LED Projector Review - Optoma PK101 Pico Projector
May 2009 - Art Feierman
This is an in-depth review of the Optoma Pico PK101, a half VGA (480x320) resolution DLP - LED projector.
It has just been posted, and will be further proofed and a few additional images will be added.
Optoma Pico PK101 LED Projector - Overview
The whole concept of these small LED projectors has garnered a lot of attention. Optoma (I believe) was the first to ship one in the US, with this, the PK-101 Pico projector. In the industry two terms have been used to describe this type of projector. Some call them LED projectors (but LED light engines are just about to start appearing in more traditional larger projectors), and others call them pico projectors (wise of Optoma to grab the name Pico for their brand).
I think it necessary to briefly discuss the abilites, the role and the types of usage these new projectors are best suited for, before focusing on this particular LED projector. Here goes:
The biggest question out there is who will buy them, and what will they use them for. It's been argued by some, that they can be used for presentations. Whether they are viable for presenting in the tradtional sense is iffy at best. I've been in the projector industry for more than 15 years, and even the early portables back in 1994, (about 20 pounds) produced 100 lumens or more, and here we have something only 1/10th as bright as the dimmest of those early projectors.
About three years ago we saw the first small LED projectors. Mitsubishi's probably being the best selling. Those types of LED projectors are much larger, and typically weigh in at more than 1/2 pound, excluding their battery packs which could bring them up to about 1 pound. That class of projector has proved abysmal in sales, considered a novelty by most, and despite typically 30 - 80 lumens, dim compared to the dimmest business projectors. Those larger LED projectors have found some specialty vertical markets, but their overall sales numbers are insignificant, compared to either business or home theater projectors.
Projectors like the Optoma Pico, however will find a different market, and that one primarily consists of working in conjunction with portable devices like cell phones, portable game machines (think Sony PSP3000, etc.) and a variety of other portable devices.
Ultimately industry forecasters see this as a huge market - bigger by far than the traditional projector market. One industry analyst projects (no pun intended) that as many as 15 million will be sold by 2012! There are, however two different types - first there are the stand alone projectors like the Pico, as well as competing models from 3M, AIPTEK, Samsung, and others. The rest of the sales are for the projector engine, to be built into other devices (like cell phones). The market for the engines to go into other devices is almost certainly the far, far, far, far (get the idea?) greater market. Imagine - if Apple decided to build a mini-projector into a future version of the iPhone (very likely), right off the bat, the sales of those LED projector engines (in units) would dwarf the unit numbers for traditional larger projectors (about 1.25 million projectors, worldwide in 2008).
So, what can we do with the Optoma Pico? I've had it hooked up to and working with my Wii, and my PS3, Oppo DVD player, as well as my iPhone, and an old portable DVD player system (with built in 7" diagonal screen and speakers). Right off the bat, I only see one possible reason for people to buy it with the larger game machines, and that's if they want to take their machine with them on a trip. The Pico then allows them to project the image onto a small screen, or small area of wall, but that's better than not taking the game machine for those folks.
Above: From Lord of the Rings - standard DVD, from an Oppo DVD player. Projected image of approximately 50 inch diagonal screen in a darkened room. Most of the light in the room is coming in from the closed blinds you see, below the screen that the image is projected on.
Working with the iPhone, and other compatible phones, as well as portable game machines and devices that can support it, is a significantly more logical market.
The Optoma Pico is the first pico projector I've had a chance to review, so I'm not prepared to determine how good a value it is, nor can I clearly say how it differs from the competition. That said, over the next two months, I plan to review at least three additional pico projectors from other brands. Once I have reviewed four of them, I will also assemble an article comparing them, and which are better for different user applications.
Ultimately, the main attraction of the Pico is its tiny size and light weight, as well as being battery operated. The Pico comes standard with two batteries (they are about the size of a cell phone battery). One goes in the unit, the other, a spare.
I find that the projector can produce a respectable image in a mostly darkened room of 10 to 30 inches diagonal. Fully darken the room and you can go larger. At one point I projected a 58 inch wide image (almost 80 inches diagonal). Even in a fully darkened room, the image appeared very dim. Sufficient to say, at that sized image, it's not something I would want to watch for any period of time. In a fully darkened room, however, the Pico does a decent (but hardly bright) job on a 30 inch diagonal image. Drop the image size down to about 12 inches diagonal (just a touch smaller than the average laptop screen, and the Pico can work reasonably well in a room with low lighting.
Optoma Pico PK101 LED Projector Highlights
- Simple to use
- 480x320 resolution ("half-VGA" in that there are only half the pixels)
- Suitable for projecting a small image - 10 to 50+ inches diagonal, in a mostly darkened or fully room
- Compatible with standard composite video sources, as well as many portable devices including iPhones, game machines, some other cell phones
- Weighs only 1/4 pound, including battery
- Recharges fairly quickly (less than 4 hours) from the provided AC adapter though its USB port, comes with two batteries
- Includes iPhone adapter, mini-USB to mini-USB cable, mini-plug to 3 RCA connector cable (for video and audio)
- .5 watt speaker
- Two brightness modes
- Comes with an adapter to place on a mini tripod (a great idea)
- Easily fits into any pocket, and a soft carry case just large enough for the projector cable and adapter (but not big enough to also fit the recharger
- Rated 11 lumens, this is not a product for use in a bright room (consider that the dimmest home theater projectors are 20-25 times that bright, and the dimmest business projectors are 100 times as bright
Specs for Optoma Pico PK101 LED Projector
Technology: DLP with LED light source
Native Resolution: VGA (480x320)
Brightness: 11 lumens (bright mode)
Lens: fixed - no zoom, manual focus
Lens shift: None
Lamp life: 20,000 hours
Weight: 0.5 lbs. (.23 Kg)
Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
Optoma Pico Special Features
Projector Lamp Life
Thanks to the small (and cool running) LED light source, Optoma rates the life of the LED light as 20,000 hours - roughly 8 to 10 times the life of most traditional projector lamps. This means that there is no significant cost of ownership to figure in.
Includes iPhone adapter
a simple small adapter plugs into the bottom of an iPhone, and from there, with the provided cable, you hook right up to the Pico! It works! Note, with the iPhone, you can view YouTube videos and you can view your photos (when using the slideshow feature). What you cannot do, is view other programs, the main screen of the iPhone, contacts, phone, etc. The same limit of just videos and images should apply to using an iPod.
Audio Built In
The Optoma Pico has a small onboard speaker (let's make that "tiny"). The sound is at best, modest in volume, and tinny sounding. If you really want some decent volume you'll need a different solution for your audio. Try a small powered speaker like the ones that many use with today's desktop computers. Some of those aren't much bigger than the Pico, but produce far more (and better) sound.