3M Streaming Projector with Roku Review: Can't Wait Until They Get This RightS

Do you want a small, portable projector that can stream a near-endless supply of movies and TV shows onto any surface with no extra hardware? Of course you do! Which makes 3M's Roku-streaming projector such a welcome concept—and such a let down.

What Is It?

A palm-sized projector with a built-in Roku stick for streaming movies and TV shows through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and others.

Who's it For?

Movie-watchers on the go. People with big walls.

Design

It's a little projector (4.3 x 4.2 x 2.0 inches) that weighs only a pound. It can run off a rechargeable battery or a DC adaptor, it has built in speakers, a remote control, and an audio out. Looks a little like someone chopped off Wall-E's girlfriend's head and smushed it flatter.

Using It

It's pretty intuitive, especially if you've used a Roku before. You just turn it on, find a Wi-Fi network, sign in to your channels, and use the provided remote to access and navigate through your content. There's a small focus dial for keeping your video sharp, and the unit can supposedly project as large as 120 inches.

The Best Part

It's even smaller that it looks. You could toss it in a jacket pocket, take it to a friends house, and be watching movies in minutes.

Tragic Flaw

Hard to pick one, but I'm going to go with the keystoning problem. If you're projecting at any kind of angle (which you usually will be) your frame isn't going to be perfectly rectangular—it'll be a trapezoid. Most projectors have a way to compensate for keystoning, not this one.

This Is Weird...

Why not include another input? If it could connect to your computer so you could use it for presentations at least it wouldn't be a one-trick pony, and way more people would have an excuse to buy it. UPDATE: You can remove the stick and connect another device via HDMI.

Test Notes

  • The resolution is a long way from HD. It's WVGA, coming in at roughly 854×480 pixels. Pretty low by today's standards.
  • The built-in speakers are really bad. If there's any kind of ambient noise, you probably won't hear anything. If you attach some nice computer speakers you'll be fine, but then you lose the untethered portability.
  • It's really not very bright. Especially as the image stretches beyond 60 inches. You'd better be in a near pitch-black room. As it approaches its 120-inch maximum you'll be hard-pressed to find a room dark enough (also big enough) to provide a watchable experience.
  • The most fun I had with this was when I grabbed a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot from work and took this thing to the park. I was able to project a surf movie on a wall. Neat, but...
  • Navigating the Roku menus with this little remote is even worse than normal. Entering usernames and passwords will make you want to slit your wrists even on the full-sized Roku remote, but the small, flat buttons on this miniaturized one make for many missed presses. And if the remote isn't pointed very squarely at the projector, it often won't pick up your input.
  • It has a hole on the bottom so you can attach it to a tripod, but it doesn't have adjustable feet.
  • The focus dial is hard to use. It tends to overshoot the adjustment you're trying to make.
  • 3M claims up to 2.5 hours of battery life, but that must be when it's at half-brightness. At full brightness (which you will pretty much always want) you'll be lucky to get 90 minutes, which won't get you through most movies.

Should You Buy It?

No. It's a fun novelty, but for most people $300 is too expensive for a novelty. It's clear to see how future generations of this product will be awesome, and we can't wait to see how it evolves. But for now it's more of a proof-of-concept. It begins shipping from Amazon on October 22nd. [3M]

3M/Roku Projector Specs

• Connectivity: Wi-Fi
• Weight: 1 pound
• Brightness: 60 lumens
• Max image: 120 inches
• Resolution: WVGA (854×480)
• Price: $300
Giz Rank: 2.5 stars