- Long-life LED light engine
- On-board Wi-Fi with built-in streaming
- Not quite bright enough
- 720p native resolution
- Need to install Web browser
Its 720p resolution and relatively low brightness may limit its utility, but the ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1 is a cute, battery-operated projector that's easy to carry around and set up for a quick movie night or video call.
It may not be for everyone, but the Asus ZenBeam Latte L1, with a typical street price of $449, is small and light enough to take along just about everywhere, making it as close to a project-anywhere device as exists. Just as good for streaming movies in the basement as for teaching a multimedia class at school as for running an impromptu video call at work, the Latte L1's maintenance-free LED light source and Digital Light Processing imaging target make it one of the easiest pico projectors to set up and use. It can not only be run on its battery for off-the-grid work or partying, but the Latte L1 can mirror the action on a phone or tablet and has hundreds of streaming apps.
Still, it falls short of the mark when it comes to the basics, with a 1280x720 imaging engine and relatively low brightness that's rated for 300 LED lumens and measures just 181 ANSI lumens. In other words, the Latte L1 does a lot with a little, but it left us wishing for more.
The upside-down paper coffee cup shape of the Asus ZenBeam Latte L1 suggests the origins of its caffeinated name. It's emblematic of the current generation of pico projectors, measuring 5.2 inches tall with a 3.6 inch diameter at the bottom and 3.2 inch top. Its fabric covering is more sensually appealing than most projectors and helps keep it cool.
With a 1.4-pound weight, it's a lightweight and comes with a handy padded carry case. Unfortunately, as is often the case with projector bags, neither the projector's AC adapter nor the remote control fit inside.
Under its fabric skin, the Latte L1 has a 6,000 milliamp-hour lithium-ion battery that can power the projector for off-grid viewings, whether at the beach or in a repurposed room at school or work. Using the brightest Presentation mode it lasted for 1 hour and 51 minutes on battery power, although that can be doubled in the even dimmer Eco mode. There's a small charge gauge in the upper right of the projector's Home screen as well as on-screen warnings when 25-, 15- and 5-percent of the charge remains.
Small and light, the Latte doesn't compete well on brightness with many pico projectors in its price class. Its rated output is for 300 LED lumens, using a variable term that incorporates a multiplier on the traditional ANSI measurement to account for the saturated colors and higher perceived brightness that LED projectors deliver. As noted, its ANSI lumen output is much lower, making it borderline usable in anything other than a dark room.
The 1.2:1 throw ratio yields a 38-inch image (measured diagonally) at 40-inches away, plenty for setting up movie night in the living room or an outdoor binge party for Michael: Everyday. The image tops out at 10 feet, although its sweet spot is closer to four or five feet given the limited brightness.
Behind the scenes are banks of red, blue and green LEDs. The beams are bounced off the projector's 0.23-inch Digital Light Processing (DLP) imaging chip and through the output lens to the screen. It adds up to 1280x720 imaging, but the projector can accept up to 1080p signals and downscale for display at its native resolution.
The LED illumination components have a rated lifetime of 30,000 hours and the projector is maintenance free. If it's used for four hours a day, it might last as long as 17 years, likely longer than any other AV gear you have.
The projector is built around the Android TV operating system. In addition to a Qualcomm processor, the Latte L1 has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space. It offers up hundreds of apps, games, and streaming channels from the Android-based Aptoide streaming platform, including Netflix, YouTube and Plex entertainment streaming, although many, like Aaj Tak (Indian) and Mjunoon (Pakistan), are aimed at foreign viewers. In addition to lots of local TV channels and a few games, the projector can tap into apps for CNN, BBC, the Weather Channel as well as the Puffin TV and Firefox Web browsers. Just keep in mind that the quality of specific apps or the resolution they deliver has been known to vary with the Aptoide open-source platform. Overall, it works best with a USB or wireless keyboard, like the Logitech K400r I used, for entering names, passwords and Web destinations.
The Latte L1's wireless capabilities are prodigious. It can tap into Wi-Fi 5 networks and is the rare device that can mirror the output of an Android or iOS device. It worked well with a Samsung Tab S7 and iPad Pro, making it a one-stop connection central that's just as good for showing the latest viral video or running a Zoom video call.
The projector also has Bluetooth audio that can send the projector's output to a wireless speaker as well as use its pair of Harman/Kardon-tuned speakers to play music from your phone or tablet. It has a small, but vital, set of ports, including HDMI for video and Type-A USB for using a keyboard, powering a streaming device or even charging your phone. It has a headphone jack, but no SD card slot.
Easy to carry around and set up, the Asus ZenBeam Latte L1 works well on a coffee table or bookcase and it has a single threaded screw hole underneath for a tripod. It comes ready to project with an AC adapter, HDMI cable and the aforementioned padded case. There's no lens cap, but the Latte L1's lens is recessed and protected by a window.
Its vertical orientation means that in many cases it won't need to be angled up to put the image on a wall or screen. Its pull-out foot acts like an adjustable stand to angle it to 5 degrees. Like most other small LED projectors, it lacks a zoom lens or horizontal keystone correction, but its vertical keystoning can handle up to a 40-degree tilt; it has an automatic mode. As with all projectors, invoking keystone reduces brightness, but in this case a 10-degree inclination reduced the projector's brightness by only 16%, much better than seen on many projectors and welcome given the desire to preserve its brightness.
The projector's circular top has basic controls for turning it on and off, adjusting the volume and opening the Menu. There's a four-way button for selecting items and a center actuation button when you find what you need as well as ones for going back and using Bluetooth audio. The small remote control uses a pair of AAA batteries and had a range of 35 feet. It has a Splendid button, which is a commonly used ASUS menu for changing the picture settings. But the remote does without dedicated buttons for the major streaming services.
There are four projection modes, ranging from Presentation (the brightest) to Standard (flatter color balance) and Theater (warmer tones but dimmer). The fourth mode, Eco, reduces brightness so low that it's really only good for extending viewing time on battery power. There's no control over the individual color levels, but the Latte L1 has adjustment for brightness and color temperature (Cold, Warm and Middle) and wall color (white, yellow, blue, pink and green).
The Latte L1's menu covers everything from picking the picture mode and whether to mirror or use the HDMI port as an input and connecting to a Wi-Fi network. The major categories are on the left and the details on the right. At the bottom is a bonus for video packrats with Video Links that can access a library of personal clips from your YouTube account and not from the service in general to act as an effective parental control.
Despite having illumination components designed to last for years and years, the Latte L1 has a two-year warranty.
Reasonably quick on the draw, the Latte L1 was projecting an image in 14.3 seconds after being turned on. It took a quick 1.5 seconds to shut down and turn its fan off.
Of the four picture modes, Presentation was the brightest at a measured 181 ANSI lumens. It's just bright enough with the shades drawn and the lights off, but if shades are opened on a sunny day, the image can quickly get washed out.
Its color balance isn't bad compared to other small LED projectors I've tried, though Presentation mode delivers a mildly bluish-green cast to everything. The Standard mode is a bit better, with a more realistic balance of colors. It, however, reduces the output to 149 ANSI lumens, while the warmer Theater mode puts out 108 ANSI lumens. The Eco mode is very dim at just 73 ANSI lumens, putting it on a par with a good flashlight.
While it's operating, the system used 22.3 watts in Presentation mode. Its idle power draw was 0.6 watts and the Latte L1 uses 10 watts when its battery is charging. If it's projecting for four hours a day, the projector should cost less than $6 a year to use if you pay the national average of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity.
Unlike some projectors that are advertised for gaming, the Latte L1 lacks any sort of dedicated gaming mode that can lower the latency of the projector's action for quicker response. It registered input lag of 96.1 milliseconds, which is too slow for anything but the most casual gaming and more than 50 percent above the 60ms or so we've measured for other typical picos.
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On battery power, the Latte L1 was able to project video for 1 hour and 51 minutes in Presentation mode. That might be just enough for a short movie, but it can be lengthened to 3:15 in the low-output Eco mode.
Overall, the L1 performed surprisingly well showing the "Dawn of Man" sequence at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The sky scenes were rich and saturated while there was just enough detail in the shadowed cave sequences. It looked even better when watching the overly bright CNNgo's news feed and several colorful underwater dive sequences on YouTube.
In Presentation mode, the Latte L1 is quiet enough to talk above the noise while watching. But, at 41.1dBA of fan noise (measured 36-inches from the fan), it was louder than some other, more powerful portables we've tested. The projector is rated by ASUS engineers at 30dB in Theater mode in a soundproof room using the industry-standard averaged measurement taken from multiple sides of the projector.
Regardless of whether it was projecting movies, spreadsheets or educational apps, the Latte L1 never got above 98 degrees Fahrenheit. This means it can be packed up and taken right after turning the projector off.
With an affordable price tag of $450, the ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1 attempts to provide just enough projector for home or work at the just right price. In addition to being able to run on battery power (or charge your phone), the Latte L1 is the rare pico projector with built-in Wi-Fi, allowing you to mirror what's on your phone (for iOS and Android devices) as well as use a variety of available apps. It's easy to use and quick to project, but alas the Latte L1's combination of 1280x720 resolution and, in particular, its less than 200 ANSI lumens of light output, adds up to an image that limits its use primarily to dark environments and can't compare, for example, to the 1080p resolution and nearly 600 ANSI lumens from the only slightly more expensive AAXA M7. However, along with not having the Latte L1's attractive cylindrical shape, the trade-off is the lack of any built in Wi-Fi, screen-mirroring, or app streaming.
It might not be the perfect pico projector, but the Latte L1 is a good start that could have been a better contender with some extra brightness. ASUS must feel the same way, as they just announced the upcoming ZenBeam Latte L2, which offers 1080p resolution while doubling brightness to 600 LED lumens at an expected price of $699. We'll hope to look at that later this year.
Brightness. With the Latte L1 running in Presentation mode, it put out 181 ANSI lumens. It was enough for projecting in a darkened room at reasonable image size. A dark environment is even more critical with the Standard and Theater modes, which delivered 149 and 108 ANSI lumens. The Eco mode produced images at 73 ANSI lumens and is really only appropriate for use with the projector on battery power as a means of extending run time.
ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1 ANSI Lumens
Brightness Uniformity: 89.7%
Fan Noise. In casual measurements taken 36 inches from the projector, the Latte L1 was loudest using its brightest Presentation mode, where it came in at 41.1dBA. That dropped to 40.1dBA and 39.6dBA in Standard and Theater modes. Using the system's Eco settings, it registered 38.6dBA. For these measurements, the background noise level in the room was 37.0dBA. ASUS rates the projector to produce 30dB in Theater mode and 20dB in Eco mode, using the standard multipoint averaged measurement in a soundproof room.
Input Lag. Using a Bodnar input lag tester with a 1080p/60 Hz signal, the Latte L1 recorded a latency of 91.1 ms. This is too high for anything more than the most casual gaming with titles that do not require fast reaction time. Unfortunately, there is no Game Mode or other mechanism for reducing input lag.
- HDMI (Version 2.0)
- Audio out (3.5mm stereo jack)
- USB 2.0 Type-A
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1 projector page.