LED Projector Review – Optoma PK101 Pico Projector

This is an in-depth review of the Optoma Pico PK101, a half VGA (480×320) resolution DLP – LED projector. It has just been posted, and will be further proofed and a few additional images will be added.

Optoma Pico PK101 LED Projector Highlights

  • Simple to use
  • 480×320 resolution (“half-VGA” in that there are only half the pixels)
  • Suitable for projecting a small image – 10 to 50+ inches diagonal, in a mostly darkened or fully room
  • Compatible with standard composite video sources, as well as many portable devices including iPhones, game machines, some other cell phones
  • Weighs only 1/4 pound, including battery
  • Recharges fairly quickly (less than 4 hours) from the provided AC adapter though its USB port, comes with two batteries
  • Includes iPhone adapter, mini-USB to mini-USB cable, mini-plug to 3 RCA connector cable (for video and audio)
  • .5 watt speaker
  • Two brightness modes
  • Comes with an adapter to place on a mini tripod (a great idea)
  • Easily fits into any pocket, and a soft carry case just large enough for the projector cable and adapter (but not big enough to also fit the recharger
  • Rated 11 lumens, this is not a product for use in a bright room (consider that the dimmest home theater projectors are 20-25 times that bright, and the dimmest business projectors are 100 times as bright

Optoma Pico PK101 LED Projector - Overview

The whole concept of these small LED projectors has garnered a lot of attention. Optoma (I believe) was the first to ship one in the US, with this, the PK-101 Pico projector. In the industry two terms have been used to describe this type of projector. Some call them LED projectors (but LED light engines are just about to start appearing in more traditional larger projectors), and others call them pico projectors (wise of Optoma to grab the name Pico for their brand).

Click Image to Enlarge

I think it necessary to briefly discuss the abilites, the role and the types of usage these new projectors are best suited for, before focusing on this particular LED projector. Here goes:

The biggest question out there is who will buy them, and what will they use them for. It’s been argued by some, that they can be used for presentations. Whether they are viable for presenting in the tradtional sense is iffy at best. I’ve been in the projector industry for more than 15 years, and even the early portables back in 1994, (about 20 pounds) produced 100 lumens or more, and here we have something only 1/10th as bright as the dimmest of those early projectors.

About three years ago we saw the first small LED projectors. Mitsubishi’s probably being the best selling. Those types of LED projectors are much larger, and typically weigh in at more than 1/2 pound, excluding their battery packs which could bring them up to about 1 pound. That class of projector has proved abysmal in sales, considered a novelty by most, and despite typically 30 – 80 lumens, dim compared to the dimmest business projectors. Those larger LED projectors have found some specialty vertical markets, but their overall sales numbers are insignificant, compared to either business or home theater projectors.

Projectors like the Optoma Pico, however will find a different market, and that one primarily consists of working in conjunction with portable devices like cell phones, portable game machines (think Sony PSP3000, etc.) and a variety of other portable devices.

Ultimately industry forecasters see this as a huge market – bigger by far than the traditional projector market. One industry analyst projects (no pun intended) that as many as 15 million will be sold by 2012! There are, however two different types – first there are the stand alone projectors like the Pico, as well as competing models from 3M, AIPTEK, Samsung, and others. The rest of the sales are for the projector engine, to be built into other devices (like cell phones). The market for the engines to go into other devices is almost certainly the far, far, far, far (get the idea?) greater market. Imagine – if Apple decided to build a mini-projector into a future version of the iPhone (very likely), right off the bat, the sales of those LED projector engines (in units) would dwarf the unit numbers for traditional larger projectors (about 1.25 million projectors, worldwide in 2008).

So, what can we do with the Optoma Pico? I’ve had it hooked up to and working with my Wii, and my PS3, Oppo DVD player, as well as my iPhone, and an old portable DVD player system (with built in 7″ diagonal screen and speakers). Right off the bat, I only see one possible reason for people to buy it with the larger game machines, and that’s if they want to take their machine with them on a trip. The Pico then allows them to project the image onto a small screen, or small area of wall, but that’s better than not taking the game machine for those folks.

 

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