In many ways, the Sony MP-CD1 Mobile Projector closely resembles its predecessor, the Sony MP-CL1—same pocketable size, same simple-yet-attractive style—but it adds one key feature while dropping another. While the MP-CL1 distinguished itself by being one of the few projectors to incorporate a laser-based light engine, the MP-CD1 uses the time-honored digital light processing (DLP) technology developed by Texas Instruments decades ago, used by about half of the projectors we review. What the MP-CD1 adds is USB Type-C connectivity, which enables fast charging. Image quality is reasonably good for both video and data-heavy images, and the MP-CD1 is indeed hyper-portable, but it’s a bit pricey for what it offers.
Carry Around a Big Show
The matte-black MP-CD1 measures 0.5 by 3.1 by 5.8 inches (HWD) and weighs just 7 ounces. It’s a tad shorter and thicker than my iPhone 7S Plus, and it can fit (barely!) in a shirt pocket. The body design is simple yet handsome, crafted from aluminum, and it comes with a slick-looking black carrying case.
This mini-projector comes equipped with a built-in 5,000mAh rechargeable battery that, according to Sony, can last up to two hours on a charge. In playing a video in our testing on a full charge, the battery lasted nearly that long (1 hour and 40 minutes, to be exact). The battery can also serve as a power-bank-style USB charger for other mobile devices.
Sony rates the MP-CD1’s brightness at 105 lumens. Its DLP light engine has an LED light source rated for 50,000 hours, so the lamp should last the lifetime of the projector. The native resolution is 854 by 480 pixels, aka WVGA, effectively a 16:9 aspect ratio and a common resolution for low-brightness pico projectors.
With one exception, the ports and controls are on the projector’s right side. A USB Type-C port is provided for charging the projector. (A bundled adapter cable plugs into a computer or power supply for juice.) The projector’s USB Type-A port is for charging mobile devices. An HDMI port lets you connect the projector to an HDMI source, such as a computer, a DVD player, or an MHL-compatible Android mobile device. (You could also stream from an iOS device, but you would have to buy the Apple Digital AV Adapter to do so.) A variety of Wi-Fi dongles—not included—such as the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter work with the projector’s HDMI and/or USB ports to provide wireless connectivity.
Rounding out the ports-and-buttons picture: an audio-out jack, and the power button. The latter also serves as a toggle between the MP-CD1’s Standard and Dynamic projection modes, and enables or mutes the audio from the built-in 1-watt speaker. (More about both in a moment.)
On the projector’s left side, behind the lens, is a single control: a focus slider. With it, I could achieve a pretty sharp focus, but only after significant trial and error, as it is easy to overshoot the ideal setting.
On the bottom of the MP-CD1 is a threaded hole for a tripod, but it may not be necessary to use one to give the lens the proper clearance. The projector rests on four short feet, and you can bring it to the edge of a tabletop to project without interference. Also, its long, flat body shape makes it easy to prop up the front by slipping small objects underneath it.
Evaluating Brightness, Image Quality
Based on the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, 105 lumens is bright enough for an image of about 40 to 54 inches (measured diagonally) in theater-dark lighting, given the MP-CD1’s 16:9 aspect ratio and assuming a 1.0-gain screen. Based on my experience, the best balance between brightness and size for this projector comes at a slightly smaller size, about 36 inches.
The projector did a fair job on our standard suite of DisplayMate data-image tests. Black text on white, and white text on black, were both clearly readable at sizes as small as 9 points. Colors were well saturated—particularly considering the low brightness—and color balance was good. I did notice some rainbow artifacts—little red/green/blue flashes, particularly at the edge of dark areas against bright backgrounds—in images that tend to bring them out. This so-called “rainbow effect” is often seen in images from DLP projectors. It is seldom a significant issue in data images, and it shouldn’t be with the MP-CD1.
Video was watchable, if not impressive. Colors in video playback were reasonably good, though on the pale side when in the projector’s default Standard picture mode. I saw some posterization—abrupt shifts in color where they should be gradual—in certain scenes, as well as some loss of detail in bright areas. I noted fewer rainbow artifacts than with an average DLP projector, but enough of them that people sensitive to the effect might find them a distraction. The MP-CD1’s video is of a quality suitable for watching short to mid-length clips. Although colors were somewhat richer when I switched to Dynamic picture mode, more rainbow artifacts were visible.
The Stealth Speaker
No other way to say it, though a whisper might be the most appropriate: The 1-watt speaker pushes soft, soft sound. You’ll need to be near the projector to hear it well. And unless you take a close look at Sony’s specifications for the projector, you might not even realize the speaker is even there.
As I mentioned previously, the power on/off button doubles as a selector for both the speaker and the projector’s two picture modes. By default, the speaker is muted, and the projector displays in Standard mode. Press the power button once—for less than a second—and the sound will come on. (The projector has no volume control; you have to adjust the volume on the device from which you’re streaming the video.) Press the button again, and the sound will be muted but you’ll be in Dynamic mode. Press it a third time, and you’ll be in Dynamic mode, with sound. A fourth, and you’re back at muted Standard mode.
In short, if you need audio that fills the space for a group of viewers, you’ll need to connect some external speakers.
A Decent Pick for Shows to Go
Although the Sony MP-CD1 Mobile Projector lacks the laser-based light engine found in its predecessor, the MP-CL1, this is not a bad thing. Image quality was similar; the MP-CD1’s color balance was better, but the MP-CL1 was slightly better at rendering text. As a DLP projector, the MP-CD1’s video showed rainbow artifacts, which, although not particularly severe, might still irk some viewers. That said, laser projectors have their own artifacts, the so-called “speckle effect.”
DLP projectors tend to sell at a lower price than laser-based models, but the MP-CD1 has a higher list price than the MP-CL1. In contrast, the minuscule, DLP-based Philips Pocket Projector PPX4010 costs considerably less than either of these Sonys. It lacks the MP-CD1’s battery and is meant primarily for projecting from a computer, but it delivers great data-image quality and watchable video. If you don’t need the off-the-cord portable talents of the MP-CD1, consider that Philips model if you’re in the market for a versatile projector that’s easy to carry.