Pocket-sized pico projectors won't light up a large space, but they are perfect for one-on-one or small-group presentations. Low cost and easy portability are their chief pluses.
Experts make the Optoma PK301 pico projector (*Est. $380) their top choice among pico projectors, using phrases like "bright and crisp" and "stunning" to describe the performance of this tiny, 50-lumen device. They recommend it for presentations to groups of five or so people in normally lit rooms.
Experts say the Optoma PK301 can be literally all you need to give most small presentations. While you'll get better brightness if it's plugged into the wall, and better video performance if it's plugged into a laptop, you need neither of those things for a basic show. Its battery lasts 1-1.5 hours in reviewers' tests, though it displays at a lower brightness level (about 20-25 lumens) when run without an AC power source. And small presentations store right inside the PK301, making the laptop an option instead of a requirement.
Reviewers are thrilled by the Optoma PK301's picture, unusually bright for a pico projector, and deem it to have good crispness and color. PCMag.com awards the pico projector an Editor's Choice, while ProjectorReviews.com gives it a Hot Product Award.
Reviewer M. David Stone at PCMag.com gives the PK301 his vote as one of the most versatile tiny projectors in its class for its numerous connection options; ability to read files from internal memory, MicroSD cards, or a USB drive; and its native widescreen format (854-by-640 pixel WVGA). All of that is enough to offset some image quality and color consistency issues.
The criticisms reviewers level at the Optoma PK301 are generally those common to pico projectors: sound quality is both tiny and tinny, they write, and it lacks a zoom lens, so making pictures bigger or smaller requires moving the projector itself. The focus ring is smooth and easy to use, they note. As is common to many DLP displays, the Optoma PK301 shows uneven brightness across the image, and its higher brightness requires a fan, unusual in the class, though it's reasonably quiet, reviewers say. Their biggest complaint about the Optoma PK301 specifically is the price, which is at the high end of the pico projector range.
The 3M MPro 150 (*Est. $260) is a strong, and less expensive competitor for the Optoma PK301; it enjoys solid reviews from a number of critics. Reviewers note that the MPro 150's performance is good -- within limits. This pico projector's lumen rating of 15 is one third that of the Optoma PK301, and its VGA resolution is smaller than the PK301's widescreen WVGA. Both projectors offer a 20,000-hour lamp, which means the projectors are likely to fail before the lamps do. Reviewers like the MPro 150's image, even in comparison with the newer (and less highly-rated) 3M MPro 180 (*Est. $430) .
The Optoma Neo I (*Est. $280) , which receives several high ratings from reviewers who like its inputs and reasonable sound quality, is another solid consideration. The Neo-I stretches the definition of a pico projector, CNET's John Falcone notes, and its primary users will be iPhone and iPod users (it offers a dock for those devices, though it accepts other inputs). The projector's picture can be soft, and the remote doesn't always work correctly, but it's a strong device with a good balance of features, reviewers say.
The forthcoming Favi E3-LED-Pico is also worth a look. At 50 lumens, it's bright enough to give the Optoma PK301 a run for its money, says ProjectorCentral.com in an early review, calling it "a highly portable pocket powerhouse." The Favi E3-LED-Pico includes an onboard media player, "plenty of storage options" and an 848x480-pixel display, though battery life is disappointing and there are a few user interface quirks, the review notes. The Favi E3-LED-Pico is due to hit the market in October 2011, and is expected to sell for about $350.