Pico Projector Review - Optoma Neo-i DV20a Projector
First and foremost Optoma designed the neo-i as a lightweight pico projector-based table top device great for viewing photos, videos, TV and movies, games, not to mention data, Facebook and the rest of the web.
Optoma's new neo-i projector combines significant sound with the brightness and image quality already found in the Optoma PK301. It has an iPod/iPhone dock, as well as other inputs. A fun pico projector concept, and one Optoma has targeted toward the Apple i's. Touted for the iPod and iPhone, there's an optional iPad adapter, and lots of inputs for hooking up other devices!
March 2011 - Art Feierman
Optoma DV20a The Neo-i Pico iPhone and iPod Projector - Overview
The DV20a Neo-i is a strange projector to define. The Neo-i is also a fun pico projector to use. This Optoma projector will likely be referred to as a combo, or all-in-one projector, but techically neo-i Pico projector from Optoma isn't really a combo or all-in-one, it's just a projector with an iPhone and iPod dock as well as other inputs, and it also has a lot more sound than any tiny stand alone pico projector. To me, to be a combo, or all-in-one projector, the Optoma DV20a neo-i would have to not only have projector and sound, but also at least one on-board source - such as a DVD player, or even a video tuner. Or even an SD card slot and onboard multi-media player. Alas, the neo-i does not have a built in source.
The Neo-i relies on the same basic engine as Optoma's PK301, so it has the same basic performance. Instead, though, of being built primarily with tiny size in mind, Optoma designed the DV20a projector - the neo-i, to satisfy different users, that have different needs.
When you forget its purpose, and look right at the neo-i - at its feature set, you realize it is - well - a "normal" projector. OK, it's a small one, but ultimately, the neo-i consists of a projector and speakers, and a number of inputs... That, folks is what you can say about almost any non-home theater projector. Most home theater projectors lack speakers.
Below, you can see my iPhone in the lower right of the image. The room is close to fully darkened (minor ambient light). The iPhone is sitting in the neo-i, and the neo-i is projecting a roughly 50" diagonal image of a photo of students in a university classroom. Not bad. I mean really - not bad at all. Use this neo-i properly and you can enjoy some really nice results.
Compare the neo-i to the Optoma PK301, a pico projector we reviewed last year, that won our Best In Class Award as our favorite pico projector. It's essentially the same pico projector itself, even if the neo-i box is many times the size and the neo-i weighs about 5 times as much. Unlike the PK301, the DV20a neo-i is AC power standard. There's no internal battery, but a $99 battery pack optional. Both pico projectors offer the same 50 lumens, same resolution, etc. The neo-i, however, lets you have some serious sound, something sorely lacking in any of the classic "tiny" pico projectors. In fact the sound of the neo-i was one of the highlight features of the neo. It's 16 watts total, for example provides incredibly more sound that the single 0.5 watt speaker in Optoma's PK301, and it leaves my MacBook Pro's sound in the dust, as well.
What I'm not really sure about, with the neo-i, is whether buyers will really carry the neo-i around, or just, mostly, keep close to home. And, if they do carry it, will they want a battery pack? While the 2.2 pound weight (not counting iPhone or iPod, or iPad, or optional battery pack), is fairly light, the neo-i is massively bulky compared to a classic pico projector like their own PK301. On the other hand, you just set it down, plug it in (to AC or optional battery pack), and feed it something to watch.
I took the PK301 and other pico projectors on vacation to Lake Tahoe last summer. While I played with them there, and could have watched a movie, etc., I didn't. The place we stayed had a nice 40 inch or so plasma TV with inputs, and the PK301 was certainly no match in terms of brightness, resolution or sound. But, of course, we couldn't count on being able to hook up our digital toys, until we arrived, thus the picos for backup.
This neo-i projector system, might also not replace the provided TV, but it sure would have done a much better job than just the 301. The point of a portable solution is, at least, in part - simplicity. With the neo-i, I could play a movie right off my iPhone, or off a laptop or dvd player to name a few devices. Dealing with extra speakers and cables - why bother if the neo-i makes them unnecessary. And that's why something like the Optoma DV20a - the Neo-i, exists. True you can have a pico projector and small powered satellite speakers and still have less bulk than the neo-i, but not by much, and you would have a lot more wires and headaches getting everything going.
It took me about 2 minutes to unbox and plug in the neo-i. It took about another 30 seconds to put my iPhone on the unit, turn the neo-i projector on, and start veiwing a youtube video. Talk about easy! And all that without opening the manual (more of a quick start guide - few words). The pdf version shows all the menu levels and options, and many images of how to hook up various devices. The DV20a neo-i comes with a half dozen adapters for the different iPhones, iPods and nano's for a good fit, but I was able to use my own iPhone just fine without bothering with them.
The neo-i is not alone! It has at least one similar competitor, the new WowWee projector. I hope to get one of those in shortly for comparison. They have different goals in mind, in terms of design (the WowWee Cinemin Slice, for example, is more iPad focused). We will compare these two, at the latest - in the summer's annual Pico Projector Comparison Report, but will also compare them in the competitors section of the Cinemin's review when that publishes).
Below: Yes, it's Ferris Bueller's Day Off! Pretty impressive color for a pico projector.
Check out the highlights below, some quick specs, the special features, then read on to get a more in depth look at the Optoma Neo-i.
Optoma Neo-i Neo-i Projector Highlights
- 854x480 resolution (same as a standard DVD)
- Very good performance for a pico projector
- Fairly long throw lens - from 100" back, you get a 55" diagonal image
- Pair of 8 watt speakers provide substantial, balanced, room filling sound (though lacking deep bass, of course)
- Can project images and videos from devices like the iPhone and iPod, (including YouTube of course)
- Offers an HDMI, a VGA computer input (with component video), and an AV input (composite video, stereo audio)
- Optoma claims image sizes to 10 foot diagonal - practical sizes are less than that, but 60 inches is very doable, and impressive under the right circumstances
- Auto powers up when iPhone or iPod inserted into dock
- There are optional accessories including an iPad adapter, and a battery pack
- First projector of its kind, to ship - projectors with iPhone, iPod, etc. dock
Specs for Optoma Neo-i Pico Projector
- MSRP: $499
- Technology: LED light technology
- Native Resolution: 854x480 (WVGA) (16:9 aspect ratio, 4:3 compatible)
- Brightness: 50 lumens claimed, measured 48 lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 2000:1
- Lens: Fixed lens with focus adjustment
- Lamp Life: 20,000 hours
- Audio: 2 8 watt speakers, no audio output
- Dimensions: 4.7” x 1.2” x 2.7”
- Weight: 2.2 pounds (0.95 kg estimated)
- Warranty: 1 Year Limited Parts and Labor
View the full specifications of the Optoma Neo-i
Optoma Neo-i Special Features
Neo-i and iPad
Designed with the iPhone and iPod's in mind, Optoma does offer an optional adapter to work with the iPad. Unfortunately, they did not send me one with the review unit, so my iPad sits lonely, unable to play with the neo-i.
Neo-i is AC Powered - Optional Battery Pack
The Neo-i projector comes with a very small and lightweight power brick for normal power. I'm pleased to see that Optoma is also offering an optional battery pack. It is the same one they offer for the PK301, and like with that other pico projector, it allows the neo-i to achieve full brightness of approximately 50 lumens!
The Neo-i has a recessed tripod standard screw thread, in the bottom, near the front. That will you allow the projector to be put on a normal full sized tripod, or even a nice lightweight mini-tripod, when convenient!
Multiple Input Sources
Neo-i offers three additional inputs besides the iPod and iPhone dock. There's a standard VGA computer input, also an AV input -for composite video and stereo, and, of particular note is an HDMI input. That's the top of the foodchain, digital input supporting up to 1080i resolution. Please note, anyone who hooks one up to their HDTV satellite or cable box, that we're starting to see broadcasts in 1080p, which the Neo-i can't handle. If that's the case, just tell your satellite box to lower the resolution to 1080i. No worries. The computer port works as advertised as well. I was able to get it to accept a WXGA output from a nice little netbook we use around here, for testing such things. I did not test it with a Mac, but no reason to expect an issue.
Neo-i Uses LED Light Technology
You never have to replace the lamp. Well, officially, Optoma says 20,000 hours, which isn't exactly forever, but then considering that would be 40 hours a week for a decade... We assume that you will replace this pico projector system far sooner than that, since, no doubt, similar devices in a few years will cost less, be brighter, have more features... And who knows what an iPhone will look like in 10 years. By then, it will probably be a multi-dimensional device with yet unthought of capabilities.
Neo-i Sound Quality
The neo's audio is primarily why this product exists. After all, you can get the same basic projector engine in the PK301with 1/10th the bulk and less than 1/4th the weight. The sound, from two 8 watt speakers, is more impressive than I would have anticipated. The sound, of course, lacks any deep bass, but the overall sound is well-rounded, and warm sounding. Unlike many small systems that have a tinny sound to them, the neo-i's sound performance is well balanced, not shrill. While small devices can always stand to have better sound, the neo-i does very well compared to current expectations. (That may change over the next year, as more products hit the market, and the "bar gets raised.")