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I’m a big fan of projectors, mostly the HD variety that can turn any wall into a big-screen theater. Of course, those models aren’t cheap, usually starting around $500 and rising sharply from there.
At the other end, inexpensive LED projectors offer a big display on the cheap — really, really cheap, in today’s example. For a limited time, and while supplies last, Val-Mart (via Amazon) has the Tec.Bean wireless multimedia projector for $79.19 shipped. That’s after applying coupon code 5IKMM6NC at checkout.
Let me blunt: This compact, portable projector cannot take the place of your TV. It delivers fairly low-resolution viewing and requires a reasonably dark room in which to do it.
However, if you occasionally need to show a slide deck from your laptop, this would be a great option. Even better, if the kids are having a sleepover, they could use this to watch funny YouTube videos or see the goofy photos they snapped with a tablet.
That’s made easy because the projector has built-in Wi-Fi and supports both DLNA and Miracast. With the former, you can stream content directly from your phone or tablet; the latter works with both Android and Windows devices to mirror the screen.
Just beware some limitations, most notably with regard to DRM. I had no trouble mirroring an Android phone to the Tec.Bean and watching YouTube videos, but I couldn’t watch Google Play or Netflix movies. (I’m not entirely sure why, as Miracast does support DRM; but perhaps the implementation on this projector doesn’t.)
One solution would be to connect either a laptop, DVD or Blu-ray player, which you can do thanks to the Tec.Bean’s HDMI port. (It also has an SD card slot and USB port.) From there you could view just about anything, though with a native resolution of 800×480 pixels, don’t expect HD-quality images.
That said, in my quick, informal tests of the projector, I found the brightness surprisingly good and overall image quality acceptable. As I noted before, this would work fine if you needed to show a quick presentation or just wanted to let the kids fool around.
Also, because this is an LED projector, there’s no pricey bulb that’ll burn out and need to be replaced. This should last a long, long time.
A couple final things to note: Many of the accompanying user reviews and ratings are for the non-Wi-Fi version of this projector, which includes an HDMI cable. (This model does not.) Also, my sample came with a lens cover that simply did not fit over the lens. Your mileage may vary, but without a proper lens cover, I’d be leery of putting this in a travel bag.
There are other small, low-res LED projectors in this price range, but very few that offer Wi-Fi. If that’s a desirable feature, this is worth a look!
Bonus deal: These sold out very quickly last time, and I suspect they will again: Yugster has the Lytro Light Field camera (8GB) for $49.97 shipped. Better yet, grab the 16GB version for just $10 more. If you’re curious about the camera, read my previous post — making sure to peruse the comments for some interesting user feedback.
Bonus deal No. 2: All TVs need to be “smart,” but as a general rule I prefer plug-in media streamers to built-in apps — except when it’s Roku behind the built-in. And if you don’t have to pay a premium to get it, even better: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Best Buy has the Insignia 40-inch LED Roku HDTV for $229.99 shipped (plus tax). That’s already a great price on a 40-inch TV, but with Roku on board, it’s even better. The 800-plus user reviews are off-the-charts positive.