LG PH300 portable projector
Battery power, a tripod mount, HDMI, and USB, make for a great stand-alone viewing experience
- Tiny size
- Built-in battery
- Tripod mount
- Touch controls can be annoying
- Overly sensitive focus
- Not crisp enough for text
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
LG's PH300 is a tiny projector that can be used in stand-alone situations, without any cables. It has a built-in battery for portability, and a USB 2.0 port on the rear works with internal processing to allow popular file types to be played directly off a USB stick. If you don't have anywhere to rest the projector in your home, you can stick it on a tripod. That's all quite convenient if you ask us.
It's not often one thinks of a projector as being convenient technology to use, mainly because of the furniture or physical mounting that is required to place a projector in a situation where there is a clear enough wall for it to work. Then you have to think about running power and video input cables to it, and this can all be a little too hard to implement unless you've set up a dedicated environment for the projector.
The small size, inbuilt battery, and clever inputs, allow this LG projector to be used in a somewhat random fashion, by setting it up any time and in any location where there is enough blank wall space. You don't have to think about where you can rest it due to the fact that you can just use a tripod, nor do you have to worry about how wires will be managed -- not until the projector runs out of juice and you need a wall outlet for its power adapter.
It's a projector that excels at playing back video files in particular, as text display from a laptop tended to look a little too blurry at a big screen size, and especially towards the edges. The native resolution of the projector is 1280x720, the projecting technology is a DLP chip, and it has a brightness rating of 300 lumens that is supplied by a LED light source with a stated lifetime of 30,000 hours.
A throw distance of 1.5m is quoted for a screen size of 40in (101cm diagonal), but we found that the screen size from 1.5m was a little smaller than this at 38.5in. Our test environment was big enough to allow us to project comfortably from a distance of 3.4m, which created a diagonal screen size of 86.6in.
From that distance, the screen will look pale when you run under battery power, unless you are running in a completely dark setting. The projector switches its Eco mode setting to 'maximum' to conserve energy while under battery power, and switches back to 'minimum' (therefore affording maximum brightness) when you plug it back into a power outlet.
In general, you'll want to use this projector in as dark an environment as possible. Colours and image detail will be at their best when they don't have to compete with too much brightness from your surroundings.
You don't get any zoom control with this projector. All you get is a focus ring on the side, and this can be a little too fiddly to use. We sometimes missed the in-focus mark we were looking for and had to backtrack -- it was just too sensitive.
Touch controls are present at the top of the projector, and these can be activated inadvertently when you are handling the projector, such as when you are plugging in a USB stick or focusing. Keystoning wasn't an issue for us (it has an auto-keystone feature), and we found the lines to be straight overall. In any case, the projector's size and light weight made it simple to manoeuvre in order to get lines as straight as possible.
Rest it on a bookshelf, or attach a tripod
In one environment, the projector was small enough to fit easily on our bookshelf and project a large image onto the opposite wall. The use of a LED light source means the projector doesn't get overly hot (this also allows for on and off times that are a matter of seconds), and only needs a couple of inches of rear space for clear air to circulate through it. A fan sits at the front, and it can be heard during quiet times while watching movies, but we didn't find it to be annoying. In this environment we could leave the projector plugged in to a nearby outlet, and could also rest a laptop near it, hooking it up to an HDMI cable that we left dangling off the projector.
In another environment, we used it with a lightweight Silk brand tripod, projecting from the middle of a floor space, and even from a desktop. It was beneficial that we could run it on batteries for a limited time in both of these environments, but an extension cord was needed once the battery power was exhausted.
Audio can be heard through a couple of 1W speakers that are built in to the projector, but a better audio solution would be to use a portable Bluetooth speaker with an auxiliary input. Simply connect a stereo cable between the projector and the Bluetooth speaker to get more audio oomph. This worked well for us while the projector was on the bookshelf, as the speaker could be rested next to it (and even powered off its USB port), but more thought was needed when we used the projector on a tripod and wanted better audio.
For video, we plugged in our Chromecast dongle to the projector's HDMI port, and fed the Chromecast power from the projector's USB port. This allowed us to stream YouTube videos, as well as local videos off our NAS device using ES File Explorer and its associated Chromecast player. We actually ran it on batteries for our tests, and it lasted just 2hr 4min. This is 26min lower than the time LG claims the projector can last under battery power, but we powered the Chromecast off the projector, so we expected it to run a little lower than quoted.
Apart from sticking a Chromecast in it, other ways to play content are from a typical HDMI source such as a laptop or a DVD player, but in that case you need to have the video source close to the projector. Luckily, the projector supports various file types that can be played directly off a USB key. These include MP4, MKV, and AVI (all of which played without issues during our tests), and there is a nifty file browser that makes it easy to see the content you have stored in folders on your USB sticks. A remote control is supplied for navigating this interface.
In a business setting, the projector can theoretically be used to display PDFs, DOC, DOCX, PPT, XLS, and XLSX files from a USB stick directly through its file viewer, but this was hit and miss during our tests. The PDFs we tried didn't work. We were able to get XLS and DOC files to work. Long DOC files are shown on a screen-by-screen basis, and you just hit the arrows to progress to the next page. In any case, you might want to rely on a laptop if you want to use this projector to give a business presentation.
What's the verdict
Price could be the most limiting factor keeping this product away from the masses, but overall, it's an exciting little unit that we can recommend for home use, in particular. It's convenient to bring it out at any time, sit it on a tripod, hook up a USB stick or Chromecast, and start projecting. While the battery power won't let you sit through overly long Netflix sessions or the like, you can always just run a power cord to your favourite power outlet. The projector touts support for MHL, which can theoretically allow you to plug a smartphone into its HDMI port (through the phone's USB port) and browse content off it directly, but this didn't work for us during our tests.
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