Minibeam LED Projector Is Lightweight and Portable
The LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) is an attractive and lightweight entertainment projector with an excellent set of connection choices. It even has a built-in TV tuner for connecting to a set-top box or an over-the-air antenna. Video quality is among the best I have seen in an LED projector, and data image quality is above par, too. It’s a clear pick for our Editors’ Choice portable palmtop projector.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
The PH550 is a DLP-based model with an LED light source rated for 30,000 hours, so it should last the lifetime of the projector. It provides 720p (1,280-by-720) native resolution at a 16:9 aspect ratio, and has a rated brightness of 550 lumens, which is typical for palmtop projectors and somewhat lower than the 800-lumen rating of the LG Compact Pebble Design Smart Minibeam Projector PW800.
Measuring 1.7 by 6.9 by 4.3 inches (HWD) and weighing just 1.4 pounds, the PH550 is a compact and lightweight projector. It is also pretty, with a glossy white case with rounded covers and the lens inset in a copper-colored ring. On top, just behind the lens, is a focus lever that easily bring the projector to a good focus. It lacks a zoom, however. Also on top is a fourway controller with a central button. Pressing the button powers up the projector, but only after you have turned on the On-Off switch in back.
Also in back is a good selection of ports. The single HDMI port also supports MHL for streaming video from an MHL-enabled smartphone or tablet. There is a USB Type-A port, which fits a USB thumb drive from which you can show photos or videos or play music files. An AV-in jack lets you connect to a DVD player or other source via composite audio/video using an included adapter cable. An audio-out jack fits a plug for headphones or powered external speakers. There’s also a VGA port for connecting to a computer and a slot for a Kensington lock.
- Compact and lightweight. Good video and data image quality. Stylish. Abundant port selection. Bluetooth connectivity. Built-in TV tuner.
- Rechargeable internal battery.
- 720p resolution is relatively low for an entertainment projector. Modest brightness. Soft audio. No zoom.
The coaxial plug at right fits a cable to connect the built-in TV tuner to an over-the-air antenna or a set-top box.
Last but not least, a coaxial connector for the projector’s built-in TV tuner lets you connect to a cable box or an over-the-air antenna, so you can project TV programming onto your screen. The PH550 is capable of substituting for a flat-screen TV in a family room, though its relatively low resolution (720p, in an increasingly io8op and 4K world) and modest brightness make it less than ideal for that role. LG does offer brighter io8op projectors with TV tuners, such as the LG Portable LED Projector With Smart TV and Magic Remote PF1500, which is rated at 1,400 lumens, and the 1,000-lumen Editors’ Choice LG Minibeam Ultra Short Throw’ Projector With Smart TV (PF1000U). They are larger and heavier than the PH550 but still portable, though neither has a built-in battery. The PHsso’s video image looked bright when it filled our test screen, about 80 inches measured diagonally, though when ambient light wras introduced, a more comfortable viewing size was about 64 inches.
The PH550 has built-in Bluetooth—rather rare on a mobile projector—for connecting to an external Bluetooth speaker. Through the projector’s Screen Share function, you can wirelessly mirror the screen of an Android or Window’s computer or mobile device via Miracast or WiDi.
A full-size remote lets you access Screen Share or Bluetooth, switch between TV channels, change input sources, and control many other functions. The projector can be pow’ered by a built-in rechargeable batteiy, which gets you through most normal-length movies; LG estimates it can last 2.5 hours on a charge, and my experience bears that out.
DATA, VIDEO, AND AUDIO
Data image quality is abov e average. The PH550 fared well in our text testing, with white text on black easily readable down to 7.5 points and black text on white easily readable down to 9 points. Color balance w’as also veiy good.
Video quality was strong for a portable projector of moderate brightness. I saw’ occasional rainbow’ artifacts—little red-green-blue streaks that typically appear in bright areas against dark backgrounds—but fewer than typical for an LED-based DLP projector. Color balance w’as excellent, and colors were well saturated without being overly so. (Frequently, colors from low-brightness LED projectors are oversaturated to the point of garishness.)
Sound from the PH55OS pair of l-watt speakers is soft, suitable for a very small room. Should you want louder audio, you can always connect a set of powered external speakers to the audio-out jack. Even better, you can connect wirelessly to a Bluetooth speaker.
Small, versatile, and capable of both home and portable use, the LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550) has unusually good video quality for an LED-based projector and good data image quality as well. Its built-in TV tuner and coaxial connector let you connect to a cable box or over-the-air antenna for home or portable TV-show projecting onto a screen, and it has a wealth of other connecthity options. The PH550 doesn’t quite manage the brightness of the LG PW800, but it can be powered from its rechargeable battery and connected to a Bluetooth speaker, two features that the other model lacks. Our longtime top pick for best palmtop projector, the InFocus LightPro IN1146, is no longer available, and the PH550 is a w orthy replacement as Editors’ Choice.
The PH550 has unusually good video quality for an LED-based projector and good data image quality as well.