3M Projector Sacrifices Power for Portability

How much you’ll like 3M’s (s mmm) M120Pro Pico Projector largely depends on your expectations. If you’re looking for a full-scale, high-powered home entertainment projector, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. But if you’re looking for a fun, easy-to-use gadget that will provide a midsized screen in a pinch, 3M’s petite projector will be right up your alley — as long as you can live with some of its limitations.


The M120Pro is 3M’s second pico projector, after last year’s M110Pro, and offers several improvements over its predecessor, including better battery life and a (slightly) brighter lamp, for the same price: $350. Still, despite these upgrades, the second generation of pico projectors isn’t a drastic improvement over the first.

The M120Pro is slightly larger than the 110, but both are tiny. The M120Pro is narrower but slightly longer than an iPhone; you could slip it into your pocket and barely notice that it’s there. It runs on a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery that 3M says can deliver up to four hours of life, making the M120Pro truly portable. That’s much better than the one hour of battery life that 3M claimed for the M110Pro.


Of course, the small size results in a few drawbacks, and chief among them is brightness — the M120Pro’s lamp tops out at 12 lumens. That’s a bit brighter than the 10 lumens lamp found on the comparably sized Optoma Pico projector that I reviewed a few months back, but it’s not an improvement you can see with the naked eye. It’s also far short of the 100-lumens lamp that ViewSonic’s portable PJD2121 projector offers. (The ViewSonic projector is considered an ultraportable, but is too big to carry in a pocket and does not run on batteries.)

And 12 lumens of light may not be enough for you to use this projector in some situations. I tested the M120Pro in a room full of daylight, and found the image so dim as to be almost unwatchable. When used at dusk, the picture improved noticeably, but it wasn’t until nighttime that the M120Pro projected a bright, lively picture that was easy to see.

3M says the M120Pro is capable of creating an image between 8 and 50 inches, measured diagonally. I found the image degraded noticeably when I tried to make it any larger than about 32 inches in size; the picture looked blurry. The projector’s native resolution of 480×640 was enough to deliver crisp, clear images when the screen was small, though.

The M120Pro includes composite A/V and VGA connector cables, plus a handy tripod. A separate adapter will allow you to connect the projector to an iPhone or iPod. I wasn’t able to test this feature, but it seems to me that this is a situation in which a pocket-sized projector would prove most useful: when connected to similarly portable devices. It would allow you to create your own virtual big (or medium-sized) screen wherever the mood strikes.

The 3M M120Pro will satisfy users who put a premium on portability and are willing to sacrifice a bit of power to get it. But those who put picture quality above everything else should keep on looking.