Pico projector buying guide

Who needs a pico-projector?

A pico projector is a tiny device, the size of a mobile phone. You can actually find them embedded in mobile phones or cameras. If you want to project a large image on the move, a pico projector is great - it can be used to show presentations or other documents from your computer, phone. Some projectors include internal memory, so you don't need to carry other devices at all. Pico Projectors can make a big impact as most people are surprised that such a small device can project a large image.

LG eXpo with protector photo



The main thing to consider is that those projectors are not very bright. They require a dark room for a large image, and in bright light they are pretty much useless.

Projector technologies

Currently there are 4 different technologies used to make pico-projectors:

  • DLP is using tiny mirrors on a chip to direct light from a LED source. Together with LCoS this is the most popular technology today, used by many companies including Optoma, LG and Samsung.
  • LCoS is a tiny LCD panel (or sometimes 3 panels) that filter light from a LED source. Together with DLP, this is the most popular technology today.
  • Laser-LCoS is the same LCoS filter as above, but the light source is a laser. Lasers are always in focus, and are bright and efficient, however they suffer from Speckle (more on this below)
  • Laser-Beam-Steering is a new technology that uses laser and a tiny mirror (or two) that direct the light, one 'pixel' at a time. Because of the laser source, the image suffers from the Speckle effect.

Speckle is "random intensity pattern produced by the mutual interference of a set of wavefronts". It basically means that there are shiny metallic-like dots visible all over the image, (it's mostly on static images, videos suffer less). You can see the speckle dots with any laser-pointer as well.

See our introduction to pico-projectors for more information on the different technologies.

Inputs?

The projectors can get the video signal from all sorts of devices: DVD players, laptops, mobile phones, cameras, etc. Obviously the more inputs the projector has, the better. Consider which devices you're likely to use before you choose your model. The most common inputs include A/V (RCA), VGA (laptop) and Composite. Some projectors have special iPhone/iPod connectors, HDMI and even Wi-Fi.

USB projectors

Some projectors has only a USB connection which is used for both data and power. There's no internal battery, and no other inputs usually. These are sometimes referred to as USB Projectors.

These projectors tend to be extremely small and cheap. If you're always carrying your laptop or tablet, but can be a great solution for mobile projection. Note that some of these require two free USB ports (one for power, one for data) and also some of these might not work with your specific OS...

Cables or Internal memory?

Pico-Projectors are small, and it's not so easy to find a good place to put them so they project where you want them to. When you add messy cables from another gadget, it only gets worse. Some projectors include internal memory and/or memory-cards and can play back content without the need for another device. Some can play back video and images, some also support office documents.

AAXA L1 in hand

This is really useful and unless you specifically need to connect to your phone or computer, consider getting a projector that can also be used alone in that way.

More

Other important features to consider:

  • Battery life: you'll find that most projectors can last around one hour. This is not a lot - you won't be able to watch a full movie. Some models offer external batteries which you can buy if this is important to you.
  • Weight: Pico-Projectors usually weigh between 150 and 250 grams. Some are really light at around 85 grams, but these do not include a battery and must be powered using a USB cable.
  • Price, of course: the cheapest picos cost around $150, while the best ones go for around $600. As always you get what you pay for: internal memory brighter image, lasers, many supported formats and a good battery.

Tools

If you need help finding the perfect pico-projector, we offer a couple of tools that might be useful:

  • Our Feature search lists all the models in the market, with the ability to filter by technology, resolution, brightness, and more. You can search for the pico projector that best suits your needs.
  • We also offer a side-by-side comparison. Choose up to 5 projectors and see how they measure up...
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