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Optoma ML1050ST+ Review: Portable Pico Perfection… almost

We are no strangers to Optoma here at MobileTechTalk, and we actually reviewed the predecessor to this last year. But Optoma makes some of the best short throw LED projectors, So when I saw they upgraded the model I so dearly loved with Autofocus and higher brightness, how could I turn it down.

Optoma ML1050ST+
+ FOR
  • Really small and Light
  • Great image
  • surprisingly bright
  • Decent I/O
  • Autofocus
- AGAINST
  • Crappy remote
  • Autofocus can be iffy
  • Built in speaker is crap

Buy on Amazon

Disclaimer: Optoma has provided us with the ML1050ST+ for the purposes of this review. By the time this review goes live, the Projector will be back with Optoma. No money has exchanged hands between either entity, and Optoma has no bearing on the outcome of this Review. I Have been using the ML1050ST+ for 2 weeks with HDMI and USB based media.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review

Specifications

  • 1280×800 native resolution
  • 1000nit max luminance
  • 20,000:1 static contrast ratio
  • +/- 40-degree keystone correction
  • Autofocus between 25-100”
  • I/O
    • HDMI 1.4b
    • MicroSD
    • USB2.0
    • 3.5mm audio jack
    • Universal I/O port
    • DC in jack

If you want to check out the full list of specifications, check out the ML1050ST+ on the Optoma page here

Hardware

Before We Stat, much like with my AOC Monitor Review, ML1050ST+ is far too long for me to continuously write throughout this review, so instead I shall be Calling the ML1050ST+ Mandy.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review

If you’ve seen my ML750ST review, you basically know what Mandy looks like, it’s a simple box looking device, with dark grey plastic on the sides and bottom, and an eggshell white on top. Whilst I’m not ecstatic about the white, I’m just glad it is not glossy. It’s hard to get into your head just how small Mandy is. To put it simply, you can measure all of its dimensions using one of those 15cm half rulers you get in a school supply kit. It weighs only 420g! That’s such a small amount it’s almost begging you to take it around with you, except, it doesn’t have a battery, though, not sure they could have fit a worthwhile battery into this without rapidly increasing the weight and ballooning the chassis, so it’s a swings and roundabouts thing. Though I wish they would switch some something newer to charge it. Moving to USB-C would allow Optoma to power the projector from battery banks, smartphone chargers, laptop chargers etc. USB-C also allows the voltage required by the DC adaptor in the box, so if you’re going to make something so small it screams to be portable, make powering it a bit easier.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review

Otherwise, the hardware is nice and simple, it’s sturdy and it’s light but not cheap feeling. The buttons on top are a bit small though, and they don’t have all that much tactile feedback, something I wish they’d improve for the next generation

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review

A surprising amount of the body of Mandy is taken up my venting. Even on an LED projector, things still get hot. Mandy has a fan, but unlike the Aaxa P6 I reviewed a little while ago, this doesn’t interrupt… well anything, I didn’t even realise it was there until I started listening for it. But every facet that isn’t the bottom has some sort of venting on it, whether it be solely for airflow, or for audio as well, there is a lot of vents on this thing.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review

I’m trying to think of words to describe Mandy that isn’t “cute” “Adorable” or “tiddly” but those are all that are coming to mind. But don’t let the cuteness fool you, Mandy has one hell of a punch to make up for the size.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review

Projection quality

Was there any doubt that Mandy would impress me here? When I reviewed the ML750ST last year, I was gobsmacked at how much difference LEDs made, so that even an 800 Lumen projector just blew me away. Well, Mandy is 25% brighter still, and whilst I wouldn’t recommend watching with curtains open in the middle of the day, you can totally do that, though of course, the projection looks much better at night or in a sufficiently dark room, as always.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review
It’s really hard to take a photo of high motion in low light. that’s why the bottom of the screen is out of focus, it was in motion.

Another thing people tend to worry about is the resolution, is 1280×800 enough here in 2018? Honestly, for me at least, yeah. Yes, you can see a difference between 720p and 1080p. But if you’re to compare a 1080p Lamp vs a 720p LED projector, I would personally take the lower resolution LED one. The colours, the contrast, everything else is just so much better than the pure resolution difference fades away.

One of the things I ended up doing whilst I had Mandy was binge watch all of the new Sabrina series on Netflix. I was ill and laid up for a few days, so I just say down and watched it from start to finish in a day and a half, and Mandy performed insanely well. The show is set in a dark, grungy and a bit depressing town and the colour palette of the show shows that, but Mandy also portrayed that, whilst still looking visually appealing. This isn’t HDR we are talking about, but similar to the first time you do see an HDR video, you realise just how meh stuff was before, that’s how I feel using a Lamp projector after using LED or Laser projectors.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review
Same Time, I just opened the curtains and turned the ceiling light on.

Something Optoma added in this time around was autofocus. Now, this is something that was so natural to me, that I forgot it was a thing. Even though every other projector I’ve used is manual focus, everything else I use is autofocus, so seeing the image project onto my screen then “fix” itself, just felt normal, so normal that I didn’t even think about it, and that’s why I think this is an important feature and one Optoma should be congratulated for. It’s not perfect though. For me, in certain circumstances, the Projector would “peck” focus between two points endlessly sometimes, this was especially bad on Sabrina, where there is a lot of parts of the show that are purposefully out of focus potentially tricking the Autofocus mechanism? I’m not sure. Manual focus is still here though and is just a single button in the menu, so setting it up is as simple as sitting on your arse and pressing the left and Right buttons on the remote until the image gets clear, simples.

Sound quality

I think this will always be the same, no matter what review, but an inbuilt speaker on a projector is never going to be great, it’ll be serviceable, but not enjoyable, and that’s even more true for mini projectors. Mandy has a single 1w speaker driver, that’s smartphone level, sub smartphone level actually. Thankfully there is a 3.5mm audio jack on Mandy meaning you can plug headphones in, a speaker set, or, as I did, a Soundbar.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review
Is it a Celan setup? No. But I didnt care as it sounds and looked so good.

I used the Anker Soundcore Infini Mini Soundbar (review coming soon) with Mandy and man, It’s amazing how much Audio brings to the viewing experience. Great audio with Mandy’s great projection meant that this became the movie night setup whilst in my possession, they just paired so well together. If I could ask for one more thing it’d be Bluetooth, for Bluetooth speakers, soundbars or headphones etc. Help to make Mandy even more portable than it already is, just a suggestion.

Miscellaneous

There are a few things I want to talk about in the miscellaneous section of this review, one is a common thread through all my projector reviews: The remotes. The other is the I/O. Starting off with the easier subject, the remote. The Remote sucks, I hate this style of thin, cheap membrane remotes, they suck, they’re uncomfortable, the IR range sucks and has to be almost perfect line of sight. There is no tactility on the buttons, and they are just so easy to lose I almost emailed my PR person at Optoma asking for a new one, luckily I found it, but god these things suck. I still think that Projectors have no chance of replacing TVs until the remotes get taken seriously.

Optoma ML1050ST+ Review

Next is I/O, whilst It’s actually not that bad, I think I’d make a few changes. As I stated earlier, dropping the barrel jack for a USB-C port would make a lot of sense. Having another one for USB media would be nice, but keeping a standard USB-A port for loading Media would be better. I would swap the MicroSD for either a full-sized SD card or for a second USB port, MicroSD is so small fragile and easy to lose, something such as a projector, you’d constantly be taking the SD card in and out to add new media, something that small and flimsy is just going to break. Lastly, I’d keep the HDMI and Universal I/O ports. No need to update the HDMI2.0b port t this resolution, and it’s always useful to have a VGA capable projector around, as long as the adaptor is in the box.

Conclusion

I’m the projector guy at MobileTechTalk because I genuinely think they have so much to give and can be so immersive. Optoma is a company that has constantly made great products and has rapidly taken on criticism and improved their products. So would I recommend Mandy? Of course, unless you’ve got an ML750ST.

Whilst the upgrades between the ML750ST and Mandy are impressive, the ML750ST is just so good already that buying a new projector which is so similar seems silly to me. Optoma knows that sending these projectors back is hard for me, it gets even harder when they just get better each year.

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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