Zoombox
Hasbro / Tiger Electronics
The Zoombox looks similar to most other video projectors, but it's a lot lighter — particularly in the wallet.
By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 12/14/2005 7:58:54 AM ET 2005-12-14T12:58:54

If I were twelve or thirteen and I found a Zoombox under my tree on Christmas morning I’d be thrilled beyond belief.

Inside this shiny black plastic case from Hasbro's Tiger Electronics lives a DVD/CD player, stereo speakers and a video projector. Tiger calls it an "entertainment projector."

Within five minutes of opening the box, I was laying on my back with the Zoombox aimed at the ceiling, watching and listening to my favorite music DVDs at near deafening levels. What fun! Especially for less than $300.

Before I tell you all the technical details, let me say that if you expect a high-definition projector system for less than 3 bills you’re gonna be very disappointed. If you aim a lot lower — at a device meant for tweens and teens to master without much fuss — then you’ll be very pleased with the Zoombox.

Technically, this is a portable DVD/CD player with a TFT LCD projector built into the same enclosure. It's small enough and light enough to easily carry; I measured it as approximately 12.4 by 9.4 by 4 inches with a weight somewhere near 2 pounds.

The projector section provides a resolution of 557 by 234 lines. I told you this wasn’t high-def.  On the other hand, the picture is rock solid and overall quite watchable — especially for the price and the target age group.

You need to watch your Zoombox in a dark room. Not slightly dark, very dark. That’s because the projector bulb is a 12-volt, 35-watt MR-11 bulb. It puts out a whopping (only kidding) 8 ANSI lumens — not very much in this day and age, but then again not many other video projectors use a bulb you can buy at a local hardware store. The bulb is said to last 1,000 hours or so.

A set of composite video and audio inputs (yellow, red and white RCA jacks) means you can connect some interesting items to the Zoombox, such as a cable box, VCR, video camera, digital camera or a video game machine. There is also a headphone jack for times when listening to the built-in stereo speakers might annoy others.

Zoombox projects a picture as large as 60-inches diagonal. All you have to do is point the manual focus lens at a wall or ceiling, turn off the lights and enjoy! Since most of the walls in my house are painted in fancy colors, most of my viewing was done projecting the image on the ceiling.

Here’s the best part: It’s a blast to use. DVDs, while not looking anything like they do on my progressive DVD deck through my large screen Sharp high-definition LCD TV, are quite acceptable. Then again, the Zoombox costs less than one-tenth as much as my living room system.

I watched cable TV and DVDs and listened to a few CDs and can honestly say Zoombox would be appreciated by kids and adults alike. I'm way out of the target demographic and I’m sorry I have to return it so soon.

At the moment, Zoombox is only available at a number of New York retailers and through a number of online retailers (Amazon, Target, Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart to name a few). It should be available nationwide after the holidays. The price is set at $299.99 pretty much everywhere.

The Zoombox is highly recommended for the teens in your life. Everyone else should love it, too.

One important final word, actually a warning. Zoombox is not a toy. It must be installed on a non-carpeted surface and you should never block the air vents. Projector bulbs run very, very hot — and the Zoombox bulb is no exception. Set-up and operation of this device must be supervised by an adult. 

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