- 900 lumens of brightness
- Remote works from any direction
- Good resolution with long throw
- Fan is still loud
- No smart functions or WiFi
- We've seen this all before
Putting on my best Morpheus impression, what if I told you that you could carry around a 150-inch TV in the palm of your hand or in an extra large fanny pack? While it won't quite fit even the largest of cargo pants, the AAXA M5 pico LED projector continues the company's tradition of offering a great projector experience in a relatively small package. Is this the mobile movie theater of your dreams? Let's find out.
Big and Bright in a Small Package
AAXA has been producing a great number of mini projectors and pico projectors for a long time now, boasting form factors that are decidedly smaller than your typical home theater projector. In this way, the AAXA M5 isn't exactly reinventing the wheel. It's not trying to break any wheels either, quite unlike everyone's favorite Mother of Dragons. Instead, it's really more of an evolution of what they're already doing. And not much more than that.
This particular projector is powered by a 4th-generation DLP optical engine by Texas Instruments, outputting an impressive 900 lumens of brightness when paired with AAXA's vibrant color LED technology. To put that into perspective, the AAXA LED Android Pico Projector we reviewed some time back only had 550 lumens of brightness. Measuring 6" x 6" x 1.8", this compact projector boasts a native WXGA resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, slightly better than the usual 720p HD.
This "all-in-one projection solution" can work as a standalone media player, taking in your files via USB or on a microSD card slot. That's convenient, playing back pictures, music and videos in a variety of formats. However, it's not as "smart" as the above-mentioned Android player and it's nowhere near as convenient as something like the ZTE Spro 2 with its 5-inch touchscreen and true Android functionality.
Connectivity and Controls
If you're looking to provide an outside source for your media playback, the AAXA M5 has you covered. There are HDMI and VGA ports on the back, making it easy to connect a laptop or gaming console, for instance, as well as an AV jack that works in tandem with the provided adapter for composite video. You'll also notice the headphone jack for when you want a more private audio experience.
Unlike some of the "smart" projectors out there, like the two I mentioned earlier, the M5 does not boast any wireless connectivity or "apps" whatsoever. This means you can't really use it as a portable Netflix machine unless you connect it to your laptop or some other connected media device.
Along the right side (if you're looking from the back of the unit), you'll find a USB port for external storage, plus a microSD slot that's still sporting the dated "TF card" vernacular. It's been quite some time since I've heard someone refer to a "TransFlash card." The right side is also where you'll find the on/off switch and the focus dial. The AAXA M5 does not autofocus nor does it offer keystoning correction. You really need to project perfectly perpendicularly.
A basic credit card-style remote is also included in the package, along with a basic tripod. The remote gives you core control over playback and menu navigation. When I first saw this remote, I figured that it would only work when pointed from one direction. Maybe the IR receiver is in the front or the back. That's not the case. The M5 is set up so that you can point the remote at it from just about any direction and it just works. That's a definite plus.
If you're expecting anything remotely exciting with the user interface on the AAXA M5, you're going to be sorely disappointed. It's simple to a fault and that's really the best way for something like this to work, short of getting a truer operating system like Android. The main menu consists of the six icons you see above. From there, if you click on "video" for example, you can choose your source (memory card or USB), and navigate through your folder structure to find the file you want to play.
The settings menu allows you to adjust few options, like flipping the image or switching between rear or front projection. You can also change the OSD language, adjust the color temperature and change the sound mode. The M5 won't remember where you left off on any file, which can be problematic if you run out of battery mid-movie.
Operation and Visual Quality
Despite having 900 lumens of brightness, though, I did find that some scenes (especially darker ones) don't look that great unless the room is really dark. That comes with the territory with projectors, of course, but it is something you'll want to keep in mind. The crispness of the resolution can also leave something to be desired, especially when you start to stretch into the upper limits of the 150-inch range. Focus is good, but as mention, you do have to do it manually.
Another challenge that you'll need to overcome is the battery life. I was able to get around 75 minutes of continuous video playback with the volume on full (better than the claimed 70 minutes), but that's still not enough for most movies. What's more, there's no apparent battery indicator anywhere, so you can never be sure when you're about to run dry.
The Audio Situation
Good news! The AAXA M5 has a built-in speaker, so it really can be used as an all-in-one media solution. Unsurprisingly, the speaker is hardly the loudest thing in the world and it's not going to win any sound quality awards any time soon. Maybe I'm just hard of hearing, but I found myself leaving the volume cranked almost to the maximum most of the time I was using this projector.
So, it works, but it's not much. To further exacerbate the situation, the fan on this device is still quite loud. I suppose that's necessary, given the DLP technology being used, but that doesn't make it any less annoying.
MEGATechie Pico Professional or MEGATechie Poor Projection?
If you had shown me this projector several years ago, I may have thought about it differently. I may have appreciated the beyond HD resolution more or I would have been more impressed with the 900 lumens of brightness. But today is a different day and we've come to expect far slicker user interfaces and more robust functionality.
It's a trade-off, especially when you consider you can get a Moto Mod for the Moto Z to gain a fully functional projector, albeit not nearly as bright as this one. You can either have a brighter projector with decidedly basic media playback or you can have one that isn't as bright, but can go online and stream whatever you want. And the latter probably won't have as loud a fan either.
The AAXA M5 mini portable business projector retails for $499.99 and is available now.