The first smart television – Samsung’s Pavv Bordeaux 750 – was introduced to the world in 2008. Just ten years later, the majority of televisions – even budget models – now come with some form of built-in streaming.
Projectors haven’t yet travelled as far down this path. Models at the more expensive end of the market are usually paired with receivers that pass through a number of sources, while cheaper ones can be boosted by the addition of a streaming stick such as the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick.
So step forward the Capsule by Nebula, a brand owned by battery manufacturer Anker. A portable projector with built-in Android-esque app store, the Capsule can also be used as a dedicated Bluetooth speaker.
Paint it silver and the Capsule could be mistaken for a soda can. It isn’t that much heavier either, weighing in at just 425g.
Instead of a ring-pull you’ll find four buttons on the top: two for volume, one for power and one to switch the Capsule between projector and Bluetooth speaker modes.
At the bottom are two ports: an HDMI connection and microUSB input for charging the four-hour battery.
Nebula has gambled on the Capsule’s built-in smart functions making up for the lack of sockets, but connectivity is a little disappointing nonetheless – especially considering rival pico projectors, such as the ViewSonic M1, feature microSD, USB-A, and USB-C ports.
Using the projector is a breeze, either via the physical remote or the Android and iOS app. Other projectors have had us twisting and turning, trying to get the remote into the line of fire, so it’s nice to let wireless connectivity do the work.
You might not have heard of the smart platform used by the Capsule.
Although this is an Android 7.1 device, apps are downloaded from Aptoide – a marketplace that runs on the Android operating system, like the Google Play Store, but doesn’t have the full range of apps available.
So while Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer are available to download, All 4, Now TV, or Sky Go (among others) aren’t.
Ideally the Capsule would be certified for the Play Store, so it could provide the full range of mobile apps. But there’s no indication this can or will happen.
The Capsule does allow you to stream video from Apple’s smartphones and tablets through its AirPlay connection, though, as well as Miracast for Microsoft devices.
While it has Chromecast connectivity, its Android operating system means it can only send video, not receive it. This is a definite cross on the Capsule’s score-card – no one wants to cast from a projector.
The Capsule’s specs are somewhat underwhelming. A resolution of 854 x 480 pixels, while par for the course when it comes to minature projectors, means it will always be either downscaling Blu-rays or upscaling DVDs.
A brightness of just 100 lumens also puts the Capsule behind the likes of the LG Minibeam PH150G or the ViewSonic M1, which output 130 and 250 lumens respectively.
Whether streaming from Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube, the Capsule presents a decent picture that rivals other pico projectors (it costs over £100 more than those competitors, don’t forget, presumably because of its smart capabilities).
Handling of colour and skin tone is more natural and balanced than other projectors, such as the ViewSonic M1 (even if that does result in it being a little muted by comparison).
There’s an adequate amount of detail, however – watching The Amazing Spider-Man on Blu-ray, it’s difficult to get a sense of texture to Spidey’s suit or the full effect of the whisps of smoke that rise as he fires off webbing.
And while it works well during bright scenes, it’s difficult to make out any real detail in the darkness.
Background and foreground merge together, and the murky shadows cast across the hero’s face more often than not obliterate any detail underneath.
In the real world, meanwhile, switch on a light and the picture almost disappears – this is a projector to be used in complete darkness. Motion is acceptable, but as Spider-Man web-swings across the city, there is a little bit of blur.
Similarly, the Capsule has a noisier image than we would expect, with servings of grain occasionally appearing across the picture.
Whether in projector mode or working purely as a Bluetooth speaker, the Capsule delivers decent sonic performance.
You won’t get the same sound as you would from a dedicated speaker like the five-star Ultimate Ears Wonderboom (£60), but the Capsule goes loud enough to fill our medium-sized testing room and has a solid handling of detail.
When Spider-Man taunts a criminal in the street, the Capsule highlights how Peter Parker’s voice is muffled under his mask – and although it’s not the most dynamic of speakers, dialogue comes through in relatively crisp and clear fashion.
The Capsule’s Bluetooth capabilities mean it can be paired to more impressive speakers for better sound quality – but we’d still like a 3.5mm output port for wired connections or to plug in our headphones when viewing privately.
The Nebula Capsule is a fairly niche product that might satisfy a very specific consumer, and has hopefully set the groundwork for more rounded products in the future.
Those looking for something a little bit different, portable and easy to use, and who don’t mind missing out in absolute picture quality terms ,will enjoy the Capsule.
Home cinema devotees will be left wanting a more capable version, with a better picture and fully fledged streaming smarts.