Pico Projector Review – Optoma Neo-i DV20a Projector

Optoma DV20a Projector Screen Recommendations:

I suspect that most people won’t be buying a projector screen to use with a neo-i or other pico. Rather, they will project onto a white or near white wall, piece of white paper, or some other surface. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one, but mini-screens do exist, and a whole new crop are coming, thanks to these pico projectors. There are portfolio types and those that retract into a tube. Some of the retractible screens are pull-up types, and a couple are pull from the side – accordian like (no not pleated). I’ve seen small screens in sizes from about 16″ diagonal. They can be opened up, and set on a table. By the way, I recommend finding a mini-tripod for setting up the projector. Those weigh only a few ounces and are typically less than 6 inches long. Even with the larger neo-i a mini tripod could be handy to get the neo-i up off the table to line up with whatever height surface you are projecting on. If you are going to get a screen, I’d suggest a high gain screen if possible. That will help with ambient light, and provide some extra brightness. Some mini-screens come in high gain surfaces. One example is the Da-Lite Presenter screen shown here. It is 40″ diagonal, and when I looked last September (’10) it sold for about $199, and has a particularly bright surface. I expect we’ll start seeing a number of similar designs and significantly falling prices. I believe most of the demand for screens will be at price points well under $100. For a lot less money (around $50), Draper makes a 25″ diagonal tabletop screen for pico projectors. I can’t say that I’ve actually seen one, but here’s an image I found. Elite Screens and others also offer them. We hope to provide a roundup of screens for pico projectors, in the 2011 Pico Projector Comparison Report this summer.

Neo-i Pico Projector and Sound System - Warranty

The Neo-i Pico Projector comes with a 1 year limited parts and labor warranty. That’s actually better than many electronics in this price range, which only come with 90 day warranties. One year seems most reasonable to us. One year is also the most typical warranty for stand alone projectors under $1000 (though there are some 2 year warranties).

From a competitor’s standpoint, there is a different, yet similar product from WoWee, that we plan to review but don’t know its warranty as of this writing. The much larger and heavier (9.5 pounds) Epson all-in-one MovieMate projectors come with 2 year warranties, but Epson tends to be a market leader in warranties. All their projectors have two years, and most have a replacement program.

I think of the Optoma Neo-i as sort of a boom box with projector , and that kind of perspective has you seeing products mostly with those 90 day warranties. A thumbs up for Optoma, in terms of warranty.

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.

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 (854×480) 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 1280×800 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.

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