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Sony MP-CD1 review: portable projector is good to use on the move, but does not live up to its price tag

Sony’s new portable projector has its own sound system and a 3.5mm audio jack, but the price tag will put some buyers off

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2018, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2018, 9:05am

Capable of creating 120-inch images from a device not much bigger than a large smartphone, Sony’s MP-CD1 is an effort to bring pocket-sized projection into the mainstream.

But do good things always come in small packages? Let’s take a look.

Design and hardware

Measuring 83 x 16 x 150mm and weighing just 280 grams, not only is the MP-CD1 easy to carry around, but it ships in a plush faux leather case. It looks every bit a business travel gadget, but Sony is also aiming the MP-CD1 at owners of a PlayStation 4.

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Technically, all of that checks out. The MP-CD1 has a HDMI slot for attaching a games console, a laptop or a Blu-ray player, and it comes with an adaptor for attaching it to a phone or tablet. You can even insert a streaming sticks – Fire TV, Chromecast or Roku – to play content from apps such as Netflix and YouTube to the big screen.

Crucially, it also has its own sound system, but don’t get excited. The chassis of the MP-CD1 itself is equipped only with a 1W speaker, which despite going to surprisingly loud volumes generally fails to deliver anything but vocals with any kind of width. Luckily, there’s a 3.5mm audio jack on the MP-CD1, so all audio can be routed to a separate wireless speaker. Place that speaker under the image and you've got a DIY home cinema.

However, this product proves to be mostly about ease of use and portability, not top quality images. Some rubber feet keep it stationary while the MP-CD1 is aimed, and there’s some rather impressive auto-keystone correction to get the image’s geometry dead-on if you’re using a screen.

But the size of the image wholly depends on exactly where you put the MP-CD1. From around 1.15cm from the wall, the MP-CD1’s image measures 40-inches; from 1.5m, it’s 60-inches; from 2.3m its 80-inches; and the maximum 120-inch requires putting the MP-CD1 about 3.5m away. So although you can create various sizes of image by placing the MP-CD1 on a coffee table, you will probably have to move that coffee table.

Features

If its key feature is its brightness, its low point is resolution. At 105 lumens, the MP-CD1 is one of the brightest small projectors around, using DLP’s new IntelliBright LED light source. For context, Sony’s last effort at a portable projector a few years ago, the MP-CL1, managed only 35 lumens. But don’t get carried away with the MP-CD1’s leap in brightness when compared to its forebears; some home cinema projectors reach over 3,000 lumens.

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Can you watch a movie on the MP-CD1? Absolutely, though it helps if you first switch off the lights and close the blinds because this is not a good projector to use if there’s any ambient light around. Although that is not ideal in terms of versatility, it’s not the MP-CD1’s main problem.

At just 854 x 480 pixels, the final image is less than HD resolution, so even if you’re hooking it up to a PlayStation, you won’t get a sharp image. Plus, the bigger the image, the softer and dimmer it becomes. The result is that 80-inch (maximum) size images work best; they are reasonably detailed and easily bright enough to watch in ambient light. Any bigger and the quality noticeably drops off.

The MP-CD1 does have one more feature up its sleeve that might convince businesspeople to give it a place in their travel toolkit. Its 5,000mAh battery can be shared, with the MP-CD1 also acting as a portable power pack that can refuel a smartphone or tablet.

That is a nice idea, though there is only a USB-C slot, so only owners of relatively new smartphones should consider the MP-CD1. Besides, 5,000mAh is the minimum size of battery any business traveller should be carrying around since it only gives a recharge or two (batteries measuring 10,000mAh are much safer if you’re going long haul).

Battery life

The USB-C slot also allows the MP-CD1 itself to be recharged via any USB slot. That is ultra-convenient for business travellers who don’t want to pack a bunch of different cables and a separate power pack and plug. Its almost three-hour battery life also makes it useful for watching most films, binge-watching TV, and indulging in a reasonably long gaming session.

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Conclusion

There may be something here for everyone, but Sony’s MP-CD1 is not an advanced projector. Instead it’s an effort to create something ultra-portable that is just about good enough for delivering a presentation, watching a movie, or hooking up a games console. Whatever you do with it, the pricey MP-CD1 offers relatively large images and some intriguing extra features, but I’m not sure if anyone should be paying big for such a low-resolution image.

Price: US$399 (HK$2,899)