Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The AAXA M2 is a light, bright, highly portable XGA presentation projector that fills the gap between full-sized XGA projectors and tiny picos. Its 110 ANSI lumens put it in the perfect niche for the display of Powerpoint presentations and other simple documents to small groups. An LED lamp keeps you going without the hassles of maintenance. The projector's one-pound weight will please anyone who travels frequently, and its onboard media player keeps the required accessories to a minimum. If you've considered pico projectors but found them not quite bright enough, the AAXA M2 might be a perfect fit. At street prices under $400, it's a solid value.
Applications / Best Uses
The AAXA M2 is built for mobile presentation and media display. The tiny M2 produces a maximum of 110 lumens using its LED light source. In a light-controlled environment, a 60" to 80" diagonal image has plenty of pop - enough to make your presentation look good for a small audience. With higher ambient light, a 40" to 60" diagonal image is bright enough to keep the image from being washed out.
The M2 has a fixed focal length lens, so image size is entirely dependent upon placement. Note that a fixed focal length is not the same thing as a fixed focus; focus is manual and still needs to be adjusted once you've placed the projector. The M2 has a relatively long throw distance for any given image size, which is helpful when a conference table is several feet from the wall.
With the M2's built-in media player, you don't even need to bring a laptop along. The M2 has several options when it comes to media storage, including 1GB of onboard flash memory, an SD card reader on the connection panel, and the ability to use USB thumb drives. Since an SDHC card can hold up to 32GB, a lack of storage space isn't likely to be a concern.
Light output. The M2's high light output places it in a class above its smaller brethren. The AAXA M2 has a stated light output of 110 lumens. Our test sample measured 101 lumens in its brightest mode, or 92% of the spec.
Is that bright enough, you may wonder? The answer is yes. If you need to present to small groups of people and aren't too demanding about color accuracy, the M2 is a great fit for the application. Roughly 100 lumens will give you either a bright, vibrant 60" diagonal image, or a passable 80" diagonal image in a darkened conference room. Don't want to dim the lights? If you confine the projected image to between 40" and 60" diagonal, your audience will be able to see your material without any trouble.
As the M2 is an LED projector, the only reasons to turn on low lamp mode would be to lower fan noise or reduce lumen output. Since there are not a lot of instances when 100 lumens would be too much light, and since the projector is not very noisy even in its full-power mode, we'd recommend just leaving it be.
Portability. AAXA calls the M2 a "micro" projector, which is a perfectly reasonable name--larger than "pico" but still smaller than most. The M2 only weighs about a pound. It comes with an external power brick, which weighs another pound. Since the M2 has an onboard media player and plenty of ways to go PC-less, that's all you're required to carry. This creates quite the lightweight presentation kit: XGA resolution, one hundred lumens, and a hair over two pounds. If you do plan to use a laptop or other external signal source, make sure to pack the required connector cable, but otherwise you're all set to go.
Media Player. In our estimation, an onboard media player is the single most important feature available in portable presentation projectors. While LED lamps draw a lot of attention for their longevity, lamp changes are not a big part of most projector owners' lives--they come up once every couple of years and are otherwise forgettable. For presenters on the go, a media player is something they can use every day. Powerpoint presentation? No problem. Load it into the M2's onboard memory and leave the laptop in the office. Want to watch a movie in your off-time? Throw it on a USB flash drive and keep it in your pocket. Photo slideshow? Take the SD card straight out of your camera and plug it into the M2's SD card slot. By leaving the laptop at home, you just shaved five to fifteen pounds of luggage off of your packing list.
Maintenance. Of course, that LED lamp helps, too. Presenters who travel do not want to be faced with obtaining a replacement lamp on short notice. An LED lamp alleviates that concern with its promise of 15,000 hours operating time, which is an eternity in projector terms. Even if the projector is running from 9 to 5 every weekday, the LED lamp is expected to last about seven years.
Resolution. The M2 is the only micro-portable projector to feature XGA (1024x768) resolution. Until now, the highest-resolution products in this segment have been SVGA, or 800x600. XGA was the standard laptop resolution for many years, and almost all existing laptops are capable of outputting XGA. Powerpoint slideshows in 4:3 look wonderful in XGA. Spreadsheets and text documents are resolved in more detail than on an SVGA projector, allowing the use of smaller font sizes, which in turn puts more information on the screen at one time. Photographs look sharp and detailed. If you need good resolution in a tiny package, the M2 is your best option.
Image quality. The M2 excels when it comes to resolution, brightness, and image clarity and sharpness. As such, image quality is best when you're viewing spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, or text documents. Color accuracy and gamma, on the other hand, leave something to be desired. Photographs and movies suffer the most from these deficiencies, but the M2 is not really designed as a photo or movie projector.
Dual 1W speakers. In a projector this small, a lack of onboard sound would be completely forgivable. The M2 exceeds expectations with its dual 1W speakers, providing true stereo sound in as compact a package as we've ever seen. Sure, a one-watt speaker isn't much, but many smaller projectors omit speakers entirely and require the user to hook up external speakers (which adds weight and complexity to your kit) or use the speakers on an attached laptop (which eliminates the benefit of the onboard media player). While the speakers aren't very loud, they exist, and that can only be a positive.
Connectivity. Despite its small size, the M2 has a variety of inputs, including HDMI, VGA, and composite video. The composite and VGA ports require breakout cables, as they use miniaturized jacks to save space, but the HDMI port is full-sized and ready to go without any adapters. The M2 also has an SD card reader and 1GB onboard storage, on which you can store content to be played using the onboard media player. A USB port facilitates data transfer and the use of USB flash drives. A headphone port rounds out the connection panel. If you want to use the M2 with a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet, AAXA sells connection cables tailored to those devices on its website.
Quick On/off. Thanks to the LED light source, the M2 is ready to project a few short seconds after you turn it on. LEDs, unlike metal-halide lamps, come up to their full power very quickly. Likewise, they also require no cool down time to speak of, so you can unplug the projector as soon as you turn it off. This means a quick setup and an easy takedown, which gives you more time to focus on your actual presentation.
Placement flexibility. The M2 has no zoom lens, so the image is always the same size at a given throw distance. This makes placement more difficult. A tripod mount and included mini-tripod expand your options without adding much weight. But if you come to a presentation only to find that the projection screen is farther from the table than you'd expected, you might find yourself wishing for a zoom lens.
Color. Color accuracy on the M2, while sufficient for Powerpoint presentations and light data graphics, is not at the level required for the accurate display of photography, graphics, films, or any subject matter for which precise color is needed. With only basic adjustments available, fine-tuning the M2's color to the standards of a home theater projector is not possible. To be fair, very few small projectors are capable of accurate color, and certainly the M2 is not significantly worse than its competitors in this regard, so this is more of a criticism of small portables in general.
Games. The M2 includes three games in its onboard software - a block-sliding puzzle, a "Russian block" game that is clearly reminiscent of Tetris, and something labeled "chess" that plays like no chess game I have ever seen (the board looks like a Go board, but attempting to play according to Go rules resulted in a "YOU LOSE" message). So why is this a disadvantage? Well, the feature itself is half-implemented; the games are available but lack any sort of instructions. Glitches abound. No other games are available, meaning that the "Games" category on the projector's home screen is more or less useless. Any feature worth including is worth doing well, so a half-finished games section is more aggravating than novel.
The AAXA M2 is unique in its market segment - a micro-portable projector at XGA resolution. Its 100-lumen output creates an image far brighter than any pico projector, while its tiny form factor ensures that portability is not compromised. Excellent connectivity, including a full-sized HDMI port, ensures ease of use. Combined with an onboard media player and a 15,000-hour lamp, the M2 is ready for the road.
The M2 is not without its flaws. Color reproduction is not at the level required for the display of film and video; these applications remain the purview of full-sized projectors with traditional metal-halide lamps. The Games section feels half-finished. But taken as a total package, the M2 is a highly portable, highly capable projector for the traveling presenter who wants to travel light. And at only $369 from authorized resellers, the M2 is an excellent, 5-star value.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our AAXA M2 projector page.