Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Pocket full of Presentation Power

I’ve written about the new generation of micro projectors since they were first announced, seeing in them great potential as a tool for presentations, and a technology which could have great implications for the future of smartphones and other mobile devices. A PR representative of 3M contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I’d like to check out their latest micro-projector for business users, the MPro150. I explained my freelance status but he still offered to send me a review unit.

Seeing and sampling new technology is far different from actually having an opportunity to throughly explore and play with the features of tools like this. I have to say I’ve been duly impressed with the image quality and versatility of a projector just five inches long For real estate professionals who like their gadgets, this could be a useful tool for presentations to small groups, buyers or sellers in any setting where your laptop screen just isn’t big enough.

3M recommends the MPro150 for projecting up to images up to 50 inches wide, measured diagonally, but I found the quality acceptable at larger sizes. In fact, everyone I demonstrated the unit to was dazzled by the quality and size of the images coming out of this pocket-sized projector in a sufficiently darkened room.

The MPro150 uses an ultra bright LED and extremely compact lens to deliver those results. In addition to mini-USB and VGA/AV input ports for connecting it to a computer or external video source. It has 1GB of internal memory, and a microSD card slot for for storing media files. The unit can display MPEG4 video files, JPEGs, PDFs and Microsoft Office files directly from memory, without being connected to a computer, and is also an MP3 player. The package includes all cables, an AC adapter with international adapters, a 1GB microSD card, mini-tripod and two hour lithium ion battery. Suggested retail is $395.

For real estate users, this could be a practical solution for presentations, whether displaying video from a connected source, or from its own internal memory, within limits. One could, for example, use the device for powerpoint presentation, to share large screen versions of JPEG tour images, or to play sample video tours for a small audience.

Video quality is as good as you can expect from an MPEG4 file, at VGA resolution, The larger the projected image the more apparent the limitations of that format. JPEGS, and content from connected devices hold up well, even when displayed larger than the recommended display size.

My camera captures videos as Quicktime movies, so I had to convert them to MPEG4 before I could play them back from internal memory. I saves these from iMovie on my Mac, then used the free file conversion service ZamZar(www.zamzar.com) on my PC. Once converted, I experienced no problems playing the videos from the MPro150’s internal memory and micro SD card.

In fact the only thing I found lacking in the MPro150 was a remote control for use when displaying files stored in memory. The unit does have several slide show settings, but when you want to step viewers through images or a presentation stored internally, it gets a little cumbersome clicking through images with the unit’s scroll wheel. I usually jarred the the projector in the process, and had to manually refocus the image. Of course, that’s not not a problem when driving the device from an external source, with its own remote.

I consider the lack of a remote a minor inconvenience when weighed against all that’s packed into the MPro150. If presentations are regular part of what you do in your pitch for new business, and you canafford this luxury, here’s a big screen projector you can literally slip into your pocket.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mac and PC on the desktop

Wrapped up the buying guide to desktop computers for May Realtor magazine online a couple of weeks ago. Should be posted before the end of the month.

Always learn some interesting background info in the course of researching these stories. This time out when we posted a query looking for reader input on their desktop systems, of the two dozen or so who did respond, the overwhelming majority of respondents were enthusiastic Mac users. Even among the handful of PC users, most indicated they would at least consider a Mac as their next PC.

This is a surprising and dramatic break with what I’ve heard from readers in the past. I don’t think it reflects any wholesale move to the Mac, although it is clearly gaining popularity with real estate users. Maybe the iPod and iPhone deserve some some credit there.

What I believe it shows most, though, is that these agents and brokers are so happy with their Mac experience, they are eager to tell their world about it. In their enthusiasm, they cited the typical strengths: ease of use, intuitive operation, stability, lack of malware and performance.

Among the few Windows users I heard from, only one had yet migrated to Windows 7, the latest version of the OS. Despite generally favorable reviews for Windows 7, these Realtors® were sticking with XP. Burned by what they heard or their own experience migrating to Windows Vista, these users seemed generally reluctant to risk what they fear could be a disruptive upgrade. All realize Windows 7 likely lies in their future, but it’s most likely to arrive on their desks via a new computer.

And when that day comes, they’ll have to seriously weigh a Mac vs. PC.