Projectors are no longer the boring devices stuck on the office ceiling. The boom of portable projectors adds flexibility to when and where you want to watch a movie or handle a presentation. The ViewSonic M1 projector was the genesis of ViewSonic’s portable projector series. The second iteration, the M1+, brings a few incremental updates to the existing version.
The M1+ distinguishes itself through three new features: a new 16GB internal storage, app compatibility, and wireless connectivity. Of course, the projector’s operating system has been overhauled to accommodate these new features.
For a projector, the M1+ looks seriously nice. Its plastic shell features a mesh top that helps draw in more air.
The only metal component, the stand, swings out from the front and doubles as a lens protector. A proximity sensor detects when an obstruction is in front of the lens and disables the lamp automatically; saving battery and potential blindness.
Both the rear and sides are covered in ventilation grills.
At the rear is a simple set of control buttons, the power button, and battery level indicator LEDs.
On the left edge is a focus adjustment wheel.
It also comes with a handy remote for basic media controls and keystone adjustment.
A mounting hole at the bottom is compatible with a standard tripod and mounting screws.
Ports and I/O
Despite its tiny footprint, the M1+ comes with a plethora of ports. In addition to its internal 16GB storage, it also supports MicroSD card, USB-C, HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack (audio out), and a 5W USB-A port.
Wired options aside, the M1+ also supports Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
Resolution, color, and brightness
With an 854 x 480p resolution, the M1+ isn’t going to trounce a 4K TV and gets blurrier the further away it moves from the projected surface. I found that it’s usable up to three meters, after which the display becomes too blurry to discern text.
According to its specs sheet, the ViewSonic M1+ supports up to 1.06 billion colors, which is around 65 times the sRGB (Rec. 709) color gamut. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The 1.06 billion colors rating is the number of colors its Texas Instrument Digital Light Processing (DLP) chip can support. The actual output is heavily influenced by other factors such as optics and color wheel quality.
Even if it’s not shining in a billion colors, images and movies still look great. In the vibrant shots below, colors are punchy and saturated, which helps to deliver an enjoyable viewing experience.
Brightness, however, is palpably lacking. When used in well-lit rooms in maximum brightness, the M1+ struggles to overpower even a floor lamp. In power-saving mode, it’s only usable in borderline blacked-out rooms.
A projector’s projection size is quantified by its throw ratio. The throw ratio is the ratio between the distance of the lens to the projection surface and the width of the projection. A lower throw ration indicates a narrower projection and vice versa. Because the M1+ are likely to be used closer to the projection surface, it has a higher throw ratio of 1.2. Combined with a 3m usable distance, it can produce a projection up to 3.6m wide. Impressive for such a tiny unit.
While the projector lamp isn’t interchangeable, it is rated to last for up to 30,000 hours. Beware that the lamp burns out faster when frequently used at peak brightness. Furthermore, all projector lamps dim over time.
Since it will often project at an angle, the M1 can “tilt” its projection (called keystoning) to eliminate distortion. Its integrated gyroscope will try to compensate for tilting automatically, but the angle can also be adjusted manually through the remote. This is the single most commonly-used feature besides its power button. Unfortunately, the projection can only be tilted vertically and not horizontally.
What goes into your eyes matter, but what goes into your ears does too. In addition to supporting audio output through a 3.5mm audio jack, the ViewSonic M1+ also carries a pair of speakers by Harman/Kardon.
Its sound is impressive even by portable speaker standards. Audio is sharp, biting, but bass is flat. While dedicated speakers are still better, the built-in speakers still did a fantastic job at filling a small office space with clear sound. Even more impressive, the speaker can act as a standalone wireless speaker without turning on the projector – albeit with the fan still on.
The M1+ sports an interface so dummy-proof that a chimp can figure it out. Its starting menu provides a list of all the input sources, which can be selected using the included remote or the integrated buttons on the rear.
When connected to the PC, the projector registers as a secondary display. In addition to external input, the M1+ also supports media playback through SD cards. This saves the user from having to carry a laptop when the presentation only involves media files.
The app store — a marquee feature of the M1+ projector– resides quietly at the bottom. Once connected to WiFi, the projector can install a handful of media apps like BBC, Spotify, NBA, and so on. The app ecosystem is austere, however.
Since I don’t have a baseline to compare it to, I evaluated the merit of the M1+’s battery life based on whether it can get through a movie and a lengthy presentation. My review unit lasted two hours and 12 minutes on a single charge at peak brightness. That’s respectable considering the unit draws up to 45W of power. The lights can also be dimmed to extend battery life further.
Like the older M1, the M1+ still charges using a dedicated charging port. Just like the older generation, it takes hours to charge.
Thermals and noise
For the most part, the M1+ manages to keep quiet in standard and power-saving modes. Its single fan does ramp up occasionally, but never stays annoying for long, winding down after about 20 seconds or so.
As ViewSonic’s updated entry-level portable projector, the M1+ brings a couple of new features to the table for $48 more, bumping the price up from $385.67 CAD to $432.36. Although it seems expensive compared to monitors, it’s a more affordable option in the projector world.
Sporting a maximum resolution of just 854 x 480p, texts and finer details can appear aliased when examined up close. With that said, the color saturation is superb, just don’t expect it to actually cover the 1.06 billion colors that it claims to support.
Brightness is the M1+’s most prominent drawback. I could give the low resolution an easy pass, but the dimness makes the projector borderline useless in a brightly lit room. When it comes to movies, fine. We watch them in the dark anyway. But in a meeting where people need lights to write down notes, it’s simply inadequate.
I’m also especially appreciative of the M1+’s wide gamut of ports. In addition to USB-C and HDMI input, its wireless screen mirroring support is convenient for when you don’t want to transfer the files over to a PC. Abetted by a set of speakers that are great even if it lacks thumping bass. And being able to operate it independently is just icing on the cake.