Projector Reviews

Pico Projectors – Picture Quality 2

That said, if ultimate portability isn’t your thing – buy a bigger projector. With a number of new pocket projectors hitting the market (most without a battery powered option), you can purchase 100 – 300 lumens brightness and more capability for under 2 pounds. In the 2 to 3.5 pound range there are a host of small projectors (OK, they are 50 times the size of the picos), that are more than 100 times brighter, and superior in essentially everyway except portability.

I’ve never done a presentation with a 50 lumen projector, but, I may well take the PK301 with me on my next visit to Epson corporate (just up the road in Long Beach), just to drive them crazy, since they are still not playing in “pico” space. I typically do present something or other to them, and a few of the other manufacturers headquartered in So. California… Will be interesting to see if Epson thinks a 50 lumen projector is serious enough that they start telling Japan they want some in their lineup (or 100 lumens or…) You never know!

Below, a very telling image – you are looking at the Optoma PK301 running on AC (53 lumens measured), at the top. You can faintly see the projector below that screen image. And, further down on the left, the smaller image is that of the same webpage on the laptop that is sending it to the PK301.

Of note: the screen size of the projected image is approximately 24 inches diagonal. At that size, with only low lights in the back of the room (enough that you can see the gold of the tripod leg), the pico projector, at this size, is about as bright as the laptop display!

Impressed? Here’s the similar shot, but with the PK301 running on internal battery (exposures are different), compared to the laptop screen:

Let me put it this way. Last year, none of the picos could hit 20 lumens – they were mostly around 10 lumens +/- 2 lumens. This year, we’ve got several capable of about 20 lumens, and the Optoma doing 50. Even this year’s pocket projector, the LG, is much brighter than the BenQ GP1 we reviewed last year, (and which wasn’t any brighter than today’s much smaller PK301).

The point is, at about a 2 foot diagonal size, you can project with the PK301 running on AC, and have brightness roughly comparable to a laptop screen. Translated into more useful info – that means if you can control your lighting, you can still get good performance at 40 or 50 inches diagonal, and could even push it even larger if you are willing to make the room very dark.

Let me put it this way. Last year, none of the picos could hit 20 lumens – they were mostly around 10 lumens +/- 2 lumens. This year, we’ve got several capable of about 20 lumens, and the Optoma doing 50. Even this year’s pocket projector, the LG, is much brighter than the BenQ GP1 we reviewed last year, (and which wasn’t any brighter than today’s much smaller PK301).

The point is, at about a 2 foot diagonal size, you can project with the PK301 running on AC, and have brightness roughly comparable to a laptop screen. Translated into more useful info – that means if you can control your lighting, you can still get good performance at 40 or 50 inches diagonal, and could even push it even larger if you are willing to make the room very dark.

Images ) were taken projecting from the PK301 projector. Both images were taken using the same exposure, in fact, everything is the same, but in the lower picture, the projector is running on battery – at just over 20 lumens, while the upper one is on AC (53 measured lumens). You’ll notice that the color shifts slightly going from AC to battery (more red). (The photos slightly exaggerate the shift). Interestingly, the PK301 on battery still looks a little better colorwise than the PK201 on battery or AC, as the PK201 starts out with stronger reds than the PK301.

Of course the image above would look a lot brighter, and bettter with a normal exposure, but, the purpose here is to show you the true brightness difference between the AC (or external battery) image above it, and the regular internal battery.

Above, is an image from the smaller, less expensive PK201 vs. the laptop. While this exposure is a bit brighter than most of the other images on the page, you can still determine that it’s definitely not as bright as the laptop, which is sufficiently overexposed that you can’t make out much of anything in the bright areas.

Black Levels & Shadow Detail

These aren’t home theater projectors! Good, with that out of the way, the actual contrast of most of these would be considered respectable for a business projector. Contrast ratios mostly vary from 1000:1 to 2000:1. That said, most of these small projectors are a bit crude, compared to their bigger brothers. There’s more optical distortion, light leakage out the lens, etc. The little P1 Jr. was the worst at that, yet still was watchable on the movie Road Trip.

Last year, most of the projectors were way too contrasty. This year, that seems to have been addressed.. Oh, most could be a little better, less contrasty, say on faces, but again, most of them are now a lot more than just watchable. I could definitely watch a movie with the PK301’s 50+ lumens, in a fully darkened room, on say a 40″ diagonal screen. By comparison, the P1 Jr., provided what was only a basic “watchable” (passable) quality – with a smaller sized projection, yet still a bit darker, when watching the movie Road Trip, weren’t great, but passable considering price/performance. Do remember, that the P1 Jr. at $119 is the least of the pico projectors cost wise, and the weakest in overall performance. Yet still not bad compared to last year’s $300 models!

From a practical standpoint, black levels were more in line (though not as good) as low cost conventional DLP business projectors… Again, if you are buying a pico projector thinking it is a true home theater projector – bad idea. The P1 Jr., however due to the light leakage, gives back some of that contrast.

Because of the slightly elevated contrast found in most of these projectors, you are definitely going to lose some shadow detail. Remember, of course, though, that your image isn’t particularly bright to begin with, making dark shadow detail difficult to see regardless!