Home projectors have come a long way over the years. A few decades back, they were bulky things you hired from specialised shops so that you could show off your home movie reels (such things were still a novelty at that stage) and now you get models so small they can slip into your pocket.
But what if you don’t fancy something rectangular and flat? What if the only kind of miniature projector you can face buying is cube-shaped? Well then, we’d like you to meet the Smart[Beam].
Be warned though, this cube may not be everything you hope it to be.
To be fair though, that probably depends on how you want to use it and, in my case, that most likely wasn’t as intended.
You see, the Smart[Beam] is really meant to be used as an office tool. It’s a small, shiny cube you can whip out if you’re keen to impress, or need to present somewhere without its own presenting facilities. The basic idea is that you should be able to connect it to your smartphone or laptop and dazzle everyone with your PowerPoint (or Prezi) skills.
Thing is, I don’t really do all that many presentations in my chosen line of work so instead I took it home, closed my bedroom blinds and set about having fun.
Ghastly, ghoulish gremlins
That was the theory at any rate. The Smart[Beam] should be fairly easy to use. There’s a charging port, a power button, a focus wheel and a mini-USB transmission port that can either be connected to a phone or tablet’s micro-USB port or to your computer’s HDMI port. No problem right? Wrong.
A massive part of the problem were the cables that came with the Smart[Beam] (are you as sick of reading that name as I am of writing it?). The charging cable, which is Micro-USB, absolutely refused to work. Thankfully, it’s possible to get around that using your smartphone charger.
The smartphone and tablet transmission cable meanwhile left the Samsung Galaxy S3 I was using completely baffled, although it did play nicely with the other Android devices I tested it out on. What’s that, you’d like to project stuff from your iPad or iPhone? Tough, you can’t. Unless you manage to MacGyver a connection using a secondary adapter.
Perhaps the easiest option is to connect to your laptop using the HDMI adapter, although if you’re trying to cultivate a sleek, minimalist image, that rather diminishes the effect.
Anyway, once I’d connected the Smart[Beam], I pointed it at the ceiling (I was aiming for maximum laziness) and prepared to binge on British comedy panel sites. Alas, it wasn’t long before I had discovered the Smart[Beam]’s Achilles Heel.
Cutting the cord
I know what you’re thinking: the image was crap right? That’s always the case with these tiny projectors right? Well no, it actually wasn’t that bad. I mean it only has VGA resolution, so the colours are never going to pop out at you, but even with a bedside light on, watching is more than tolerable.
The internal speakers aren’t the source of my irritation either. I mean, the sound they produce is a little tinny and distinctly underwhelming, but they still work well enough that you won’t find yourself constantly rewinding to figure out exactly what it was someone said.
My real issue, as it turns out, was the battery. If you’re lucky, you might just get a movie out of the Smart[Beam]. You could, of course, plug in the power cord, but that relies on you being near a wall socket (what’s the longest micro-USB charging cord you’ve ever seen?), something that you probably wouldn’t be able to guarantee during a presentation and that could get very annoying if you’re trying to binge watch in bed.
It’s probably cruel of me to expect a long-lasting battery from such a small package, but even an hour’s more viewing from a single charge would’ve been a massive improvement.
Verdict: A very compact projector that’s bound to impress people the first time they see it. Images and sound aren’t perfect, but are definitely passable. Ultimately though, the Smart[Beam] is let down by its battery life.
Thanks to Orange for supplying the Smart[Beam]