Optoma DV20a - The Neo-i iPhone Projector: Review Summary
A bottom line summary of the Optoma Neo-i Projector's pros and cons and capabilities. neo-i (all lower case) is the marketing name of this pico projector. Optoma's official model number is the DV20a projector. That's the same DV prefix that Optoma used for their old MovieTime DV11, and DV10 all in one projectors.
2/28/2011 - Art Feierman
Optoma Neo-i: Bottom Line
I have new respect for pico projectors, thanks to the neo-i. As a projector person, it's been more than a decade since I've worked with projectors less than 300 lumens, let alone pico projectors with 50 lumens or less. Even with regular projectors, there's rarely a point of having too much brightness, and that makes pico projector solutions all the more challenging. Below, the neo-i tackles almost a 40" diagonal image, even with a 60 watt lamp in the back of the room. (The dark ceiling in the testing room REALLY helps.)
The neo-i rises to the occasion. Despite my jaded view of home theater projectors, I watched Ferris Bueller's Day off, a standard DVD, fed to the neo-i projector through the HDMI port. I enjoyed the whole movie in the testing room (pausing only to take a few images, and to change the image size once). OK, the experience wasn't hi-def home theater but, the picture quality really was reasonable, skin tones not bad, the picture could even handle some controlled ambient light while projecting about a 35 inch diagonal image. I actually watched about 20 minutes at close to a 60" diagonal image, but found it not quite bright enough for my taste.
In other words, it really works! And while it's WVGA (854x480) resolution - same as a DVD - isn't near as high as today's netbooks, laptops and desktops, hooking up to the house netbook was easy, it worked fine with a 1280x800 WXGA signal from the netbook. Putting a game on and playing though the neo-i worked just fine. (I'm talking basic games here, not super timing critical, high level first person shooter games.)
If anything, I'd have to complain about the iPhone, not the neo-i. As huge an Apple fan as I am, I wish they'd let us pump more apps and functionality to an externanl display. YouTube and photo albums are fun, but there are so many apps (including my astronomy ones) I'd love to be able to use the neo-i's image size. The limits as to iPhone's display output, are set by Apple, not by projector manufacturers. I hear that with Android type phones, you can often essentially display whatever would appear on the normal display, onto your projector?
And I have one other real complaint: the neo-i could have more inputs. I understand the virtue of really marketing this as an iPod and iPhone device (and everything else as secondary), but the neo-i could definitely use another input - a USB one to interface with all the androids and other devices out there.
And of course why no SD card slot. Their own PK301 has one. That does annoy me.
Back to the brighter side of the neo-i. Despite those two complaints, the neo-i is pretty cool, and very functional. Its 50 lumens are enough! I've never been happy with less, and would love to see more, but, hey, it's a pico projector. There are big projectors if you must have 10 times (or 100 times) the brightness. The neo-i's sound does the trick. I can fill my 400 sq ft theater room with a reasonable sound level and not sound tinny. That's impressive. (An output for a really small external subwoofer though would have been sweet.) While the sound is warm and balanced, of course, there's no deep bass. The bass boost EQ feature adds more boom for a warm sound.
OK, reasonable picture, acceptable brightness, sound that does the trick. Consider that you get that all in a 2.2 pound system, for $449 MSRP in the US. No doubt you can buy them for less. Not bad for a first generation product!
As a result of much viewing and consideration, it looks like another award for another Optoma Pico!
It's hard deciding on awards for products like this, (one reason we created our Special Interest award 3 years ago), which are the first or one of the first of a new "class" of projectors. We've yet to see a direct competitor close up, to compare it to, although WowWee has a competing device, that we are anxious to bring in and review. We certainly haven't been able to bring in any other picos in larger boxes like this neo-i to review.. We also know from experience, that the neo-i performs visually, much like their own PK301 which we gave our highest - our Best In Class Award, in last year's Pico Projector Comparison Report.
Ultimately, we are pleased to announce that the neo-i receives our Special Interest award.
The neo-i was also seriously considered for a Hot Product Award, but, those missing inputs - SD card and USB, and no multi-media player, I felt, took something away from the projector. More importantly, the lack of direct competition that we've been able to see and review, also makes it difficult. As such, the neo-i will just have to settle for our Special Interest Award, at least until the big annual Pico projector comparison report - 2011 edition due in June. We'll have some Best In Class awards with that report.
Don't get me wrong, those wanting to look at their photos or videos from "old fashioned" devices like digital cameras, and camcorders (as well as most phones, and tablets), can do so, in most cases. There's always the composite video and audio inputs that should work with almost every camera and camcorder out there. Still USB and SD card are often the easiest solutions for non iPhone, iPod type folks.
Who wants a neo-i?
Well, first, probably a lot less people will want this neo-i at a price discounted from $449, than if it sold for under $199. The Optoma DV20a - the neo-i projector, should have a lot of appeal to the younger folks in general - people who like to take and show lots of pictures and videos, be they kids, teens, young adults or even a lot of us older - but fairly tech savvy toy freaks!
neo-i - nice device! My daughter - away at college - she hasn't seen the neo-i, just the images she processes for the review - I'm pretty certain she would love to have one of these. She loves to show pictures from her iPhone. She takes billions and billions. And now that she's joined a sorority, a neo-i would make it easier for her to show those photos and videos to a whole suite of sisters, all at one time.
For us serious home theater folk, the neo-i is a pretty cool toy - but it's not real home theater. It can be fun as discussed, but it's not going to light our fire, just another gizmo to have fun with. Now, teens and young adults that love gizmos... yep, the neo-i will definitely find fans.
While I say "not real home theater", remember most folks don't care. Today's teenagers and young adults are used to playing games, watching movies, and TV programs, and surfing the net, all from their phones. If you can stand to watch Iron Man 2 on a 3 or 4 inch display, you certainly will really like using the neo-i to project the same program out to 30 or 40 or 50 inches!
All considered, while the neo-i wont' pass muster as "real" home theater, nor as a higher end, higher resolution business projector, there are business people, and others who will choose to use the neo-i, to pull off a very a passable business presentation. Typically that would be a presentation to a couple / few people, in a darkened room.
Please note, on the image to the right, that the projected image is showing with enough ambient light in the room that you can make out the projector, the table below the screen, and part of the table the neo-i is sitting on. The image shown is almost 50 inches diagonal (you can see some washing out of the image in the darker areas.) The picture is supposed to be a vibrant view of a wood deck and ocean beyond. It looked a lot better with the lights off.
Optoma's DV20a - or as better known as the neo-i, can be used for gaming, or watching a movie, TV, videos, or images from your computer or DVD player, phone or tablet, and it can, of course be used for music only to play songs from iTunes or your CDs from whatever device has a stereo output.
Of course, you won't forget the primary purpose of the neo-i as touted by Optoma: Watching and listening to movies and tunes, that you downloaded on your iPhone.
So, have a blast!
Optoma Neo-i Projector: Pros
- Widescreen native resolution of WVGA 854x480 (same as a DVD), supports video resolutions of up to 720p and 1080i
- Claims 50 lumens measured 49! Not bad. And bright by pico projector standards
- HDMI input
- Reasonably good color, very good for a pico, though not great by any means
- Also has Computer input (up to WXGA resolution), and an AV input
- 2000:1 contrast - this pico projector produces decent blacks for movie watching
- LED light source rated at 20,000 hours (10 years of 40 hours/wk
- 16:9 native aspect ratio and supports 4:3
- Room filling audio from two 8 watt speakers, with well balanced sound, not tinny
- 1 year warranty
- Easy to use, and currently reasonably priced (pricing in this new segment will of course continue to drop over the next couple of years)
Optoma Neo-i Projector: Cons
- No standard USB or SD card slot, and no media player
- No built in battery (optional)
- Color could be better, typically a bit oversaturated on the HDMI input, better from an iPhone
- An audio output would be nice (for a mini-sub)
- Documentation - very "electronic toy" style - few pages, a number of pictures, no real detailed explanations
- Some additional picture/color controls would be nice
Optoma Neo-i Projector: 20 Questions Answered
1) What is the native resolution and what is the max resolution?
Native Resolution is WVGA(854x480). Accepts computer data up to 1280x800 (WXGA). For Video, maximum resolutions are 720p and 1080i
2) Largest image you can project and how far do you have to be to achieve it?
Optoma says up to 120" diagonal. From a more practical standpoint, can produce a decently lit image in a really dark room on screens up to about 60 inches. Distance is 1.8 times screen width. If you want to show your movie, TV or other content with a 40 inch wide image, then the projector would place 40 x 1.8 = 72 inches from the screen.
3) Standard battery life?
The optional battery pack was not tested. It is the same battery pack as is sold with the Optoma PK301. If you are using the audio, as well as video, we expect the pack to last less than one hour before needing recharge.
4) Does it have internal memory, and how much?
No, there is no memory for user storage (images, etc.) nor is any internal memory quoted on the specs.
5) What light source technology does the projector use?
Uses LED light source with an estimated life of 20,000 hours.
6) What is the native aspect ratio and does it support other aspect ratios?
16:9 but does support 4:3 aspect ratio sources
7) What is the throw ratio?
1.8:1 (distance:width) ie. 50 inch image = 90 inches back from screen
8) Does it have a remote control?
Yes, the neo-i comes with an 18 button credit card sized remote control
9) Does it have a full featured control panel on the projector?
Yes. The touch control panel controls volume, source selection, menu and navigation.
10) What type of warranty does it have?
1 Year limited parts and labor.
11) Does it have a focus adjustment?
Yes. It does not have a zoom adjustment. Must be physically moved to produce a smaller or larger image.
12) What inputs/ouputs does the neo-i projector have?
1 HDMI input, the iPod / iPhone connector, an AV connector (composite video and stereo audio) and a computer VGA (HD15) connector
13) Is it compatible with smartphones? Which ones?
Other than the iPhone, only those that can connect via the composite video port, HDMI or analog computer input
14) What files types can be used for a presentation. Document?
You would provide a source, such as a laptop, dvd player or computer. The neo-i is not designed with a built in multimedia player. In this way it's different than the PK301.
15) What light source technology is used in the projector?
The light source is LED technology rated to last 20,000 hours. Most likely will have next generation model before needing to replace.
16) Will it accept HD video sources and what is the highest resolution it will accept?
The highest resolution it will accept is 1280x800 through the VGA adapter. HD video sources are accepted via the mini HDMI port and will accept a 1080i signal.
17) What cables does the projector come with, WHAT might I need?
The neo-i projector comes with a power cord, and a connector for the AV input - with mini connector on the neo-i's side, and 3 RCA jacks for the source. Other cables are optional, including a computer cable, and HDMI cable.
18) How much outboard memory can be used by the projector?
The neo-i does not have a media player, and no card slot or usb port for memory cards, flash drives, etc.
19) What is the highest brightness in standard mode with just battery and brightness with expansion pack or AC?
Highest brightness is 50 lumens. We expect the same, from the optional battery pack. The projector measured almost exactly as Optoma claims
20) What environment is this projector best suited to be used in?
Dark environments with littler or no ambient light for best viewing. Moderate lighting limits projection sizes to under 20 inch diagonal, to retain color and image dynamics.
Click here for our specs page on the neo-i, and for access to the datasheet.
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