Review

Hands-on review: Optoma LH160 portable LED projector

A useful tool for work that’s handy for weekend entertainment too.

This LED projector isn’t significantly smaller than non-portable models, but it’s not trying to be a pocketable ‘pico’ projector. Instead it promises top quality on the move. The 1500 lumens brightness and 1080p full high-definition resolution are comparable to most of today’s popular home cinema and business projectors. But the rechargeable LH160 works anywhere, indoors and out, with a respectable battery life of two and a half hours.

We mention business and pleasure in one breath because the LH160’s portability means it does double duty. Buy it for work but make good use of it at the weekend too? We tested it in a remote Cornwall holiday cottage which has never been home to a television, let alone a projector.

It’s the size of a couple of hardback books (278 x 191 x 54mm) and weighs in at 2.2 kg, plus there’s an external power supply and a small remote control. It’s black, curvy and discrete. Inputs include two HDMIs and two USBs. One of the USB ports lets you add an optional Wi-Fi dongle (£30) so that you can connect your source wirelessly too. This is done via the Optoma HDCast Pro app.

Controls, on the projector itself and the remote, are straightforward. The sliding lens cover also doubles as a simple way to power the projector on and off.

We tested the projector’s picture quality with a Blu-ray played through a PlayStation 4 (which happens to have a similar footprint, so the projector sits neatly on top of it). We connected the two via HDMI.

The picture quality was surprisingly good – sharp and bright – even though we projected on a white plastered wall rather than a screen. The Optoma boots up with a simple menu, all we had to do was select the source.

The only frustration was the fixed throw ratio of 1.2:1. So if you have a screen or section of wall in mind then the projector’s precise position is dictated to you. There’s no wiggle room.

Picture setup and correction options are impressive, starting with the physical. There’s a screw thread underneath for tripod mounting and also two different heights of kickstand underneath. Then digitally, you can correct the projected image to make it square, with +/- 30 degrees of vertical keystone correction and +/- 20 degrees of horizontal keystone correction. There’s no lens shift.

The built-in speakers are loud and clear enough for a family movie night and the lack of cables to trip over was very welcome. The fan isn’t too loud. Bluetooth allows you to connect the projector to a wireless speaker. But it doesn’t offer wireless connection to smartphones and tablets: these can instead be screen-mirrored using a USB cable or hooked up wirelessly using direct Wi-Fi.

Downloading and setting up the free Optoma HDCast Pro app was painless and fast. The whole process only took around five minutes. The projector’s Wi-Fi Display menu talks you through it and gives you the password, so you can connect the phone directly to the projector via Wi-Fi settings. Once it’s connected, the app lets you select documents or photos to display, use the phone camera live or simply mirror whatever’s on the phone screen.

The quality of documents such as PDFs was very impressive projected against a white wall. Text was crisp and readable and the bright image means you don’t need a dark room to use it. Standard Microsoft Office document types are supported, so you can do without a laptop.

It’s very compelling: even showing photos is immediately much more enjoyable when everyone can see them properly. And when it’s behaving well there is no time lag. But we found that the Wi-Fi connection between phone and projector regularly became unstable, even though they were just inches apart, and this became frustrating. The lesson being that you’d always want to have a USB cable in your back pocket to hook up the phone, in case the Wi-Fi tech lets you down.

But you probably had a USB cable for your phone with you anyway. So the Optoma’s rechargeable, go anywhere, project anywhere promise stands thanks to its bright, sharp picture and modest size.

£1,000 optoma.co.uk

Alternatives

BenQ GS1

A portable, rechargeable (3 hour battery life) LED 720p high definition projector positively aimed at outdoorsy types, with IPX1 splash-proof certification and a drop-proof rubber case. Brightness is 300 lumens.

£600 benq.eu

Philips PicoPix GO 5110

Don’t expect a whole movie from the 70-minute battery life, but this 100 lumens pico standard definition projector only measures 102x102x25mm and includes a built-in speaker and Wi-Fi. Perfect for pocketable presentations.

£300 philips.co.uk

Aiptek iBeamBlock

An unusual triple play: mini Windows 10 tablet, projector and power bank in one. 400 lumens brightness, 720p resolution high definition projector and 2-hour battery life. All together just 125x95x67mm.

£630 aiptek.de

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles