MicroVision’s (http://www.microvision.com) SHOWWX+, the second generation of its laser pico Projector, is a cool device. But at US$449, it will only appeal to a certain niche of folks since it’s too expensive to be a casual purchase — or toy, if you will — for most of us.

The tiny device — about the size of an iPhone — lets you Project movies, photos, presentations and streaming video at up to 100 inches in size and 16:9 widescreen content in WVGA (848 X 480). The SHOWWX+, the successor to the SHOWWX, has a 50% brighter display and boasts two hours of battery life, a 5,000:1 native contrast ratio, 15 laser lumens, and what the folks at Microvision say is the shortest throw ratio of any pico Projector on the market.

SHOWWX+ is a “Made for iPod, iPhone, and iPad” product that connects using the included video component cable. You can also use it with any device that has a male RCA video out connection (a composite cable is included) or with a computer with the appropriate cable (which isn’t included and which will cost you around $40).

Microvision also includes a USB cable, which seems to be mainly for firmware upgrades, although you can use it to recharge the battery. You may or may not get enough power over the USB cable to run the Projector directly, since some USB connectors on notebooks supply less power than others.

Use of the device is easy. You power on the SHOWWX, connect the cable to the Projector, connect the other end of the cable to the device you’ll be Projecting from (I used an iPad). When the “Ready to Use” alert pops up, press play on the slideshow, video or presentation on your iOS, Mac or other device, and the images appear on the “big screen.”

For example, you could combine an iPad with Netflix and SHOWWX+ and watch the moving on the “big screen.” You can show off your iPhoto shots or your Keynote presentation.

That said, if you’re using the SHOWWX+ with an iOS device or laptop, the picture may be big and bright, but the sound will be tinny unless you connect some decent external speakers. Also, the quality of the picture depends on the lighting conditions.

If you’re in a semi-light room you’ll get the best image if you keep the Projected image to under 24 inches. If you’re in a semi-dark room with dimmed lighting, the optimal image size will be 24-36 inches. You’ll need a completely dark room if you want to blow the image up between 70 to 100 inches.

Under the best conditions, the SHOWWX+’s Project image are relatively bright, vivid and detailed. They’re good, but not “Blu-ray” great. I guess that’s to be expected in a device this small. On the other hand, the SHOWWX+ costs more than most Blu-ray players, so, again, the price plays into the equation.

The SHOWWX+ has an onscreen display with accompanying buttons on the body of the slim Projector that lets you make changes to the settings of the Projector. You can adjust brightness (high, medium, low), color mode (brilliant, standard, inverted, gamma), aspect ratio (widescreen, normal, zoom) and system settings (image alignment, color alignment, properties and resetting of the defaults.)What about a focus setting? You don’t need one; the Project is always in focus.

If you do a lot of presentations while on the road, the SHOWWX+ will come in handy — and comes with a wrist strap and travel pouch. Business users may be interested in this pico Projector, but the rest of us will probably find the price a bit too high for something that would be fun, but not essential.

Macsimum rating: 6 out of 10

— Dennis Sellers