Optoma neo-i Projector - Physical Tour
2/26/2011 - Art Feierman
Neo-i Projector - Appearance
First of all, the neo-i projector from Optoma looks like anything but a typical projector. That in its own right an interesting thing, since the Neo-i essentially uses the same engine as the Optoma pico projector. That little pico, however really does look like a baby projector, a scaled down, but typical looking portable. The neo-i iPhone and iPod projector however, more closely resembles a modern alarm clock or small single unit sound system (in the old, old days, it would have been a table radio...)
The idea behind the neo-i is to offer both respectable video and sound qualities, and the sound from a typical tiny pico projector like the 301, is equally tiny, and totally lacking in bass. So Optoma designed a projector to provide a solution.
The first thing you notice abou the neo-i iPhone projector is the top. The projector forms a football like oval shape when looking down from the top. It's much wider than front to back. Near the center is the classic iPod, iPhone, and iPad connector, sitting in a recessed area. The Neo-i comes with a number of inserts to more perfectly hold your various iPhones, etc.
At the back of the top of the neo-i is a touch control panel. It's pretty much invisible if the unit is off, but you can find it by running your finger over the flat curved part of the back top, and you'll almost certainly engage the Optoma projector's control panel, which will light up a nice led blue color. Inserting your iPhone into its holder, however will fire up the projector and light up the control panel.
The Optoma neo-i projector's small, manual focus, non-zoom lens is tucked under the right front extension of the top (looking from the front).
Neo-i Control Panel
First thing to note, before going into the Control Panel, is that simply plugging in your iPhone, etc. will engage and power up the neo-i projector. The touch control panel, as mentioned above, is at the back of the top. It is capacitance sensitive, so just touch lightly with your fingers to operate. It would seem that touching either the Menu button (looking from the rear - on the far right), or the Source button (far left), will turn on the Neo-i. That is, of course, assuming you have the master power switch (standard hard switch) on the back of the Neo, in the On position. Inserting an iPhone or iPod will automatically cause the neo-i to switch to that source, even if others are connected.
Back to the Control panel. Let's consider the neo-i buttons from left to right. Far left, as noted, your source selection button, that will let you toggle through the iPad / iPhone input, the VGA, the HDMI and the AV (composite video and stereo audio). Next are the controls for playback: Rewind, Play/Pause, and Fast Forward. After those, come the navigation buttons: Enter, Up, and Down, and finally the Menu button on the far right. (OK, I should have described the buttons from right to left, oh well.) The Up and Down arrow keys also control the volume!
The menu system for the Neo-i proves easy and simple enough. There's not a whole lot of options.
For the Picture, you can control Brightness and Contrast, also sharpness, but no real color controls. There's also control for the aspect ratio. I found the Auto aspect ratio did not accurately work with an old standard DVD - Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I had to use the menu to properly adjust. No big deal.
Newer DVD's seemed fine. Sound has an equalizer with four settings as shown below.
Neo-i Remote Control
Unlike most Pico projectors, the Optoma Neo-i has a remote. It's your typical credit card sized remote, so range isn't exceptionally long. The Neo-i has its IR - infra-red sensor for the remote, on the rear of the projector. I could place the projector about 6 feet from the screen, and still control with the remote from 20 feet back from the screen. The remote's definitely trickier if you are standing to the side of the projector and slightly front. Still, all considered, it's a reasonable remote control for this small iPhone and iPad, all in one projector.
For such a small device - and small remote control, the neo-i's remote has a lot of buttons - 18 in all. But then it must control all the projector functions, and also the basic playback related functions to view content from various sources (play, rewind, pause...).
Optoma Neo-i Lens Throw
The Neo-i produces a sufficient size image with the lights out or turned down low. To figure out where you have to place the projector for any given sized screen, take the distance from the screen to the front of the Neo-i projector, and divide by 1.8 and that will give you the correct screen size. Thus, if you place the projector 100" from your wall or projection screen, you'll get an image 100 / 1.8 = 55.5 inches wide. I rarely projected that wide an image with the Neo, due to brightness, but at about five feet from the screen, you get a respectable sized 33" wide image, which normally looked pretty good, as long as keep the light away.
Neo-i Lens Shift & Setup
No lens shift. Also, as is so far, the norm with pico based projectors, no zoom lens. The manual lens located in the front, with its lens barrel recessed behind the curve of the front top. Unlike the rest of the black projector, the lens housing is silver and easy to grip to rotate for focusing.