Review: LG Minibeam PH300
720p DLP Portable Entertainment Projector
The LG PH300 "Minibeam" is a tiny portable projector with an appropriate nickname. Its native 720p resolution makes it better than other ultra-portable projectors when it comes to detail and resolution, while its onboard battery makes it an easy projector to take along with you. The LED light source means you'll never have to replace a burned-out lamp, and also means the internal battery will last for an impressive 2.5 hours on a single charge. If you need a super-portable projector that's capable of going anywhere, including places without electricity, the PH300 might be just the projector for you.
Update 6/22: We have added the PH300's input lag time of 33 milliseconds to the review.
1280x720 High Definition. The PH300 is built with entertainment in mind. First and foremost, it uses a native resolution of 1280x720, which is both high-definition and uses the common 16:9 aspect ratio. This is ideal for television, movies, games, and other film and video content. Presentation projectors tend to use the 16:10 aspect ratio, which is more common among laptops and other computers but adds pixels that don't ever get used for video.
Truly tiny. The PH300 is a tiny projector that's easy to bring along anywhere you want to go. That claim gets tossed around a lot, but the PH300 lives up to it in a way the others don't. The case is only 2.5" x 3.5" x 4.5", about the same size as a fat paperback book. It weighs less than 1 pound, and unlike most portables you don't need to lug along a heavy power brick every time you want to use the projector - the bare projector is a viable option all by itself.
Built-in battery. The PH300's internal battery is arguably the projector's most unique feature, allowing you to use it anywhere you go regardless of whether or not a wall outlet is available. The manufacturer's specifications state that the battery should last for 2.5 hours from a full charge; during our testing, we were usually able to watch a feature-length movie before running out of juice. To give yourself a safety margin, don't plan on the projector's battery lasting more than two hours per charge, and make sure to charge the battery soon before you plan to use the projector; rechargeable batteries tend to lose charge if they sit unused for long periods.
LED light engine. While they don't produce a ton of light output, light-emitting diodes (or LEDs) are both energy-efficient and long-lived, so they never need to be replaced. They also draw far less power than traditional arc lamps, which is part of what gives the PH300 its impressive battery life. During use, the projector draws only 25 watts of power unless it is also recharging the battery.
Onboard sound. Somehow, the engineers in charge of the PH300 found room in the case for a pair of one-watt stereo speakers. While that's nobody's ideal sound system, it does mean that the projector can be used for entertainment without any external devices or cables. There's also a 3.5mm audio jack, so you can hook up a small set of speakers or some decent headphones for better audio quality.
Connectivity. Though it is a tiny projector, the PH300 has an impressive array of ports. There's an HDMI port with MHL, perfect for use with a Roku stick or other streaming device. There is one 1/8" audio output, allowing you to connect to a more powerful sound system. There's one USB port for loading files for the onboard media player. There's also a coaxial port for the onboard ATSC TV tuner.
Low input lag. With 33 milliseconds of input lag, the PH300 is right in line with most other low-cost DLP projectors. 33 milliseconds is about two frames of a 60 FPS signal, which is plenty fast enough for all but the most serious and demanding gamers.
At roughly $400, the LG PH300 is priced well below most "real" projectors, but it costs a fair bit more than the "cheap" projectors we recently examined. And at 300 lumens in its brightest mode, it doesn't have the brightness that people have come to expect in entertainment projectors. But it is definitely a unique and worthwhile product even if it doesn't fit many of the traditional "projector" applications. Here are some ideas about how to use it that may spark your creativity:
- Drive-in Movies. Use the PH300 and your car's AUX port to stage a drive-in movie anywhere you want. Use a white sheet as your screen. Bring snacks.
- Ceiling theater. Aim the tiny PH300 at your bedroom ceiling and watch a late-night movie.
- Game night. Paired with a game console, the PH300 is a portable entertainment system. Play with your friends on a screen much larger than your TV.
- Game day. If you've ever been at a barbecue and seen the grillmaster keep running inside to check the score, you can probably see the potential here. Paired with a simple antenna, the PH300 becomes a highly portable TV. This can be a little tricky if it's the middle of the day due to the relatively low light output of the projector, but it's better than running the Burger-Flip Relay every five minutes.
Brightness. The PH300 only produces about 300 lumens, and only in its brightest mode. Using the projector with Energy Saving set to Max will increase battery life but reduce brightness. If you need to use the PH300 without its power adapter, it's best to do so in rooms with little to no ambient light - or use very small screen sizes.
Rainbows. As a single-chip DLP projector, the PH300 will sometimes create rainbows. This is an unavoidable fact. However, since the projector is usually used on smaller screens due to its relatively low brightness, your eyes do less rapid back-and-forth searching and hence you should see fewer rainbows. If you use the projector at a full 100" diagonal and sit at home theater distances, expect to see about as many rainbows as you would on a DLP projector with a 4x-speed color wheel.
The LG PH300 is a rare portable projector that is not only portable but also completely cordless. With native 720p resolution, an LED light engine, and an onboard battery and speakers, the PH300 can be used anywhere you go. Load your favorite media onto a USB drive and run it from the projector's onboard media player. Connect up a Roku streaming stick and watch Netflix. Or hook up an antenna and watch over-the-air high definition TV from the road. No matter where you go or what you want to watch, the LG PH300 can come along with you.
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