The Aiptek iBeamBlock is an interesting take on the portable projector design, offering a modular package which should appeal to professionals wanting a complete solution on the move.
The key thing which makes this product so interesting is a modular design. Cramming a tablet, projector and battery into the same package is pretty impressive. All of these components can be used independently, meaning you don’t necessarily need to the lug the whole unit around. We saw a similar implementation last year by Lenovo, though on paper the Aiptek should be better. At 720 lumens, it’s got way more brightness and should be able to project a solid image.
We’ll start with the projector itself, which uses manual focus and can be powered alone using the included wall adapter. Firing it up, there’s a faint hum from the fan but nothing substantial. Getting a sharp image took a few adjustments but wasn’t difficult. The display will automatically adapt and compensate for perspective, though this doesn’t always give perfect results. We found the brightness to be satisfactory under dark conditions, though we wouldn’t advise using it in dim lighting. It was difficult to get a clear image, with black levels taking a noticeable hit. You’ll also need to find a suitable wall or screen in order to get best results. My house doesn’t have any clean white walls, but I managed to find a nice spot with a cream finish that did a good enough job.
Under perfect dark conditions, the picture is fine for casual use. We wouldn’t expect a projector of this size to pump out a perfect image, but the Aiptek iBeamBlock does a good job. Testing it with varying material shows that its strengths lie with presentations and spreadsheets. The included HDMI port means that you can plug it directly into a video source without needing any other equipment. Using my Google Chromecast, I had plenty of shows streaming to the projector in no time at all. Watching The Walking Dead, a notoriously dark and dull show, showed that the black levels and contrast couldn’t really handle things in this department. A more colourful show such as The Grand Tour yielded better results.
Audio quality from the Aiptek is not great and the tiny speaker really struggles to pump out decent sound levels. The overall sound was quite tinny, with an obvious roll-off that even cuts into the lower mids. It’s an expected flaw which comes from having such a compact unit, but thankfully Aiptek has provided a AUX jack for connecting the device to a portable speaker. Pairing this with my trusty Urbanista Melbourne gave a much better output.
The tablet portion of the Aiptek is a nice touch but feels somewhat like an afterthought. Inside is an Intel Atom Z3735F paired with 2GB RAM, which is a very entry-level chipset. It’s fine for browsing the UI and running simple applications but struggled with almost every desktop variant we tried. Using Microsoft Edge was a slow and painful experience, with YouTube clips taking a long time to load and plenty of UI freezes. The small size of the panel also makes it exceptionally hard to navigate and click on icons, meaning you’ll need a mouse and keyboard to truly get the best results. Thankfully, the included two USB connections means this shouldn’t be much of an issue… Though it will add some extra heft in your luggage.
The final piece of the puzzle is a battery brick which connects to the bottom. With 12,000mAh, it’s supposedly good for 2 hours of projection time. We found this figure to vary depending on how the device was used. Using the tablet and projector together brought this figure down to just over an hour, while using the tablet alone added an extra hour of life on average. In short, the claimed figure really depends on how you intend to use the device.
The Aiptek iBeamBlock isn’t the best projector or tablet in the world, but neither is it the worst. These shortcomings are an understandable compromise given what you’re getting. Using the unit as a whole package, it’s easy to overlook these and focus on what it was intended to do. This is manufactured with professionals in mind who want a complete system-on-the-go. In that respect, it does it’s job very well and allows a certain level of portability that you can’t really get with anything else currently.