capsule review

WowWee's Cinemin Swivel Is Built to Work With iPhone and iPod Content

At a Glance
  • Wow Wee Cinemin Swivel

    PCWorld Rating

    Designed primarily as an Apple accessory, the Cinemin Swivel projects colorful iPod and iPhone images right out of the box.

The WowWee Cinemin Swivel ($350 as of January 11, 2010) is made to order for watching iPod videos or playing games on the ceiling. Of course, you can point any handheld pico upward to display images overhead, but the Cinemin Swivel does it without requiring any handholding. Its unique, adjustable, 90-degree hinge lets you swing the lens through a wide arc of display angles while you relax on your sofa or bed. In addition, the Cinemin Swivel can handle business presentations for a very small group in a dimly lit room.

The Cinemin Swivel permits you to deliver an iPod presentation or show an iPhone video right out of the box, thanks to the bundled iPod/iPhone 30-pin adapter; all of the other pico projectors we looked at require an extra-cost, third-party cable. If your main goal is to use a pico as an Apple accessory, the Cinemin Swivel is a solid choice. It also comes with a composite (RCA-type) A/V cable for connecting the projector to a digital camera, video game console, or other mobile device. You'll have to pay $40 extra, however, to get the VGA-to-A/V converter accessory (Cinemin Swap) you'll need to hook up the projector to a computer.

The Cinemin Swivel has a native resolution of 480 by 320 and is powered by Texas Instruments' DLP (Digital Light Processing) projection technology. It weighs roughly 6 ounces (with battery)and has the same candy bar size--0.9 by 2.1 by 4.7 inches--as such competing pico projectors as the 3M MPro120, the Aaxa P2, and the Aiptek PocketCinema V10 Plus. In addition to its swivel capability, this model has a 20,000-hour LED light life and a long enough battery life (135 minutes) to run a lengthy flick like Terminator Salvation. Its brightness rating of 8 lumens, however, is the weakest of the seven units we tested, and the projector works best in an office setting and at a relatively small screen size. In our tests at 4 feet from the screen in low ambient daylight, the Cinemin Swivel projected a viewable 29-inch-diagonal image; and at 6 feet away in a darkened room at night, it managed a 45-inch-diagonal image.

In our performance tests, the Cinemin Swivel earned an overall rating of Very Good for image quality. In some tests, however, its vivid colors looked more saturated than they did in the original images--a characteristic also displayed by the Optoma PK102, which uses similar DLP technology. The Cinemin Swivel also tended to lose more detail in dark areas than its rivals did, no doubt because of its lower brightness. In displaying text images, the projector did a good job of rendering legible text when displaying large san serif fonts--in PowerPoint slides, for example. But smaller text on Web pages was harder to read with this model than with the higher-resolution 3M MPro120.

In our graphics tests, the Cinemin Swivel produced very colorful images, such as outdoor photos with gorgeous blue skies and lush green grass, but with some oversaturated elements, such as skin tones that were too red. In our motion tests, the Cinemin Swivel displayed smooth action and its brilliant color was an asset in our screening of the animated Monsters vs. Aliens DVD and in tests with iPod Nano podcasts and iPhone 3GS YouTube videos. The projector's 0.5-watt mono speaker was reasonably audible only when we sat close to the unit; for greater range, another audio source is needed.

The Cinemin Swivel is reasonably easy to use, despite lacking a tripod and a screw hole for attaching one. The simple controls consist of a focus wheel, volume buttons, and a power switch. Inputs for video, audio (headphones or external speakers), and power/USB are clearly labeled and easy to access. The power switch has a position for back projection (reverse image), too.

If you want a pico that can project images from a fifth-generation iPod Nano or an iPhone 3GS without requiring extra accessories, the WowWee Cinemin Swivel is the best choice available.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Designed primarily as an Apple accessory, the Cinemin Swivel projects colorful iPod and iPhone images right out of the box.

    Pros

    • Includes iPod/iPhone adapter
    • Long-lasting battery (135 minutes)

    Cons

    • Relatively low brightness (8 lumens)
    • PC connectivity requires extra-cost accessory
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