Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The WowWee Technologies Cinemin Swivel, a half VGA (480 x 320), DLP-based pocket projector, is meant primarily for photos and video rather than data. Rated at 8 lumens and for a maximum 60-inch image, the actual maximum image size depends largely on ambient light and how long a session you plan to use it for. Welcome touches include a 2 hour 20 minute battery life and an audio output, so you can easily hear a movie as well as see it. A possibly unique ability to swivel the front half of the projector as much as 90 degrees upwards to project images on a ceiling helps make it one of the more interesting pocket projectors, at $300 street.
Small, Light, and Highly Portable. Although the Cinemin Swivel is on the large side for a pocket projector, at .9- x 2.1- x 4.7-inches (HWD), or about the size of a generously-sized candy bar, it's still small and light enough, at 6.5 ounces, to fit comfortably in a shirt pocket. WowWee also includes a soft carrying case that's just large enough to hold the projector plus one set of video cables for a given type of connection.
Audio Output Jack. The small size of pocket projectors limits their audio systems and speakers so even at top volume the sound is hard to hear and easily drowned out by ambient noise. The Cinemin Swivel addresses that problem by adding an audio output jack. Plug in a headset (which you'll have to get separately) and you'll be able to hear reasonably high quality audio with a louder top volume than you'll probably want. Volume Up and Down buttons on the side of the projector make it easy to find a comfortable setting.
Excellent Flexibility for Power. One issue for any portable electronic device is the need for power. The Cinemin Swivel offers a 2 hour 20 minute battery life on a full charge -- long enough to watch most full length movies and significantly longer than much of the competition.
Just as important, when the battery dies, the projector offers a choice for what to do next. It uses a USB port for power (and for power only) and comes with a 3-foot USB cable that can connect from the projector to either a computer USB port or the projector's power block, which plugs into a wall socket. Either choice can recharge the battery or let you keep using the projector, but not both at the same time. WowWee says a full charge takes four hours using a power outlet and somewhat longer over a USB connection.
Another welcome touch is that WowWee includes a set of interchangeable wall plugs for the power block that work in North America, Europe (including UK), and Australia.
Easy to Focus. Most pocket projectors are a little tricky to focus, with controls that are hard to start moving and then tend to move too far too fast, overshooting the focused position. The Cinemin Swivel's focus wheel offers smooth, sure control, making it easy to get a sharply focused image across the entire screen.
It Swivels. The ability to swivel the front of the projector by up to 90 degrees makes it easy to adjust the image's vertical position on a wall (although there is no keystone correction to keep the sides parallel). It also adds a bit of a novelty feature, letting you easily project images on a ceiling, which may be the only available white area in a given room, and can provide an interesting decorative highlight -- when you're giving a party, for example, to let you surround your guests with images.
Excellent iPod and Composite Video Connectivity. The Cinemin Swivel's focus on video shows in its connection choices. It comes with two 10-inch video cables and a video adaptor that WowWee says works with all iPhone, iPod, and iTouch models. One cable connects between the projector and the adaptor. The other offers a miniplug on one end for the projector and three female RCA-phono plugs on the other, so you can plug in a standard combined composite video and stereo audio cable going to a video source. If you'd like to use the projector with a computer as well, WowWee's $29.99 Cinemin Swap converts from VGA to composite video, and comes with appropriate cables. Not so incidentally, unlike the stiff, spring-like cables that tend to push or pull the projector away from the direction you're trying to point it in, both of the video cables provided are thin and highly flexible, making it easy to point the projector where you want to.
Low Brightness. WowWee rates the Cinemin Swivel at a conservative 8 lumens and a maximum 60-inch diagonal image size. We measured it at 10 lumens, which is typical for a pocket projector. More important, it's not as dim as you might think, because the human eye adjusts to different levels of light, and is more sensitive to small changes at low levels than higher levels. In short, even though 10 lumens is only one-tenth of 100 lumens, the eye sees it as much brighter than one-tenth as bright.
With moderate ambient light typical for a family room at night, the brightness is suitable for at least a 15-inch diagonal image for extended viewing, and a larger image for shorter sessions or less ambient light.
Poor Brightness Uniformity. Pocket projectors generally have a problem maintaining uniform brightness across the entire screen, so it's not surprising that the Cinemin Swivel did poorly on brightness uniformity, at a measured 52%. The difference is enough to be easily noticeable on a solid light colored image, as you might use for a presentation background. It may also be noticeable in some photos, but it's not obvious in most video scenes.
Image Quality Issues. The Cinemin Swivel's image quality is typical for pocket projectors.It loses a great deal of detail based on shading in dark areas, even when it's close to the screen projecting a smaller, brighter image. In addition, white areas -- like men's shirts -- have a slight bluish tinge with images up to about 5-inches diagonally. At larger image sizes, the tinge fades away, however. Overall, the best that can be said for the image quality is that it's good enough to be useful and on a par with the competition.
The Cinemin Swivel delivers image quality, brightness, and portability typical for a pocket projector, combined with a number of welcome -- and well thought out -- extras, most notably the audio output, long battery life, smooth focus control, the included adaptor for iPods and iPhones, and, of course, the swivel feature. For those whose primary need for a pocket projector is for video, particularly as a companion for an iPod or iPhone, the Cinemin Swivel can be an excellent fit.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our WowWee Cinemin Swivel projector page.