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Sony MP-CL1 projector review

This smartphone-sized projector packs a punch

Sony
Sony

The MP-CL1 features a laser projection system that is rated at just 32 lumens and projects in a rather odd native resolution of 1920 x 720. Although the MP-CL1 won't win any awards for its brightness, which falls far short of the LG PH300's 300 lumen rating, the laser projection system can make for a sharper image with no need for manual focus controls.

Specs

Additionally, Sony's MP-CL1 sports an impressive contrast ratio of 80,000:1, a 3000mAh battery rated at 2-hours, and the ability to mirror a smartphone or tablet over Wi-Fi, along with an HDMI connection that is MHL compatible, meaning you can connect practically any other HDMI device for streaming and mirroring over a hardwired connection.

Below is the Sony MP-CL1 configuration sent to TechRadar Pro:

  • Projection system: Laser
  • Resolution: 1920 x 720
  • Brightness: 32 Lumens
  • Contrast ratio: 80,000:1
  • Projection size: Up to 120"
  • Video inputs: mini HDMI, USB
  • Audio outputs: 3.5mm jack
  • Dimensions: 3.0 x 5.9 x 0.51 inches

Sony

Performance

It may be a bit surprising considering its small form factor, but the MP-CL1 sports some impressive image quality. Although the resolution is a bit of an oddball at 1920 x 720, I found that HD video was pleasant to watch. However, a full HD resolution still may be preferable for image purists.

Upon booting the projector up for the first time, colors were fairly poppy, but I did find the picture to be a tad warmer than I'd like. The colors weren't horribly off, and it's mostly a subjective matter, but a quick jaunt to the settings menu allowed for a bit of tinkering. However, some might find the number of picture settings to be a bit limiting, with Color, Hue and Saturation being the only three options.

The MP-CL1's brightness, 32 lumens, was of particular concern for me initially. Sure enough, I found that the projector is definitely not an option for brightly-lit rooms. However, it performed admirably in dim lighting, and impressed me quite a bit with its sharpness and clarity in true, dark environments. It seems that the laser projection system in this little guy really makes a difference as far as brightness is concerned.

One particularly nice feature of the MP-CL1's laser projection system is its autofocus. Oftentimes, one of the most frustrating aspects of setting up a projector is dialing in the proper focus settings so text and images pop. With the MP-CL1, there's no need for a focus control, and I found that the projector kept everything in proper focus no matter how far I moved it from the projection surface.

Sony

The MP-CL1 sports two main connectivity options: mini HDMI and WiFi for wireless display mirroring. HDMI performed as you'd expect, properly handling anything I could throw at it. Similarly, display mirroring over WiFi was as simple as casting to the MP-CL1's ad-hoc network from a compatible device.

One thing to watch out for, however, is that wireless display mirroring appears to be limited to certain devices. In particular, while I was able to wirelessly cast to the projector with my Android phone, I was unable to do so with a Mac or iPhone. It's likely this is due to Apple's preference for its own AirPlay standard, rather than Miracast, but it's unfortunate nonetheless.

If you are using a compatible device, however, wireless display mirroring on the MP-CL1 is great. You can project documents, videos, and more right from your device – essentially using your smartphone as a presentation clicker.

As far as the single USB port is concerned, I'm a bit torn on its use. On one hand, it allows the MP-CL1 to be used as an external charger for your other devices, which can come in handy. On the other hand, it doesn't appear to serve any other function. I was unable to use it as a host for a USB flash drive loaded with Office documents, which is a feature you'll find on many other projectors. Still, it's neat that Sony's offering can serve as a portable 3000mAh battery when you need a bit of extra juice.

Although the MP-CL1 performs exceptionally well when it comes to picture quality and performance, one particular pain point is its speaker. It's definitely understandable given the projector's small stature, but sound quality and volume out of the single speaker on the bottom of the device leaves a lot to be desired. I foresee the 3.5mm headphone jack getting a lot of play with either headphones or external speakers.

Finally, Sony estimates that the MP-CL1 will fetch right around 2-hours of continuous projecting time. In my testing, I found that to be just about right, with a couple of different tests involving streaming video and device mirroring coming in right around the 2-hour mark.