HB Opto HBP503D Pocket Projector Review

HB Opto HBP503D: Bottom Line

Again, I harken back to the early days of portable projectors – the mid 1990s.  By 1995 Epson and InFocus were shipping the first poly-sci 3 panel lcd projectors. Today’s current LCD projectors, are simply higher resolution, brighter, and lighter projectors, many generations later.  DLP projectors started hitting shortly after that.  The important point is that those early 3 panel projectors were mostly in the 250 to 350 lumen range (claimed).  So, today, in the form of the HBP503D we have a projector weighing just over 1 pound, not 15 or 20 pounds.  It’s got almost 4 times the resolution – WXGA (1280×800) vs. VGA’s 640×480.  And this HB Opto pocket projector is perhaps 1/30 to 1/50th the bulk.

The important point is those were very serious projectors.  Some were used in conference rooms, others in fully darkened hotel ballrooms for presentation to hundreds.  Hard to believe that this HBP503D projector is in most ways more capable than those breakthrough products of 15 years or so ago.  With that in mind, although more brightness is always a good thing, a well thought out projector like this HB Opto, and be a very useful tool for business, education, home entertainment, science, and more.  We are well aware of the demand for true portable projectors that are “serious”, that can be run for hours where there’s no, or intermittant electricity.  Rural, almost anywhere, and sometimes even urban/near urban areas in “2nd and 3rd world” countries, have demonstrated the need for portable sources like this for communicating, whether that communication is teaching, medical, religious, volunteers, and paid professionals have a real need for projectors like this one.

We found that even running at full power, the HBP503D’s battery pack will drive the projector for just over 2 hours.  That’s movie length.  For serious portable needs, get a couple of batteries. If your really need hours without power, a second powerbrick might make sense too, so you can be using the projector and charging a battery at the same time when you have electric available.   Grab a modest portable solar panel system, and you are ready for the wilderness.

It is the combination of being a well featured projector, and the battery pack that will really make the HBP503D projector, viable in remote areas.

But what about “here” where electric is 24/7?  In that case the HBP503D pocket projector is still viable when maximum portability plus enough brightness to address a decent sized group of people is called for.

That color is surprisingly good for a pico or pocket projector just makes this HB Opto projector even more competitive.  Default settings were definitely contrasty, and color a bit oversaturated, but nothing that can’t be quickly adjusted with the RGB and other controls provided.  Final picture quality is really rather good, impressively so for a pocket projector, we’ve seen some really hideous picture quality over the last few years!

Sharpness was very surprisingly good.  I’m used to a fair amount of compromise when it comes to sharpness on pico and pocket projectors.  This HBP503D however, can hold it’s own (without trouble) with most of the larger competition, and it has a smooth focus, not the usual clunky hard to focus controls so typical on these little guys.

That the HBP503D projector has just about every input most full sized portable projectors have, is more proof of its versatility.  Two HDMI inputs?  Few larger portables offer two, some don’t have any.  And it comes with competent 3D – no not as good as a home theater projector’s but I was able to watch both movies and other content, and all considered, was far more impressed than disappointed, considering the limited brightness for 3D.

Don’t forget PC free presenting off of SD (adapter needed) and microSD cards, and also from the USB input.  Very handy when presentations aren’t too complex, and weight and size are factors.

Less than 2.25 pounds with the optional battery pack, the HBP503D can do a 5 foot diagonal presentation (on battery) in most rooms where there’s decent lighting control, and have the resulting projected image look darn good!  (Consider the image above.) Don’t forget you get another 30% more brightness when running off of AC.

A respectable 1 year warranty is typical of very small portable projectors – that’s good, not great. Menus are OK.  The quick setup sheet covers the basics, but overall, there could be more documentation.  Nothing, however is missing that you really can’t live without.

As mentioned I traveled with the projector, and although I didn’t really need it, I did get to run it through its paces, as a family-large photo viewer, and for watching TV and movies. (No, I didn’t do any presentations on my vacation.)

Bottom line:  The HBP503D earns a Special Interst Award for being a well thought out, large pocket projector with overall impressive performance, and optional battery capability. We also have included the HBP503D in this year’s Education Projector report as our one true portable that can run on batteries, recognizing that there is a large international education market for a projector like this, expecially where AC is flakey.   For those battery powered abilities the HBP503D also earns a special award:  Best In Classroom:  Battery/Pocket Projector  Certainly this is one projector that isn’t like “all the rest” in that report..  Pick the environment you need a “truly” portable projector for and we’re pretty sure, and we think you’ll agree HB Opto has served up a very special projector.

Frame from an iPhone Video

Viewing a frame from an iPhone video. I know it's hard to tell but you are looking at the recent Rolling Stones concert, video taken by me, from the cheap seats. On the bottom you are seeing my laptop, the top is about a 40 inch wide image projected by the HBP503D. The projector did a great job, but in this image, the camera focused on the laptop screen so the projected image appears out of focus. Still note the similarity in color, considering that my MacBook Pro's display has excellent color.

Ambient Light

HB Opto HBP503D Projector: Pros

  • Higher resolution than most pocket projectors at WXGA 1280×800
  • MicroSD card slot and USB for loading presentation slides, photos, videos…
  • Two HDMI ports
  • Very nicely sharp image - everybit the equal of most much larger portables
  • 275 lumens measured lumens on AC power, creates a reasonable sized image with good brightness
  • Almost as bright on battery pack, measuring over 200 lumens
  • Battery life at full power (new battery pack) lasted 2 hours and 6 minutes!, Should do noticeably better in Eco mode
  • LED light source rated at >20,000 hours
  • Supports resolutions up to 1080p including Full HD content such as movies, or business presentations
  • 16:10 native aspect ratio and supports 16:9 and 4:3
  • Great looking 3D glasses – competition:  Take notice
  • 3D, and 2D to 3D conversion, including Blu-ray 3D support
  • Impressive overall feature set for the size and price – a serious projector for business, education, etc.
  • Ideal for use where reasonable brightness and battery power are needed, or just where super portability and brightness are the key

HB Opto HBP503D Projector: Cons

  • Control panel could be improved a bit
  • Menus, while overall, good for a pico or pocket projector, are limited
  • More extensive image controls would be a plus (but not bad)
  • “A pocket projector” that is a bit too large for most pockets
  • Micro-SD card slot, instead of the more popular full sized SD card slot (find an adapter)
  • No match in brightness for entry level traditional projectors which cost no more (but are huge by comparison).

HB Opto HBP503D Projector: 20 Questions Answered

1) What is the native resolution and what is the max resolution?

Native Resolution is WXGA(1280×800)  It will accept resolutions up to 1080p (1920×1080).

2) Largest image you can project and how far do you have to be to achieve it?

Greater than 10 feet, but it is unlikely that anyone would, due to brightness.

3) Standard battery life?

No internal battery, but the HB Opto Mobile Power Bank (battery) lasts a little over 2 hours with the projector running at full power.  We did not time it in eco mode but would expect it to achieve at least 2.5 hours.  This is with an almost new battery pack.

4) Does it have internal memory, and how much?

Good question, trying to find out.

5) What light source technology does the projector use?

Uses LED light and lasts an estimated 20,000 hours.

6) What is the native aspect ratio and does it support other aspect ratios?

16:10 but does support 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios.

7) What’s the story on where to place the projector?

As an example, if you want a 60″ image, the front of the projector will be about 50 inches away.  The projector should be even with the bottom of your screen.  There are no feet to adjust the angle.

8) Does it have a remote control?

Yes, it comes with a full featured remote control that is also full size.  Very good range.

9) Does it have a full featured control panel on the projector?

Yes. All the standard abilities but it uses a square pad for arrows, and menu, not the best controls, but very workable once you get used to them.

10) What type of warranty does it have?

1 Year limited parts and labor.

11) Does it have a focus adjustment?

Yes.  And the focus control feels good and is precise, easy to get a very sharp focus, some pocket and pico projectors are really a pain to focus

12) What inputs/ouputs does the projector have?

2 HDMI, 1 VGA, earphone/5.1 surround output, Composite video two stereo audio inputs, micro-SD card, and USB!.

13) Is it compatible with smartphones? Which ones?

Yes, with optional cable. Project images from your iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

14) What files types can be used for a presentation. Document?

JPG, PPT…

15) What light source technology is used in the projector?

The light source is LED technology rated to last 20,000 hours. That’s about a 10 years of 40 hours a week!

16) Will it accept HD video sources and what is the highest resolution it will accept?

The highest resolutions we tested were 1280×800 through the VGA adapter, and HDMI, and 1080p through HDMI.  The projector is supposed to handle higher data resolutions than WXGA but we did not test.

17) What cables does the projector come with, and WHAT might I need?

The projector comes with one VGA cable, an AV cable (3 RCA jacks) HDMI cable, an audio 5.1 cable, power brick and it’s cabling.  The most likely thing you will need is an adaptor so you can use SD cards with the micro-SD card slot.

18) How much outboard memory can be used by the projector?

The projector can accept up to 32Gigabyte microSD card.

19) What is the highest brightness in standard mode with just battery and brightness with expansion pack or AC?

Highest measured brightness is 206 lumens with optional battery pack, 275 on AC power.  There is no internal battery.

20) What environment is this projector best suited to be used in?

With modest lighting work well with image sizes of 5 feet diagonal without trouble.  with a fairly dark room even a 10 foot image is possible.  If you only need a small image say 24″ diagonal or 30″, this projector can tackle a moderately bright room and handle it.

You just might be surprised at how well this HBP503D projector can do on not too large a screen.

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