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Pico Projectors - Picture Quality

Posted on October 1, 2010 by Art Feierman

Pico Projectors - Color Performance

Click Enlarge. So Close. In this section you will see a number of images taken with the various pico projectors. The five pico projectors in this review range in brightness from less than 10 lumens, and up to 53 lumens Color performance varies almost as much. There are several images like the one below, showing relative brightness of the pico projectors (upper image is the projected one, compared to the laptop screen below it).

Click Image to Enlarge

Pico Projector - Presentations?

This year again, I'm just not thrilled with the idea of doing important presentations with pico projectors. That said, at least this year, there are two that really shine. One of the LG - the pocket projector. No worries, it produced almost 250 lumens. In the good old days - 250 lumens was oft referred to as "auditorium capable" that is, a 25 foot diagonal screen.

And the LG can do it! But, in the "old days", that auditorium was pitch black... That said, the LG's lumen count can handle a nice 60" diagonal screen in front of 30 people, with modest to moderate lighting.

For the least bright pico projectors - down in the 10 lumen range, a really dark room is always a good idea, even for image sizes below 24 inches. The photos from Road Trip, taken with the P1 Jr., were almost exactly 20 inches diagonal. They were a bit less dynamic in real life, than in the photos.

This year, though we've got more than 10 lumen picos. We've got two that could do 20 lumens or more, and if you can plug it in, that Optoma 301 can crank out 50 lumens (and can also do so with its optional external battery pack). (Only 20 lumens when on internal battery.)

So it really comes down to the question of are these Pico projectors really viable for important (or unimportant) presentations? I'd still say, you are iffy with the 20 lumen and under ones, but, if you know your client, and the cool factor will be an acceptable alternative to a bright dynamic presentation, then you are fine. Otherwise, though, take a close look at that Optoma PK301!

Last year I said I really didn't think any of the pico projectors we reviewed could actually do a really respectable presentation - primarily due to lack of lumens, and overall picture quality. Boy does one year make a difference, which, again brings me back to the 50 lumen maximum Optoma Pico PK301. It may not be up with a traditional portable yet, but, what a huge improvement. You could learn to enjoy this projector's picture quality - as long as you aren't demanding home theater quality!

Several of these projectors, will allow presentations from composite video, memory card, USB, or downloaded into internal memory, and you won't need to take your computer along for the ride. That makes sense, in terms of the ultimate portability.

For example: The 3M MPro150 has a VGA port. No need to convert everything to jpegs and video clips, just bring your computer, and hook it up. For that reason, the MPro150 is a "real" projector in the sense of capability, even if lower resolution than any regular small portable projector.

The Optoma, last year, could only handle doing presentations from composite video or USB, and it came with software to convert files like powerpoint to jpeg images. This year, though, the Optomas are far more capable, including an HDMI input. In other words, this year, fully ready for business and higher res, compared to last year's first generation pico.

In fact, this year, every pico (and the LG pocket) projector we worked with, could take a computer signal, except the P1 Jr., which has a media player onboard so you can present from jpg and other file formats.

Bottom line: Yes you can use these projectors to do one on one (or one on two) presentations, in a darkened room. If your portability requirements demand the absolute minimum, these will work for you.

To me, the jump to about 50 lumens, from 10 or 20, goes a long way to making these projectors viable and serious products. 50 lumens - Optoma PK301 - on AC or external battery, can actually do a respectable image, at a modest - but respectable size - such as 50 inches diagonal. That's certainly big enough for a conference room group, even 10-12 people if seated close enough for that sized screen. Certainly 50 lumens will do a fine job in front of 2 or 3, as long as the lights are off, or low, and under control.

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