Posted on March 1, 2011 By Art Feierman
First and foremost Optoma designed the neo-i as a lightweight pico projector-based table top device great for viewing photos, videos, TV and movies, games, not to mention data, Facebook and the rest of the web. Optoma’s new neo-i projector combines significant sound with the brightness and image quality already found in the Optoma PK301. It has an iPod/iPhone dock, as well as other inputs. A fun pico projector concept, and one Optoma has targeted toward the Apple i’s. Touted for the iPod and iPhone, there’s an optional iPad adapter, and lots of inputs for hooking up other devices!
The DV20a Neo-i is a strange projector to define. The Neo-i is also a fun pico projector to use. This Optoma projector will likely be referred to as a combo, or all-in-one projector, but techically neo-i Pico projector from Optoma isn’t really a combo or all-in-one, it’s just a projector with an iPhone and iPod dock as well as other inputs, and it also has a lot more sound than any tiny stand alone pico projector. To me, to be a combo, or all-in-one projector, the Optoma DV20a neo-i would have to not only have projector and sound, but also at least one on-board source – such as a DVD player, or even a video tuner. Or even an SD card slot and onboard multi-media player. Alas, the neo-i does not have a built in source.
The Neo-i relies on the same basic engine as Optoma’s PK301, so it has the same basic performance. Instead, though, of being built primarily with tiny size in mind, Optoma designed the DV20a projector – the neo-i, to satisfy different users, that have different needs.
When you forget its purpose, and look right at the neo-i – at its feature set, you realize it is – well – a “normal” projector. OK, it’s a small one, but ultimately, the neo-i consists of a projector and speakers, and a number of inputs… That, folks is what you can say about almost any non-home theater projector. Most home theater projectors lack speakers.
Below, you can see my iPhone in the lower right of the image. The room is close to fully darkened (minor ambient light). The iPhone is sitting in the neo-i, and the neo-i is projecting a roughly 50″ diagonal image of a photo of students in a university classroom. Not bad. I mean really – not bad at all. Use this neo-i properly and you can enjoy some really nice results.
Compare the neo-i to the Optoma PK301, a pico projector we reviewed last year, that won our Best In Class Award as our favorite pico projector. It’s essentially the same pico projector itself, even if the neo-i box is many times the size and the neo-i weighs about 5 times as much. Unlike the PK301, the DV20a neo-i is AC power standard. There’s no internal battery, but a $99 battery pack optional. Both pico projectors offer the same 50 lumens, same resolution, etc. The neo-i, however, lets you have some serious sound, something sorely lacking in any of the classic “tiny” pico projectors. In fact the sound of the neo-i was one of the highlight features of the neo. It’s 16 watts total, for example provides incredibly more sound that the single 0.5 watt speaker in Optoma’s PK301, and it leaves my MacBook Pro’s sound in the dust, as well.
What I’m not really sure about, with the neo-i, is whether buyers will really carry the neo-i around, or just, mostly, keep close to home. And, if they do carry it, will they want a battery pack? While the 2.2 pound weight (not counting iPhone or iPod, or iPad, or optional battery pack), is fairly light, the neo-i is massively bulky compared to a classic pico projector like their own PK301. On the other hand, you just set it down, plug it in (to AC or optional battery pack), and feed it something to watch.
I took the PK301 and other pico projectors on vacation to Lake Tahoe last summer. While I played with them there, and could have watched a movie, etc., I didn’t. The place we stayed had a nice 40 inch or so plasma TV with inputs, and the PK301 was certainly no match in terms of brightness, resolution or sound. But, of course, we couldn’t count on being able to hook up our digital toys, until we arrived, thus the picos for backup.
This neo-i projector system, might also not replace the provided TV, but it sure would have done a much better job than just the 301. The point of a portable solution is, at least, in part – simplicity. With the neo-i, I could play a movie right off my iPhone, or off a laptop or dvd player to name a few devices. Dealing with extra speakers and cables – why bother if the neo-i makes them unnecessary. And that’s why something like the Optoma DV20a – the Neo-i, exists. True you can have a pico projector and small powered satellite speakers and still have less bulk than the neo-i, but not by much, and you would have a lot more wires and headaches getting everything going.
It took me about 2 minutes to unbox and plug in the neo-i. It took about another 30 seconds to put my iPhone on the unit, turn the neo-i projector on, and start veiwing a youtube video. Talk about easy! And all that without opening the manual (more of a quick start guide – few words). The pdf version shows all the menu levels and options, and many images of how to hook up various devices. The DV20a neo-i comes with a half dozen adapters for the different iPhones, iPods and nano’s for a good fit, but I was able to use my own iPhone just fine without bothering with them.
The neo-i is not alone! It has at least one similar competitor, the new WowWee projector. I hope to get one of those in shortly for comparison. They have different goals in mind, in terms of design (the WowWee Cinemin Slice, for example, is more iPad focused). We will compare these two, at the latest – in the summer’s annual Pico Projector Comparison Report, but will also compare them in the competitors section of the Cinemin’s review when that publishes).
Below: Yes, it’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off! Pretty impressive color for a pico projector.
Check out the highlights below, some quick specs, the special features, then read on to get a more in depth look at the Optoma Neo-i.
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