Pocketable and portable projectors are not a new thing for Taiwanese technology giant ASUS. Back in 2012, I got a chance to write about the ASUS P1 LED, the company's first foray into projectors. Fast forward to the present, the folks at ASUS Philippines sent me the ZenBeam E1. Let's have a closer look into it and see if ASUS's latest product is a reflection of the improvements that the company has been introducing to its pico projector line over the past six years.
Seeing the P1 LED for the very first time, one could easily tell that it is a mini projector, and that is because of its conspicuous rotating lens. However, the case of the ZenBeam E1 is quite different. Minus the packaging and its accessories, one might say that it is a portable power bank. Its similarity to one of ASUS's ZenPower power bank models is obvious. In actuality, the ZenBeam E1 doubles as a power bank. The 6000mAh battery module within is not only meant to power the projector itself (for up to five hours at 50 lumens) when not plugged, but it can also juice up other compatible mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Fulfilling its duty as a power bank, the ZenBeam E1 comes with a USB Type A port to accommodate a micro-USB cable connected to a rechargeing device. Meanwhile, the projector itself can be recharged by using the supplied AC plug.
On the outside, the ZenBeam E1 is clad in a metallic body with frosted silver finish, which makes the device look good while keeping unsightly fingerprints and smudges at bay. On the front, a sliding door niftily sits to protect the lens from dust and damage caused by accidental fall, when the projector function is not in use. Meanwhile, a set of buttons occupies the top side. These buttons include quick controls for the menu, ASUS Splendid presets, and volume for the device's built-in 2W speaker system. Flanking the menu button, the volume control buttons double as navigational keys for the menu. The ASUS Splendid button simply gives quick access to video presets such as Presentation, Standard, Theater, and Eco. Standard mode features a warm image tone, whereas Theater mode sets a relatively dimmer illumination to simulate the ambiance when you're inside a movie house. Presentation mode has the brightest video preset, while Eco mode uses the dimmest video preset in order to save power. Near the lens, a slot shows a portion of the ribbed dial designed to adjust projector's focus.
The sides are stylishly perforated for audio and heat dissipation. Meanwhile, the rear side hosts an HDMI connector, USB Type A port (5V, 1A), and a 3.5mm audio jack, alongside the DC connector and the power button. The HDMI connector links to compatible sources like computers, MHL-enabled smartphones and tablets, and media streamers. The USB connector is intended for recharging compatible mobile devices with micro-USB ports. The 3.5mm jack outputs sound to headphones and speakers. Meanwhile, apart from turning on/off the device, the power button also switches the ZenBeam E1 from being a projector to a power bank and vice versa. Aside from having a set of four rubber feet that keeps the projector stable while standing on a surface, the ZenBeam E1 also comes with a screw-in hole for tripod mounting on the bottom side.
Inside, the ZenBeam E1 packs a 0.2-inch DLP system that outputs 150 lumens of brightness level, 3500:1 contrast ratio, and 854 x 480p (WVGA) display resolution. It throws a maximum screen size of 120 inches, the same as how much a P1 LED can do. Nevertheless, the latter has a larger 0.45-inch DLP unit with better 200 lumens brightness level and 1280 x 800p (WXGA) display resolution, yet lower 2000:1 contrast ratio. In spite of these technical differences, the outputted images of the ZenBeam E1 and the P1 LED are virtually similar. The ZenBeam E1 adequately does its job as a tool for productivity and as an accessory for entertainment whether in a normal room light or a dark room setup.
The ASUS ZenBeam E1 may not be as bright and punchy as the preceding P1 LED, but remains relevant because of its portable battery solution. It certainly makes the ZenBeam E1 effectively double as a power bank for your array of mobile devices. In addition, with a built-in portable battery and pocketable size, the ZenBeam E1 addresses the needs of those who must work, and at the same time must be entertained, while on the field. Taking into account its features and potential benefits, the ZenBeam E1 justifies its PhP 16,990 pricing, which is much lower than the P1 LED's price point of USD 499 or approximately PhP 21,000 back in 2012.
Build and Aesthetics – 8.5
Features – 8.5
Ease of Use – 8.5
Image Quality – 8.0
Price – 8.5
Overall Score – 8.5