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Pico Projectors - Audio Capabilities

Posted on July 1, 2009 by Art Feierman

Built in Speaker(s)

Two of the three pico projectors reviewed have sound. The Optoma Pico has a single 0.5 watt speaker, while the Aiptek V10 Plus has two 0.5 watt speakers. Don't expect a really hi fidelity sound. The better of the two, the Aiptek, offers sound comparable to some laptops and that's pretty impressive, even if I'm talking about laptops with lower end sound.

I do believe audio will become a fairly standard feature. Afterall, without audio, watching a movie becomes complicated (you'll need a separate sound solution such as a powered, battery operated speaker), ditto for most video clips, and possibly some portable game machines. Then there's that whole business presentation world. While most presentations don't include sound (when they do, its usually a video clip that's embedded), some folks do need sound for their presentations.

Audio Out - Including support for headphones / ear buds

One would think that any pico projector with a built in speaker or two would also hae an audio out capability, at least one capable of plugging in headphones. Afterall, the projector is ultra portable. I can definitely see someone wanting to shine their projector on the seatback in front of them on their next airplane flight. If they want to watch a movie, or video clips, it sure would be handy to plug in a headset, instead of not being able to play the sound as it would bother the folks in nearby seats. And, that's just one example.

Of the three projectors so far, one, the Aiptek V10 Plus has the ability. There's a catch, however. The audio out is the same connector as the AV In. That means you can only feed audio out to your headset if you are viewing content already loaded on its internal memory or an SD card. If you are inputing composite video from a source, then you obviously can't use the same jack to output at the same time.

Pico Projector Resolution

While all three reviewed pico projectors are 640x480 resolution, there are others out there with different resolutions. Samsung for example has one that has lower resolution. More importantly, TI (Texas Instruments) is now shipping (I believe) a new DLP engine for pico projectors that is 854x480. That's the same resolution as a standard DVD player. Look for several to hit the market soon, if not already. TI announced the 854x480 engine back in the Jan-Feb 2009 timeframe.

Ultimately, I'd like to see widescreen become pretty much the standard for this class of projectors. (See the showcase on the Microvision Show WX below. The general shift to widescreen is pretty much complete in "TV" space with essentially all LCDTVs (except some really small ones) and Plasmas, being widescreen for years (hey, the HDTV standard is widescreen). Even business projectors are shifting more and more to widescreen, as many presenters realize that for most presentations a widescreen format works best.

Will we see HDTV resolutions? I'm talking about 720p (1280x720)? I'd be surprised if we didn't. My best guess though is that it will be at least a year. The pico projector industry has other priorities that are probably more important, and the first of those is brightness.

Microvision Show WX pico projector - A showcase

This soon to be released, is unique in many ways, here's a brief description of this interesting pico projector:

  • Laser light source instead of LED
  • No need to focus
  • 10 lumens claimed
  • Widescreen - 854x480 - same resolution as a standard DVD
  • One of the thinnest
  • 4.3 ounces
  • Claimed battery life of one full movie (2 hours) compared to the one hour on most others
  • Comes in decorator colors (think iPod), red shown here
  • Both VGA and composite video port
  • Claims largest color "gamut" for richer, more stand out color
  • No speaker, but can route sound out, through its audio out, to powered speakers or earbuds...
  • Unlike other pico projectors the image is tilted upward (lens offset) so that the bottom of the image is not projected below the height of the projector
  • More expensive, could sell for up to $500 (Price not yet determined)

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