Posted on July 1, 2009 By Art Feierman
While there is no question that a pico projector with a built in media player is the smallest and lightest way to do presentations, you’ll have to decide if the brightness, image quality and resolution are good enough for your needs. Certainly a projector weighing less than a half pound, battery operated, that easily fits into a pocket, and doesn’t even require you bring along a source, is the smallest and lightest possible solution.
That said, here are three alternates:
1. Present off of your laptop. With most laptop screens now having LCD screens n the 12 to 17 inch diagonal range, they work fine for one on one presentations. And if you are presenting on, say a 17 inch display laptop, it will be brighter than the same image size from one of these projectors, and it will have far better picture quality, not to mention drastically higher resolution.
2. Mini Projectors – Now you are moving up one size, to projectors that are roughly 10 times the bulk of the pico projectors but still very small. These mini projectors are far, far brighter, with the newest generation of these projectors being about 10 times brighter than the pico projectors. Consider models like the BenQ GP1, which weighs in at 1.4 pounds, and produces over 100 lumens. The GP1 is the only recent model in this class that we have reviewed so far, and it just blows away the brightness of the pico projectors. In the case of the GP1, color performance still leaves much room for improvement, but it is at least as good in this regard, as any of the pico projectors. Other mini projectors may well have much better color, we shall look into that as we review a few more over the next months. Like with pico projectors, some mini projectors will have sound (most) but a couple may not.
With the typical mini projector being over 2 inches tall, there’s a good chance they won’t fit into your laptop case, but most will come with their own small, soft carry case. Also keep in mind that these newer, brighter minis are not likely to have internal batteries (and may not have any external battery option either, so you’ll have a decent sized power brick to carry along as well (think of a power brick about the size of the ones that come with laptop computers).
Mini projectors have similar or higher resolution than pico projectors. The mini projectors start as low as VGA (640×480), but there are widescreen versions (854×480), and SVGA resolution projectors as well (800×600). By the time you read this, there will probably be a couple of XGA resolution versions announced if not shipping.
3. Micro portable projectors (yes these are larger than the mini-projectors – so much for logical naming). The smallest of the traditional projectors (at the moment, that means traditional lamps (not LED), weight from two to four pounds. The thinnest are less than two inches tall (consider the recently reviewed Casio XJ-S57 (click to read the review) and its siblings – the thinnest (in height) conventional projectors on the market. The Casio is only 1.7 inches tall (fit in your laptop case?), and weighs in at a fraction below four pounds.
The thing is, this is a “real” performance projector, like many others available. It has 3000 lumens (yes roughly 300 times brighter than most pico projectors), better sound, much better color, longer warranty, and a motorized 2:1 zoom lens, compared to no zoom at all. The Casio, like most other projectors is loaded with controls and adjustments, and lots of features. On the other hand, the S57 is $1299, roughly 4 times the price. (There are other Casio’s in their lineup that sell from about $800.)
I only picked Casio as an example because of its minimal thickness, and that I recently reviewed it. There are plenty of others, dozens, to choose from, under four pounds. If you want even lighter, consider the 2.4 pound InFocus IN10, with 1800 lumens! Business LCD projectors typically have even better color than their DLP counterparts but tend to be larger and heavier, still there are under four pound 3LCD projectors as well. One such example would be the Epson EX100, with 2700 lumens at 3.5 pounds, but it is a size larger than the DLP competition. In other words, bulky, but not overly heavy.
Below – first image – pie chart projected from a pico projector. Note the same piechart on the laptop that is feeding the pico projector. In the image below that one, the pie chart is from the BenQ GP1 mini projector. Reds and yellows are much brighter, and more accurate, as they should be. You can tell that the BenQ piechart is closer in looks to the laptop’s display in the first image, than the pico projector comes to good bright reds and yellows:
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