Personal Use - Photos, Video, Movies, More
We could start by relisting the choices above: Ultimately, your laptop can do pretty much everything any pico projector can (except be that small or light). Obviously most computers can handle all sorts of files, videos, images, etc.
The mini projectors - depending on features, are very similar to the pico projectors with a few exceptions. Obviously they are larger, and heavier, and of course far, far brighter. Most, however, also need to be plugged in, or at least, if you want to be able to run them on batteries, they may have a separate battery pack (one more thing to carry, additional weight).
For the extra bulk, weight and price, you will find a number of these projectors to choose from. The thing is, like with the pico projectors, there's a fair amount of variation in terms of features, and that includes at least one mini projector, without sound.
If the novelty of the pico projector's size and weight isn't critical, and you don't mind plugging in, the mini projectors are likely a much better choice, based on performance, and they don't cost much more.
And of course, you could go with one of the smaller, far more powerful, traditional projectors which weigh in between 2 and 4 pounds. Almost any of those will provide better everything, although only a few have media player type capabilities.
Pico Projector Engines - Integrated into Portable Devices
Now here is where I see the real future of pico projectors. The applications are numerous, and the solutions make sense. Of course , brighter projections and better color will still be areas where improvement is needed, but consider the devices that could have a built in projector:
- Cell phones
- Music/video players
- Commerical portable gear (now that covers thousands of assorted devices, from test equipment to heads up displays)
- Camcorders - (how cool, take some videos and then watch them on the wall, instead of on the little 3 inch screen)
- Portable game machines
- Laptops, netbooks and tablet PCs
- Things not yet invented
There are already cell phones (none sold in the US) with built in pico projectors, including brands like S. Korea's Samsung and Japan's NTT Docomo. I'm trying to get one in to look at. And wouldn't it be fun to be able to project your game on a Sony PSP, Nintendo DS type machine onto a wall so others can watch your play? Even the classic portable DVD player, could opt for a smaller screen and have an integrated projector to do a 10 or 20 inch image.
Humor me, as I take a possible look 2-4 years into the future. I don't know if all this technology is viable, but wouldn't be nice:
Consider, pico projectors can be powered by an LED or laser light source. Now imagine an iPhone type device (or an iPhone - which is probably the projector engine manufacturers dream deal), equipped with a laser based pico projector. Now let's split the laser for multiple simultaneous functions:
One beam can be used to project the image onto a screen or wall, a second beam could be used to project a full sized keyboard, and a third beam to scan that "keyboard" area for "interference" caused by fingers passing through the virtual keyboard. All of a sudden, the iPhone - already as powerful as many laptops, now has a full sized keyboard, and an 8 to 30 inch projected image (with decent brightness).
Which means - who needs a traditional laptop anymore?
It's no wonder some of the industry forecasters are projecting total pico sales (pico projectors and pico projector engines that will go inside other devices) of 15 million units or more in 2012, just three years off.