’t replace a full-size projector or TV, but as a backup it’s great. I like the fact that it’s so convenient and pretty versatile, so if you travel a lot with work, it’s well worth it.

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