Projectors can be big, detailed, and geared for a proper home-theatre experience, and are often the first choice in large spaces and purpose-built home theatre rooms. On the other hand, they can also be small, portable, versatile, and a means to give you entertainment or productivity benefits on the go. The latter use case is a particularly interesting one in the home entertainment and productivity space, and brands such as ViewSonic have made a big impact in promoting a segment that is often under-appreciated and overlooked.
Among the projector and monitor specialist’s latest products in the portable projector space is the ViewSonic M1 Pro, which is priced at Rs. 68,999 in India. With a projection resolution of 1280×720 pixels, a unique design where the projector can stand freely and project in various directions, and a built-in speaker system, the M1 Pro promises a lot for the price. Is this the best portable projector you can buy right now? Find out in this review.
ViewSonic M1 Pro design and specifications
The spiritual and successor of the ViewSonic M1, the newer and more capable M1 Pro sticks to the same positioning by offering completely wireless usability thanks to its built-in battery. The Pro version also gets a bump in resolution, a better speaker system, and an improved form factor on the whole, although all of this does come with a significant increase in price as well.
On the other hand, it’s a fair bit more portable than the ViewSonic M2e, thanks to that built-in battery and 0.95kg weight. While the M2e is better considered a home theatre projector with some flexibility in how and where you can use it, it’s not quite as portable and versatile as the M1 Pro. For this reason, the M1 Pro fits into a rather interesting niche, promising to serve its rather specialised purpose quite well.
It’s not very large or bulky as far as projectors go, but that doesn’t mean that the ViewSonic M1 Pro is a small device. It’s also a lot nicer to look at and hold than the M1, thanks to the fabric-wrapped exterior and more subtle design elements. There are three buttons to control volume and playback for supported sources on the projector itself. At the back is the Harman Kardon logo, just above the smartly positioned rear-facing two-driver 6W speaker system.
The state of power is determined by opening or closing the swivelling stand, which also doubles up as the lens protector when the M1 Pro is switched off. When on, a dim light illuminates under the fabric wrap to let you know it’s functional, along with another set of lights to let you know the battery level of the ViewSonic M1 Pro. There are exhaust vents on either side of the projector, along with a dial to adjust the focus of the lens.
All of the ports and sockets on the ViewSonic M1 Pro are located under a magnetic flap on the left side of the projector — more on that in the next section. Auto keystone correction means that you can set the projection to any reasonable angle while the M1 Pro is standing upright, and the device will set it to a proper screen ratio and angles. The ViewSonic M1 Pro has a resolution of 1280×720 pixels, and can project up to a screen size of 150 inches.
Brightness is rated at up to 600 lumens, and the projection lamp is rated for up to 30,000 hours of use. The focal length on the ViewSonic M1 is fixed, so the size of the projection depends on how far away from the wall or screen you position the projector. There is slightly variable digital zoom ranging from 0.8X to 1.0X for minor adjustments, but this is only meant for optimisation rather than actually setting the screen size.
While you can get a sharp projection from even up close, ViewSonic recommends a throw distance of at least 0.94m, which provides a projection size of 40 inches, going up to a size of 150 inches from a throw distance of 3.52m, but anything over 100 inches is likely to result in a sharp drop in projection quality and sharpness.
Included in the sales package along with the ViewSonic M1 Pro are a large charging brick which plugs into the DC 19V socket, a USB Type-C to Type-C cable for connectivity to source devices, a remote to navigate the built-in Android-based UI and control basics such as volume and source, and a hard-shell carry case for the entire package.
ViewSonic M1 Pro connectivity and features
Connectivity features on the ViewSonic M1 Pro are impressive for a device of its size. There are sockets for power and wired headphone/speaker connectivity, along with two USB Type-C ports, one USB Type-A port, and an HDMI port. There are also wireless connectivity options, including Wi-Fi based screen mirroring and Bluetooth 4.2 for audio connectivity to compatible headphones and speakers.
While the ViewSonic M1 Pro has a projection resolution of 1280×720 pixels, the system itself supports input resolutions of up to 1920×1080 pixels, which will then be upscaled or downscaled as necessary. USB Type-C is the most convenient of the connectivity options on offer since it can handle both video and audio using a single cable, but the presence of HDMI connectivity will no doubt be useful to many.
The ViewSonic M1 Pro has a large 12,000mAh battery which can be used to power the projector itself, but you can also use it as a power bank, of sorts. In my case, I found this a bit inconvenient, as the projector was charging my laptop while the two devices were connected using a USB Type-C cable, which drained the projector’s battery rapidly. I had to connect it to DC power to negate this issue, which naturally didn’t happen when using an HDMI cable with a compatible source device such as the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen).
Like some of the other ViewSonic projectors I’ve reviewed, the M1 Pro has a very basic Android-based user interface of its own. This helps for basic things such as accessing and modifying system settings and configurations, and connecting to some source devices such as USB drives, to access media content through the file explorer.
There is 16GB of internal storage on the ViewSonic M1 Pro (12GB is usable) for apps and data. Apps themselves are not very detailed given that navigation and control relies on the remote, and are barely usable. The Netflix app, for example, is preinstalled, but is rather difficult to figure out and use.
You can also use screen mirroring from compatible devices, with the use of an app for Android or direct support for AirPlay screen mirroring with iOS. With my iPhone, it worked well for some apps, including YouTube and Disney+ Hotstar, as well as basic productivity functions. It was convenient to project pictures or data, and the projector was reasonably bright even during daylight hours (with the curtains drawn, though). This also lets you use the ViewSonic M1 Pro completely wirelessly, thanks to wireless source connectivity and battery power.
However, apps such as Netflix and Prime Video couldn’t be used to directly project, and the casting options didn’t seem to work at all for me. As such, it’s best to use a source device to handle the actual UI, apps, or content, which can be a small streaming box such as the Apple TV 4K (3rd Gen), or even a laptop or home computer such as the Mac Mini.
ViewSonic M1 Pro performance and battery life
The ViewSonic M1 Pro’s positioning and feature set make it a unique offering that you won’t find too much competition for right now. It’s just as suited to productivity functionality as for entertainment, and considerably more so than the ViewSonic M1 for the latter thanks to the better projection resolution. Plenty of connectivity options means that it can be used with various source devices as well.
That said, the ViewSonic M1 Pro is still limited by its 1280×720-pixel resolution given the size of the projection itself. Smaller projection sizes looked fine for the most part including with content playing, and you’ll tend to forgive some flaws purely out of the knowledge that this is a projection. However, larger projection sizes reveal the natural shortcomings in the resolution rather clearly. If I was just projecting my laptop screen this didn’t matter too much, but it definitely impacted the viewing experience for movies and TV shows.
Usefully, the ViewSonic M1 Pro is quick to boot, and is ready to go within a few seconds of turning the cover-stand and putting it in position. Connectivity is also reliable and quick, particularly USB Type-C which activates practically immediately on being plugged in. Even HDMI is almost instant, while using AirPlay for wireless connectivity with compatible iOS devices was similarly hassle-free and quick. Quick and accurate keystone correction also lets you set it up at any angle for convenience, although the best performance will be seen with the projector pointed horizontally at the projection screen or wall.
In normal operation, the exhaust fan system in the ViewSonic M1 Pro is constantly throwing out hot air on either side of the projector, and the humming sound of the fan can be heard from up close. It isn’t too loud though, and keeping yourself even around one metre away from it will negate the sound entirely. Although the 6W speaker system doesn’t sound like much, it’s loud enough and well tuned to be heard clearly from a similar distance.
At home, I had the ViewSonic M1 Pro placed on a table and projecting onto a white wall from around 1.4m away, which made for a projection that was around the same size as a 55-inch television. Sitting right behind the projector, I quite liked the view and projection size, even if I was a bit close to the wall. Reducing the light was necessary for a good viewing experience though, and focus will need to be manually set for best results.
Watching cricket matches and episodes of Star Wars: Visions on Disney+ Hotstar was fairly enjoyable, and the darker the room the better it looked. The projector is bright enough to cover for faint daylight streaming in, and with the focus properly adjusted the picture was sharp enough to watch.
The softer edges of the animated episodes of Visions helped a bit, but the projector is reasonably capable in this regard nonetheless. There were occasional visible issues, but these are bearable when you consider this as an alternative to the considerably smaller screen of your smartphone or laptop.
It’s important to remember that this kind of projector isn’t meant to be an everyday option; think of this as something to take along on your travels for entertainment in your hotel room, or for productivity purposes, such as to quickly project presentations and spreadsheets onto a conference room screen from your laptop. It’s admittedly a lot better with the latter, given how it will more closely match the resolution and display ratio of a typical laptop or tablet screen.
The 12,000mAh battery on the ViewSonic M1 Pro might sound considerable, but projection is a power-intensive activity. As such I was able to use the M1 Pro for just around one hour in normal use, which might go up a bit if you use ‘Eco’ mode. This might come in handy in certain situations, but you’ll largely need to have the projector plugged into power for all practical purposes.
ViewSonic’s dedication to the projector space is rather impressive, and the company is among the few that offer niche projectors such as the ViewSonic M1 Pro, and the M1 and M2e before it. The M1 Pro fits a rather niche use case, and is arguably quite expensive give that you can buy a decent 65-inch TV for the same price, but the versatility and utility of the device is unmatched – if this is what you’re looking for.
Although the ViewSonic M1 Pro is better geared for productivity use cases, it’s worthwhile even for the occasional movie or TV show on the go. Additionally, the built-in battery adds some flexibility to how you can use it, and a full set of connectivity options means you can connect it to just about any modern source device, either using cables or wirelessly. If this is something you’re looking for and have the budget for it, the ViewSonic M1 Pro gets a recommendation from me.
Price (at the time of this review): Rs. 68,999
- Portable, convenient lens cover and stand apparatus
- Good connectivity options
- Decent performance
- Good sound quality for a portable projector
- Battery enables fully wireless use
- Fixed optical zoom
- Basic built-in UI
- Low resolution shows in big projection sizes