Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector Review

Optoma LogoThe Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector is a stylish ultra mobile LED projector which pretty much does it all in a very neat little package with a good complement of ports, connections and fun tricks. Let’s take a look.

Optoma Front

Measuring just 27 x 17 x 4.5 cm and weighing only 1.4 kg, the ML1500 is very portable and comes with a neoprene carrying case. As you’ll see from the photos, the projector is attractively styled, with the ports on the back and a touchpad on the top. The touchpad can be used to operate the built-in menus to control the ML1500 and there is also a supplied remote control for when changes need to be made from afar. On the bottom, a third leg can be screwed in and out to adjust the angle, and a standard photo mount allows the projector to be hung from above. Finally, a lever on the side controls the focus.

Optoma ML1500 Rear

Round the back there is a plethora of connections, with composite video, HDMI and VGA connectors, 3.5mm jacks for audio and microUSB, USB and SD card slots. Connect up the ML1500 to a PC or laptop and it appears as an Optoma WXGA (1280×800) monitor and with suitable OS, you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the ML1500’s display. Locking onto the VGA signal took a second or two, but nothing out of the ordinary. The small size of the projector meant that I could keep it on my desk and if I needed to have an impromptu team meeting that needed something shown, I could quickly turn the ML1500 onto a nearby wall, rather than everyone huddle round a monitor.

Optoma ML1500 Remote ControlOn the fun side, the ML1500 makes a good partner to mini media streamers like the Roku Streaming Stick or Chromecast. The stick can be plugged into the ML1500’s HDMI sockets and power pulled from an adjacent USB socket. All set and good to watch Netflix or other streaming service with minimum of fuss.

The ML1500 does a few other tricks up its sleeve (or USB port as the case may be). First of all, the projector has a built-in media player and office document viewer that will show films, play music and display Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files directly from either an SD card or USB memory stick. I didn’t deliberately try to break the viewer but the ML1500 managed to cope with all the Office documents that I threw at it. It’s relatively easy to navigate round the documents and zoom in or out with the remote control. The on-screen menus are easy to navigate with large friendly icons showing the way.

Playing movies is cool too, with the ML1500 handling mp4, avi and mov format files (though I didn’t confirm the codecs inside each). The presentation is good with the projector keeping up with the action and the picture is fine in unlit room – it doesn’t need to be darkened. Obviously you can have a pretty big screen if you want – I watched a couple of films and really got into the cinematic feel of things. Colours were good and sound is ok – it’s not hifi but you can connect up via a 3.5 mm jack if you want more oomph.

Optoma WiFi DongleNext on the list of clever things is the USB wifi dongle which plugs into the ML1500. Once connected to the “Optoma Display” wireless network, you can use an app on your smartphone or tablet to play presentations and display media. I used WiFi-Doc on Android and the app is available for iPhone and iPad too. It’s easy to use – select what you want to show and it’ll be shown by the ML1500. You can zoom in and out of photos and documents, and about a second later, the projector will update to show the change. Here’s the app showing a photo of the house that Mel Gibson used while filming Braveheart. The app wasn’t quite as good as the built-in player when it came showing office files as a couple of pdfs had missing images.WiFi-Doc App

A final nifty feature was auto-keystone correction, where the ML1500 automatically adjusts the projection to account for the angle of the projector, which means that the picture on the screen is always rectangular and not fatter at the top than the bottom.

One minor niggle is that adjusting the focus has to be done manually and it can’t be corrected using the remote control. Not a big deal in most circumstances but could be an issue if the projector was mounted high up.

Although I’m not a projector expert, I enjoyed putting the ML1500 through its paces. Its comprehensive ports and built-in media player make it a good choice for both business and pleasure, and for those on the move, the low weight and PC-free capabilities, are attractive. I think it’s priced about right too at under £700.

Thanks to Optoma for the review unit.

A Microsoft Future

Microsoft Windows 8Last week’s “Microsoft Fantasy” here on GNC suggested that Microsoft was in danger of fading into irrelevance; that it should retreat to servers and gaming; that it should re-orient its mobile strategy around Android. I suggest that Microsoft is now very well positioned to offer far more than its competitors. And to negate any ad hominem attacks, I’m no Microsoft fanboy – I’ve a Linux desktop, Android tablet, Nexus smartphone and a Chromebook – but I can see a better strategy in Microsoft than defeat and retreat.

There are three players in the OS space – Microsoft with Windows, Google with Android and Apple with iOS. Each of these pairings has strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft is strong in servers, PCs and gaming. Google is good in mobile. Apple’s strength lies in PCs, entertainment and mobile. Obviously there are other players, such as Sony who are strong in gaming, but they can be discounted without OS aspirations.

Microsoft is a large organisation. It can be slow to respond and doesn’t always identify and embrace future technologies as fast as it should. The internet and Internet Explorer is a pretty good example. Other times, it moves into new markets, starting slowly and building up: look at the Xbox – it’s the market-leader. Certainly Microsoft has never been strong in the smartphone market being overshadowed previously by Blackberry and Palm, but it has a track record of trying tablet-type devices. Anyone remember Windows XP Tablet Edition? No, you probably don’t, but it existed.

But let’s think about how Microsoft’s competitors can realistically move in on their turf. For all the rise of BYOD, most large organisations use Windows on the desktop, Exchange for email, Ms Server on the tin. Google is trying hard to offer software as service in the cloud but there’s still lots of nervousness about the cloud and the leaks about US snooping aren’t going to help. Apple isn’t big in business by any stretch of the imagination and this is unlikely change. Both Apple and Google are into entertainment but neither have expressed much interest in hardcore gaming. It’s certainly not impossible for a hot Android or iOS console to come out but for now I think we can discount that.

Accepting then that Microsoft is reasonably unassailable (without being complacent) in gaming or business, let’s look at mobile and tablets in particular. Both Apple’s iPad and Android-based tablets are great devices, but even the most ardent fan will admit that tablets are generally best for consumption rather than production – it’s watching videos, surfing the web, listening to music. For creation, most people return to the keyboard and mouse on a desktop or laptop. Looking at business, while opportunities exist for tablets in business without a doubt, the bread and butter is still going to orient around Word and Excel.

The trend to mobile has been going on for years: from the desktop to the laptop to the tablet. But it’s extension to new devices, not extinction of the old. When laptops came out, did all the desktops go away? No. And it will be no different with tablets. We can see the rebalancing in the slow down of PC sales but this is entirely to be expected.

And this is Microsoft’s killer advantage – a potentially seamless suite of devices and form-factors from servers, through desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Business in particular want to use what they have already invested in – ActiveDirectory, Group Policies, Sharepoint. Microsoft and its partners are responding to this with devices that offer both a touch interface via the Modern UI and a traditional desktop for legacy applications where a keyboard and mouse is needed. The bottom line is that there’s no longer any need to shoehorn in Apple or Android onto the infrastructure at extra cost.

But what about the consumers? They’re not businesses, they’ve no investment, they’re not going to be swayed by ActiveDirectory concerns. They want apps! Absolutely, but let’s be honest about apps – most key apps and popular games are available across all platforms, and the relative low cost of apps means that it is easier to jump ship to a different OS.  Windows 8 isn’t perfect, but I would lay good money that if a 7″ Windows-based tablet was available for Nexus 7 money, they’d sell shed-loads. A similar argument follows for smartphones and Windows Phone has actually been doing quite well recently with solid gains according a recent IDC survey.

Microsoft is ahead of the game in recognising that the future is not a tablet future, but a touch future, and building touch into the core of Windows is a winner. For me, all Microsoft needs to do it get the prices down, tweak the usability of Windows 8 and continue with the “Windows Everywhere” advertising. It’s a Microsoft future.

Gartner: PC Shipments Worldwide Continue to Decline

Gartner came out with their quarterly press release detailing PC shipments in 2011. In Q1, they found Worldwide PC shipments totaled only 84.3 million units. It’s only a 1.1 percent decline from Q1 – 2010, however, this trend has shown that PC shipments have, for the first time, suffered a year-over-year decline.

That means PC shipments have declined for 2 years in a row. This after Gartner predicted a 3 percent growth in Q1.

Of course, you can guess what caused the decline.

“Weak demand for consumer PCs was the biggest inhibitor of growth,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics. With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs. We’re investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market.”

Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 1Q11 (Units)


Company
1Q11 Shipments 1Q11 Market Share (%) 1Q10 Shipments 1Q11 Market Share (%) 1Q11-1Q10 Growth (%)
HP 14,797,299 17.6 15,312,468 18.0 -3.4
Acer Group 10,893,793 12.9 12,412,859 14.6 -12.2
Dell 9,984,370 11.9 10,210,766 12.0 -2.2
Lenovo 8,137,904 9.7 6,976,683 8.2 16.6
Toshiba 4,821,600 5.7 4,580,746 5.4 5.3
Others 35,615,953 42.3 35,686,995 41.9 -0.2
Total 84,250,918 100.0 85,180,518 100.0 -1.1

Note: Data includes desk-based PCs, mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks but not media tablet such as the iPad.
Source: Gartner (April 2011)

Will this Trend Continue?

While we are definitely on a tablet kick, we still need another computer for when the tablet becomes more of a hindrance. Something that holds more data, plays higher-resolution games, sits on the desk while we enter finances or taxes, or something that has a little more horsepower than the iPad or Galaxy Tab. It’s definitely getting overshadowed by a tablet, but we are not ready to ditch the old tower or laptop just yet.

The big question: Have you parted ways with your desktop or notebook for a tablet? Let me know by commenting below.

The One Thing Apple Did Wrong this Year

First of all, I know there are going to be people disagreeing on this, so let’s just say we’ll agree to disagree….

I have seen a few articles on the web talking about the 10 things that Apple has done right and the 10 things Apple has done wrong. While I look at some of the items on these lists, I agree with it for the most part. You can probably guess some of the things like Apple and AT&T, the Tablet rumors, not upgrading the Mac Pro, etc.

All in all, there is one thing that I think Apple should have done this year and didn’t really do. It’s something that was on Beta News top ten list of things they did right. But I disagree:

Apple did not lower the prices enough.

Back in June the gossip was that Apple was lowering prices on their Macbooks. Everyone was a flutter with a possibly “affordable” machine. But in the end, the reality was that the Intel Dual core laptop started at $999. If you wanted a more affordable Mac – The mini only costs $599.

Now if you compare that to a PC Laptop – 2.66 Dual core with 2 GB DDR3 memory and 250GB hard drive, you will find that price is at about $700. It is said that 30% of the macbook sale is profit. That is about $300 for the Apple name and OS. Apple is expected to have sold about 3 million new machines in this quarter alone, meaning $300 million in sales – or (if numbers stayed the same year round) $1.2 Billion.

Before we move forward – I realize that Apple has to answer to investors. Making profit is key, especially in this economy. However, this last year and a half has not been good to some. Most companies have tried to lower prices so people can buy more and re-stimulate the economy.

Apple didn’t do anything viable for the average consumer.

If they would have done the same thing as with the original Macintosh, then I would be more sympathetic to the cause. Basically, Apple – Back in 1985 – started a program to build, or even rebuild school computer rooms. I was lucky enough to go to a High school that had received 30 Macintosh Classics from this program.

But in this go-around they didn’t. They pretty much profited the money from the sales.

I am all for making a profit in any economy. PC manufacturers would always complain that the problem with building computers was they would only make a couple dollars from selling because the competition was so high. That is why companies made support plans – to make some extra cash on a sale.

My problem lies with the fact that a low end Macbook is not affordable to the average consumer. That is why Microsoft made the PC hunter commercials. A Mac for $1000 whereas a PC Notebook for $500. Yes, it might have a slightly slower processor to it, but will the average consumer actually notice a500 Mhz difference? We could also talk about how AMD processors would match the speed and keep the price low. But let’s not get into THAT argument.

Add to it Apple’s other interests, like iPhone sales, which are great. It costs them $179 to build a 16 GB model. Now while you are saying “That’s OK, I only paid $199 for the phone”, the reality is you didn’t. AT&T picked up the difference for the exclusivity. A $400 difference.

Here is how it works – AT&T pays Apple a monthly fee per phone on their system. So within 2 years, AT&T will pay Apple around $400 for your phone ($12-15 per month). Making Apple about $400 on your $179 iPhone ($600 in total). Of course, if you buy the phone outright, it will cost you $499.

Now we will talk stocks: This last week, Apple shares rose to $209 – the highest they’ve ever been. Why is that? No other reason than the fact that a rumor is going around about a Tablet that might be coming.

Really?

I could go on with numbers, but I think I made my point. Apple could have easily dropped a Macbook to $700, and a Macbook Pro to $900. They would have then sold Apple care for $70 a year and still made a tidy profit.

So the rumor of the Tablet is it will sell for $600. I would venture a guess to say it will be more $800 (if this rumor comes true). Why? Because Apple doesn’t want to “Cheapen” the computer experience for anyone. And they certainly don’t want to lighten the pocketbooks.