Posted on October 1, 2010 By Art Feierman
A bottom line summary of the pros, cons and assorted capabilities of pico projectors.
Let’s finish off first, by restating the obvious. The primary “feature” desired about pico projectors is their tiny size and weight.
This year’s Pico projectors are more versatile than last years… They seem to have gotten just a touch larger, on average, but also several are much brighter than last year’s entries. None of last year’s pico projectors measured more than 12 lumens. Now we have picos from under 10 to over 50 lumens.
While we have identified a large number of features found on various pico projectors, it may be best to state that most of these projectors are, beyond the basics, more different, than the same, when it comes to features, though that’s not as true as last year’s. This is likely to change with future generations, as more features become standard to all, or at least most of them.
Of the less frequently found features, HDMI is on several this year. A VGA (computer) port is found on most, and some of those that don’t have it, may have USB compatible with today’s USB driven outputs for displays (more USB and HDMI, less VGA out there in the world).
Shown here, four of the five picos in the review. Only missing is the L1 (laser driven) pico from AAXA. Above, from left to right: AAXA P1 Jr., 3M MPRO150, Optoma Pico PK301, and Optoma PicoPK201.
With the ability to buy a pico (budget allowing) that can do 50 lumens, the class of projectors has moved up to the point where at least some of them need to be considered serious products, not just playthings. I’ve asked to keep the PK301 for an extended period, and they are sending me their external battery pack. I can’t wait to see of the PK301 looks just as good, and just as bright, with the battery, as it currently does plugged in to AC.
Color accuracy and picture quality is no longer the mess it was last year. Those of you who read last year’s report – know that none of the picos were considered to have truly good color. This time around, though we have several picos that do look pretty good with your photos and videos, including a decent job on skin tones. Let me say one last time, though, none of these will match the color accuracy of an entry level home theater projector though at least two can do better than a lot of low cost business – education DLP projectors. That’s right, a few of these picos, for example, can produce a pretty good pure red color (great for pie charts…), whereas bright reds and yellows have given most of the low cost DLP projectors at least a little trouble. Many have reds that are wine colored, and yellows that have an almost mustardy (and often slightly green) appearance. None of these picos are truly great, but good enough to beat the some of the “big boys” in this case.
On the plus side, these picos are really, really, small. All the reviewed picos can do business presentations this year, with all but one allowing a computer to be hooked up. Regarding the AAXA P1 Jr. I discuss this elsewhere, but note, it has a card slot and a media player, as a presentation alternative.
Now that I’ve tried to give all you readers a decent perspective on pico projectors – their strengths and limitations, I suggest you consider this:
These projectors really improved in the last year. They will get better, and brighter, and no doubt, less expensive over the next year or so. The best of today’s pico projectors, if these five are a fairly representative sample, do offer some respectable performance.
A last thought, discussed in more depth, on the Alternatives page. Long term, the real future of pico projectors – at least as I see it, will be those integrated into other portable devices. Oh, sure, lots of these stand alone pico projectors will be sold, but I do believe that the big numbers will be in terms of pico projector engines placed inside other devices.
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