Review: Aiptek MobileCinema i20D

Compact and portable, the i20D projects good quality images from Apple devices and doubles as a power bank to charge devices on the go.

The AiptekMobile Cinema i20D projects images from five to 50 inches in 960x540 pixel resolution.

The Aiptek MobileCinema i20D is a portal, compact projector and power bank in one that works with selected iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Users simply plug it into their devices, access their videos or photos, and project them onto just about any surface.

Look and feel

The Aiptek MobileCinema is small and solid, at 95x146x46mm. At 225g, it's not exactly heavy, but one would expect it to be as light as it is small, considering it connects to mobile devices. It seemed to place pressure on the phone connection, and I found myself cradling it whenever I moved it for fear that it would snap, although technically, it should be placed on a firm, flat surface while in use.

That said, this design gives the impression of a sturdy, well-built device that can take a few hard knocks.

The projection lens is positioned on the top of the square device; the iPhone/iPad/iPod connection on the right; projection and charging mode buttons and LED indicators on the bottom; and the focus wheel and micro USB charging port on the left.

Included in the box is a USB cable for charging through PCs, a pouch, a user manual and a Pico stand that doubles as a protective cover for the connection. The Pico stand can be slipped beneath the projector to keep the projection image parallel when connecting to iPads.

Easy projection

The Aiptek MobileCinema is very easy to use. Compatible with iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S; New iPad, iPad and iPad2; and iPod touch third and fourth generation, the device is plug-and-play up to a point (more on that to come).

Out of the box, users can project videos and photographs from a distance of 17cm to 167cm to an image size of 13cm (five inches) up to 125cm (50 inches), although I found I could push the limits and achieve an even bigger projection size without losing image quality (there's something to be said for watching videos on your ceiling in a screen size that's bigger than your 45-inch TV).

Achieving the perfect focus is easy, and the focus wheel is responsive and sensitive.

The MobileCinema projects images in 960x540 pixel resolution in 16:9 aspect ratio, which, while no match for the above-mentioned LED HD TV, still produces excellent quality images on surfaces of just about any texture (white background obviously is best). It boasts a 1 000:1 contract ratio and 100% image offset.

Photographs can only be viewed in slideshow format, however.

The internal speaker produces good-quality sound that is adjustable on the Apple device.

Aiptek Viewer app

At this stage, while I was impressed with the device, I was a little disappointed at its perceived limitations. As it is, it does not project videos from, say, YouTube, or anywhere else on the Web.

Luckily, I am the kind of person who reads magazines cover to cover, and by extension, I read every corner of a product's packaging. Had I not, I would not have seen the tiny text on the side of the box that read: "Works with app 'Aiptek Viewer' for Web browser and live projection." Aha! (There is no mention of this app in the user manual).

And so I downloaded the free app from the App Store, and suddenly the product came into its own. Via the app, users can project whatever they are browsing on the Internet; access YouTube videos; connect to Facebook, Twitter and Weibo; and stream live content that is being captured by the device it is connected to. Of course, if you're recording holding an iPhone upright, the image will project sideways, so this is a bit awkward, but still useful and nifty.

One thing I noticed was that the device got surprisingly hot, even after just 10 minutes of use.

Power bank

In summary

Pros: Compact, good image quality, app for added functionality, device charging ability
Cons: Not compatible with latest devices, gets very hot very quickly, long charging time
Resolution: 960x540 pixel (Q1080p)
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Projection image size: 13cm to 127cm (five to 50 inches)
Projection distance: 17cm to 167cm
Brightness: 12 Lumen
Focus: Manual
Compatible devices: iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S; iPad, iPad 2, iPod third and fourth gen
Connection: Micro USB
Software: ShowU App: photo/video viewer, Web browser, live projection
Dimensions: 95x146x46mm
Weight: 225g
Battery: Embedded, 950mAh Li-polymer
Rating: 9/10
Price: R1 647 from Orange

The MobileCinema doubles up as a device charger. By pressing the charger button on the device, it switches from projection to power mode, and can power a device up to 80% on a full charge - handy in emergency situations.

Three LED lights on the side of the device indicate battery level. On a full charge, the MobileCinema provides up to 120 minutes' projection time - that's adequate to watch a feature film and perhaps one episode in a series. Aiptek claims up to 20 000 hours' lifetime.

A downside, however, is that it takes a while to charge - around five hours. I found this went a bit quicker when I charged it through my iPhone charger, rather than through a PC.

In a nutshell

The Aiptek MobileCinema i20D is a powerful little device that offers good projection quality and proves useful in situations when you need to charge your phone but forgot your charger at home. I see it being used in small offices to project presentations or slideshows when there is no other audiovisual equipment available. It is also novel as a home cinema device - never again will a power failure leave you bored with nothing to do at 9pm.

While good quality projectors go for anything from R3 000, this MobileCinema is also a good buy, at R1 647 from the Orange store.

Read time 4min 50sec
Tarryn Giebelmann

Tarryn Giebelmann, ITWeb's Sub-Editor

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