Pico Projectors – The smallest projectors

You thought the smallest projectors were around 800 grams to 1 Kg? You are in for a surprise then – there are pico projectors which just weigh around 110 – 150 grams and are small enough to be kept in your pocket! Let us see some of the features and functionalities of these projectors along with where they can be used.

Demonstration of Pico Projectors

Do right click and open the above Youtube link in a separate window and have a look at the video demonstration of a couple of commercially available pico projectors in the market today.

Technology:

The pico projectors are made using DLP – Digital Light Processing technology, which is becoming very popular in the board room projector category as well. It is actually a projection technology like LCD, but uses a digital micro-mirror chip (instead of the LCD crystals) to project images. The illumination for the pico projectors is from a LED/Laser source.

Features:

These pico projectors have a minimum/maximum screen size of 6″ to 60″ (Diagonally measured). The brightness is around 10 to 100 Lumens (depending on the projector model) and it has a Li-Ion rechargeable battery. The battery can be recharged through the USB interface (like cellphones) and the batteries can go on up to two hours without having to be charged again. The power consumption of the batteries are around 6W.

The screen size can go from 6″ to 60″ Diagonal. The projector has a contrast ratio of about 1000:1, and can project images on white paper, screens and walls (white screens are recommended for better clarity). The LED light source lasts up to 20,000 hours as per the manufacturer’s specifications and the projector weighs around 110 to 150 grams (depending on the make and the model). It has got an inbuilt 0.5 Watt speaker (RMS) and tripod adopter is included in some models. The native screen resolution supported is 480 x 320 pixels.

They have a 18 pin universal port (for connecting the SVGA source from laptops – through a converter), component video ports (to connect with DVD player or gaming devices) and mini-USB port to connect with PC/Laptop.

Applications:

Since the pico projectors are small and very light, it would be easy for the sales/pre-sales personnel to always carry along with them and use it for an on-spot demonstration/presentation. It could also be used in homes for home-theatre/gaming applications. Some of them are integrated in to a cell phone and the cell phone could directly project the images through the inbuilt LED/Lens on one of its sides! They can also be connected to a cell phone/video pod players to get a bigger picture/video. In certain models, there is an embedded/internal memory of 4 GB which can be used to store images and project them for viewing on a bigger screen. The potential applications are quite exciting as the projector is so small and can be integrated with many other devices.

Advantages of Pico Projectors:

The pico projectors are the smallest and lightest projectors that we have seen till now! They can connect to an amazing number of devices like PC, Laptops, DVD Players, Gaming stations, Cell phones etc. They are even integrated in to certain cell phones. Having a stable and trusted Li-Ion battery is comfortable. The (max) screen size of 60″ (Diagonal) is quite attractive. The DLP technology is also quite mature and has been accepted by the users.

The contrast ratio of 1000:1 is quite comparable with the business class projectors. The lamp life of 20,000 hours (LED source) is quite a surprise for people used to the 2000 hour lamp life of the business category projectors. The lamp warranty though, is not explicitly mentioned by the vendors. The USB rechargeable battery is very convenient for travelling people. The low power consumption (6W) is also a plus.

The current prices of around 400 USD looks attractive, but this is sure to come down if the pico projectors are manufactured on a large scale. The 0.5W (RMS) built-in speakers is a plus for its size, when compared to the normal 1 W speakers of the business category projectors which are quite bulky.

Disadvantages of Pico Projectors:

One of the main disadvantages of the pico projectors are their brightness (10-100 Lumens), considering that business projectors start in the range of 1000/1200 Lumens. The room where the images are projected needs to be quite dark to be able to see the images with clarity. The battery life of 2 hours is also a turn-off for both the business category as well as the home segment as the presentations and movies can easily go longer than that. But if an AC source is nearby, it could be useful.

While they can project images up to screen size of 60″ diagonal, the projector needs to be kept at quite a distance to achieve that screen size and the brightness and clarity reduces with increasing screen sizes. If white screens/boards are not available for projection, coloured walls or papers may not display the images accurately.

The native resolution of the projectors are another area of concern – 480 x 320 pixels (currently). The laptop’s native resolution is 1200 x 768 (XGA) and even a PC has a native resolution of at least 800 x 600 (SVGA). So, when such a high resolution source is projected through a low resolution projector, the finer details (like the characters in an spread sheet) may not be clearly visible.

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