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ViewSonic M1 Portable Review

The best option we've found for those looking for a battery powered and portable movie machine
Top Pick Award
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Price:   $338 List | $300 at Amazon
Pros:  Relatively good picture, automatic keystone correction, good audio quality
Cons:  Finicky remote
Manufacturer:   ViewSonic
By Max Mutter and Steven Tata  ⋅  Mar 20, 2019
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49
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 12
  • Image Quality - 45% 4
  • Ease of Use - 25% 8
  • Brightness - 15% 2
  • Fan Noise - 15% 5

Our Verdict

For those looking for a projector that can power spontaneous movie nights on the back porch, the ViewSonic M1 Portable is the best option we've found. With automatic keystone correction, internal storage, and the ability to play media directly from a thumb drive, this projector offers a quick and easy experience for turning pretty much any dark place into a movie theater. Like all of the pico projectors we've tested, it's not particularly bright and falls short of high-definition, so we wouldn't recommend it for business presentation nor for building a proper home theater. But if you're just looking to start a backyard movie tradition, or like the idea of being able to quickly set up a projector in any room of the house, this is a great choice.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Portable pico projectors have a very specific niche and certainly aren't for everyone, but if your needs fall into that niche we've found that the ViewSonic M1 Portable fills it with aplomb.


Performance Comparison


While the ViewSonic M1 Portable couldn't compare to the full-fledged projectors in our testing, it was far and away our favorite amongst the portable pico models.

Image Quality


The ViewSonic M1 produces one of the best pictures of all the portable, pico projectors we've tested. However, it can't live up to the picture provided by even low-end, non-portable models.


Our overall impression of the ViewSonic's picture is that it's more than good enough for impromptu movie nights in the backyard or for projecting on the ceiling above your bed, but that it falls well short of the mark if you're looking to create a refined home-theater experience.

In a dark setting the M1 can produce reasonably good colors.
In a dark setting the M1 can produce reasonably good colors.

This is mostly due to its resolution of 854 x 480, which actually does look quite good considering the projector's size. However, we live in a world where most people are accustomed to high-definition images, and that 854 x 480 resolution falls well short of the minimum 1280 x 720 resolution needed to qualify as high definition.

Outside of resolution, the ViewSonic M1 does quite well when it comes to color accuracy and vibrancy. Like all portable projectors it suffers from a lack of brightness, but it is still able to get white areas of an image looking quite clear. Colors, in general, also look quite accurate, if just slightly more dull than what you'd see from a fully-fledged home cinema projector. In this capacity it is better than most other pico models, whose lack of brightness tend to make colors look more subdued. Its major flaw is making skin tones look overly red in low-light scenes, but this generally isn't too distracting.


In the photo above you can see that the ViewSonic M1 produced slightly brighter, crisper whites than its pico competition. The colors, in general, also pop a bit more than the competition. The M1's one big flaw of producing overly red skin tones in less than ideal lighting can clearly be seen in the woman's feet. This flaw is even worse with the Nebula Capsule, but the Optoma LV130 is able to produce a much more accurate skin tone.

Text Quality


In general, text looks fairly blurry when projected with the ViewSonic M1, which is the case for the vast majority of portable pico projectors. However, we found the text to be at least be legible down to size 14 font when projecting an 80" image.

Most pico models struggle to render truly crisp text  and the M1 is no exception.
Most pico models struggle to render truly crisp text, and the M1 is no exception.

Ease of Use


The ViewSonic M1 Portable really separates itself from its pico brethren when it comes to the user experience. It offers a few key features that many other models lack.


Perhaps the biggest convenience offered by the ViewSonic M1 Portable is its automatic vertical keystone correction. Most small pico projectors forgo large dials and control panels in order to minimize size and weight. Adjusting keystoning with tiny buttons can be a bit frustrating, so the fact that the ViewSonic M1 Portable makes this an afterthought is a huge plus.

The M1's built-in stand makes projecting at odd angles a breeze.
The M1's built-in stand makes projecting at odd angles a breeze.

The ViewSonic M1 Portable also has 16GB of internal memory, a USB Type-C port, and a standard USB port that accepts thumb drives. Many pico projectors only have HDMI inputs, which usually forces you to buy some sort of converter if you want to play media from any sort of mobile device. The ViewSonic M1 Portable allows for easy playback from any USB-C compatible device and makes it simple to play any media that you can load onto a flash drive.

The M1 has a multitude of input options  but no native wireless capabilities.
The M1 has a multitude of input options, but no native wireless capabilities.

The ViewSonic M1 Portable's stand also makes it much more user-friendly than the competition. Not only does it double as a streamlined lens cover, but the hinged stand also lets you point the projector straight up at the ceiling. Using a projector in non-traditional settings like this is one of the main draws of a pico projector, yet projecting on the ceiling is something both the competing Optoma LV130 and Anker Nebula Capsule make needlessly difficult. The one slight annoyance with the stand is that it does tend to sag just a little bit, often making the M1's picture ever so slightly tilted. It's not enough to be annoying, but if you're the kind of person that can't help but zero in on minor imperfections, it could drive you crazy. If that's the case, the projector can be mounted on a tripod.

Really our biggest qualm with the ViewSonic M1 Portable's user-friendliness is its remote. While well designed and intuitive, we found that it only really works when you're directly in line with the projector. When we sat even a bit off to the side, it was 50/50 as to whether the projector would actually yield to the remote's demands. While annoying, we definitely wouldn't call this a dealbreaker.

The built-in stand doubles as a lens cover.
The built-in stand doubles as a lens cover.

The other downside to the ViewSonic M1 Portable, and it is only a downside when compared to the Anker Nebula Capsule, is that it cannot download and run streaming apps like Hulu and Netflix on its own. However, while this ability is a nice feature of the Anker Nebula Capsule, you can easily add the same functionality to the ViewSonic M1 by plugging in a Fire Stick or Roku, so we wouldn't count this as a huge strike against the M1.

Good Audio Quality


One other huge leg up the ViewSonic M1 Portable has over its competitors is its audio quality. The built-in Harmon Kardon speaker sounds akin to a fairly high-end Bluetooth speaker, and is more than up to the task of providing audio worthy of the accompanying picture. In comparison, models like the Optoma LV130 and the Anker Nebula Capsule sound so tinny and shrill that we would almost say they necessitate some sort of external speaker if you want to watch a movie.

Brightness


Like all of the pico projectors we've tested, the ViewSonic M1 Portable has a fairly dim lamp that really can't compete with ambient light. This projector's use is limited to nighttime use outdoors, or in dark rooms.


The M1 advertises a brightness of 250 lumens, but we measured its brightness at just 124 lumens. We found both this kind of exaggeration and overall brightness level to be common amongst pico projectors. For example, we measured the 300 lumen Optoma LV130 at 120 lumens.

The most important thing to note is that most conference rooms, even with the lights off, are going to be too light for the ViewSonic M1 Portable (and any pico projector for that matter). Therefore we would not recommend it for business presentations.


Fan noise


Like all of the pico projectors we've tested, the ViewSonic M1 Portable's fan is noticeable, but not annoying. We never felt distracted by the fan during movie watching, and that white noise easily slid into the background as we became absorbed in whatever film we were watching. However, if we brought ourselves out of that stupor and thought about the fan, it was noticeable.


Value


Most pico projectors fall into a $250-$350 price range. The ViewSonic M1 Portable lands right in the middle of that range and is our favorite overall of the pico style models we've tested, therefore we think it is a great value.

Conclusoin


The ViewSonic M1 Portable balances its attributes well and is thus one of the best of the portable, pico style projectors on the market.


Max Mutter and Steven Tata