- Vibrant color for graphics; watchable film and video
- Native 1080p resolution; accepts up to 3840x2160 30Hz input
- Supports HDR10
- Compact, low weight
- Battery operation with detached power bank (not included)
- Poorly executed Autofocus
- No controls on the projector; misplace the remote, and you can't even manually focus
- Frame interpolation (FI) is on by default and can't be turned off (pending firmware fix)
The ViewSonic M2 is a great choice for road warriors who want a light-weight, bright-for-its-size projector. It can also serve nicely in a small conference room, and it handles video and film well enough to be highly watchable.
ViewSonic touts the native 1080p ViewSonic M2 ($649 street) as "ideal for business travelers on the go." And, indeed, the compact size, sub-three-pound weight, and supplied soft case help it live up to that claim. However, the bright, high-quality image for presentations and highly watchable image for video and film also make it a good fit for a small conference room and potentially even for home use, especially when you consider such niceties as its on-board 3-watt stereo speakers and support for voice control using either Alexa or Google Assistant.
I ran into some minor issues with the M2, but most had simple fixes. (More on that later.) And once you learn the workarounds, you still have the M2's bright image and its compact size.
The ViewSonic M2 is built around an RGBB LED light source, rated at 30,000 hours in full power mode, and a 0.33-inch 1080p DLP chip. The case offers excellent fit and finish, with rounded corners and a two-tone black and a metallic brown design. It measures a compact 2.9 x 8.8 x 8.8 inches, weighs 2.9 pounds, and includes a built-in stand to tilt the projector up if needed to point at the screen.
Missing from the case is any control except a power button for turning it on and off. This mean's you'll need the remote for at least some functions—notably the manual focus—but there's much you can do without it, at least there is if you've already set up the M2 for voice control. Both Alexa and Google Assistant will let you turn the projector on and off, adjust volume, change the image source, and auto focus. And if you have at least connected the projector to your Wi-Fi network previously, you can download the vCastSender app to your phone, connect your phone to your network, and give commands from the app, with more options than the voice commands make available. Replacement remotes are $40.
Physical setup is easy once you know how. Auto focus—which is on by default and runs every time you turn the projector on—resulted in slightly soft focus in my tests every time. And although the powered manual focus is controlled by the remote, the User Guide instructions for how to start manual focus mode with a single button press were wrong. (ViewSonic says it plans to correct them.) At this writing, the Guide says to press the button for three seconds to turn on manual focus, but that actually runs auto focus. What you need to do is release the button before the three second mark.
Once I turned off auto focus and stumbled over the right way to get to manual focus mode, setup got a lot easier. Simply position the projector, connect the power cable and image source, point the M2 at the screen, turn it on, and focus. There's no zoom, but it's easy to adjust image size for this small a projector by moving it.
In addition to connecting by HDMI cable or plugging in a USB memory key or micro SD card to read files directly, you can plug the supplied Wi-Fi dongle into a hidden USB port for wireless connections to a network or direct connections to iOS or Android devices for screen mirroring. You can also use apps you've already stored in the projector, and add more from the Android-based Aptoide store, to stream shows from Netflix, YouTube and other sources. If you're not near an outlet for the included AC power supply, the rear-panel USB port also supports powering the projector with a charged power bank that supports the Power Delivery (PD) protocol and is rated for a minimum 45 watts (15V/3A).
With the projector on a table, the lens offset puts the bottom of the image at roughly the centerline of the lens. If you need to tilt or swivel it to point to the screen, you can square off the image using vertical keystone correction of up to +/-40 degrees and horizontal correction of up to +/-30 degrees, with a choice of manual or automatic vertical correction as well as four-corner correction. If you don't have any convenient flat space, the M2 includes a tripod screw mount on the bottom. Note too that it offers menu controls to flip the image for rear projection, inverted orientation in a ceiling mount, or both.
ViewSonic rates the projector at 1,200 LED lumens, which means by definition that a meter will measure a lower brightness, but that the image should look as bright in a dark room as the image from a 1,200 ANSI lumen lamp-based projector. (For more on LED brightness ratings, see the ProjectorCentral article Are "LED lumens" a Real Thing?) In addition, ViewSonic gives the M2 a 500 ANSI lumen rating, which is only a bit higher than the 467 ANSI lumens I measured for the brightest mode. On a purely subjective basis, I judged the image as being brighter than I expect from the measurement, but not quite as bright as I would expect from the LED lumen rating.
That said, even 467 ANSI lumens from a lamp-based projector would be enough to light up a 100-inch diagonal 1.0 gain screen in a dark room at the M2's native 16:9 aspect ratio, or a 60-inch screen in moderate ambient light. In comparison, I found the image quite watchable at 90-inches in low ambient light. The throw distance for a 90-inch image is roughly 8 feet. (For the distance for the screen size you want, see the ProjectorCentral ViewSonic M2 throw calculator.)
There's one additional setup note for viewing 4K UHD material. The M2 works with up to a 3840x2160p 30Hz HDR connection and the specs say it supports HDCP 2.2. ViewSonic even sent me a video showing it working with a Murideo Six-G signal generator using those settings. However, I could not get it to work with HDCP 2.2 using the same model Murideo generator or my Samsung UHD Blu-ray player.
When I played 1080p discs on the player, the M2 negotiated a 2160p 24Hz connection, and the projector converted the image back to its native 1080p. But when I switched to a 4K UHD HDR disc, the player reported that it was dropping the resolution to 1080p—still using HDR—because the port didn't support HDCP 2.2.
At this writing it's not clear what caused this problem in my tests, and ViewSonic says it's still looking into the issue. But it happened with both the original projector ViewSonic sent and a replacement unit. The good news is that if you run into a problem playing a 4K UHD HDR disc—most of which use HDCP 2.2—you should be able to fix it by setting your Blu-ray player resolution to 1080p or Auto rather than to 2160p. The image on screen will be using HDR and be at the same resolution either way, the only difference being whether the projector or the player is converting it from 4K UHD to 1080p.[Editor's note: I conducted a follow-up test with one of David's review samples that yielded the same result: the projector handled 2160p/30 from a Murideo Six-G generator with or without the HDR flag turned on, with HDCP set to either Off or 1.4. Activating HDCP 2.2 resulted in a black screen. UHD HDR discs from my Panasonic player were downscaled to the projector's native 1080p by the player.—R.S.]
Note also that the M2 includes a set of Harmon Kardon 3-watt stereo speakers, which deliver good enough sound quality to make them worth using along with high enough volume for a small conference room. If you prefer to use an external audio system, you can connect it using the 3.5mm analog audio out port or connect wirelessly to Bluetooth speakers.
Here's a more complete list of the M2's key features:
- 1920x1080 native resolution; accepts up to 3840x2160 30Hz input
- HDR10 support
- RGBB LED light source
- Color gamut rated at 125% Rec.709
- 30,000 hour light-source life in full power mode
- 1,200 LED lumen rating; 500 ANSI lumen rating
- 3,000,000:1 contrast ratio rating (full on/full off)
- Compact, low weight: 2.9 pounds
- Ships with preinstalled apps for voice control using Alexa or Google Home
- Aptoide store link allows downloading of additional apps, including streaming apps for Netflix, YouTube, and other sites
- PC-free viewing of files on a Micro SD card or USB memory key
- Auto focus for easy setup (with slight soft focus in our tests); powered manual focus
- +/-40 degrees manual and automatic vertical keystone correction; +/-30 degrees horizontal keystone correction; four-corner correction
- Full HD 3D support with DLP-Link glasses
- Onboard set of 3-watt Harmon Kardon stereo speakers; audio out port; supports Bluetooth audio out
- Full-size remote
- 3-year warranty; first year express exchange
For SDR (standard dynamic range) input, the M2 offers four predefined color modes—Brightest, TV, Movie, and Gaming. There are also two User modes, and more settings in all modes than you might expect, including for gamma and for red, green, and blue gain and offset. There's even a color management system to adjust hue, saturation, and gain for all six primary and secondary colors.
Straight out of the box, all four predefined modes deliver vivid color for graphics and more than acceptable color accuracy for graphics for three of the four. The exception is Gaming, which had a noticeable green shift in some images. I improved it a bit with a little tweaking, but it still wasn't a match for the other modes.
Brightest, TV, and Movie modes all offer good contrast for this price LED projector and also hold gradations in photorealistic images well enough to give closeups of faces and other rounded objects a three-dimensional look. Between them, TV mode does best on both scores, with Brightest coming in a close second and Movie mode not far behind. None of the modes can handle shadow detail well, and all attempts to improve shadow detail left brighter scenes looking washed out.
With default settings, Brightest mode is slightly green-shifted compared with TV and Movie modes, but only to the extent that a blue background in one of the graphics in my test suite was a touch turquoise. I was able to remove the shift simply by changing the color temperature.
TV mode offered the most saturated color, and it delivered the most vibrant, eye-catching graphics. However for many photorealistic images, the color was oversaturated to the point of looking unnatural. Some will prefer it for presentations that are largely limited to graphics. For those with a trained eye, the better color accuracy in Brightest mode will make it the preferred choice for all content, and dropping the saturation level in Brightest mode improves it even more.
For HDR input, the M2 offers all the same modes as for SDR input. The four predefined modes all did a credible job with contrast, sense of three dimensionality, and ability to hold subtle gradations in photorealistic images. And most people will judge color accuracy acceptable for casual viewing as well, especially with some minor tweaks to color temperature and saturation. But here again, the preferred mode depends largely on what you consider most important.
Movie mode showed oversaturated colors least often in my tests; TV mode was the top performer for contrast, three dimensionality, and gradations; and even though none deliver the boost in shadow detail that HDR promises, Brightest mode did best on that score. For those who don't choose Movie mode to avoid oversaturated color, it's easy to argue for either Brightest or TV mode as the preferred choice. You may even want to switch between the two, depending on whether you're watching brightly lit video content, like sports, or filmed material that may have dark scenes.
Viewing Film and Video
SDR. I tested the M2 with movies on Blu-ray discs and a variety of broadcast and streaming TV shows, both with and without ambient light. In all cases, the image was more than acceptable for video clips in presentations and potentially acceptable for casual home use for watching full length movies. However, there were two issues that many would find bothersome.
The first was frame interpolation (FI). This would usually count as a plus. However, for most of my evaluation it was permanently on at a level equivalent to the high setting in most projectors, which means that in addition to motion smoothing, it also added distracting motion artifacts and an impossible-to-miss digital video effect to filmed material. The good news is that ViewSonic has since made available a new firmware update, version 0.57, that adds Low, Medium, High and Off menu settings for FI. Existing users need only make sure the projector is connected to the internet to access the firmware download from the main Settings menu.
The second issue is poor handling of shadow detail. In a dark room, the M2's rendering of my go to pre-batcave dark scene in Batman v Superman left most of the bats merged together into several amorphous collections of eyes, and only a few bodies. And in a low level of ambient light, the image was too washed out to see much of anything.
Brighter scenes—from sports to news shows to brighter scenes in movies—faired better. In scenes I'm familiar with, the hue, saturation, and brightness of colors largely matched what I know they should look like. But even bright scenes lost shadow detail, including the details in dancers only slightly shadowed faces in the opening dance number in La La Land. Very much on the plus side, I didn't see any rainbow artifacts.
HDR. Using 4K UHD HDR versions of the same movies I used for the SDR viewing tests, and letting the Blu-ray player downconvert to 1080p HDR, there was no notable difference between HDR and SDR images on contrast, black level, shadow detail, or sense of three dimensionality. Color accuracy was also similar, although some colors, particularly reds, tended to be more oversaturated more often, even after lowering the saturation setting. So while the M2 can accept HDR input, there's little to no visual benefit from it.
3D Viewing. The M2 supports Full HD 3D using DLP-Link glasses. As is typical, 3D image brightness is lower than for any of the 2D modes. In a dark room, the image on my 90-inch, 1.0-gain white screen was watchable but dim enough to make some scenes look darker than they should. Note too that 3D-related motion artifacts were more obvious than with many current-generation 3D projectors. However, I didn't see any crosstalk, and most people will judge the color accuracy as more than acceptable. Note that the frame interpolation (FI) feature is also active for 3D content, but is not as obvious.
The ViewSonic M2's natural home is...well...away from home, as a traveling companion for road warriors who want a brighter-than-typical portable projector. But its brightness, along with vibrant color for business graphics, make it a reasonable choice for a small conference room as well, while its contrast, color accuracy, and ability to hold subtle gradations even make it worth considering for home use for watching film and video.
At a measured 467 ANSI lumens in its brightest mode—consistent with the 1,200 LED lumen, 500 ANSI lumen rating—the M2 is bright enough to light up a 90-inch, 1.0-gain screen in low level ambient light. More important, the highest brightness mode is fully useable, and was my preferred mode for all content.
As tested, the ViewSonic M2 has a few rough edges, but after the recent firmware fix for FI what remains has little practical impact. In particular, the HDCP issue I saw with HDR Blu-ray discs just means you have to set the player, rather than the projector to downconvert the image to 1080p, rather than letting the projector do it. All told, the combination of features makes the ViewSonic M2 well worth a look for the $649 price, particularly for road warriors but also for small conference rooms or classrooms, or for casual home use.
Brightness. ViewSonic rates the M2 at 1,200 LED lumens, and 500 ANSI lumens. I measured it at a solid 93% of the ANSI rating. The measured ANSI lumens in Full and Eco power modes are as follows for each predefined color mode.
ViewSonic M2 ANSI Lumens
Zoom Lens Light Loss: The M2 doesn't have a zoom lens.
Brightness Uniformity: 83%
Lowest Measured Input Lag (1080p): 125.8 ms as tested. ViewSonic says it should be 66 ms with frame interpolation (FI) off.
Lowest Measured Input Lag (4K): 142.4 ms ViewSonic says it should be 66 ms with frame interpolation (FI) off.
Rainbow artifacts. I saw only a single rainbow artifact in all my tests with the M2, and I see these artifacts easily. Even so, if you're concerned about rainbow artifacts, be sure to buy the projector from a source that will allow easy returns, so you can test it out for yourself.
Fan Noise. ViewSonic rates the fan noise at 26 dB in Full power mode and 24 dB in Eco mode. In either mode the noise is hardly noticeable sitting right next to the projector, although you can hear it in quiet room if you make a point of listening for it. High altitude mode, which ViewSonic recommends using at altitudes of 4,921 to 9,842 feet, is a bit louder, but still low enough to quickly fade into the background in a room with ambient noise.
- HDMI 2.0a; HDCP 2.2
- USB 3.0 (x2; 1 Type A, 1 USB-C)
- USB 2.0 Type A for Wi-Fi dongle, hidden under removable cover
- Micro SD card slot
- 3.5mm analog stereo audio out
- WiFi (via included dongle) supports network, mobile device connection for iOS/Android mirroring/Casting
- Bluetooth speaker out
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our ViewSonic M2 projector page.