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The gear has arrived and I had my first hands-on session. I’ll jump right at the conclusion: fantastic!
Let’s start with this tiny LED HDMI projector by Brookstone which is a true gem; image quality is pretty good for a thing this small, and definitely more than adequate for business use. Just out of curiosity I tried blowing it all the way up to maybe 80′ with the result you see below.
The ergonomics are just right: as you can see the whole kit (well, almost) fits in this little neoprene pouch. The only items left out are the HDMI cable (more later) and the power supply for the projector, which, however is not strictly necessary as the device packs enough battery to keep you going for 90′.
Once opened, you can see the projector (left), the Apple TV (right), plus Apple Remote, minitripod and power cable for the Apple TV.
First thing is to screw the minitripod on the standard 1/2″ threaded hole at the bottom of the projector – thanks God this operation does not preclude access to any port or connector as sadly it’s so often the case with portable devices.
This results in a solid coupling – of course, any tripod will do: from the huge, multi-segmented professional ones to pocketable Gorillapods. The one you see in the picture was a suggestion by Brookstone and is very pocketable while offering a respectable 40 cm height when fully extended, which I believe is more than enough for most meeting room settings where you typically need to put the projector on a table. The pivoting head also allows you to do a little image orientation since the projector has no keystone correction.
You can now connect the Apple TV via any regular male-male HDMI cable, power it up and place it on top of the projector:
Turning on and off and focusing of the projector are done through side mounted switches – again very easy and fully accessible.
Yes, there is a “but”, perhaps the only one I found so far, and it’s about the damn HDMI cable: as you can see, the HDMI clunky connectors are almost as big as the devices, and the weight and the rigidity of a standard HDMI cable is enough to unbalance the setup.
I am sure there must be a better way to connect those two tiny devices, whose female HDMI connectors almost line up and face each other correctly. I scoured the Cables4less catalog (my usual source for all things cables) but for some reason nobody makes cables shorter than 0.5m which is still about twice what I need.
Additionally, regular HDMI cables are thick and rigid, which is my case is a problem, as they could easily topple my little tower. Flat cables are probably my best bet, so I must look for a short one.
90° adaptors and joiners are a possibility, but the probability of a stiff connector to be exactly the length I need are minimal.
The projector has its own speakers, which are predictably underpowered – my MacBook Air sounds better, in fact. It also has an audio out 3.5mm jack and an USB charging port to which I am hoping to connect these flat speakers by Insignia. I have used flat panel speakers before and I know they can deliver more than enough punch for a business presentation, and should be small enough to fit in the same pouch.
Now that the system is all connected you connect the Apple TV to the same WiFi network as your Mac, iPad or iPhone – you can have more than one Apple TV on the same network, each of them will have its own name and you can beam any of your screen(s) to any one of them and hot swap – I tried setting up an ad hoc WiFi network but that does not seem to work at all.
Also I tried using the portable hotspot feature of my phone to create an on-the-go network, but while I am able to get the devices on this network, its bandwidth is probably not enought to support AirPlay.
Using in a real life situation
The pouch contains all you need (once the short cable is found): if the meeting room has a big LCD TV, you only use the Apple TV connecting it to an HDMI input; if not, you will also need the projector – in both cases you can either use your iPad or iPhone as well as a more traditional Mac, the latter having the advantage of a much wider choice of transitions.
In all cases, the longest and more dodgy item of set up is connecting to the existing WiFi (obtaining the password, etc.) which has to be done each time, as the Apple TV forgets passwords once you connect it to a different network (why?!?!) but 10′ should be more than enough and of course you always run the risk that the meeting room DOES NOT have a wifi connection, in which case you’re stuck and must fall back to cables.
Assuming you’re not that unlucky, however, you then enjoy maximum liberty to roam around the room while you speak and, perhaps more importantly, can completely ignore technical constraints in the room setup and place yourself and your colleagues where it makes most sense; you will also be able to switch speaker simply by passing along the computer or iPad or, better, by having multiple copies of the presentation loaded on different devices and hot swapping them as you move from one speaker to the other.