The scoop: MegaPlex MG-850HD projector, by Epson, about $800.
What is it? The MegaPlex combines a multimedia projector with an iPod/iPad docking station, which lets users project photos, videos and music stored on their iPod, iPhone or iPad onto a larger screen (or wall).
On the projector side, the MG-850 supports 720p resolution and brightness up to 2,800 lumens (Epson also makes the $600 MegaPlex MG-50, which supports 540p resolution and up to 2,200 lumens). Other devices (including game consoles, DVD players and PCs) can also connect to the projector, as it supports HDMI, and VGA inputs.
A USB port also lets you connect an external hard drive or thumb drive to play videos or photo slideshows through the projector. A microphone input allows for an external microphone, so you can do things like narrate a slideshow or sing along with your music. Speaking of music, sound comes out of the system through two built-in 10-watt stereo speakers.
Why it's cool: The iPod/iPad docking station opens up additional possibilities for users to project their multimedia. Instead of storing it on a PC or Mac they can play everything through their smartphone, iPod or iPad.
In our testing, we were also able to project some apps on the iPad through the projector as well. For example, we could watch YouTube videos and stream Netflix content from the iPad app to the projector. We could also display our Keynote presentations through the projector. Unfortunately, not all apps allowed for external projection -- our ABC Player app (which streams ABC television content) couldn't project, so it's possible that some apps will only display through the iPod's/iPad's display rather than the projector.
Picture quality from the projector was very good, and it was easy to adjust the focus, zoom and keystone settings that adjust the vertical and horizontal frame of the projection. The unit cooled down pretty quickly as well, allowing for quick setup and packing up for travelers (there's a nice handle for carrying the unit, although may be a bit too large for some people who prefer to travel lightly).
Some other cool features to note: The docking station recharges your i-device, and if you don't want to use the projector, you can still use the device as a speaker system for songs and displaying photos and movies on the iPad's display.
Some caveats: The on-screen menu for playing movies, TV shows and music was a bit primitive, and the system only recognized content that was synchronized through iTunes. For other content on the device, we had to switch control back to the i-device and then try to display it through that.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter (@shawkeith) or Facebook (facebook.com/shawkeith).
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