The ML550 by Optoma may not be the smallest projector we're talking about here, but it's a lot more powerful than the pocket-sized PicoPix from Phillips. Retailing at about $712 USD (£470, about AU$880), but much cheaper these days on Amazon, it weighs in at an ultraportable 0.83 pounds with palm-sized 4.1" x 4.2" x 1.5" (W x D x H) footprint. The differences in size between this and the PicoPix are negligible for the power you get in return: a 550 Lumens lamp that lets you present in rooms that aren't completely darkened.
Not only is it port-rich with one MHL-ready HDMI input, a USB 2.0 slot for thumbdrives, a universal I/O slot, and a microSD card slot, but the ML550 handled our 90-inch test screen with impressive results, and peaked at a 60-inch-or-so size. Much like the ViewSonic PLED-W800, though, the ML550 had us grumbling because you need to buy a dongle to achieve WiFi. Which felt as arcane at the time of this projector's release as it does today. And in another moment that felt anachronistic, there is no way to work with the projector via smartphone or tablet.
- Read our Optoma ML550 review
The Sony VPL-FHZ55 is designed to be installed once and not moved for a long time. At 26.5 pounds nobody will be volunteering to move it between floors, or even carting it between rooms. It measures 15.3" x 19.8" x 5.8" (W x D x H) and we believe it best positioned on a ceiling, even though that will make it even harder to ever move. With all that size, there is a lot to say about it.
Noteworthy for being the first 3LCD projector - a projection chip technology popularized by Epson and Panasonic - with a lamp-less treatment, thanks to a blue laser light source deployed by Sony. For all that above hype and hubbub, the enormous price of about $11,490 (£7,000, about AU$12,540) should not shock you.
It's seriousness isn't just from a top-out of 4,000 lumens, but the fact that it can go for 20,000 hours, reducing the routine expense of replacing burnt out lamps that projectors generally include.
It is connector heavy, as it should be with that price-tag. The right-hand side is a full set of BNC/component inputs, an RGB D-sub 15-pin slot, DVI-D, monitor output and an HDMI input. On the opposite side is S-video, composite video, various analogue audio ins and outs, an RS-232C control jack (beloved of Crestron control systems, among others), the DC inlet, and wired LAN.
Unfortunately, as we notice all too frequently even with the best reviewed units, there is no built in WiFi for the VPL-FHZ55, though it can be networked. And the last thing we'll note is that the VPL-FHZ55 needs some room. To fill our 80-inch test screen we had to place the VPL-FHZ55 about 11.5 feet away!
- Read our Sony VPL-FHZ55 review
If you're looking for the jack of most-trades option, Epson's EB-X11 is a good place to start. Selling at about $620 (£409.99, about AU$754) or less online, the EB-X11 fits into the middle of the pack, with enough features to make most take it seriously. Measuring just 11.6" x 11.9" x 3.0" (W x D x H) and weighing 5.1 pounds, the EB-X11 is easy to move between conference rooms, or even buildings. One feature we were particularly keen on is the lens cover that instantly shuts off the lamp and speakers. The lamp inside the EB-X11 is more adaptable than some because of its relatively high brightness rating of 2600 lumens. Unfortunately it comes with a handful of flaws. The machine only projects to the 4:3 aspect ratio, and when you're showing photos (likely with black bars above and below, thanks to that ratio) you're not going to see the sharpest reproduction thanks to the projector's low resolution. Unlike other projectors we've talked about in this round-up, the USB slot on the EB-X11 can only handle photos, and the machine has no WiFi options. If all of those red flags aren't enough to dissuade you, and poor audio quality wouldn't either, then still consider the EB-X11.
- Read our Epson EB-X11 review
Although it's less expensive than other ViewSonic models mentioned here, the ViewSonic PLED-W800 (about $808, £535, AU$983) still performs well. It earns its price tag thanks to ultra-portability, weighing in at 1.98 pounds and measuring 13.1" x 10.4" x 4.3" (W x D x H). With a lamp that can reach up to 800 lumens, you can still run a presentation in whatever room you can bring it to, provided you can shade the windows and lower the lighting. It comes with an SD Card slot, a USB slot, an MHL-ready HDMI input (for connecting DVD/Blu-ray players and also smartphones/tablets) and a VGA input for laptops.
Much like other portable projectors we talk about here, just because you can pass video through this unit doesn't mean you should. For it's price, though, making you pay even more for an optional WiFi dongle (ViewSonic recommends its PJ-WPD-200, which brings Miracast and DLNA compatibility) feels like you're getting nickel & dimed. If presenting Microsoft Office documents is a large part of your practice, and it probably is, the PLED-W800 should stand out thanks to native support for presenting Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files directly from a USB stick or SD card.
- Read our Viewsonic PLED-W800 review