The pico-projector is not an unusual device for sophisticated users while many of us look at such gadgets with genuine interest, which is due to their low popularity to a large extent. Even though the pico-projector is still a rare thing over here, there appear new makes on our a little retarded market from time to time. Initially they were only represented by niche brands but the situation has changed drastically over the past year since more widely known companies have presented their products.
Today we want to tell you about the pico-projector Samsung SP-H03 that looks pretty attractive if compared to other devices of the kind. The Korean manufacturer hasn’t managed to make a technological breakthrough as it hasn’t impressed us with some stunning technical features but the engineers worked a lot on its ease of use. The hardware of SP-H03 is the best application-specific device for displaying images of the kind.
It goes without saying that the pico-projector is unlikely to become the most important part of our home theatres as it looks more called for various mobile presentations. And it has everything needed for this: documents, presentations, pictures and videos can be uploaded into the embedded memory and displayed off-line. To put it bluntly, it is provided for working smoothly without a computer and a socket.
Everyone is sure to know what a regular projector is and when we speak of the pico-projector we speak of basically the same device but of a considerably smaller size. Most devices of the kind are designed basing on DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology. It was developed by Texas Instruments Inc about 30 years ago. Naturally, at that time they presented only a prototype that was perfected turned into an ideal within a few decades later. This method is based on using the active matrix with controllable mirrors - DMD (Digital Micromirror Device). Each mirror of the DMD is corresponded to each pixel of the image displayed. The standard resolution of a full-sized device is 1920x1080 pixels which is equal to 2073600 screen pixels.
It looks really fantastic but it’s not a problem for the modern technology. Basically the light generated by a powerful lamp gets on the matrix and the image is displayed on a screen with the help of lenses. There are two ways of displaying the three main colors. One of them is simpler and cheaper: a rotary polarizing filter is installed between the lamp and the mirror matrix. The filter cuts off the unnecessary part of the spectrum. The other more sophisticated way presupposes using three active matrixes at the same time, one for each color channel and the image is blended through a complex optical system. And this is classics.
How do pico-projectors work? Roughly in the same way. SP-H03 which is at issue in particular is based on a tiny matrix produced by Texas Instruments Inc, there is even a due label on the projector case. Its size is 0.3" and its resolution is 854x480 pixels. Why so few? We hope it’s obvious for you because it is logical that the smaller the projector is, the smaller its matrix is and consequently it’s difficult to put a lot of mirrors that can be rotated on its surface. Here we have found the first minus of the pico-projectors, which is their low resolution. The second, or rather the main drawback is related to illumination because light-emitting diodes are used instead of a lamp. Basically luminous flux can reach several thousand lumen (lm) ANSI, for the pico-projector it’s only on or two hundred. It specifies some usage criteria in the very beginning. Firstly, the light in the room should be subdued. Secondly, the screen should be perfectly white. And finally, thirdly, the maximum distance from the projector to the screen should not be long.
Of course, there are some pluses. Thus, classic lamps are short-lived. Their life time is 2000-3000, maximum 4000 hours. Life time of light-emitting diodes increases to 30000, which is, in fact, 10 times as long. A lamp is a consumable material in the case of the regular projector while the illumination of the pico-projector is designed for a whole life time period. And again it’s obvious that the smaller and more mobile the device is, the less bright luminous flux it can provide. The brightness of Samsung SP-H03 is only 30 lm ANSI. Even if we compare it with similar devices it’s very low because the industry of today can offer light-emitting diodes with high-power luminous flux of 200-250 lm. So, all the pluses and minuses are extremely understandable and clear.
Construction and design
So, we pass straight on to our subject under discussion. The case of the device is really very compact, its size (70x70x37.5 mm) can be compared to a packet of cigarettes, for instance. Its mass including a battery doesn’t exceed 212 grams. Main parts are made of regular plastic with different types of processing.
The bottom part of the projector is nothing more than a removable li-ion battery with the capacity of 10.95 Wh. The battery has a regular opaque case with rubber legs so that it can be installed on any kind of surface.
It is fastened to the body with the help of small latches and there is a button on one of the side panels for removing it.
There is a screw fixing on the bottom which is used for tripod. The plug is made of metal, therefore there’s no doubt it is solid. The thread diameter and the thread pitch are the most standard, so you can use a tripod of any kind: for a photo camera or any other.
The body is glossy while the top panel looks like metallic. Here you can find numerous touch sensitive selection buttons for adjusting a projection and operating the projector. When it is on, the buttons are illuminated from beneath with low-profile blue light. The button stroke is quite accurate but if you press a button at the side, the chosen function may not be activated. However, anyway, this system looks much more efficient and interesting than regular buttons.
The biggest part of the side panel surface is occupied by ventilating grills because while being operated the device get considerably warmer. There is a small lens on the front side and it is used for displaying image, and there is a knob for optimum focus control beside. It is used if a projection distance changes. In theory it can be up to three metres.
There is a loudspeaker of 1 watt for reproducing sound but you should take into consideration that the quality of the sound is rather moderate. Therefore if you are going to have a presentation with a good quality sound, you’ll have to get additional loudspeakers.
The main ports are on the back panel under a small cover. The signal is transmitted from the computer D-SUB output with the help of an adapter connector. It is also possible to use a regular composite output that works with NTSC 3.58, NTSC 4.43, PAL, PAL60, PAL-M, PAL-N, SECAM systems. There is an audio output here as well and a slot for an outer power adapter. It would be great to have an HDMI interface supported.
There is an embedded memory of 1GB, only 700 MB of which is available for using. It’s not a huge disadvantage as you can connect any widespread carriers to the pico-projector. Firstly, there is a microSD card slot. Secondly, you can use any USB flash drive via adapter connector. You’ll find it in the delivery set.
On the whole everything looks well-thought-out. The support of different data carriers is especially impressive. In conclusion it should only be noted that there is a durable case bag for daily transportation included in the delivery set. Unfortunately only a pico-projector and a battery can fit in it. All the cables and a network adapter have to be carried apart and it is an obvious fault. We’d like to have a case bag that can hold all the necessary things, though.
Menu, operating a projection and facilities
The menu of the device is, as the saying goes, has an user friendly interface and consequently it’s easy to operate it. Apart from that, there is a high-quality translation of all the menu items into Russian. After switching on the device, the user is to choose a necessary input (PC or AV) or pass on to operating the embedded memory.
There are four menu items for accessing files: documents, video recordings, photos and music. Once any of these is activated, you see a directory tree and the number of files found, depending on the type of chosen functions. Among the supported types of documents there are the following:
- documents: Adobe PDF 1.2~1.7 (pdf), MS PowerPoint 97-2007 (ppt, pptx), MS Excel (xls, xlsx), MS Word (doc, docx), text (txt)
- video: AVI, MP4, ASF, MPG, RM, FLV, WMV, M2TS/TS (codecs: MPEG4, VC-1, H.264, MPEG1/2, RV, H.263, WMV7/8)
- audio: àóäèî: MP3, MP2, WAV, WMA, FLAC, APE, HE-AAC, RA
As you have already noticed, SP-H03 displays any up-to-date content without any difficulty and the facility of looking through Microsoft Office documents is a unique function in fact.
The range of the functions included is enough for carrying out any kind of standard operations easily. Video and audio recordings can be switched, rewound, paused, etc. Photos can be viewed as slide-show.
The manufacturer has designed it so that it can be used in level position. The distance from a pico-projector to a screen can range from 0.3 to 3.0 metres. At the maximum distance the diagonal of the image is about 2.5 metres (100 inches), but taking into consideration that the resolution is rather low we can figure out that the image is not that impressive in this case. In our opinion, the optimal distance should not be more than 1.0 – 1.5 metres. In this case the image is not that big but crisp and saturated.
If the background is white, the color transfer is good. But it has become evident to us that it is good as long as you use the device in rooms with subdued light. Even natural lighting makes using SP-H03 pretty uncomfortable. Its contrast ratio is barely enough to make out image. If the text is in small print, you can hardly see anything even in a dark room. Therefore you should take it into account when preparing a presentation.
The brightness of the illumination drops a bit when it is operated off the line but not critically. Battery life is about an hour and a half, which is enough for having a regular presentation. The cooling system does not make much noise but if it is quiet in the room, you can hear air rustling. As you can assume, the projector case gets warmer but it doesn’t cause any discomfort, SP-H03 just becomes warm.
On the whole the impression of using the device is positive. The pico-projector reads files of the declared formats without any difficulty and drags, displays video and audio, as well as pictures. It is easy to operate it. Even inexperienced users don’t have difficulty. However while testing the device we caught ourselves at feeling the lack of a remote control a lot and had to come up to the device each time we needed to switch over to another image, for instance.
The device is sold in a lovely box made of color cardboard.
The set contents are quite satisfying as inside you can find the following:
- a pico-projector Samsung SP-H03
- a network adapter
- an adapter connector for connecting to a PC
- an adapter connector for AV-connection
- an adapter connector for the USB flash drive
- a case bag
- a disk with a user manual
- a warranty service coupon and a quick setup manual
As you can see there are all the necessary things in the box and the set of cables and adapter connectors is more than enough for the pico-projector functioning smoothly. We would also like to point out that the network adapter can be used in any country as its ac voltage amplitude is from 100 to 240 V.
The result of testing the pico-projector Samsung SP-H03 has turned out to be both expectable and surprising at the same time. We haven’t found any considerable drawbacks and we believe that devices of the kind became high-quality ones long ago. The range of functions is not that big but the performance capabilities that are available are pleasing. The manufacturer has decided to turn down a number of excessive menu items and having put effort into making it easy-to-use.
As a result, the device can successfully cope with all the common file types: from audio and video to Microsoft Office documents. Even an inexperienced user can operate it. Files can be kept in the embedded memory, on a microSD card or any USB flash drive. The SP-H03 battery life time is about 1.5 hours. It couldn’t be better. By the way, if there was a remote control, operating the pico-projector would be even more enjoyable and it would be great if it supported HDMI as well.
However the brightness of the luminous flux is beneath criticism. It’s clear that the manufacturer paid most of their attention to the battery life time, yet 30 lm is a very bad characteristic at present, even among pico-projectors. As a result the make can be used only in considerably blackout rooms and with a white screen only. We are not sure about the future of Samsung SP-H03 taking into consideration its price of $450. It copes with the role of a showy and trendy device but we doubt whether we should regard it as an instrument useful for monotonous routine work.