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Sony MP-CL1 Laser Pico Projector Review - Picture Quality

Posted on November 19, 2015 by Art Feierman
SONY MP-CL1 PICO PROJECTOR - PICTURE QUALITY:  Out of the Box, Skin Tones, Black Levels / Shadow Detail, HDTV and Sports, Overall Picture Quality

MP-CL1 Picture - "Right out of the Box"

Right out of the box, the overall picture is acceptable, in fact good for a pico projector, as long as you  aren't looking for a high quality home theater calibre picture.

Colors are definitely  off a bit, no worse, I would guess than they can be on most LCDTVs or other projectors when using some of the less "best" modes.

The Sony projector does not offer a choice of preset modes.  Controls of the picture are also rather limited.  the MP-CL1 does offer control of Contrast, Hue, and Saturation.  Consider the controls rather coarse, they won't get you to anything resembling calibration level accuracy.  This projector isn't the one for you if you are looking for really great, and reasonably accurate color, but it can provide a pleasant viewing experience for those not overly concerned about such things.

Skin Tones

As is the case with overall color, skin tones are off a bit sort of a bit too much orange.  You can fiddle with the Hue setting a bit, and reduce saturation slightly for an improved picture.  Not terrible, in fact not as bad as most larger home projector's "Dynamic" modes, but also no where near as good as most larger, conventional projectors in their typical "best" modes whether called Movie, or Theater, Cinema or even some not "best" modes with names like Sports or Living Room type modes...

The photos shown here give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.  Of course, with all but minimal ambient light, the image can also suffer from being washed out by too much light in the room.  Keep the image size smaller for the better saturation and contrast under less than ideal circumstances!

Black Levels and Shadow Detail

If the 80,000:1 contrast ratio got you all excited about the Sony's ability to demonstrate really first class black level performance like you might encounter on one of the better $3000 price range projectors, you will be disappointed.  The dynamic range is typical of an entry level conventional DLP projector.  Shadow detail is pretty good but not exceptional.  We've seen better (in some cases significantly), and worse.

The MP-CL1 is a tiny projector that produces a decent picture for a reasonable price, but it's no "home theater" projector, especially in terms of these two measures of performance.

HDTV and Sports on the MP-CL1 Projector

Boy am I spoiled.  I watch my sports on screens from 100" to 124" diagonal, with excellent brightness and awesome color.

So it's hard for me to mentally judge a 0.5 lb battery powered projector while watching a football game at roughly 24" diagonal, which is exactly what I did - for a while.  Sorry, I enjoy my sports too much to watch an entire 3 hour plus football game on the Sony when I have a serious system.

But I can say that the Sony does get the job done.  I wish my DirecTv's App would have allowed me to watch a live game on the Sony by hooking it up to my iPhone while traveling, but the NFL hasn't come that far yet.  I have, however, put on channels showing sports highlights on my trip, and shining it on a wall.  It did the job, and certainly made having others watch too, be practical, whereas 3 people crowding around an iPhone screen is NOT practical.

I also watched some news channels, and some Jimmy Fallon, and part of an old sitcom.  It was also fine for music videos, but the built in speaker isn't up to handling music with any real fidelity.  Definitely the HDTV viewing is watchable.  If you want awesome, you are going to need a bigger projector.

Picture Quality - Summary

Everything about the Sony's MP-CL1 has to be considered respectable for a reasonably priced pico projector.  I suspect you can find better color in some other pico projectors, as I think back to the Optoma PK320 which was an old favorite of mine.  None of them have great color, and I suppose using a laser may make Sony's challenge a bit tougher than for the average LED pico projector.

No matter, for most folks who see the MP-CL1 as a convenience, and who aren't videophiles, the picture quality of this Sony laser projector should prove sufficient.  Don't forget, it's higher resolution that virtually all (if not all) the current big name competition, so count sharpness as a real plus especially since most pico projectors aren't even HD resolution, let alone half way between 720p and full 1080p HD.  To best enjoy the picture, I recommend not going larger than 40 inches or so diagonal, but it depends on your room lighting.  I personally think an 18 inch to 2 foot screen size is about optimal, allowing for reasonably saturated colors and without being significantly dim.

And those sizes are still huge compared to smart phones and tablets!  Remember the key strength of this Sony is its form factor - that of a smart phone, and even thinner than most of those.

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