By TAN KIT HOONGintech@thestar.com.my
For mobile warriors, this pocket projector should warrant a serious look.
PICO projectors are getting better all the time and they have come to a point where it's really feasible to carry one around for small presentations.
Case in point is the Samsung SP-H03 LED pico projector - this diminutive little number turned in a surprisingly good performance for such a small device.
With a native resolution of 854 x 480-pixels, the SP-H03 is not the highest resolution pico projector out there but it's certainly more than adequate for PowerPoint slides, viewing documents and, of course, watching the odd movie or two.
In terms of size, it's pretty small - I'd say that it looks like a small music box or a luxury watch case.
The whole device is finished in black, with the removable battery unit taking up the whole of the bottom of the device.
On the back you get the usual connections - a special mini VGA input, mini USB port, audio output and a mini 3.5mm connector port that accepts a special RCA cable for video and stereo audio input.
One nifty little touch is that the control system is driven by touch sensitive controls on the top of the projector, with the soft touch buttons having their own LED backlighting.
Turn it on and it's immediately clear that the SP-H03 is actually more powerful than its size would suggest. The display is very bright for a pico projector - at 30 lumens, it's actually about twice as bright as the 3M MPro 150 pico projector we tested. While this doesn't mean that it's comfortable to use with the lights on, you can actually still clearly see the display in a brightly-lit room.
The focus slider is on the side of the device, and although it works, I would have preferred the slider to have less "give" when adjusting focus - as it is, it took a bit of fiddling before I got the focus just right.
Also, there is no keystone correction so you'll have to keep it as level as possible when in use.
Since the buttons are touch-sensitive, it's actually quite easy to accidentally activate a button when you're trying to adjust the focus slider on the side as your palm or other finger is very likely to accidentally touch the top of the projector when you're doing this.
At about 5ft away the device projects an image size between 32in and 35in in 16:9 aspect ratio which is not too bad.
If you step back further the image gets larger but at the expense of brightness. Nevertheless we found that with the lights dimmed, you really can comfortably project pretty large images of 50in or more.
One thing we were really surprised with was the speaker. While lacking in bass, the 1-watt (again, about twice more powerful than the last pico projector we tested) speaker on the SP-H03 produced audio loud enough for an audience in a small room to hear clearly.
This really means that this tiny projector is often all you have to carry if you want to give a presentation to a small group of people.
The one downside is that battery life is obviously not going to be really great because it lasts about two hours on a single charge.
However, the charger for the pico projector is pretty small, so it's not a big deal to carry it around as well and keep the projector plugged in while you're using it.
The SP-H03 supports a number of formats, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, JPG images, MP3 songs and various video formats.
The machine itself has 1GB of internal memory but you also get a microSD slot and the option to add more storage if you want to.
However, we did find the SP-H03 to be rather fussy when it comes to file formats. The projector just won't display some JPEG images and the only reason we can think of was that the photos may have been too large for the SP-H03 to handle.
There are quite a number of video formats out there so playback on the SP-H03 is even more spotty.
We generally had no problems playing DivX files in standard resolution though HD files are of course beyond the capability of this tiny projector.
Of course, native playback on the device itself is merely a bonus. The most common usage model is to connect it to a notebook via the VGA port and use the SP-H03 as a pure projector.
In this respect I really have no complaints at all because the SP-H03 can handle whatever your notebook can play or display.
I even connected it to my Nintendo Wii via the RCA adaptor, and I had a real blast playing with a screen as large as an expensive 50in HDTV. The only drawback is that you really do have to turn off all the lights in the room if your game has a lot of dark levels.
If you thought that all pico projectors were made the same, think again - Samsung proves that it can make it brighter and louder than most of the competition.
There's not much to say except that if you are looking for a pico projector, the Samsung SP-H03 should be near the top of your list.
Pros: Bright for a pico projector; speaker loud enough for a small room.
Cons: Limited native photo and video format support; touch sensitive buttons easily activated by accident.
SP-H03 LED Pico Projector
MEMORY: 1GB internal, microSD card slot
BRIGHTNESS: 30 lumens
PC COMPATIBILITY: 1080i, 720p
FILE FORMAT SUPPORT: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, BMP, JPEG, MP4, MP3
SPEAKERS: 1 built-in (1-watt)
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 7.11 x 7.11x 3.81cm
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia, 1-800-88-9999