Projectors come in all sizes and shapes these days, from tiny cubes to monster large venue devices that seem like space heaters. One step up from the smallest is an emerging class of inexpensive palm-projectors that put out just enough light to be of use in the classroom.
Like the Dell MH900, LG’s Minibeam PH550, is small enough to carry around and is quick to set up, but the PH-550 is much smaller. At 1.7- by 6.9- by 4.3-inches and weighing 1.4-pounds, the PH-550 it can be stashed in a jacket pocket or corner of a backpack so it can go where you go all day.
The rounded white case has a focus lever on top, but the projector doesn’t have a conventional control panel. Instead, the PH550 has a minimalist joy stick that you press to turn it in and off. Click it right or left and it can turn the volume up and down.
You’ll need to use the full-size remote control to configure, tweak and use the PH550. There’s neither backlighting nor a laser pointer, but the remote can not only control the speaker’s volume and keystone correction, but it uses LG’s circular Q Menu format that’s been lifted from LG’s line of TVs. Incrementally go around the circle to adjust the aspect ratio, keystone correction, video mode and set up the sleep timer for between 10- and 24- minutes, which is helpful for those who always forget to turn the projector off after class.
With a 0.45-inch DLP imaging engine that delivers 1,280 by 720 resolution, the PH-550 can’t compare with full HD imaging, but for the small classroom or group work is should be fine. The projector uses LEDs to illuminate and project the image so you’ll never have to buy or change an expensive lamp ever again. On the other hand, with a rating of 550 lumens, it can’t keep up with traditional lamp-based devices that put out three- or four-times that.
There’s an adjustable front foot, but if you want to permanently mount it or aim it higher on a wall or screen as well as a single tripod screw underneath. In real world use, the PH550 was projecting its image in 20-seconds and managed to put 312 lumens of illumination onto a screen, about two-thirds its rating and half the output of the much larger M900HD.
Like other small LED projectors, the PH550 does without many of the things we take for granted in traditional projectors, like an optical zoom lens. In fact, the projector doesn’t even come with a lens cap – essential equipment if it’s to travel from room to room all day. The projector does include a soft felt bag that holds the projector, but not the AC adapter.
It also lacks an SD card slot for quickly presenting items, but can lift a wide variety of material from a USB thumb drive. The PH550 can play photos, videos (although not .MP4 ones) and .pdfs as well as Office .doc and .ppt files. In other words, you can put a semester’s worth of lessons on a tiny drive and plug it in when you need it.
You can project in a more traditional manner with an VGA, HDMI and with the included adapter a composite video source; it can work with an MHL-equipped phone or tablet. It worked well with a variety of sources, from a Samsung Tab Pro S to an iPad Pro.
Showing the PH550’s versatility, there’s another way as well. The PH550 can connect wirelessly over WiFi to WiDi laptops and Miracast phones and tablets.
The projector has a pair of one-watt speakers that are fine for small groups, but for larger rooms, they come up short. Happily, the PH550 can link up with a Bluetooth speaker set for rooms that don’t have a wired sound system.
Finally, LG is unique in selling projectors that have TV tuners built-in. It won’t work with a cable TV set up, but the PH550’s tuner was able to connect with 30 direct broadcast stations. You’ll need to supply the antenna, though.
The PH550 can do something that most projectors can’t: run for nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes on its battery pack while its competitors go dark after 20 or 30 minutes of use. If you tap the remote’s Info key a small four-element battery gauge shows up onscreen. The ability to run for several classes gives the PH550 an incredible amount of flexibility to set ups in repurposed rooms that lack AC outlets.
Extremely inexpensive to operate, the PH550 uses only 35.2-watts of power at full blast – about one-tenth that of a conventional projector – and only 0.2-watts in sleep. That adds up to an estimated annual expense of only $5.25, making it among the cheapest projectors to use every day.
Overall, the PH550 is fine in darkened rooms or an overcast day, but with the sun shining or the lights on, the image quickly gets overwhelmed. The projector did well at filling up a 48-inch screen. Bigger than that and the images are washed out, making the PH550.
+ Good input selection
+ More than two-hour battery life
+ Wireless connection
+ Video ports
+ TV tuner
- Lacks lens cap and optical zoom
- Really needs more brightness