- Wireless connectivity
- Decent black levels
- Not bright enough
- Low resolution
- Unsubtle performance
- Set up issues
- iOS 10 compatibility issues
- Built-in battery rated for 80 minutes’ use
- Wi-Fi, USB and HDMI connection
- Pico DLP projection system
- 70 lumens brightness output
- 85 x 85 x 17mm
- 854 x 480-pixel resolution
- Manufacturer: Aiptek
- Review Price: £235.00/$352.50
WHAT IS THE AIPTEK MOBILECINEMA I70?
The i70 is an intriguing attempt to inject new life into the Pico (or pocket) projector market.
It’s smaller than even most Pico projectors, fitting easily into a trouser pocket, yet includes full Wi-Fi connectivity with both computers and Apple/Android mobiles. It can be powered by internal battery too, meaning you can use it without any cables at all.
It also features an HDMI port, can supposedly deliver images up to 80 inches across, and allegedly employs a DLP chip typically found in large cinema projectors, potentially making it an option for movie nights as well as business presentations.
However, as you may have guessed, it turns out the i70 isn’t quite as fun and flexible in the flesh as it sounds on paper.
AIPTEK MOBILECINEMA I70 – DESIGN AND BUILD
Even by Pico projector standards, the i70 really is tiny. Measuring just 85(w) x 85(d) x 17(h)mm and weighing just 136g, it slips easily into any pocket without even straining the seams. In fact, it’s so small and light that you can easily forget it’s in there.
It manages to pack a decent amount of style into its diminutive form thanks to a smooth, silvery finish and surprisingly minimal use of grilles and vents. Even the square lens housing looks kind of cool.
Its build quality is fairly basic; pretty much plastic all the way. However, while it’s fun to imagine the i70 being hewn from a solid block of aluminium or some other suitably shiny metal, such a finish was never going to be possible for the i70’s £235 asking price.
The i70’s lightweight build annoyingly means that the projector can easily become twisted round or tilted up or down simply by the tensile strength and weight of connected power/USB/HDMI cables. The only way I managed to fully get round this issue was by placing a small paperweight on the projector’s top – and you really don’t want to have to walk round with one of those in your pocket.
About now I’d usually mention a product’s remote control, but the i70 doesn’t have one. The only control available to you is a power button on the projector’s body – which you have to hold for a rather random eight seconds to turn on the projector. The projector auto-detects your wireless or HDMI sources as and when you fire them up.
AIPTEK MOBILECINEMA I70 – SETUP
Given that it doesn’t have any on-screen menus, a remote control or any controls bar a power button on its bodywork, there isn’t much to say regarding setup.
The tiny recessed lens has no zoom tools, so the image size will depend entirely on how far from your wall or screen you place the projector. To give you some idea of the distances involved, you can get a tiny 17-inch (43cm) image from a throw distance of 20 inches (51cm), or the projector’s maximum 80-inch (203cm) image from 98 inches (249cm) away.
There’s a focus wheel on the projector’s side, but the lack of any vertical image shift or keystone correction for straightening the image’s sides means that getting pictures to the height you want literally involves raising the projector’s mounting position to the necessary height.
This could be a real problem if you’re trying to use a high screen – unless you think standing up and holding the projector at the right height for the duration of a film or presentation sounds like a particularly fun thing to do.
The only setup menus the i70 provides are simple on-screen guides to getting your Apple or Android device talking to the projector, with PC connection covered in the very basic instructions pamphlet.
Unfortunately, during setup it became apparent that the i70 I’d been supplied with wasn’t compatible with iOS 10. When asked, Aiptek told me that earlier versions of the i70 would never be compatible with iOS 10 because the projector’s hardware is incompatible. However, anyone who buys one of the older models that doesn’t work with iOS should be able to return it for a replacement.
One final setup annoyance is that while the i70 ships with an HDMI to mini-HDMI cable, this cable is extremely short.
The i70 has three main attractions. First, its remarkably small size. Second, its built-in battery, which supports up to 80 minutes of use after a five-hour charge. And finally, its ability to connect wirelessly with PCs/Macs, iPhones and Android phones.
This wireless connectivity and built-in battery makes the i70 that rarest of things: a completely cable-free video display device.
The i70 does have a few other notable tricks up its sleeve, though. As with other Pico projectors, its RGB LED lighting system means it should be impervious to the rainbow-effect noise associated with full-sized DLP projectors. In addition, the LEDs are expected to run for 20,000 hours before any of them die.
It has a built-in speaker and enjoys compatibility with Windows 8.1 or higher (supporting Virtual Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct), Mac OS X 10.10 or higher, Android 4.4 or above (via Miracast screen mirroring), and iOS 7.1 or higher. Although, as noted in the Setup section, you’ll need a new model equipped with the latest firmware and hardware to handle iOS 10.
Handy, too, is a USB port you can use for charging a mobile device from the projector’s own battery, while the i70’s rated contrast of 1,000:1 is promising for a Pico projector.
Less inspiring is the claimed 70 lumens of light output and the standard definition resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. Although that pixel count does at least equate to a native 16:9 aspect ratio.
AIPTEK MOBILECINEMA I70 – PERFORMANCE
In some areas the i70 performs better than most Pico projectors, despite being exceptionally small. Its reproduction of black is particularly impressive, immediately making it a more convincing handler of dark movie scenes than the vast majority of its peers. The darkness isn’t blighted, either, by the sort of aggressive fizzing noise you can get with DLP projectors.
Motion is handled quite well, with minimum judder or blur, and general sharpness looks better than I’d expected given its relatively low native resolution.
The i70’s colours are also better than the ultra-small projector norm. Aside from a gentle green tinge over whites and skin tones, colours look surprisingly natural and balanced during video viewing, largely avoiding the over-wrought look common with Pico designs.
Somehow, though, the i70’s colours also work pretty effectively for data presentations, despite there being no options available for you to manually adjust the colour settings for different types of content.
Unfortunately, the i70’s strengths are undermined by several significant problems. First and worst, pictures just aren’t bright enough to support any kind of image size.
As soon as you get beyond 45 inches (114cm) or so, the brightness drops to a point where even in a blacked-out room the picture looks dull, lifeless and pretty much devoid of detail and depth in dark areas. Even below 45 inches you’re hardly talking about images that enjoy any sort of pop or dynamism.
The i70’s low resolution is also problematic for the way it causes jaggedness around edges when watching HD sources, due to a combination of its low native resolution and some seemingly pretty basic downscaling processing. This jaggedness is especially problematic for presentation text, but it’s also regularly noticeable around strongly defined outlines while watching films.
Problem three is the way the brightest parts of the picture can lose detailing/colour subtlety and appear to glow with some sort of supernatural or radioactive intensity. Next, the image on my review sample was clearly much brighter on the left-hand side than on the right. And finally, running tests for input lag recorded 68ms on average, with some measurements hitting beyond 100ms. This latter fact makes the i70 pretty unhelpful as a potential gaming display.
Not surprisingly given the i70’s size, I hadn’t expected much from its audio. But in fact, its speaker produces a clean sound performance with more scale, projection and clarity than you’d imagine possible from such a tiny piece of hardware. There’s precious little bass and no sense of expansion during action scenes, but the fact that the sound is even tolerable is frankly miraculous.
I need to conclude this section with more bad news, though. Namely that my i70 sample kept shutting down after 60-80 minutes of use even when plugged in – either because it was overheating, or because the projector only runs off the battery even when it’s plugged into the mains. Neither of which are ideal issues to be faced with when doing presentations, or when watching movies.
SHOULD I BUY THE AIPTEK MOBILECINEMA I70?
If you really and truly need an incredibly small projector that supports battery use and talks wirelessly to your smartphone or computer, then the i70 is certainly worth a look. Its picture quality is surprisingly good in some ways, provided you’re happy to stick to image sizes below 50 inches (127cm), and it really is incredibly small and light considering how much tech is crammed inside.
For me, though, its lack of brightness together with various setup and running issues make it look both a bit expensive and too much of a size-based compromise where performance is concerned.
One alternative would be Optoma’s ML750ST. It’s a little larger and more than twice as expensive, but it produces a far more practical and engaging picture. Or, if you’re looking for something with a similarly tiny form factor that costs only a little more, the £280 Asus S1 is better built and delivers more than twice as much brightness.
While the concept of entirely cable-free, pocket-sized projection is a good one, the i70 isn’t bright or user-friendly enough to turn that concept into a particularly helpful reality.