Gadget retailer Brookstone has taken to iOS devices like a baby duck takes to water, and the company supplied TUAW with a trio of review products last week that are perfect for hosting a movie night at your home or wowing a client with a presentation at their office. The Brookstone Pocket Projector for iPhone 4 (US$229.99) and a pair of Bluetooth speakers from Big Blue -- Big Blue Studio ($149.99) and Big Blue Live ($99.99) -- are useful and well-designed products that work just as well at home or in the office.
Brookstone Pocket Projector for iPhone 4
I have to admit that I was dubious about this pocket projector, but it far exceeded my expectations. The Pocket Projector is basically a small iPhone case that you slide your iPhone 4 or 4S into. It has a 2100 mAh battery built in that not only powers the projector, but can serve as a backup battery for your iPhone as well.
The Pocket Projector is thick enough (about .88") that your friends or co-workers will be wondering if you're happy to see them. The surprising thing is that the Pocket Projector only adds 3.6 ounces to the weight you'll be carrying.
The projector isn't particularly bright at 15 lumens, so you'll want to make sure that you are in a well-darkened family or conference room before switching it on. Once it's on, you can use the projector to show your Keynote presentations, movies, or slideshows to anyone in the room. The device projects images up to 50" diagonal, so it's almost like having a big flat-screen TV in your pocket.
I was able to use the projector for about two hours before it shut down. The battery still seemed to have some juice in it as I was able to turn the projector back on in a while, but it appeared that the shutdown was due to overheating. There is no way to run the projector from an AC adapter, so you are definitely tied to the life of the non-replaceable battery.
There's a focus adjustment for making sure that the image is sharp, and there's even a built-in .5 Watt speaker to supply sound. Frankly, you'll want a Bluetooth speaker like one of the Big Blue models I'll talk about later in this review.
I watched some short segments of movies, some presentations, and a slideshow or two using the Pocket Projector, and for the most part I was happy with the results. However, this isn't a replacement for a much more capable projector for one very big reason -- the native resolution of the device is only 640 x 360 pixels.
While the images seemed fairly sharp and colors were bright, small text suffered. However, as you can see from some of the photos included with this review, screen text was very easy to read so your mileage may vary.
I think the best use for this device would be for showing images; giving slide shows to friends or clients, watching home videos or product videos. It's definitely doesn't have high enough resolution to be used as a projector for classes or meetings, but still a fun and useful product in the right use cases.
Big Blue Studio and Live Speakers
We get a lot of Bluetooth speakers here at the TUAW Labs, some of which are high-end units and others that are cheap. The Big Blue line seems to hit the middle ground, with a big speaker that's more reasonably-priced than some smaller devices like the Jawbone Jambox.
The Studio Speaker comes in a white polycarbonate shell with a metal grid covering the front, dominated by a big blue "eye." There's a hefty looking AC adapter with a thin cable that powers the unit. The speaker has a total 30 Watt output, with two full-range 2.5" drivers, a 3" subwoofer driver, and a passive radiator. The Studio Speaker supports any Bluetooth 2.0 or higher device with A2DP, GAVDP, or IOP compatibility.
The Studio Speaker is definitely made to be left in one place, as you do not want to carry this monster around. The portable member of the family is the ten-ounce Big Blue Live Speaker, which can be easily toted around to wherever you need to push out some tunes. It has an output of 4 Watts (2 Watts per channel) and runs off of a rechargeable 1150 mAh battery for up to four hours. You can be up to about 33 feet away from the Live Speaker, which supports any Bluetooth 2.0 or higher devices with A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, or HSP compatibility.
While the Studio Speaker is designed for music or movie soundtracks, the Live Speaker also has a secret life as a speakerphone. I tried it out with my iPhone 4S and was pleased with the voice quality of the incoming call, and the person I was talking to said my voice seemed clearer than usual. The Live Speaker would be the perfect companion on business trips where you might wish to have a conference speakerphone and a way of listening to music in a hotel room.
The sound quality on both Big Blue speakers was very good. The Studio Speaker really took the prize, though, both in terms of raw sound power and how well it reproduced sound. The Live Speaker wasn't as powerful or as accurate, and seemed to lack punch in both bass and in highs.
I think Brookstone has a winner with the Big Blue speakers, and you can see them at Brookstone stores around the country. For a portable movie viewing or presentation setup, the Live Speaker and Pocket Projector are a perfect pair of accessories.