Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Over time, laser pico projectors have become more fully-featured and less expensive. In September of 2010, Microvision brought us the ShowWX, a 10-lumen model that (at the time) had an MSRP of $549. Now there's the ShowWX+, a new iteration that produces 15 lumens while keeping all of the features that made the ShowWX a hit. This time around, pricing starts at only $450, and street prices have already fallen below this mark. When you want a no-hassle pico projector that works seamlessly with your iPod or other mobile device, the ShowWX+ is a great choice.
The ShowWX+ is an ideal "show and tell" projector, best used to display photos or video from an iPod or similar mobile device. As anyone who has one of these mobile devices will tell you, even the ones with "large" screens are pretty darned small. Replacing a 3.5" display with a 30" projected image is an easy way to up the "wow" factor of your mobile photo and video shows.
The ShowWX+ is designed to be carried in a pocket or bag, and as such does not have any of the traditional placement flexibility options of larger projectors (such as zoom and lens shift). A 30" diagonal image is attainable from 2' 6" throw distance, but in all likelihood you will find yourself hand-holding the projector while you show your pictures--the ShowWX+ has no tripod mount. The 15-lumen maximum output limits image size to roughly 30" in significant ambient light, though larger sizes are certainly possible in darkened environments. 30" does not sound like a huge image, but remember what you're comparing it to--that tiny display on your iPod. Put in those terms, it's a 65-fold increase in total screen area.
Ultra portable. The ShowWX+ is truly a "pocket-sized" projector--rigorous testing on our part indicates that a standard blue jean front pocket will hold the ShowWX+ comfortably. The projector measures only 4.6" long by 2.4" wide by 0.6" thick, making it about the size of a cellular phone or iPod. It weighs only four ounces with the battery installed, so it's lighter than an iPhone despite being slightly larger.
Laser Projection. Laser projection technology means the ShowWX+ is always in focus, no matter where you're projecting. Curved or uneven surfaces such as textured walls are no trouble, either. Laser projection technology also means the projector will not require lamp replacements--laser diodes in general last much longer than high-pressure lamps do, and most are on par with the lifespan of LEDs (which can be upwards of 20,000 hours).
Light output. The ShowWX+ is rated at 15 ANSI lumens, a full 50% more than its predecessor the ShowWX. Our test sample measured 14 lumens in the projector's brightest mode. You can have a bright, vibrant 30" diagonal image with lots of pop, or a dimmer but still manageable 40" diagonal image, both in ambient light. With lower ambient illumination, 50" to 55" diagonals are not out of the question, though strict light control must be observed to avoid lowering contrast significantly.
Included accessories. Have you ever purchased a new electronic device only to get it home and realize the manufacturer has not included the necessary cables? It is one of the more frustrating experiences out there, usually causing an immediate about-face to drive back to the store. Microvision has ensured that you won't have that experience with the ShowWX+. The package includes the projector and its rechargeable battery plus a wall charger with interchangeable prongs for international use. Several styles are included. Also in the box are connection cables for USB, composite video, and iPod. There's also a wristlet and a carrying pouch to help avoid scratches and drops.
User replaceable battery. The ShowWX+ has a battery life suitable for movies -- about an hour and a half on a full charge. The battery is also user-replaceable, and replacements only run about thirty bucks. In other words, if you know you're going to be in a situation where you need the projector for longer than 90 minutes, purchase and charge another battery ahead of time and just swap them out on the go. There is a mild inconvenience involved--there is no outboard battery charger, so you must put the battery into the projector in order to charge it--but it's better than being stuck with a dead battery.
Connectivity. The rear port on the ShowWX+ handles all A/V connections, and a side USB port is used for charging and firmware updates. Composite video and iPod cables are included in the purchase price, while VGA connections are possible with an optional VGA dock ($50) which also has a screw-mount for a tripod on its bottom surface. The ShowWX+ has no speaker but does feature a 1/8" audio out.
High Resolution. The ShowWX+ has a native resolution of 848x480, which is relatively high for this class of product. The picture is sharp and clear, thanks in no small part to perfect focus. There is no visible pixelation to speak of until the image becomes very large--say 60" diagonal--at which point you can see that the image has pixels, though they are not distracting.
Adjustable image alignment. Using the projector's menu system, the user can adjust image alignment on the ShowWX+. The image should under normal circumstances appear perfectly sharp, so any deviation could be caused by misalignment. Using this simple interface, one adjusts a vertical line until it is at its sharpest. Our test sample showed no signs of misalignment, but the feature itself is a comfort.
Silent operation. The ShowWX+ emits no more than a soft hum during operation, lacking an exhaust fan. Heat build-up was likewise minimal; the projector was warm but not hot to the touch even after running the battery from full to empty without a break.
No internal storage. Some pico projectors offer onboard storage, allowing the presenter to load their media files onto the device's memory and thereby leave all of the accessories at home. The ShowWX+ does not have this capability. You will always need to have a source connected in order to project, whether that be an iPod, laptop, or other mobile device. Presenters looking for the ultimate in portability might look elsewhere for just this reason.
No tripod mount. Incorporating a screw mount for a miniature tripod is a great convenience feature, but the ShowWX+ does not have one. During mobile use, this forces you to hand-hold the projector or set it down on a table, if one is available. The optional VGA dock does have a tripod adapter on the bottom, which prevents the projector from being moved around by the weight of the relatively heavy VGA cable.
Shimmer. Some laser projectors like the ShowWX+ exhibit a shimmery, glittery quality in solid fields of color or white. This shimmering can be distracting, and becomes more so the longer one watches--in other words, a ten-minute photo slide show might pass without comment, while a two-hour movie might cause more distraction. It is also worth noting that the glimmer is more noticeable in environments with less ambient light.
Difficult menu system. On full-sized projectors, navigating the menu system with the hard-wired control panel on the projector itself is rarely as easy as using the remote control. The ShowWX+ does not have a remote control, and adjustment buttons are also severely limited due to space constraints on the body of the projector itself. With several image options and even three different brightness settings, the ShowWX+ has a complicated menu system for a pico projector.
The menu system is hierarchical, with nested options that require you to "drill down" in order to find what you need. Navigation is accomplished using only three buttons: up, down, and Menu. Menu also functions as Enter, which can get confusing; most other projectors use Menu to back out, not go forward. Some of the options available do not change much. The three brightness modes (high, medium, and low) have limited effect on a low-lumen projector, and there's no real reason to switch away from the default High brightness mode. The lower brightness modes will extend battery life by approximately fifteen minutes, but one also loses three to five lumens. There are three color modes, with Brilliant (the brightest) selected by default. Standard mode has better shadow detail, but in a room with ambient light the difference is almost nonexistent. Inverted mode is handy for text documents in dark rooms, since it makes black text white and white backgrounds black. In short, this is one occasion where a manufacturer could have done with fewer options rather than more.
The Microvision ShowWX+ is an evolutionary step beyond its predecessor, bringing higher lumen output to the table at a lower cost. The ShowWX+ is a hard value to beat. Its combination of laser projection, included accessories, long battery life and good ease-of-use make it a great choice for mobile photo display, the occasional presentation, or even watching a movie in your own personal micro-theater. At just over $400, the ShowWX+ is a wonderful value in mobile projection.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Microvision SHOWWX+ Laser Pico projector page.