When the boombox hit popular culture over 30 years ago, it brought the party outside. For the first time it was convenient to have loud, high-quality sound anywhere you wanted it without needing AC power or having to hook up complicated sound systems. With the proliferation of wireless Bluetooth speakers and the MP3 format, boomboxes have gone the way of the mullet haircut, but a new version called Flicks from Dashbon is bringing it back with a very 21st-century addition: a projector. We got to try one out.
Portable battery-powered projectors are, of course, nothing new. But the Flicks version sets itself apart by being a sound machine first and a projector second. It has two speakers plus a subwoofer with a bass radiator that pumps out truly loud sound. In our tests, it was hard to turn the volume all the way up because it kind of hurt, and there was no loss of fidelity. Such a feature could come in pretty handy if you're watching films outdoors with lots of ambient noise and sound leakage without walls to keep it all enclosed. In addition to being loud, the speakers pumped out crystal-clear sound.
For our tastes, that sound tended a little too much toward the high-end and lacked that feel-it-in-your-chest bass. That means it wouldn't be our first speaker of choice for simply playing music through its Bluetooth connection. But when we streamed video through the device, the sound was extremely satisfying and the machine did a good job conveying clear, crisp conversations as well as background sounds and effects.
The Bluetooth connection was equally impressive and set up without difficulty. We were able to move the Flicks up a story over 30 feet (9 m) away from our connected smartphone and the player didn't miss a beat while the phone streamed Spotify to it.
Switching the device from Bluetooth music mode to projector mode is as simple as pushing a button on top of the machine. The speaker grill is smartly located so that when you're playing music, it can face you, and when you are projecting video, you turn the unit around so that the sound still streams in your direction.
At 720p resolution, video quality was sharp and clear although it could have had better depth and richness of color; at times the image felt a little washed out. There is an easy-to-use focus wheel around the projector's lens and there are several image adjustment options accessed through a simple menu system including brightness, contrast and keystone correction that let you adjust the image in the horizontal plane to compliment the system's auto-adjust feature in the vertical plane. There is also a flip function that lets you project the image in reverse.
One feature we would like to see in Flicks is the ability to zoom the image in and out using the lens itself as was the case with the non-portable Z4 Aurora projector we recently reviewed. Instead, Flicks needs to be physically moved closer or farther away from your projection surface to get the display to be the size you need. The only other negative we found with the project is that the fan can be a little loud, but that's because we were sitting right next to it during testing. If you are able to sit behind it, the mighty sound output from the speaker will definitely drown it out.
Something that separates Flicks from lots of competitors out there is its impressive battery life. The projector comes in two versions: 140WH and 280WH. The first provides four hours of video and sound while the second can entertain for eight hours. For music-only use, the first version can go for 28 hours, while the larger battery can handle 56 hours of playback.
Setting up Flicks is simple. Devices and media streamers are connected through an HDMI cable. Of course, if you want to take advantage of the projector's portability you'll need a portable way to stream content, so you'll need to download movies or shows to your tablet or phone if you're going to be in an area without WiFi. You'll also need a cable that lets you connect your device to an HDMI port. If you'll be in a hot spot zone, you can use HDMI sticks like the Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Streaming Stick by plugging them right into the HDMI port and connecting their power cords to the built-in USB charging port. That will reduce battery life a bit, but it's still pretty cool to be able to have your entire streaming player in a completely portable version.
The Flicks projector may bring boomboxes solidly into the 21st century, but it does so at a very modern price. The 140WH model is US$599, while the 280WH model will run you $699. It's possible to get a portable projector and speakers for a lot less than that, so what you're really paying for here is the all-in-one convenience, long battery life and super-impressive speaker set.
Flicks was originally launched on Indiegogo where the product raised $154,620 in a campaign that ended in March 2015. It can now be purchased through that original page, on the Dashbon website (below) or through Amazon where it has a near-perfect 4.8-star rating from nearly 100 consumers.
Product page: Flicks