Home theaters are becoming more and more accessible these days, but maybe you've been a bit wary about buying a home projector. And honestly, we don't blame you. Until recently, your options for home projectors have been slim, all with obvious downfalls. Most home projectors weren't affordable or user friendly, or if they were, they simply weren't bright enough or designed to work with your electronics. That's not the case anymore, and we're going to show you how easy at-home projection can be with the ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector.
As a Projector
Do you need a projector? No. Are you going to want a projector after seeing this little gem? Probably. It's a pint-sized projector that can be taken just about anywhere. The image quality of this projector is spectacular, boasting a 200 lumens output and a 720p resolution. We found that on maximum brightness, we were able to project in even a fairly bright room during the day, but blinds or dark curtains will certainly help set the movie theater mood if that's what you're going for. Though, we had no problem being able to project a clear picture when we had our lamps on, either, meaning that it's a plausible TV replacement that doesn't prevent others from being able to work on other things. We set it up against the wall of a living room, and managed to get a crystal-clear 106-inch screen.
Input wise, you've got a couple options. If you want to hook it up to a Roku, laptop, or cable box, it's got an HDMI port (and comes packed with an HDMI cable, which we thought was very considerate of ZTE,) as well as a USB port and a place for an SD card. This covers most of your bases for external input, barring the old-school RWY audio/visual jacks or cable input.
As a Tablet
It's not only a projector, but it's also an Android tablet with touch interface. If you want to play games on it, you can. If you want to run apps on it, you can. It's running Android 4.4 KitKat, boasts 2GB of Ram and 16 gigs of storage. If you've got a microSD card lying around, you can add up to 64GB of additional storage. We didn't care for the tablet function, beyond being able to install apps like Hulu, Netflix, and Youtube so we could easily watch videos from it, but even without it, we could hook up our Roku 3 or laptop and achieve the same thing. Still, if you're going to be taking the Spro outside to watch your favorite movies against the side of your house or fence, it's internal battery will certainly let you go wire-free -- at least for between two and three hours according to a few tests that we ran.
As a Mobile Hotspot
But you might be wondering how you could watch things that far from your router, and that's as reasonable a question as anything else, except that the Spro also runs on cellular data. And, if you so choose, it can be used to provide internet to up to 10 devices as well. That's right - this projector-turned-tablet is now a projector-turned-tablet-turned-mobile hotspot. So, if you want to take it outside, take it outside. Enjoy watching a movie wherever you want. The Spro 2 Smart Projector uses a Verizon sim card with a data plan that will run you about $5 a month.
The Flaw in the Design
Our main problem with the Spro 2 Smart Projector is that the sound quality from the projector itself is poor. There's almost no bass and it has a tinny or hollow sound. For watching the average Seinfeld marathon, it's not too bad, but if you're going to be watching movies or playing video games on it, we suggest that you pair it with a Bluetooth speaker or soundbar if at all possible.
Our second complaint: the projector gets hot, and then it gets loud -- coupled with weak sound, this is a bit of a problem. This little projector throws off a lot of heat on maximum brightness, which leads to the internal fans kicking on high. Anything you set it on is going to get rather warm very quickly, so we suggest you invest in a tripod that can help improve air circulation around this projector. We used a simple $10 tripod from Amazon and hooked it up to the projector, which gave it enough airflow to keep it quite a bit cooler.
Extra features aside, we still think that the best feature is that it's actually a small, incredibly functional projector. We've been living with it for a week and a half at this point, and we've started using it for everything. YouTube marathon? Put it on the projector. Date night movie? Put it on the projector. Playing Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeros in preparation for Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain? Put it on the projector. Impromptu shadow puppet show? Use the light from the projector. Really, there haven't been a lot of things that we haven't done with it, and we're entirely smitten.
If you're looking for an at-home projector, we highly suggest this one. It's not the cheapest option, but for all the features you get, it's well worth it. We think that this is one of the better projectors we've taken a look at in terms of quality and and ease of use. If you're interested in the ZTE Spro 2 Smart Projector, it'll run you $600, which isn't cheap but should prove to be a smart investment in the long run.