Projectors have been around for decades, but as technology progresses, they just keep getting cooler and cooler. Gone are the days of the old classroom slide projectors (remember those things?) and stop-motion reels, and here to stay are digital projectors… Which just keep getting smaller and smaller!
The brand new Insignia Pocket Projector is a product that really showcases just how minuscule projection technology is today. It’s available exclusively at Best Buy, and at 4 1/2 cm (that’s less than two inches), this little cube is quite literally pocket-sized.
I mean. Assuming that you have cargo-style pockets. It’ll fit into a ski jacket pocket, at least–maybe not so much the pocket of your favourite low-rise jeans.
Why choose a pocket projector?
This projector by Insignia could be categorized as a lot of things: a pocket projector, pico projector, or handheld projector. These are all types of miniaturized portable projectors, which are admittedly already pretty small to begin with!
Pocket projectors offer a high resolution with good brightness, and typically come with an LED or laser light source, so their bulbs never need replacing. They’re smaller than a portable projector (which weigh about 3-4 lbs), and run off of a rechargeable battery, so you don’t need to stand next to an outlet while projecting your images or video. They also contain an audio component from right within the projector, allowing your pocket projector to serve as a one-stop-shop for both your visual and auditory needs.
Because of these features, pocket projectors are great for simple presentations. They’re extremely portable and lightweight, and can be set up anywhere. This makes them ideal for quick meetings or slideshows, and perfect for travelling.
Limitations of pocket projectors
Pocket projectors are great and come with a myriad of uses, but in general, they do have their limitations. They’re designed primarily to be compact and simple to use, which unfortunately means that they don’t come with a lot of controls and may be limited by the type of inputs they take. The limited controls can also make troubleshooting difficult, as many models come without selection keys or tutorials!
Additionally, their small size can mean that their battery life is sacrificed for size, and they typically have… Well, let’s say questionable sound quality. It’s tough to produce a speaker that’s the size of your thumb that can also produce loud, clear sounds, so pocket projectors are often best for presentations rather than hedonistic nights of multimedia explosions and buttered popcorn.
All in all, pocket projectors are best for a consumer whose main priority is transportability. They are not a replacement for a home theatre projection system, but can be set up in seconds instead of hours.
The Insignia Pocket Projector
I really appreciated the design and simplicity of the Insignia Pocket Projector, but I have to admit: I had a really tough time setting it up. There are three different cords and a few adaptors that come with the projector, but it doesn’t come with any Apple-friendly cords (and my tech is almost all exclusively Apple).
With the right adapters, however, the Insignia Pocket Projector can be used with Apple products. However, because it can only take input from a micro USB (5 pin or 11 pin) or HDMI cable, you have trouble connecting it with old laptops or televisions.
In the end, I found three devices that I could plug this projector into: my mom’s old Blackberry PlayBook tablet, my partner’s Samsung Galaxy S7, and our PS4. When I plugged it into my mom’s Blackberry, it got stuck in a “waiting” loop but didn’t open up any prompts for use–the tablet may have been too outdated to hook up to the projector, but Insignia doesn’t offer any downloads or software with the device to increase compatibility. When I tried it out with the Samsung S7, it prompted the device to immediately attempt to download Samsung’s VR software, and sent the phone into a continuous restart loop. We ended up having to reset the phone to factory settings.
Finally, I plugged it into the PS4 at 2:00 AM after a day of trials, and guess what? It worked! The projector synced instantly with the device and immediately projected the PlayStation home screen onto the wall. The result was quite literally instantaneous–no need for setup or tinkering; it just paused for a second and then did its thing.
I was able to project a crystal-clear image from about a foot away from a surface, right up to about 12 feet. (I would have gone for father, but I ran out of space!) I didn’t need a specialized projection surface, either; the light in this projector was bright enough that it projected just fine onto our beige walls with the lights turned off.
The Insignia Pocket Projector has decent picture quality, but it wasn’t stellar. Images looked a little blurry and thin text looked a little pixelated, but for something this small, I was honestly very impressed. It focuses with a dial on the side (which I really appreciated; getting older projectors to auto-focus can be a major hassle), and I loved not having to set my projector up with a wall outlet in mind.
However–and this is a pretty big however–I could not for the life of me figure out how to adjust the volume on the projector. The instruction manual lists that you can click the volume button to adjust the device to a low, medium, or high setting, but I didn’t have any luck with this technique. It was able to clearly play its boot-up sounds, however, so it may have been an issue with the devices I tested it out with.
I struggled to fully utilize the Insignia Pocket Projector, but it’s not without its moments. It’s best for someone who wants a very lightweight, very compact device, and it does a great job of setting up in seconds with no hassle–as long as you know beforehand that your device will work with it.
With this projector, I was able to project an image onto the ceiling and lie down to look at it (something that I’ve always really wanted to do), as its cube-shaped body means that you can lie it in any direction. Its volume levels and sound quality were difficult for me to manage; however, it does have Bluetooth capabilities and can be synced with a separate speaker or a separate set of headphones for optimal audio quality.
For these reasons, I would recommend the Insignia Pocket Projector primarily for someone who wants a very portable way to project a visual stream. It would be perfect for a slideshow at a family get-together, for instance, and would make a great visual component for a business meeting or presentation. As long as you know that your device will work with it, it’s a very simple, elegant solution to your pocket projecting needs–just make sure you test it out and charge it beforehand!