Come along with us to a sideshow, starring the Torpedo Entertainment Projector by Senario, a $169 LCD unit made in China. We'll show you just how plum-awful a projector can be. We picked one up at a local Target store, put it on our test bench, and were shown a thing or two about projectors, video, plastic, and the difference between a toy and a real product. (And yes, it was in the toy department at Target.)
At $169, how bad could it be? Answer: horrible, and not even worth that. Perhaps you've heard of the "screen door effect" that's common with low-end LCD projectors. A screen door would be a blessing compared to this. Watching this felt more like being behind the bars of a jail cell than having a screen door in front of us.
After that initial shock, it was time to run some of our projector test patterns, playing them back at the native resolution of this little monster, which is supposed to project video at 920x240 pixels, but we're still not really sure whether that was what we are looking at or not. It's probably closer to a cellphone-like 320x240.
We popped up a white test pattern, and with our precision light meter, measured the lowest light levels of any projector that has ever graced (or sullied) our Midwest Test Facility. At the center of the screen, it was putting out a pathetic 120 lumens, and even that was profoundly uneven, with 70 lumens on the right side of the screen, 80 on the left, and 90 up top. There are dim light bulbs that are much brighter than this. Unless the room was completely dark, we could hardly see an image at all. We didn't realize the term "candlepower" was going to be taken literally here.
What about contrast ratio? Well, there wasn't any. We projected a white chip chart with numerous degrees of white down to light gray (see a shot of the projected chart in the gallery below), and you can hardly tell the difference between any of the chips. It was the worst contrast ratio, or lack thereof, we've ever seen.
We tried watching a DVD, and from the very beginning, it was some of the worst video we've ever encountered. For example, the FBI warning at the beginning of the DVD was not legible at all. It looked like hieroglyphics.
Games fared no better, looking as pixelated as any video could ever possibly be. And don't think we're just being projector snobs here, even though that's exactly what we are. Going into this review, we realized the low price of this projector, but didn't expect the quality to hit such a low point. The projector even smelled bad, like mildew, and made way more noise than we could bear if we wanted to concentrate on watching a movie or playing a game.
The upside? It looks kinda cool. But for $169, not cool enough. If this is a toy aimed at kids, it's not going to work. Even the most bleary-eyed numbskull kids would smell a rat, wondering why a Santa was punishing them. If you have a bad little boy in the house, this might just be the perfect gift. [Senario]