3M MPro110 handheld projector

Palm-sized and ready for business

In a lit office, the MPro110 can present acceptable contrast images at 24in up to 30in in the diagonal. Take the lights down low and the size easily doubles. In complete darkness, a rather soft image of 90in was still a fairly reasonable viewing experience for stills and video. For presentations involving 24-point bold text and large images, this was perfectly adequate, but plain-text tables around 12-point were unreadable with such a large screen projection. These conclusions, as you are about to discover, were the result of hours of painstaking labour.

3M MPro 110

3M's tiny LcOS-based Mobile Projection Engine

If you’d had not one, but two 3M MPro110’s exhibiting exactly the same problem then, it’s probably fair to say that something is amiss with the design. The issue is to do with its VGA option. Remember folks, this is the ‘Pro’ part of this package and its support for VGA (640 x 480), SVGA (800 x 600), XGA (1024 x 768) and WXGA (1280 x 768) resolutions definitely delivers a discernibly crisper image than the composite input, but only if you can get it to work.

Depending on the mode it is in, the top right of the MPro110’s screen flashes an icon. If the composite lead is attached, then a yellow icon resembling a TV screen flashes. With the VGA option, it’s a white computer. If neither is plugged in, the flashing icon alternates between the two. What you may also see is the computer icon (VGA) with a question mark beneath it. This indicates that the VGA configuration is unsupported. Typically, it’s because refresh rate hasn’t been set to 60Hz. Does the manual tell you all this? Hardly. The manual suggests you’ll see the modes named and makes no reference to these icons, let alone the riddle of the question mark.

Seeing the modes detected is comforting at least. The composite option was a no-brainer and functioned as expected. By contrast, the VGA option was hopeless. When it works, the computer icon flashes momentarily, an hourglass animation shows briefly, the device syncs up and the computer screen appears.

3M MPro 110

That VGA connector

Both PC and Mac laptops were used for testing and experienced the same problems. On the Mac, the MPro110 appeared as a system display option revealing the available operating resolutions. This would even show when the MPro110 was playing up and not actually projecting the Mac screen, but languishing in its preferred state: useless mode.

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