Anker, a popular manufacturer of batteries and cables, recently announced the Mars II projector under its Nebula brand. The company, which sells mainly through Amazon, is developing from batteries and cables and now creates audio and video equipment. This compact battery powered DLP projector is their latest creation and has found a place of honor in our family barbecues.
The projector is actually an Android device 7.1 stuffed in a case about as big as a bluetooth speaker. A physical lens cap slides down and turns on the system and you control everything from the included remote control or the buttons on the top of the device. You can also download an application that mimics a mouse and keyboard to choose videos and enter information. It projects at a maximum of 300 lumens and projects at 720p. You can also connect an HDMI device such as a game console or stick to a USB flash drive full of videos to watch on the fly.
Again, the real benefit here is the ability to stream from various applications. I have YouTube, Netflix, Plex, and other apps installed and you can install almost any other Android apps that you can imagine. It has built-in speakers and you can run to it via Miracast, but you can not insert Chromecast.
If all you want to do is throw up a little Santa Clarita Diet or Ice Age on a leaf in the backyard, this thing is perfect. Because the brightness is quite low, you need a solid twilight or a partially dark room to get a good picture. However, the picture is pretty good and it would also make an excellent presentation device for a closed and dark conference room. Because of its small size and long battery life – four hours of charging – it is a great alternative to a full size projector or even a standard TV.
At $ 539, the March II is at the same price as the other 720p projectors. The main use case – connecting a computer or a console via HDMI – works pretty well, but the user experience in streaming is a little mixed. Because Anker has not changed the Android installation much further than adding some default applications, some applications require a mouse to use and others can be controlled via the keys arrows on the remote control or the body of the device. This means that some applications – like Plex, for example – allow you to choose a video via the arrow keys, but you have to press the "mouse" button to start simulating a mouse cursor on the screen. It's a bit frustrating, especially in poor lighting conditions.
One of the interesting features is the autofocus system. Instead of manipulating a button or slider, you simply point to a surface and the system projects a focus ring until the image is clear. The focus changes each time you move the camera and sometimes it catches up if the screen or the projector moves. However, in most cases, it works perfectly well.
Like most portable projectors, you do not buy the March II to watch 4K video in 5.1 surround sound. You buy it to offer an alternative to sitting on the couch and watching a movie. This means it is perfect for business presentations on roads, camps, watching outdoor movies and pajamas. It is quite cheap and portable to be almost disposable and it is not as heavy and hot as other bigger devices. In short, it can go anywhere, show anything, and it works very well. Anker also makes Mars a more expensive 1080p device, but this one works fine for around $ 400 less – a big drop in just about a year of fast sales. It is nice to see a good inexpensive manufacturer dipping into the world of complex consumer electronics and proposing a really useful and fun product.