It’s summertime and what could be better than enjoying some movies on the big screen with friends and family. While heading to the movie theater is one option, another is creating your own theater experience at home.
ViewSonic, who offers a range of projectors good for watching indoors as well as outdoors, was kind enough to send out its latest M2e Portable Projector for review.
As far as portable projectors go, the ViewSonic M2e isn’t as compact as something like the Anker Nebula II. Regardless, for being a true 1080p projector with a wide selection of ports, the M2e is quite small.
On the front of the M2e is the lens with an LED lamp that features 30,000 hours of life. You’ll also find the sensors for auto-focusing and keystone correction. However, be aware that while the M2e is fantastic at vertical keystone correction, it doesn’t do much at horizontal angles. Meaning, you’re going to need to place this directly in front of where you’re projecting instead of off at an angle.
Turn it around to the back and you’ll find a wide variety of ports, including an HDMI 1.4 port, USB type A, USB-C, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card slot. Basically, everything you’ll need to extend the capabilities of this little projector.
On the bottom of the M2e, there are three adjustable feet to help you get it perfectly leveled, as well as a kickstand to change the vertical angle of the projector. In my experience, the M2e handles vertical keystone correction very well, so tilting it up or down won’t be an issue at all. Additionally, there is a screw mount on the bottom that allows you to attach the M2e to a tripod for easy placement.
Inside the box, the M2e comes with a power cable, remote control, USB-C cable, and carrying case for taking everything on the go.
In short, when it comes to using the included software on the ViewSonic M2e, my suggestion would be, don’t do it. The M2e runs a custom version of Android without Google Services and includes the Aptoide Android marketplace to install apps.
The app selection is extremely limited–out of all the streaming apps that I searched for–I could only find Netflix, Prime Video, and Plex. However, even after installing those apps, the experience wasn’t that great.
Navigating and searching in the Netflix app was frustrating because the app installed isn’t built for being used with a remote. Then, I couldn’t even get signed into my Amazon account because I use 2FA and the keyboard wouldn’t load for me to enter the code.
Plex is the app I had the most success with, but that’s only useful if you have a large library of local content. If you’re thinking about side loading additional streaming apps such as Disney+ or Hulu, think again. These apps refuse to launch due to the lack of Google Services.
The ViewSonic M2e supports screen mirroring and shows up in the cast menu when you tap the cast icon in apps. Unfortunately, I was left with a neverending loading screen whenever I attempted to use it. If only this worked it would have made up for the disappointing app selection, but it proved to be unreliable. Most likely, this is due to the M2e not working with casting of copyrighted content which ViewSonic openly states in the description of the product.
There is also the option of mirroring your screen over USB-C. I was able to successfully connect my phone using a USB-C to USB-C cable to the M2e and stream videos. The problem with this method is you’re going to have to leave the phone’s display on the entire time you’re playing the video.
The ViewSonic M2e supports playing back files off of a USB drive, but once again, there are some issues. While all the video formats I tested worked fine, the M2e cannot decode AC3 audio. I was able to remedy this by side loading VLC, but eventually, I came to the conclusion that you’d be better off using a different solution to playback media.
Add a streaming stick
Basically, you’re going to need to add a streaming stick to the ViewSonic M2e if you want a good user experience. After digging my old Chromecast Ultra out of the closet and connecting it to the M2e, it vastly improved the user experience. I was even able to power it off the USB port on the back of the projector.
All of a sudden, I could access every streaming app available and cast copyright-protected videos to the projector. Additionally, while the remote for the M2e works fine, it wasn’t easy to use given you’re not usually able to point it directly at the M2e from where you’re sitting. Using the Chromecast Ultra dongle made it so much easier to navigate and start videos.
The M2e won’t rival a 4K or 1080p TV in terms of picture quality, but overall I was very impressed. Considering you’re blowing up a picture to between 80 and 100 inches from a projector this tiny, I was honestly surprised it looked as good as it did.
Indoors I was bouncing the picture off a plain white wall for an 80-inch picture and sitting about 8 feet away. The image was sharp, colors were vibrant, and contrast was spot on after a few adjustments.
When it comes to brightness, the M2e performed well. I was able to see the picture in a moderately lit room during the daytime with the blinds drawn. However, the M2e looks its best at night or in a completely dark room.
Outdoors was a different story though. I bought this 120-inch projector screen off of Amazon and found the picture was too washed out to see even in the early evening. I had to wait for it to get completely dark out before it was worth watching.
Furthermore, something to be aware of is the M2e struggled to autofocus when adjusting the distance and angle using the projector screen outdoors. I had to power it off and on to get it to focus properly, while indoors it was able to focus on the wall perfectly each time I moved it.
The M2e features a speaker from Harmon/Kardon that will get the job done but don’t expect big movie sound from this tiny speaker. If you want big audio to match the massive picture from the M2e, then you’re going to need to add an external speaker. Plus, the fan can get pretty noisy while watching videos, and using a louder Bluetooth speaker helps drown it out.
I used a couple of different Bluetooth speakers during my time with the M2e and paired with the Chromecast Ultra this is the ultimate experience.
The smooth user experience of the Chromecast Ultra, fantastic picture quality of the M2e, and big sound of a Bluetooth speaker all combine for the ultimate backyard or home theater experience.
I also tested out the 3.5mm jack on the M2e, and even though I tried two different cables and two different speakers, the audio would cut out. Fortunately, the Bluetooth audio worked perfectly, but I wouldn’t count on using the 3.5mm port.
For $600 the ViewSonic M2e offers great picture quality with auto-focus in a compact package along with all the inputs you need to take it to the next level. While I ran into some issues with the app selection and the 3.5mm jack was wonky for me, both can easily be sidestepped if you use a streaming dongle and Bluetooth speaker.
With all of that combined, you have everything you need to replicate the big-screen experience of a movie theater in your home, backyard, or both.