The Gadget: Aiptek's PocketCinema V10 pico projector so small you can hold it in your hand. This one is extra special, since its built-in SD card reader and media player gives you instant access to movies and photos, without needing to wire up a secondary video sources.
The Price: $US300
The Verdict: If you have the cash and really want a little projector that can go wherever you go, this is the one to get. It's got a much better build quality than the visually comparable 3M MPro110, but it's got so many more goodies, you'll be entertained for hours before even loading your first movie.
The key difference is that, unlike the 3M, the Aiptek has an SD card reader so it's always ready to play something, even when nothing's wired to it. You transcode files to Motion.JPEG AVI or MPEG-4 ASF—you can use whatever software you want, but if you don't have an app, the thing comes with ArcSoft's PC-only Media Converter—and they're recognised with ease by the projector, along with JPEG stills and MP3 music files, which play fine by themselves, but not in the background of a photo slideshow where they belong.
The 3M, if you recall, had a VGA input along with a composite A/V input, but of course no SD reader. The Aiptek doesn't have the VGA input, but it's a tradeoff I can live with. The Aiptek does have a basic component video input, so you can run low-grade standard-def sources in there with no trouble.
You get a lot more for the money, too. Aiptek's projector comes with a nice little tripod for quick-and-dirty setup, and a remote control if you're going to give a presentation. (Speaking of that, the manual recommends converting PPT and PDF files to JPEG and loading them on SD card for best results. Like I said, "quick and dirty.")
The beefs I had with it were basically the same as with the 3M: You really can't set the thing back more than five feet or so when by which time the picture—at that point about 50 inches diagonal—really starts to blur. I'm not even going to begin to talk about contrast, colour accuracy, motion blur and all of the things we examine in higher TV technologies, but I do have to admit, in a sufficiently dim setting, the video for both projectors was entirely watchable.
In two weeks I've gone from not believing much in the pico movement to being a fervent supporter. And if you're going to be an early adopter, I am happy to say that, because of the Aiptek PocketCinema V10's better geek features and much improved build quality over the 3M MPro110—and $US50 cheaper price to boot—I found a pico projector that I can genuinely recommend. The only hold back is that they're just gonna get better and better. [Aiptek Product Page]