Compact travel projector for home, business use (April 3rd, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Elmo
- Image quality
- Lens cleaning
Only HDMI input
Projectors have become a key piece of equipment for the business world. From multi-media presentations to the traditional slideshows, being able to show an audience a visual representation of the talk is an important aspect. However, the display devices can often be large or cumbersome to deal with, especially when traveling. Wouldn't it be more practical to have a compact travel projector to bring along on business trips? Elmo thought so and released the BOXi T-200, which features a small footprint that is easily stowed in a laptop bag.
The BOXi T-200 is by no means considered a standard-sized projector. It features an LED unit that allows the size of the entire device to be scaled down into something almost the same size as a piece of bread -- 3.74 x 6.02 x 1.42 inches. It features a glossy black exterior with green highlights. Controls on the top of the device are all touch sensitive, with buttons for some of the most used features, like volume control and keystone adjustments, available without having to dive into the settings.
In order to keep the things as lean as possible inside, the BOXi display inputs have been reduced to one -- an HDMI port. While this can make using the project troublesome for older computers, it doesn't necessarily mean it has limited functionality. We were able to use an HDMI to DisplayPort adapter to test the unit on a MacBook Pro. The signal could be converted to VGA with a more expensive converter box, but given the age of the machine used in the test, a $25 dongle made more sense.
The only other ports on the BOXi are for the power adapter and a 3.5mm plug to send out sound through headphones or a set of speakers. The sound quality isn't anything special from the port, as it is meant to be a pass through for the HDMI signal. The unit does feature a one-watt speaker as well if users are in a pinch. There is also a USB port to allow the source device to be powered that way in case there isn't another outlet available.
On the matter of construction, the BOXi has a few things going for it, but one significant drawback as well. The projector has a built-in, multi-level kickstand on the bottom. When used, the device knows to re-calibrate the image it projects. Another is that it retains the ability to be mounted to a tripod via screw on the bottom.
Over time, the threads of the screw may be chipped away at, since they are part of the molded body such is the case anytime metal and plastic connects with one another repeatedly. The unit feels solid though, with even drops from three to five feet showing no signs of harm to the projector.
While perhaps only a minor flaw, the BOXi's lens is somewhat troublesome to completely clean. As it is nestled into the shell, the edges of it can be hard to get to without jamming a cloth into the edges. This isn't an optimal way to clean, but it is what has to be done in this case. If fingerprints are kept at a minimum, the best way to clean off debris will be to hit it with a blast of compressed air while the projector is cool.
Image quality of the projector proved to be quite good. Distances from one to ten feet were tested during our review without much issue. Elmo recommends operation from 1.64 to 4.27 feet away to throw the image from 25 to 68 inches in size. The BOXi did perform the best in this range, but was still useable further out. After 10 feet, the pixilation of the source video became more apparent. Since the BOXi uses LED light, it could still operate at 10 feet away, but the lack of strength to reach a screen starts to come through. The projector is optimized for 1280x800 WXGA natively, but will handle 720p and 1080i or 1080p all the same.
Video is impressive coming from the BOXi to say the least. High definition television samples such as Supernatural look crisp and still maintain the HD look as if it was on an HD TV. Anime samples kept vibrant tones and color variations without having the line work blend in or take away from scenes. Video games maintained a smooth appearance, without any notes of ghosting images or flickering. The color and light in all the video tests maintained a constant level without vignetting at the edges or having spot issues like many standard bulb projectors would. After five continuous hours of use, it showed no signs of issues or even much heat from the projector.
Other options within the BOXi include the ability to change the ratio displayed within the menu options, and an "eco" mode to help save on power. The ratio change doesn't take more than a few seconds to change over, much like changing the video size from the source. The "eco" mode is interesting, as it scales down the brightness of the light according to some pre-set method. In this mode brightness and contrast cannot be altered, the same as when the projector isn't receiving a video source. However the mode results in approximately a 46 percent decrease in power usage according to Elmo.
There is a focus dialer on the side of the projector, utilizing a spinning wheel rather than a twisting ring on the lens itself. The dial feels somewhat cheap as it is just a plastic, notched wheel. However, it does the job it needs to do. It is rather sensitive, only needing small adjustments to change the focus. Spinning the wheel as little as a quarter of the way yields a drastic change.
Using the projector is a simple process, requiring nothing more than plugging it in and turning it on. The projector automatically adjusts to the signal input it is fed. If adjustments are needed, the BOXi offers a few of the most used adjustment features on the top of the unit. Otherwise, the settings must be accessed to address things like color balance, brightness, contrast, aspect ratios and image modes. There is also a slim remote control included to access the options from a distance.
Overlay for the BOXi options is primitive, often offering not much more than symbols or a short word to indicate what is being looked at. For some, it may be too simple -- as it relies on these icons when the base menu is pulled up. There isn't a flashy look to the menu items; they are simple grey and white icons for functionality over style. It doesn't note a lack of design flair to the BOXi, but rather reminds users that the device is about functionality in as small a package as possible.
The Elmo BOXi T-200 puts all the features that are needed in a projector in a small package. It is a unit that takes up very little room, but doesn't lack on functionality because of it. Being an LED projector, it gives a strong, crisp image that can be balanced to suit the needs of the user. The options may be simple and more scaled down than business presenters would probably find useful, but everything that should be addressed is there. It won't be a projector to power a large home theater with, but it offers great opportunity for small or medium office uses. At $430, it is hard to turn down.