The Bonitor MP302 Pico Projector ($289 direct) is a tiny, glossy white pico projector that’s compatible not just with Windows PCs but with Macs, a rarity among pocket projectors. It can show photos and videos from its modest internal memory, or emulate your computer’s screen over a USB connection. Bonitor pegs it as a consumer-oriented model—mostly for watching videos or perusing photos—that can also run business presentations off a laptop. In testing, however, it presented enough functional and performance problems to make my experience with it notably frustrating.
The glossy white MP302 uses a three-LED (red-green-blue) light source and LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) projection technology, and is rated at 15 lumens. It measures 3.9 by 2.1 inches, is just under an inch thick, and weighs 3.9 ounces. Its sole connection is a USB port, for linking to your computer via the included dual USB cable that plugs into two of your computer’s USB ports to provide both power and data.
MP302 Pico View SlideshowSee all (6) slides
The MP302′s lens is on the projector’s side, near the righthand edge, so the projector is positioned broadside to the screen. Like many of today’s pico projectors, the MP302 comes with a tiny tripod with bendable legs. These tripods generally attach directly to the base of a projector, but in the case of the Bonitor the tripod screws into a mount that clips onto the projector, cradling it from beneath. The tripod didn’t fit snugly into the mount, causing the projector to wobble—I could sometimes compensate for this tendency by tilting the tripod, but at best it was awkward getting the projector positioned and pointed where I wanted it—and making sure it stayed that way, through focusing or other adjustments.
The focus wheel emerges from the projector’s top, above the lens, and also protrudes slightly from the bottom, but not far enough to let you control it from both top and bottom with thumb and forefinger, as you can with the Ray Displays Ray Lite ($159 direct, 3 stars). The MP302′s focusing is not as smooth as the Ray Lite, or the lever-controlled focus on the Favi B1-LED-Pico ($280 street, 3.5 stars), but it brought the projector to a reasonably good focus nonetheless.
MP302 Pico Specifications
- Engine Type
To set up the MP302 for use with a computer over a USB connection, you need to download and install the driver from Bonitor’s Web site. (It offers both Windows and Mac OS X drivers.) Once I installed the driver, an icon for the driver, named UV Projector, appeared on my desktop, and I needed to open it each time I used the projector over a USB connection, before connecting the cable. From the projector’s menu, clicking on USB Video allows the projector to emulate whatever is on the screen. If the cable gets unplugged, you may need to open UVProjector again before reattaching the cable. Another USB-powered pico projector we recently tested, the RayLite has a simpler, set-it-and-forget-it approach: once you install the driver, the projector will automatically emulate your screen when you connect the USB cable.
One other quirk related to the USB connection is worth mention: when I’d plug the cable into the MP302′s USB port, the projector (presumably, its fan) was unusually noisy—in short, it made a racket. After a while it would quiet down, but was never silent. The MP302′s remote control is the essence of simplicity: two buttons (Enter and Return), and a controller with four arrows, left, right, up, and down—for navigating through menus. The Return key takes you back to the previous menu.
The MP302 includes a modest 128MB of internal flash memory in which you can store photos or short videos. You can show them when the projector is powered by your computer over the USB connection, or you can run them computer-free with the projector plugged into the included wall adaptor (though the video run from the flash memory will be soundless, as the MP302 lacks a speaker or audio jack). I found accessing the memory, however, to be no easy feat.
The main menu gives you 3 choices: Flash, USB Storage, and USB Video. Clicking on the Flash icon lets you open the photos and/or videos already stored in the projector’s flash memory. Selecting USB Storage is supposed to make the projector’s memory visible to the computer as a USB device, so you can add or remove files from it. When I tried that, though, I kept getting a message asking me to connect a cable, when the dual USB cable was already connected to my computer.
Finally, my PC recognized the memory as a drive, and I was able to transfer files to it, and since then it has showed up in Windows Explorer as a drive whenever the projector is connected. But I never did figure out what was causing the trouble in the first place.
Performance In my testing of the projector in a dark room with a Windows PC using DisplayMate’s (www.displaymate.com) software, the MP302 had trouble displaying very light shades of gray, and—even more so—very dark shades. In some test images, colors looked oversaturated, almost to the point of garishness.
I also projected video from DVDs on my computer over a USB connection in a darkened room. From my testing distance of about 6 feet away (about the maximum usable distance before the image starts getting noticeably washed out), the MP302 projected an image measuring approximately 1 meter along the diagonal. Colors were frequently off, looking unnaturally intense or taking on tints, while at the same time considerable detail was lost in dark areas. You might be okay with running short clips with it, but you probably wouldn’t want to use it to watch full-length movies or even TV shows. In general, pico projector image quality is mediocre at best, and this was not one of the better ones.
In ad hoc testing, the Bonitor did not stand up well to ambient light. In a room with considerable stray light, although not falling directly on the screen, even the 10-lumen Ray Lite threw a more viewable image from the same distance.
Between its wobbly tripod, quirky driver, low brightness, and sub-stellar image quality, I can’t recommend the MP302. I can only hope that future iterations of this projector provide a more satisfying user experience. As an entertainment-centered projector, I found it more frustrating than entertaining. For a bit more money, the (Windows-only) 3M Pocket Projector MP160 ($350 street, 3.5 stars) is brighter and provides better image quality, and can connect either by VGA or composite video. An easy-to-operate, Mac-compatible pico projector that provides good image quality for both presentations and entertainment would appeal to a lot of people—unfortunately, the Bonitor MP302 Pico Projector isn’t it.