As long as I’ve been teaching, I’ve had in the back of my mind that I wanted a projector. I didn’t really need one—the places where I taught that didn’t have them were few and far between—but I did want one. For the longest time, though, projectors seemed to resist the normal pattern of technology where prices start really high and then drop very quickly. Thankfully, those days are now behind us at last, and inexpensive projectors have become the norm.
Unfortunately, though, many projectors still require a computer to provide the image. That’s fine if you’re setting up a home theater, but kind of a hassle if you want a more mobile solution. The EZCast Beam seeks to solve that issue as well.
What sets the Beam apart from other projectors in a similar price range—it sells for $135 from Amazon—is that, as the company’s name implies, it is designed to work by casting images from a phone or other mobile device. This is done by having the projector serve as its own Wi-Fi router, allowing mobile devices to connect directly to it and display their screens on a wall, screen, or other surfaces. (Note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
The Wi-Fi connection requires the insertion of a small dongle. (I honestly have no idea why this isn’t just built-in, but at least when it is inserted it’s almost flush with the casing.) Once the projector is powered up, you connect it via on-screen prompts to your home Wi-Fi network. Then, you download and install an app on your phone from the company, which should take you through the steps to connect your phone to the projector.
I found in my testing that this often required multiple tries to get my phone to connect, with many of the prompts in the app to be very confusing. (There’s a point when you’re trying to connect that you’ll get a message that says “go to Wi-Fi settings,” but provides no instructions at all as to what to do when you get there.) More often than not, I had to cycle back and forth between the various screens in the app to get the connection established, and even then, there wasn’t much to tell you that it had succeeded. Once I finally did get a connection, though, it seemed to always remain stable, so this is really a software issue that hopefully the company will address in an update.
That said, you don’t have to use the Wi-Fi if you don’t want to. The projector includes an HDMI and a USB port for wired connections (although on Android, mirroring the screen via USB requires turning on debugging mode on your phone). It also isn’t strictly for mobile use—I did successfully project from my laptop using HDMI. There is also a micro SD card slot if you want to share pictures or media that way.
Once connected, this is just a projector. I was able to get it to display any app on my phone. Plex, YouTube TV, and any other streaming service that worked on my phone projected without issues, which was a refreshing change from other devices I’ve tried in the past that attempted to run their own versions of apps and often failed.
The projector isn’t the brightest you’ll find on the market—the LED lamp provides only 200 lumens. While the image is visible and bright inside, it won’t really work in a very bright room or where it has to compete with direct sunlight. I was able to get a projected screen size between 32 and 75 inches, so it’s also mostly suitable for smaller rooms (which is not necessarily a downside). Its maximum resolution is 1280×720, so you aren’t getting an HD picture out of it. Also, it’s not truly portable as it does not have a battery.
The projector does have several other features that make it stand out from the crowd. It contains a Bluetooth speaker, allowing you to listen to music via a connected device. The sound was very clear, definitely on par with other dedicated Bluetooth speakers.
Also included in the box are a remote control and two sturdy foam stands so that the projector can be stood upright on its side or to mount to it so that it projects straight up.
Overall, the EZCast Beam is a solid, entry-level projector. As I said, it isn’t going to be the backbone of your new home theater setup, but if you are looking for a way to easily project YouTube videos or similar content, it’s a solution that will do what it advertises without breaking the bank.
Note: GeekDad received a unit for review purposes.