The Kodak Luma 350 Portable Smart Projector ($349.99), the flagship of the company’s Luma line of palmtop projectors, is brighter than the Kodak Luma 150 unit, but what really sets it apart from the Luma 150 and the Luma 75 is its integration of the Android 6 operating system, letting you install and run Android apps. It projects a reasonably large usable image for its brightness, is fine for casual movie viewing, and does well at projecting photos. It earns our Editors’ Choice for a palmtop entertainment projector.
Anatomy of a Portable Projector
An LED-based projector that uses Texas Instruments’ DLP technology, the Luma 350 has a rated brightness of 200 ANSI lumens and a claimed 3,500:1 contrast ratio. Its 854-by-480-pixel, a.k.a. FWVGA or 480p resolution, common among mini projectors, works out to a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. As is typical of LED-based projectors, the light source has a very long rated lifetime, 30,000 hours, which should more than outlast the life of the projector itself.
White with gold trim, the Luma 350 has a simple but handsome design. It measures 1.1 by 4.4 by 4.4 inches (HWD)—including the four tiny feet it rests on, which add maybe an eighth of an inch to its height—and just fits into my outstretched palm. It is highly portable, weighing just 12 ounces.
The Luma 350 has a typical form factor for a palmtop projector, square with rounded corners when viewed from above. On the top of the projector are Kodak and DLP logos, and toward the back is a small, silver circle.
When you press the power button, on the right side when viewed from the back, the circle becomes illuminated, revealing itself as the central virtual button of a touch-sensitive four-way controller. (It is flanked by illuminated left, right, up, and down arrows.) The lighting goes out in about five seconds if you take no action, but it reappears when you press the center of the circle. That controller is duplicated on the thin white remote, which adds power, home, return, volume-control, menu, and mouse buttons. The remote requires two AAA batteries (not included).
Navigating with the remote proved more effective than with the projector’s built-in controller: Without a home button on the projector itself, when using the projector’s own controls it was possible to get stuck in some menu choices without being able to return to Home short of rebooting the device. An easy solution is to attach a mouse to the USB port (right-clicking with it will get you home). But if you’re running content from a USB thumb drive, you don’t have that option and had best stick with the remote, or use Kodak’s Luma app (for iOS or Android) to control the projector from your phone.
The free Kodak Luma app lets you navigate with its own four-way controller and virtual home, return, and power buttons; launch apps or purchase them from the Google Play store from within the Luma app; and use a touchpad to control a cursor.
Easy Focus Adjustment
In back are an audio jack, a USB Type-A port that fits a thumb drive, an HDMI port, and a jack for the included wall-wart power supply, along with a hole for a pin or paper clip should you need to reset the projector. On the left side, behind the lens, is a vertically oriented focus wheel that in my experience smoothly brought the projector to a fine focus. On the bottom of the projector, along with the feet and a grille for the built-in 3-watt speaker, is a threaded hole for a tripod.
Within the Luma 350 is a rechargeable 7,500mAh battery, which lasts more than two hours between charges and takes about four hours to fully charge.
It’s a Projector…and an Android Device
Unlike the Kodak Luma 150, the Luma 350 has Android 6.0 built into it. It’s not the first Android-based projector that has come through PC Labs, but it’s one of the best implementations I have seen, up there with the Anker Nebula Capsule II, which runs the Android TV OS.
You can run Android apps—it comes preinstalled with a handful of common ones, like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, Redbox, and Twitch, and the app store itself, from which you can download your favorites.
When you turn the Luma 350 on, you are soon taken to the home screen, on which big radio buttons for the apps take center stage. At the upper right are battery-level and Wi-Fi indicators, as well as a display of the current time. At top left, to the right of a Kodak logo, are three links, with the Home link highlighted. The others are Source and Settings. Under Source are buttons for HDMI, Screen Mirroring (Miracast for mirroring Android devices, AirPlay for Apple devices), and File Browser. From the latter you can run content from the projector’s memory or from a USB key.
From Settings, you can perform a variety of tasks, starting with connecting wirelessly via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a mobile app. Connecting the Luma 350 to my Wi-Fi network was easy—I attached a mouse to the projector’s USB port and used it to navigate a virtual keyboard where I entered my password, and it immediately connected. You can access the projector’s 8GB of internal memory (of which about 3.3GB were free on my unit).
One feature quibble: Kodak backs the Luma 350 with a meager one-year warranty.
Good Photos, So-So Video
The Luma 350 projects a good-size image considering its modest brightness. I tested it both in darkness and with varying amounts of ambient light. In a dark room, you can view images up to about 60 inches (measured diagonally) without significant degradation, with the optimal image size about 48 inches. With the introduction of ambient light, about 36 inches seemed the optimal size. (See how we test projectors.)
In testing, I projected content from a USB thumb drive, as well as over an HDMI connection from my computer. I viewed a number of video clips from among our normal selection. Image quality is typical of an LED-based DLP projector of modest brightness—that is to say, fine for casual video watching, but not up to the standards of videophiles.
I noticed several issues, none of them severe in itself. There was a slight color imbalance, in which some white areas appeared with a greenish tinge, and reds were oversaturated. There was a hint of posterization, abrupt changes in color or tone where they should be gradual. In some scenes, particularly in bright areas against a dark background, I saw the rainbow artifacts that often appear in the images from single-chip DLP projectors. In the case of the Luma 350, many people wouldn’t even notice them, but they could prove annoying to people sensitive to this effect.
Audio, meanwhile, from the 3-watt speaker is fairly loud, and is of decent quality. Photos in general looked good when projected with the Luma, with good color and a respectable amount of contrast.
A Prince Among Palmtops
In a market where many recent mini projectors seem as much speaker as projector—I am currently reviewing several of them—the Kodak Luma 350 retains the classic palmtop look, though with Android under the hood. The Luma 350 doesn’t have the thumping-loud sound system of the Anker Nebula Capsule II (though its own speaker is no slouch) but it comes in at a much lower price. With the ability to throw a good-size image in a dark room, and with a built-in battery you can recharge, the Luma 350 is a good companion for home use and travel alike. It becomes our latest Editors’ Choice palmtop projector.
Kodak Luma 350 Portable Smart Projector Specs
|Rated Brightness||200 ANSI lumens|
|Native Resolution||854 x 480|
|Inputs and Interfaces||HDMI, USB|
|Dimensions (HWD)||1.1 by 4.4 by 4.4 inches|