EXAM – Projectors were once an object of decadence. I remember my uncle had a home theater setup built around a projector mounted on his ceiling, and he was proud of how much it had cost. When I was teaching college classes, we had to seriously think about our budget if we needed to replace a projector. The times have changed. While expensive projectors are certainly available, it’s now possible to watch movies just about anywhere for around $100. The SMONET 7500L projector is a good example, but with some compromises.
What is that?
The SMONET 7500L is a small portable HD LED projector with built-in speakers and remote control. It includes multiple inputs to connect to a variety of devices.
What’s in the box?
- SMONET 7500L Projector
- Power cable (not a power supply, which is fine)
- hdmi cable
- AV cable (RCA jacks for stereo audio, video inputs and 3.5mm output)
- Lens cover
- Threaded height adjustment screw
- User’s Guide
- Luminous luminance: 7500 lumens
- Type of light: LEDs
- Default resolution: 720, 1080p supported
- Projection area: 30-200 inches
- Contrast: 3000:1
- Throw ratio: 1.2:1
- Throw Distance: 4.92-16.4 feet
- Aspect ratio: 4:3/16:9/16:10
- Keystone correction: Manual, vertical: ±15 degrees
- Projection Mode: Normal, inverted and rotated projection. Allows rear projection
- Video support: Realtime Video Decoder MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.263, H.264, H.265, VC-1, RV, VP6/VP8, Sorenson Spark, MVC
- Audio support: MP3, WMA, MP2, OGG, AAC, M4A, MA4, FLAC, APE, 3GP, WAV
- Image support: Supports a variety of browsing image formats (jpg, png, bmp, etc.)
- Extended storage: USB 2.0 support
- Built-in speaker: 1*2w speaker
- Energy consumption: 48W
- Lester: 3.1 pounds
Design and features
When I agreed to test the SMONET 7500L projector, I didn’t have high expectations. Even before I received the projector, I tried researching the company, only to find that they have no web presence other than Amazon. This is usually not a good thing, simply indicating a name product. This fear was confirmed when I received the projector and the box had no marks on it. Even the brand title on the Amazon listing is misspelled. But once I took it out and started playing with it, I was surprised. For around $100, it’s not bad. The design is nothing unique, but it is compact, light and efficient.
There are two dials on the top, behind the lens. One is manual focus and the other is manual keystone adjustment for when you can’t place the projector perfectly perpendicular to the screen. It also has control buttons in case you lose the remote.
At the bottom of the SMONET 7500L projector are four rubber feet and a threaded insert for a height adjustment foot. This threaded insert also works with normal camera tripods, which is really the sweet spot for mounting, as tripods have nearly infinite adjustability (hint: you’ll need it).
The rear of the projector includes a single speaker, a power connection and a sensor for the remote control.
The side of the SMONET 7500L projector is where the magic happens, as the projector has no built-in multimedia capability and you will need to plug something into it. You could go the old fashioned way and use a VGA socket, but I’m not sure too many computers have more. You can go middle school and use your DVD player‘s video jacks and plug into the AV port, or you can be more modern and use an HDMI cable from almost any modern device, including computers laptops, phones, tablets and DVD players. If you have content on USB drives (external hard drives, memory sticks, etc.), you can plug those in as well. It has a small speaker on the back that works but has pretty average sound quality. But the projector does include a headphone/speaker-out port (3.5mm) so you can hook it up to better speakers quite easily.
Once the SMONET 7500L projector is installed in a dark space, the quality is good. It’s surprisingly bright for a projector around $100, and using it with the included HDMI cable connected to my Macbook Air (via a dongle, of course) worked flawlessly. The sound wasn’t great, so I opted to hook up a nice Bluetooth speaker to my laptop and place it just below the screen. This provided an excellent audio and video solution.
Installation and placement can be a little tricky. First, there’s no optical zoom. The only way to enlarge the image size is to physically move the projector away from the screen. You can fine-tune a bit with the configuration menu, but you can only reduce the zoom, not increase it. So for a great image, be prepared to move the projector back quite far. The next configuration challenge is the keystone. This is a necessary adjustment when the projector is not perfectly perpendicular to the screen. The keystone adjustment is limited to 15 degrees, which means you’ll really have to place the projector right in front of the screen. Mounting it on a coffee table or on the ceiling probably won’t work without some distortion. Again, that’s why the ability to use a camera tripod is a good idea. The remote control is well designed and easy to use. It controls the setup menu, inputs, as well as audio with volume and mute. The SMONET 7500L projector has remote sensors on the front and rear, which also allows it to work just about anywhere in the room.
During my first test, I used my laptop. It worked great, but it involved a lot of cables, a table next to the tripod holding the projector, and it was unsightly. The best option really is a streaming stick, like a Fire Stick, Roku Stick, or Chromecast. These plug directly into the HDMI port, can be powered from any of the USB ports and are controlled by their own remote or your phone. Some of them can even be linked to Bluetooth speakers for better sound. But there are many options for using this projector. Perhaps the best part is its lightness and portability. A movie night in the garden? We did, and it works great.
What I like
- very bright with a good picture (for around $100)
- Some fan noise, but not too loud to be bothersome
- It’s simple to use. For most things, it’s plug-and-play
- Leveling foot insert also fits a tripod
What I would change
- The keystone is limited, so the projector must be mounted high enough
- It’s marketed as portable, but no bag was included
- Placement can be a challenge due to limited zoom and keystone
- Cables for using a phone are not included
- No HDCP security, which means you can’t watch content you’ve downloaded from offline apps like Netflix or Amazon Prime. That’s no surprise at this price, but something to be aware of if you’re considering going ‘off the grid’.
A three-pound portable projector for around $100 was once a fantasy. Now it’s something that exists and works quite well. I’m not sure the SMONET 7500L projector is what I would choose for permanent installation in my home theater, but for hanging out on the patio and watching episodes of Lost with the family, it works surprisingly well.
Or buy: Amazon ($60 instant discount coupon)
Source: The sample for this review was provided by SMONET.