My kitchen holds a treasure chest of children's cereals. Besides containing questionable nutritional value, they all have one important thing in common: a toy inside the box. Although we eat the sweet morsels, the real happiness comes from whatever free object hides at the bottom of that box. While using the 3M Streaming Projector powered by Roku, I was reminded of this. With a native resolution of 854 x 480, this handy pico projector is portable and offers a satisfactory picture, but the real prize is the Roku Streaming Stick tucked inside of it.
Like other pico projectors, this projector is compact in size (4.3" by 4.2" by 2.0"). However, the shape is somewhat rounded, reminding me of the kid-friendly digital cameras. The form is easy to handle and gives the projector a durable feel. Unlike the Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector, I could easily pop it into my tote or even let my children handle it. I felt like we should be playing a game of hot potato with it in the backyard. It charges through a power adapter; however, you can leave the projector plugged into the wall while you use it. After charging, you are ready to connect the Roku Streaming Stick, which is included when you purchase the projector. This small stick is only 3 inches long, but it commands attention.
What is a Roku Streaming Stick?
The Roku Streaming Stick streams both video and audio from a large selection of channels through your high speed Wi-Fi network. You must activate the Roku Streaming Stick online and create an account if you do not have one. Normally, I begin to lose interest in a device when I have to come up with a user name and enter credit card information, but the benefits of this little stick justify the extra ten minutes it takes to input some info.
This streaming stick offers you another option for viewing media with the projector. If you choose not to use the stick, you are able to connect most of your preferred digital video devices to the projector as long as they are HDMI or MHL compatible. After using the projector with my iPhone 4s, iPad, and laptop, the Roku Streaming Stick is the most convenient way to enjoy this projector. It does not require additional cables or adapters. Plus, the Roku Channel Store has a large selection of free channels, such as Crackle and Pandora. With these free channels, you do have to suffer through commercials. However, when I was watching a movie via Crackle, I sat through about one commercial every ten minutes. Also, you can use programs, such as Netflix and HBO Go, if you have a subscription. With the streaming stick and the Roku Game Remote (sold separately), you can play games from the Channel Store. The selection is somewhat limited, but they do have a highly addicting array of Angry Birds.
The beauty of this streaming stick is that it can also be used with Roku ready televisions. You simply remove it from your projector and plug it in directly to a compatible TV. The projector also comes with a remote control. Although it has a slight delay, the remote allows you to adjust the brightness and contrast, along with turning off the projector lamp while listening to Pandora. If remote controls are too main stream for you, you can download the free Roku remote app onto your smartphone. Not only can you control the projector, you can also browse the Channel Store from your phone.
The Viewing Experience
After selecting a number of channels for my Roku Streaming Stick, I was ready to test out the projector. First, the kids and I used it to catch up on lost episodes of Disney's Phineas and Ferb. I displayed the image across my bedroom wall at 80 inches diagonally. With a brightness of up to 60 Lumens, I found that the best way to view the episodes was in complete darkness. Even with my faux wood blinds closed, I needed to pull the curtains to block the light. The picture quality was not as sharp and detailed as that of the Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector or Aiptek MobileCinema i20.
Next, we had a family movie night while watching Rango on the closed garage door after the sun had set. For this night, we were able to experience the picture at 120 inches diagonally. Since my Wi-Fi signal is weak outside of my home, I connected my iPhone 4s to the projector instead of the Roku Streaming Stick via Apple's Digital AV Adapter and an HDMI cable (sold separately). Using a tripod to hold the projector steady, I was able to watch my kids enjoy this modernized version of a drive-in movie.
Finally, plugging in my iPad to the projector, we displayed Mirror, Mirror across the living room wall. Since the projector has a headphone jack, I was able to connect external speakers to amplify the volume. With a house full of Thanksgiving guests, the built in speakers did not stand a chance. When the screen size exceeded 60 inches, I found the best seat in the house to watch the movie was the one located next to the projector. I would try to stay between ten and twelve feet from the "screen". If not, you get a Seurat effect and a little touch of motion-sickness. As a life rule, everything and everyone looks better from a distance.
After three weeks with the 3M Streaming Projector, I have three main issues with it. First, like my nine year old, the projector seems to lose focus easily. I found myself needing to adjust the focus wheel more than with previous pico projectors. Also, the built-in speakers left much to be desired. Demanding pure silence in my house is simply not feasible. Even with the projector's volume maxed out, I could barely make out what SpongeBob was saying. Spare your viewers any frustrations and attach an external speaker to the projector via the headphone jack. Finally, I found myself in a love/like relationship with the picture quality. At times, it was a hot mess. It needed to be more crisp and defined. The images did not pop like those with the Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector. Cartoons look great, but my movies took the brunt of it.
For $300, the 3M Streaming Projector powered by Roku is fun and reasonably priced. The Roku Streaming Stick, or the "Rock You" as my kids say, is the projector's main selling point. When considering this product, you must decide what you expect from it. This sturdy device is best for a "driveway" movie with the kids or an end-of-the-summer pool party. It does not belong in a business meeting, nor would you want to use it for any kind of serious home theater movie viewing. Although the picture quality was mediocre at times, I will remember the laughs, the shadow puppets, and the fact that my boys never grabbed for their iPods or PS Vitas for an entire evening. Sometimes, it's the small things that make all the difference.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our 3M SPR1000 projector page.