The Telstar MP50 strips things down to the basics. It's got only three buttons: volume up, volume down and a "circle mode" that lets you choose movie- or text-oriented display mode. It's got two ports, HDMI and USB -- and the USB port is for using the projector's built-in battery as a backup for your smartphone. (In fact, you can find the MP50 marketed as a smartphone accessory.) Basically, you attach an HDMI device and start playing something, and the MP50 projects it on the wall.
Its 854 x 480 native resolution is the same as the Pico PK320's, but while, at 85 lumens, the MP50 projects a slightly dimmer image than the PK320, its image looked a bit sharper in tests. This may have been because it was easier to focus using the scroll wheel on the side of the MP50 than it was by trying to turn the ring around the lens on the PK320.
With so few choices, it's hard for anything to go wrong. Whatever your device is showing or playing, the MP50 is projecting.
Small and simple
Like the PK320, the MP50's picture is smaller than the more expensive projectors -- again, a few inches smaller than 6 feet when the projector is 10 feet away, compared to the larger-than-6-feet image projected by the Qumi and 3M units -- but it's fine for small groups and compact spaces. You're stuck with whatever picture quality you get -- there aren't any color control options. But that's OK.
The MP50 is the second smallest (3.9 x 3.9 x 0.3 in.) and lightest (just short of 8 oz.) projector in this group, after the iPico. Its straightforward simplicity and minimalist design -- basically, it's a thick square of heavy white plastic -- makes it easy to imagine throwing it in a pocket or suitcase just in case you need a projector. The others have more features, but also require more fiddling and planning; the Telstar would be my choice for casual use.
At its full list price of $400 -- essentially the same as the Optoma, which has more features -- the MP50 can't really be said to be a better choice. But given a retail price of $299, it's worth it.
$130 (list); $99 - $123 (retail)
Compared to the other projectors in this roundup, the iPico can't help but fall short -- as a projector. Its 15-lumen brightness and 100:1 contrast ratio means that its projected image can't compete with any of the other units in this roundup.
As an iPhone accessory, on the other hand, it's kind of cool.