Projector Reviews

Sony MP-CL1 Pico Laser Projector Review

The Sony MPCL1 HD resolution pico projector is laser powered!

Now that got my attention.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve generally skipped bringing in pico projectors for review, choosing, instead to focus on the larger, brighter, heavier, yet still small, “pocket” class of projectors – which some are now calling “personal” projectors.  After all, we can only review so many projectors a year!  The Sony MP-CL1, however, is relatively unique, so I figured it was worth a close look!

The last laser pico projector we reviewed was the MicroVision Show WX (early 2010), who’s review unfortunately did not make the transition to the new site.  I mention this because Sony has some tie in to MicroVision, so I assume there’s some MicroVision technology in this newer and higher resolution Sony MP-CL1 projector.

It has been several years since I last looked at a laser powered pico projector, and that made me particularly curious to check out this Sony MP-CL1. Another reason was that the Sony’s overall design is a bit different than the traditional pico projector.  It’s very very sleek, very thin.

There’s definitely a “cool” factor here. The Sony comes across as minimalistic.  Before I forget, it’s sometimes associated as a projector for the Sony PS4 game machine.   Other than the inputs and charging connector, the tiny power button and micro-joystick on one side, there’s only the recessed lens in the front, and a tiny slit for the sound to come out on the top back.  it’s dark, flat and unadorned.

The MP-CL1 will appeal to folks who are looking for a projector that is smaller than the largest size of iPhone and Android phones, but a slightly larger than my standard iPhone 6. Like the iPhones, it’s surprisingly thin.  Those of you interested should realize that this is a projector that works best at screen sizes around 25” or less. In a fully darkened room you can push it up to about 40” diagonal, and still have decent brightness. Just remember that it certainly is not going to replace some of the entry level home entertainment projectors or the the sub-$500 portable business projectors, in terms of features, and it is, of course no where near as bright.  But then by comparison, it’s tiny, and insignificantly lightweight.

I do see the MP-CL1 as a super-mobile gadget that you can consider part toy, but really as an alternative to viewing the screen of your phone when larger is preferred.  Or as Sony touts it, a highly portable option for their PS4 game machine.  For me, mobility is the MP-CL1 projector’s primary benefit. I can see one shining it on the back of the airline seat in front of me for a bigger image than your phone. You know what I mean – when the person in front puts their seat back and there isn’t enough room to open your laptop. You could take it to bed with you and shine the picture on the ceiling.  That’s something I recently did while traveling, projecting videos on to my hotel ceiling.  Note that the projector’s adjustable stand let’s it point almost vertical.

The highest resolution pico projector?  I don’t keep an eye on all those many low cost chinese pico projectors around, so I may be wrong about my thought that there aren’t any higher resolution pico projectors around, at least I can’t think of a single major brand that’s true 1080p:

Resolution of the MP-CL1 is just less than 1080p, but higher than 720p. That is, it’s 1920×720 pixels – call that half way in between – which is accomplished by not using square pixels.

The laser is the light source, which in the past pretty much meant two things: First, you don’t have to focus the projector – in fact, there is no focus at all. The other is an effect seen on older laser projectors call sparkle. Yes, in that sense the MP-CL1’s image looks a little different fro traditional projectors, but mostly the “sparkle” has been eliminated. I wouldn’t know how to describe the sparkle effect, but if you saw it you’d say: “ok, I get it!”  And no, for you vampire fans among us, it’s not the same “sparkle” as some TV vampires have when they are out in sunlight, which is a silly deviation from “real” vampires, for the sake of a TV show’s ratings.

The MP-CL1 is pretty serious as it should be, for a pico projector that it sells for right around its $349 list price.  Some of the least expensive pico projectors are under $100, but are far lower resolution, typically lack HDMI, and aren’t as bright.

Highlights of the Sony MP-CL1

  • 1920x720p HD resolution
  • Less than ½ inch thick
  • Phone sized
  • HDMI input with MHL support for streaming!
  • Runs up to about 2 hours on a charge
  • 37 lumen claimed peak output (32 typical)
  • Wireless capability built in
  • Laser light engine – no focusing required
  • Built in 1 watt speaker
  • Weighs in at < 0.5 lb
  • Recharges from standard USB, or optional power brick