Projector Reviews

Sony MP-CL1 Pico Projector Review – Summary

SONY MP-CL1 PICO PROJECTOR – SUMMARY:  The “Big Picture”, Gaming Companion to PS4, Pros and Cons

Sony MP-CL1 Laser Pico Projector - The "Big" Picture

The Sony MP-CL1 projector, thanks to it’s ultra slim and sleek form factor has a definite cool factor. In that regard it is one of the most interesting pico projectors around.  It definitely makes an interesting “stocking stuffer” for the “person who has everything.”

This is a projector for those looking for the ultimate in portability.  After all, weighing in at less than a half pound (just under seven and a half ounces), and it’s 0.5 inch (12 mm) thickness, means you are carrying around a device that is very similar in overall size – and weight, to my iPhone 6.  The Sony is only a touch larger in terms of footprint, and still much smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus or 6S Plus. You Android users I’m sure know what that means – a good bit smaller – and also lighter, than those big Galaxy phones…

I haven’t addressed this question yet, so I will now:  Is the MP-CL1 suitable for a very small group business presentation? (I’m talking presenting to one or two people.) I would say, sure it can be used for that, when ultimate portability is called for, but I won’t go and recommend it, when you can buy a small pocket projector and still come in at well under 2 pounds total, while being 6-15 times brighter!  In other words, if you are willing to carry some extra bulk, you will have a much more impressive presentation, even tackling some ambient light.  A good $400 – $600 pocket projector should be the more professional choice.  On the other hand, perhaps the “coolness” of the Sony will win favor with those you are presenting to?  Possible.  Two years ago, I would have pointed out that those bigger pocket projectors for the most part needed to be plugged in, but today there are battery powered projectors with even 700 lumens, such as the AAXA P700 that I’m also reviewing at this time.  (Both, BTW are good for about 2 hours on a charge.) So much for that battery advantage.

While I can’t praise the MP-CL1 as a home theater quality projector, that is, one with outstanding color, great black levels etc., it is a pico projector that does get the job done.  Take it to your hotel room set it up and shine your favorite movie or streaming content onto the ceiling.  Put some decent earbuds in the audio out jack so you have some respectable sound quality, as the built in tiny speaker is very limited, just as you would expect.

There’s a great deal to like about the MP-CL1 projector as long as you aren’t demanding home theater quality picture performance.  The picture quality is reasonable – skin tones aren’t green – and a football game looks pretty good.  It makes no noise, there’s no fan.  (Take that:  You loud home theater projectors with cooling fans!)

The projector is easy to set up and use, with the biggest challenge being the weight of cables or streaming sticks “pulling” on the projector – especially cables.  I recommend getting an ultra thin HDMI cable.  And don’t lose that HDMI to mini-HDMI adapter Sony provides, or the USB charging cable (although you probably already have several of the later lying around from other devices).

Obviously, the tiny size and weight are huge strengths.   Also that it can run about 2 hours on a charge.  My sample unit seemed to come up a little short of 2 hours on two consecutive tries.  In other words, with many longer movies you won’t be able to  make it to the end if running on battery, but you can reliably watch two 1 hour shows you are streaming, since they are maybe 40 minutes each without commercials. Game of Thrones anyone?  That works for me.  Even if you are charging the projector while viewing, it will eventually shut down, as it takes 1.5 to 3 times longer to charge, than the battery can support for viewing.  (That depends if you are charging from USB, or the optional “power brick.”)  Sony did not provide the optional AC adapter, so I can’t confirm that the projector will operate while that is charging the projector, but most likely there should be no issue.

Resolution is very, very, good for a pico sized projector, as most of the competition offer noticeably lower resolution.

When it comes to source selection, my only real complaint is that there isn’t an SD card slot, and for that matter, a full media player built in.  But, this Sony has HDMI, and it’s HDMI has MHL support for streaming sticks.  

In addition, it wirelessly works with Miracast compatible devices which include many tablets and phones, and some newer computers, to do screen mirroring.  It is not compatible with Apple Play.  I did not test Miracast mirroring but I would not expect any issues.  I had no trouble plugging in my Roku stick (using the HDMI – HDMI-mini adapter.  No issues, main screen came up, I was able to select and run Netflix, etc.

It was simple to hook up to my laptop, my iPhone, or my Sony PS4.

Gaming on the MP-CL1

Sony actually promotes the MP-CL1 as a companion product for the PS4 for mobile gamers!  It’s sort of funny if you think about it, considering my PS4 is about 50 times the size of this projector.  Seriously, if you are dragging around a PS4 for gaming, I would suggest a somewhat larger and dramatically brighter projector to hook up to it.  It’s not the MP-CL1 in particular but pico projectors in general.  Size and weight is a relative non-factor – if you are dragging an AC powered game machine like the PS4 with you, you could spend roughly the same money – at most $100 more, for a projector with at least 5x-10 times the brightness, without adding significant bulk or more than an extra pound or two.

On the other hand, I can see using the MP-CL1 as something to hook up to a mobile device like a smart phone, for bigger, better gaming.  Angry Birds, Risk, or Words with Friends anyone?

Now for an apology.  I definitely did measure the Sony’s input lag with my new device.  Unfortunately, I cannot find my notes regarding that measurement, and I cannot remember what the results were, and the projector was sent back two weeks ago.  I can tell you it isn’t 0 lag or anything close to it, because I haven’t encountered any projector that measured under 17ms since I got my Leo Bodner input lag measuring device.  If I had to guess, I would think it in the mid 30 ms range.  If it was over 55ms I should remember that it’s noticeably slow.

Let’s say that the MP-CL1 should be fast enough for almost anyone who would use this projector for their gaming.  I don’t think a really hard core gamer would normally use a projector with the brightness limitations of this one, but for non-high speed games, it should be fine, especially if you aren’t pushing the size of the projected image too large.  If anyone has measured lag, and wants to share their numbers with our readers, drop me a quick email -art.

MP-CL1 Key Features

Well, obviously size and weight are two of the most obvious features.

Having both MHL (on HDMI) and also Miracast screen mirroring make the MP-CL1 about as capable as projectors get if you are looking to stream content.  And, of course having an HDMI input means just about any computer you find, that’s not in a museum, is compatible.  Certainly I had no issues with my MacBook Pro.

The laser engine allows a a virtual resolution of 1920×720 – better than almost any other pico projector around.  That gives you a pretty sharp image for projecting small type such as those on a web browser, and plenty of resolution for HDTV sports and movie viewing.  Still you won’t have anything approaching the clarity of a full sized 1080p home theater projector.

The Sony let’s you align the primary colors with it’s built in alignment tool.  I found the sample they sent me to need that alignment as red was noticeably out of line with green and blue vertically and off slightly horizontally.  It takes all of 4-5 minutes to do a full manual alignment, and it’s really simple.

Bottom Line:  Pico projectors are just full of trade-offs in exchange for small size and weight.  If a pico projector is for you, and your uses are primarily home and entertainment certainly this Sony makes a classy choice.  If you are looking for one for business use – (again, I favor those bigger pocket projectors), then this Sony will work, but you should ask yourself if you want a projector with the benefits of having a built in media player that can do things like run Powerpoint presentations, and open other Office documents.

Count the Sony MP-CL1 as a fun, and well thought out pico projector.  It’s not the most feature laden, but it’s well endowed with the right inputs.  I think that it is very much like Apple’s iPhones and other devices, it was designed to be simple to operate while at the same time having a capable feature set, without promising “everything.”

Pretty slick!

Pros and Cons

MP-CL1 Pros

  • Higher resolution than almost all pico projectors
  • Tiny – ultra thin, not much larger than standard iPhone 6
  • Reasonably good color “out of the box”
  • Basic controls for fine tuning:  Contrast, Hue, Saturation
  • HDMI with MHL for interfacing to devices including streaming sticks
  • Miracast for wireless mirroring with properly equipped computers and mobile devices
  • Good battery life, reasonable recharge times
  • No lamps to change
  • Easy to use, including the micro-joystick (Sony calls it a Jog lever)
  • Small speaker included, plus an audio out for headphones or to interface to larger sound system
  • Laser light engine means no focusing necessary
  • One Year parts and labor warranty (a number of these lower cost pico projectors come with only 90 day warranties)

MP-CL1 Cons

  • Could be brighter – there are some pico projectors capable of 100 lumens
  • No remote control
  • No preset color modes or ability to save multiple settings
  • Battery is good for almost 2 hours, an extra 30-40 minutes would allow for the full watching of most movies
  • Color could be better
  • Sharpness while good thanks to resolution, could be a bit better, there’s a sense of softness
  • No advanced features such as CFI for smooth motion
  • Having an SD card slot would be a plus
  • Lacks a full featured media player
  • No 3D – (not bright enough anyway)
  • Sound could be a better (but at least it has an audio out) – you can’t expect much from any device this size
  • A tripod screw thread on the bottom (or back) would have been a real plus