ZTE is following up their combination pico projector/Wi-Fi hotspot/Android device from last year with the Spro 2 (the previous product wasn’t actually called the Spro, but history is malleable in the information age, yeah?), which they debuted at CES earlier this year. It’s an improvement in most ways from last year’s model, and you’ll be able to get your hands on it later this week.
Like ZTE’s previous combo device, the Spro 2 has a mobile smartphone processor (a quad-core 2.3 GHz MSM8974, the same used in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 SoC), with a slightly larger and improved 5″1280 x 720 touch display. The processor is backed by 2 GB of RAM, and there is 16 GB of internal storage with a microSD card slot that supports cards up to 64 GB in capacity. While the version of Android 4.4.4 KitKat the Spro 2 runs is heavily modified, you’ll still have access to Google Play, so you’ll be able to take advantage of the main feature of this device—the projector.
The projector, like last year’s model, can project images up to 120″ in size and now has a brightness of 200 lumens, which puts the Spro 2 in the high-end level of pico projectors. The battery has increased in size from 5,000 mAh to 6,300 mAh, with ZTE claiming that should give the projector a 2.5-hour battery life, a one hour increase from last year’s model. 200 lumens of brightness should be taxing, though, and seeing as how 2.5 hours on a 6,300 mAh battery is roughly comparable with similar pico projectors, we’re guessing that battery life estimate is assuming that you’re projecting from another device, not the Android interface built into the Spro 2. Conversely, if you use the Android interface and not the projector, ZTE estimates you should get 16 hours of battery life.
Fortunately, connecting another device should be easy enough. The Spro 2 is a mobile hotspot, this time supporting up to 10 other devices on an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connection. The projector also has Bluetooth and LTE connectivity, a full-sized USB 3.0 port, a full-sized HDMI port and Miracast compatibility, so hooking up to another mobile device or a PC or Mac will be easy enough.
Ignoring the Android interface for a moment, the capabilities of the Spro 2 as a pure pico projector are pretty solid, and the 200 lumens of brightness should allow for decent images when you absolutely need to project in somewhat well-lit conditions. In darkness, it should be up there with the best pico projectors on the market. The Android interface amounts to a cool throw-in that might be handy in a pinch if you need to project a quick presentation in the office. If you want to project a movie using the Android interface, you’ll probably want an external battery on hand, though.
The Spro 2 also has a pretty funky purple snakeskin exterior, if you care about what your pico projector looks like. You’ll be able to pick one up on April 24, which leads us to the biggest weakness of this device—you’ll have to get it from AT&T, either for $500 outright or $400 with a two-year contract (plus $10 per month to add it to a Mobile Share Value plan). It’s a shame, because the Spro 2 looks like a terrific pico projector, but needing to go through a telecom to get it is probably going to turn quite a few people off.