Here’s one more projector phone that was recently announced in India – enter the Spice M-9000 Popkorn. So far, this is the third out from a local brand that’s, in all probability, manufactured abroad. The G’Five and Intex IN 8810 devices didn’t fare too well overall, so here’s a closer look at another contender for top budget pico projector enabled mobile phone.

Form Factor
The M-9000 is no where near as sleek or slim as the G’Five however it is nevertheless a rather comfortably designed handset. It’s a bulky handset with a quick access Projector key on the right side and volume/zoom keys on the left. A pull out aerial is located at the bottom on the left near the proprietary all in one socket. This all purpose socket can be used to connect the handset up to your PC for USB interfacing; it also works for the handsfree (not a very well designed pair) and also for audio out. The keypad is easy on the fingers and is comfortably designed for ease of use. The diamond in the center of the diamond shaped nav-pad just looks out of place and plain weird. The 2.4-inch TFT LCd sports a 240 x 320 pixel resolution.

Hey, if it's called Popkorn, let's package it like that

Hey, if it's called Popkorn, let's package it like that

A whole lot of adapters and cables are provided for hooking the Popkorn up to a cute little apple shaped, portable, battery powered capsule. With a yellow shell and multicolored LED’s this speaker tends to look rather gaudy at best. Also included with the box is a neat little stand for placing the phone to comfortably watch videos via the projector. Sadly the Popkorn doesn’t come with a hot swap microSD card slot.

The big bad lens

The big bad lens

With the chrome border and metal rear panel, this Dual SIM (GSM + GSM) mobile does mange to look quite decent even if it is 17.3-mm in depth.

Features and Performance
Interface
With Java-based devices, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Then again it’s pretty much the same thing with any smartphone as well unless the UI has been customized. The M-9000 doesn’t offer anything new in the interface department for users. It’s strictly simplistic in nature. Like any Java-based handset, the interface is quite smooth but has minor issues with regards to ease of access in certain instances but is not hard to get used to. YOU can get used to it very quickly.

Stand, check, Phone, check, Weird Apple shaped speaker, check?

Stand, check, Phone, check, Weird Apple shaped speaker, check?

Media
The Popkorn has a little surprise up its sleeve – the extendable aerial that’s placed under the handset is actually a receptor for analogue TV. I wasn’t really able to get the best reception in most places but it does add a bit of novelty to the handsets overall feature set. The music player is not the handsets strong point – tones are unbalanced and the handsfree isn’t too comfortable. Even with EQ presets that include virtual 3D, surround sound, bass enhancement and an 8 band graphic setting that can be customized, I was not too thrilled with the quality of audio. The FM radio worked out well enough and it also comes with a Schedule Recording option for capturing your favorite shows (does anyone actually use this?). A separate sound recorder is also on board and can capture voices clearly enough provided the handset is within 1.5-feet in front of you.

Plenty of media features

Plenty of media features

The handset is only equipped to read low resolution (320 x 240 @25fps) videos in .FLV, MPEG4 or 3GP formats. Anything slightly higher and you’ll end up with only audio and a psychedelic visualization on the screen.
Projection
The projector, the Spice Popkorn’s main USP, was actually quite good. You’ll be able to project up to a screen size of about 34-36-inches for clear viewing in a dark room. With this size the details are left quite intact and thanks to the focus adjuster dial under the lens you’ll find it quite comfortable to just sit back and watch a full length movie. Picture quality is really quite good.

Easily viewed up to a width of about 33-inches across

Easily viewed up to a width of about 33-inches across

Thanks to the adapters you can hook the handset up to a set of speakers for audio. I don’t recommend using the little capsule speaker at all, it distorts audio quite badly and there was literally no bass that seemed to emit for its innards. The multicolor lighting is also quite a distraction I when you’re in a dark room trying to watch a video. However it is part of the kit and it’s also battery powered. If only it could have been of a slightly better quality.

Connectivity
EDGE/GPRS speeds is about the fastest speed you’ll get for net connectivity. Like almost all other handsets running the Java mobile platform, the M-9000 also comes with dual browsers – Opera Mini and the native, slightly slower option. Spice also makes it a point to throw in a few extras like links to Facebook (mobile site), Snaptu, Nimbuzz for chatting, Wapedia, a Yahoo! link, VuClip and Spice’s own Spice Gang link amongst a few others. Bluetooth 2.1 and USB with an option to use the handset as a webcam are also part of the handset’s connectivity features.

All relevant mobile features present

All relevant mobile features present

Misc. Features
These ultra budget Java handsets usually come quite well equipped with the basics while throwing in a few extra features in as well. The Popkorn is no except and comes with a mobile tracking application, an eBook reader (.txt files) and a document reader that reads – .DOC (2007 support as well), .XL and .XLS, .pPPTand PDF files quite easily but viewing them is not the greatest experiences you’ll have on a handset. However it doesn’t look too bad when projected. A phone sync option to online backup servers is also provided and all the basics that include a currency converter, calendar, to-do list, stopwatch, alarm, calculator etc. are also on board.

Camera
Spice has loaded up the M-9000 with a 3.2megapixel fixed focus camera. Settings are pretty standard – White balance, night mode, a few color settings, anti-flicker settings and a delay timer.

Not good at all

Not good at all

Image quality is not too good. There’s too much grain in any lighting condition and major issues with focus.

Battery
The Popkorn comes with a 1200mAh battery that is quite capable of providing you with at least 3 hours of talk time (average). For projection it’ll sustain you for an entire full length feature film i.e. 3 hours and change. That’s not bad at all.

The Bottom Line
With a price tag of just Rs. 6500 (MOP) the Spice M-9000 Popkorn is a well rounded, well equipped budget handset with a USP that lives up to the hype. It’s well built albeit slightly heavy and bulky but think of all the neat functionality it packs in to this size. Si far, in the budget mobile phone projector segment the Spice  Popkorn has made its mark and delivers quite well on most fronts except music and image quality from the camera.

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