Posted on October 1, 2010 By Art Feierman
MSRP: $100 to $799 (Most in the $200 – $400 range)
Pico Projector Technologies: DLP or LCoS chip with LED, or laser solid state light source
Native Resolution: Varies from VGA to XGA, also wide screen models
Brightness: 8 – 60 lumens
Contrast: 1000:1 to 2000+:1
Lens: fixed – None yet, with zoom lens that I am aware of
Lens shift: None
Lamp life: 20,000 hours or more, most rated 10,000 to 30,000 hours
Weight: .3 to .75 pounds
Warranty: Typically 90 days to 1 year, parts and labor, depending on brand
Inputs: Composite video seems standard on all, one or more may feature a VGA input, USB input, and/or a card reader, more sporting HDMI this year (usually a mini-hdmi jack)
Other features found or included with on one or more pico projectors, but not all: Card slot, Media player, Color and other controls, Tripod screw thread, Speaker(s), Audio out, ability to charge battery while projector is powered on (some cannot do both at same time), optional spare battery (internal or external)
Pico Projector Usage (some or all): Presentations, Gaming, Viewing photos and videos, watching movies
iPhone Compatibility: Varies from basic (audio through headphone jack on iPhone), to viewing slideshows of photo, or viewing videos and YouTube videos. None yet, that can display the iPhone user interface (and generally project what’s on the iPhone screen
Below we’ll look at some of the common features we expect to find on almost all pico projectors. On the next page, we’lll get into some of the features found only on certain models
Most of these pico projectors are claiming 20,000 or more hours on their light source. That’s 40 hours a week for a decade. I don’t think lamp life is an issue. If you are still using one when the light source dies a natural death, you are either stubborn, cheap, or sentimental. These light sources will dim over time, but not dramatically as conventional lamps do.
The important point is that you won’t have any lamp expense during the useful life of one of these projectors.
So far, every pico projector I’ve seen has at least a composite video input. That means you can hook up any DVD player, almost any camcorder, some digital cameras, and a host of other devices. Feeding these projectors a composite video input will not provide quite as good an image compared with a VGA analog computer signal, but, hey, composite video was how we all fed our TVs cable signals, VCR signals, and even DVD signals until the last few years when component video and HDMI caught on.
Another standard feature, most picos so far have rechargeable batteries. Typically they last about an hour per charge. As was the case last year, none of these pico projectors with rechargeable batteries, could make it through a 2 hour movie. 3M with their MP150, claims up to 2 hours – but it doesn’t get there. It might make it through a kids movie, as they tend to be not a whole lot longer than an hour, but, forget your two hour plus typical movie, without a spare, or AC.
All seem to fully recharge in 3-5 hours. If you plan a lot of usage, especially watching a full length movie, you’ll probably want a spare battery – if the projector you select, offers the option. One thing of interest, one projector – Optoma PK301 – offers an optional spare external battery, and is brighter with AC power or external battery, than the internal battery.
Some pico projectors cannot recharge their battery while using AC power while projecting. To recharge in that case, the projector must be turned off.
Unlike other pico projectors, Optoma’s PK301 is not only brighter when plugged in, but you can get that same brightness – 50 lumens, using their external XP8000 battery pack (click for the review).
All pico projectors (except those with laser light sources), have a focus dial of some sort. The laser is always in focus, regardless of the size of the image.
The throw distance varies a good deal from one projector to another. The variation is almost 2:1 – that is, the longest throw (smallest image from a given distance) projectors will sit almost 2x as far from a particular sized screen, as the projector with the shortest throw.
Most Pico projectors seem to have a standard tripod screw thread, or some way to connect an adapter. One or two even come with tiny tripods. Those tripods actually come in very handy. If you don’t use one for your new pico projector, then consider carrying it for your point and shoot camera. I always have a little bendable tripod like the one that came with AAXA’s L1 projector, when I travel with a camera. On that note, the AAXA L1 has an adapter to give you the needed screw thread hole standard for tripods. The silly thing is that the adapter won’t work with a most tripods using the normal quick release plate, because most don’t have a screw thread long enough. This is AAXA’s problem, and a better designed attachment is needed. I’ll assume they read this and have that issue fixed in the next generation. (Their smaller P1 Jr., has a regular tripod screw thread,like the others – and does not need that poorly designed adapter.)
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