Acer C120 WVGA DLP Projector
  • Performance
  • 3.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$259 MSRP Discontinued

Designed strictly as a laptop accessory, with a USB port the only option for connecting to an image source, the Acer C120 is obviously limited. Within those limits, though, it's a potentially attractive choice. Small and light enough to throw in your laptop bag without a second thought, it's also easy to set up. One particularly nice touch is that it can get its power from the same USB connection it uses for a data image, so you can skip plugging in the power block or even lugging it around. If you choose that route, however, you'll lose some brightness compared to when you use the power block.

Like most pocket projectors, the C120 is built around a DLP chip and LED light source. The LEDs offer a 20,000 hour rated lifetime with a 1-year warranty according to Acer (even though the Web site currently says 90 days).

The 854x480 native resolution, with its roughly 16:9 aspect ratio, is reasonably common for a projector that weighs well under half a pound, but the 100 lumen brightness rating with the power block is at the high end of the range for the weight. If 100 lumens doesn't sound like a lot, keep in mind that earlier generations of pocket projectors offered ratings as low as 10 lumens and were bright enough to be useful.

The C120's key limitation is its lack of any connector for a video source. More than that, depending on your laptop, you may not even be able show video images played on a computer. This makes the C120 strictly a presentation tool for data projection. If presentations are what you need it for, however, it can do the job well enough to easily make it worth the $259 street price.

 

Strengths

Good data image quality. The C120's data image quality is good to excellent in most ways. Yellow was just a touch mustard color in my tests, but at least it was yellow mustard rather than brown mustard, and colors were fully saturated and generally vibrant otherwise. Color balance was also good, with acceptably neutral grays at various shades from black to white.

One issue that lowers the overall quality to good, rather than excellent, is that it takes some patience to get the projector focused properly. When I got the focus right, I was able to read black on white text easily at sizes as small as 7 points. The rest of the time, however, I wound up with a distinctly soft focus, with small text, including the text under the icons on a Windows desktop for example, a little blurry.

Relatively few rainbow artifacts. As an extra plus for image quality, the C120 shows fewer rainbow artifacts than most pocket projectors. I'm sensitive to these artifacts, and saw them with the C120 only on screens that are designed to bring them out, with bright white areas surrounded by black. Unless you use a lot of images that fit that description, even those who see rainbow artifacts easily aren't likely to see them often enough to find them annoying.

Notably portable. One of the major attractions for any pocket projector is its portability. For the C120 this translates to a 1" x 4.4" x 3.5" (HWD) size and 6.4 ounce weight for the projector itself. Add the power block and USB cable, and the total weight is still less than a pound. Even better, though, if you're willing to accept the somewhat lower brightness from using the USB connection as the only power source, the total weight for the projector and cable is just 8 ounces.

Test Results and Connectivity

Brightness. The C120's measured brightness, at 101 lumens with brightest lamp mode and with the power block plugged in, was fully consistent with the 100 lumen rating. The menus don't offer any settings for color mode, but there is an Eco mode, which came in at 71 lumens.

The only other issue that can affect brightness is how much power the projector is getting. That, in turn, depends on whether you're using the power block, whether you have one or both USB connectors on the computer side of the USB cable plugged in, and also on your particular computer.

Using the power block gives you the brightest image. Beyond that, the USB ports on different computers offer different power levels. So depending on your computer, plugging into a single USB port can give you different levels of brightness, and plugging into a second port may or may not increase the brightness. Acer says that even when using two ports increases the power, the brightness will still be lower than when using the power adaptor.

In my tests, plugging into a second port made no difference with either full brightness or Eco modes. Using the USB cable only, I measured the C120 at 47 lumens for the brightest lamp mode and 27 lumens for Eco mode whether I had one or two USB connections. Depending on your computer, once again, you may see different results.

Given that the 20,000 hour rated lamp life is the same for brightest mode and Eco mode, the only reason to use Eco mode would be if you don't have anyplace to plug in your laptop and projector, so you need to stretch out the laptop's battery life. That means you'll generally be using either the full 101 lumens if you carry the power block with you, or 47 lumens (or the equivalent on your computer) if you don't. As a point of reference, I found the 101 lumens bright enough in a dark room for a roughly 45" diagonal image at 16:9.

Brightness uniformity issues. The C120 doesn't do a good job of maintaining a uniform brightness across the screen. I measured brightness uniformity at a relatively low 68%, with a broad swath on the right side of the screen visibly dimmer than the center and left side. The difference is enough to see even on a screen broken up by text and graphics. However it's not obvious enough for most people to be bothered by it, and many people won't even notice it if they're not looking for it.

Connectivity. The only connectors on the C120 are for the power cable and USB cable. The USB port uses a proprietary connector, which means you can use it only with the cable that comes with the projector, with the proprietary connector on one end and two standard USB A connectors on the other.

When you connect the C120, your computer will recognize it as a CD drive. It will then automatically run the Windows program stored in the projector's firmware, or, if you have autorun turned off, you can run the program manually. Either way, once the software is loaded, it sends the image to the projector over the USB port. The direct-USB feature worked as promised on three different PCs in my tests, using both Windows 7 and XP. Acer says it does not work with Macs.

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Limitations

No video support. The lack of a video connector obviously rules out using the C120 with any video source. Somewhat surprisingly, however, you may not be able to see video played on your PC either. Acer says that whether you can show video or not depends on the player software on your system. In my tests, it wouldn't work with either a Windows 7 system using Windows Media Player or a Windows XP system using InterVideo WinDVD 5.

Hard to focus. As with many pocket projectors, the thumbwheel focus adjustment for the C120 offers little resistance, and the focus changes a lot with very little movement. The combination makes it hard to control focus precisely, and it left me with a slightly soft focus on most tries. If you plan to use presentation slides with large fonts, where a little soft focus won't hurt readability, this won't be an issue. If you need sharp focus, however, you may have to play with the focus wheel more than you'd like to, especially if you're feeling time pressure to set up quickly.

No zoom. As it typical for pocket projectors, the C120 doesn't offer a zoom lens, so you have to move the projector to adjust image size. Given the 2 foot cable length, this will generally mean moving your computer as well.

No audio. In keeping with its design as a laptop accessory, the C120 doesn't include a speaker. This isn't much of an issue, however. If you need sound, you can use your laptop's audio.

Conclusion

The Acer C120's unusual design sets it apart from most pocket projectors. Rather than loading the projector with connection options for both video and data sources, plus cables for each source, plus extras like being able to read files directly from internal memory and microSD cards, Acer focused on a single area -- showing data images from a laptop -- and left out anything not relevant to the task at hand.

Granted, the C120 would earn more points if it would at least let you reliably show video played on your PC. However, in context of being a laptop accessory for data presentations, the lack of support for video is only a minor shortcoming.

Similarly, it would also get more points if it didn't need the power adaptor for full brightness. But even with the lower brightness over a USB connection, it's bright enough to be usable. And being able to get power over the USB cable frees you from needing to carry the power block, a nice touch that adds to the portability.

Despite not delivering everything you might expect, the Acer C120 delivers enough to make it worth considering. If what you need is a projector to show data images from your laptop, it can not only do the job, it offers the right balance of brightness, data image quality, portability, and price to fit neatly in exactly that niche.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Acer C120 projector page.

Comments (6) Post a Comment
heidi McKendrick Posted Sep 22, 2012 7:03 AM PST
Hi, Does ACER E120 work with MAC laptop or is it windows only? Does it work iwth Ipad? Thank you.
jocemar moura Posted Dec 24, 2012 6:10 AM PST
estou precisando de um projetor de custo baixo para dar aulas este supre as necessidades?
sol Posted Feb 7, 2013 5:27 PM PST
can i use it to project photos friom my Android cellphone???
Lauraine Smith Posted Oct 8, 2013 12:57 AM PST
Does it work with Windows 8
nictor mcgeachy Posted Oct 5, 2014 12:34 AM PST
does it work with windows 8
mickmack Posted Jun 20, 2017 3:22 AM PST
Yes it will work with any version of windows pretty much.

No it will not work with android.

It has a usb cable, plug that to your laptop, it shows up a directory like a thumb drive, run the file that shows up in the directory, then it works its magic to show up your screen on its projection

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