Pico Projector Review – Optoma Neo-i DV20a Projector

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!

Tripod Mount
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.”)

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.

Click Image to Enlarge

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!

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