Optoma ML550 review
It’s expensive, but a wide range of ports and bright bulb make this one of the best ultraportable projectors so far
Review Date: 27 Sep 2013
Price when reviewed: £450
Reviewed By: Katharine Byrne
The Optoma ML550 is one of the smallest DLP projectors we’ve ever seen. Weighing a mere 380g and measuring just 39x105x106mm, this tiny black box is even more compact than our Best Buy-winning Asus P1M projector. It’s perfect for slotting in your bag if you’re on your way to a business meeting, but you’ll have to take its power adaptor with you as there’s no internal battery. Its LED lamp can produce a very bright 500 ANSI lumens and its huge lamp life of 20,000 hours means it’ll last a long time.
We had no problem viewing images projected by the ML550 in our brightly lit test room, so you won’t have to use it in total darkness to get the best picture. In our test PowerPoint presentation we could read black-on-white text and white-on-black text very easily, and colours were bright and vibrant. We were even able to make out a good level of detail in our high-contrast test photos.
Its native 1,280x800 resolution looked sharp, but its short range of 55cm to 3.23m means it’s best suited to small meeting rooms where you can place it on a table just in front of the projection surface. We still managed a 66in diagonal screen size at two metres, though, and a small, height-adjustable foot at the front of the projector helps angle the projector upwards. Sadly, there’s no optical zoom, but its digital zoom goes some way to make up for it. Its lens ring lets you adjust image focus.
Its picture settings are rather limited, but it has four preset modes, including Cinema, Bright, Photo and PC. We preferred using PC Mode as we felt this provided the best balance between bright and accurate colours and good contrast. Photo produced very similar results, but Bright was far too yellow and Cinema was a little oversaturated.
You can also use the onscreen menu to adjust the brightness, contrast and aspect ratio settings using the remote control or the buttons on the top surface of the projector. Luckily, all the menu buttons have small LED backlights so they’re easy to pick out in low light conditions and using them to navigate the menu didn’t make the projector bounce up and down too much either.
The ML550 has a fantastic range of inputs round the back and it caters for those who don’t want to carry a laptop with them extremely well. There’s a microSD card slot, an HDMI input that also supports MHL so you can show content from an MHL-compatible phone or tablet while charging it at the same time, and a USB2 port. The ML550 also comes with a universal I/O cable that has a VGA adaptor and a 3.5mm audio input adaptor.
If you’d rather not have the hassle of connecting external devices, the projector has 1.5GB of internal memory for storing small documents as well as photos and audio and video files. The projector had no trouble displaying PDF and Microsoft Office files, but it often took a few seconds to load each page, particularly if we were scrolling through long documents. It played most of our test videos too, including MP4, H.264, XVID, WMV, MOV, MKV and AVI clips.
The ML550 also supports Optoma’s WU5205 mini Wi-Fi dongle. This’ll set you back another £50 (from www.projectorplanet.co.uk), but if you connect this to the projector’s USB port you can use it to project documents and media from your phone or tablet once you’ve downloaded the free EZ View app for iOS and Android.
If all that wasn’t enough, the Optoma ML550’s also 3D-ready, which means you can use it to play 3D films. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with 3D glasses so you’ll have to buy Optoma’s ZD301 DLP-Link active shutter glasses separately (£55 from www.projectorplanet.co.uk).
Its single 1W speaker is another welcome addition as these are still quite rare on portable projectors. The sound quality isn’t particularly brilliant, and it’s certainly not good enough for watching films, but it’s better than not having any speakers at all.
The Optoma ML550 certainly has a wide range of features, but such flexibility comes at a high price. It’s much more expensive than the Asus P1M, but we think the ML550 justifies the extra expense as it not only connects to a far greater range of devices, but it can also be used in all types of lighting conditions. It wins a Best Buy award.
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