Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Optoma Pico Pocket Projector
by Chris Taylor

I give a lot of presentations that require the use of a projector to either display a PowerPoint deck or demo something using my netbook computer. Most of the places I go have a projector I can borrow, but I always worry it won’t be there when I show up, the bulb will blow, there will be missing cables, etc.

Years ago, I tried to have a spare projector just in case. But they are pretty expensive (so I borrowed) and bulky (so they were a pain to schlep around.)

I recently came across something that turned things around for me – the Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector. This amazing device is hardly bigger than my BlackBerry smartphone! It has its drawbacks, but does quite an amazing job. First, some background on how I ended up as a proud owner of one.

Been there, didn’t do that
I first heard of the Optoma line of Pico projectors a few years ago. Although they looked interesting, they had no way to be used as an output device for a computer. You had to export information (photos, video, and presentations) to the projector’s memory and then use it stand-alone to display whatever you had downloaded. That was too limiting for me and I didn’t bite.

Then, on July 8th, 2011, Amazon.ca sent me an email with the subject; Amazon.ca: Bestselling Video Projectors from Optoma. I clicked the link for the Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector. The first thing that caught my eye was they had it on for $255.87, 56% off their normal price. As I started reading the specs, I started getting very interested! Two days later, it was delivered to my door.

Tiny powerhouse
With dimensions of 2.4” x 0.7” x 4.6” and a weight of 5.6 oz., you might be forgiven for thinking this projector can’t do much. But you would be wrong. The PK201 is a powerhouse. For input, there is a VGA port that allows up to 1280x800 resolution. A mini-HDMI port handles 720p or 1080i resolution. An optional iPod kit allows you to plug in an iPod and display photos or videos through the projector.

The display technology in the PK201 is DLP, which stands for Digital Light Processing. DLP was invented in 1987 by Texas Instruments. The image is created by microscopically small mirrors. Wikipedia has an article that talks about this amazing technology - http://preview.tinyurl.com/mf73eo

The PK201 uses LED as the light source. While non-replaceable, the LED is rated for 20,000 hours which is – to me – beyond the useful life of the device itself. At 20 ANSI lumens, the PK201 is not super bright, but I find that even under normal room light, I can project a modestly-sized image of maybe 30” that is plenty bright. In a dimly-lit room, the full 66” image is quite bright.

The projector can display an image from 5” up to 66” diagonally. Since it does not have a zoom on the output, you have to move the projector forwards or backwards (10” to 126”) from the screen to get the size you want. There is a small wheel that operates easily to adjust the focus.

  Tiny projector packs a big punch

The image produced by the PK201 is gorgeous! It is sharp, with rich, saturated colours. When playing a video, there is no ghosting at all. I have absolutely no complaints about the quality of projection. DLP is a fantastic technology for projectors and even a tiny device like the PK201 performs like a champ.

The PK201 has a replaceable 1410 mAh Li-ion battery that can run the projector for up to an hour on a full charge. It can be run indefinitely on the included AC adapter. It is worth noting that the battery does not charge if the projector is turned on. You can also charge the battery by plugging the included USB cord into a computer. However, the PK201 does not operate as a projector as long as the USB cable is connected.

For sound, there is a built in 0.5 watt speaker as well as an audio-out port that accepts standard computer speaker jacks or headphones.

Built-in storage on the PK201 is anemic at 28MB. But there is a micro-SD card slot that takes cards up to 32GB.

The bottom of the PK201 sports a standard tripod socket. Pair this little item with a mini-tripod you can find at any camera store and you have an excellent way of propping it up while you use it as a projector.

26" image plenty bright in moderately-lit room  

Cables that come in the box are the AC adapter, the VGA cable, a USB cable, and an RCA-to-mini-jack A/V cable. An HDMI cable is not included. While not rare, HDMI cables that have one end the standard size and the other end the required mini HDMI tend to cost a little more. I bought a 10 foot one for under $20.

Media to the projector
If you want, rather than using the projector with a live connection to a PC or DVD player, you can download media files and project them from the memory on the projector.

The PK201 comes with MediaConverter 3.0 software from ArcSoft which can convert video, photos and PowerPoint files and download them to the PK201.

For video, MediaConverter supports most file types (WMV, MP4, FLV, MPeg, MOV, etc) and converts them to AVI, which are often larger than the originals. I did have some video files that MediaConverter choked on for no reason it would tell me.

On the still image front, the story is better. While the PK201 will display photos that you copy directly to it, the typical multi-megabyte file sizes just waste space and take longer to display. By using MediaConverter, file sizes for the final JPeg images is generally around 300KB.

MediaConverter can convert PowerPoint files (PPT, PPTX) into a series of JPeg files. Strangely, it names the files with an extension of EPF. When it downloads the files to the PK201, it groups them together in a single folder per presentation file. A menu option on the projector displays them without a hitch.

PK201’s big brother
If you are willing to part with a bit more money, there is the Optoma PK301 Pico Pocket Projector. Everything is identical except it is slightly larger, slightly heavier, can project 50 ANSI lumens, and has a maximum image size of 120”.

Not quite perfect
I really like the Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector. But there are a few things that I see as minor issues.

First is the 20 ANSI lumens output. It is a little weak. But it is not as bad as I thought it would be. And keeping the brightness down extends the battery life. Which brings me to my second point…

A one-hour battery life is short. For me, most of my presentations run well over an hour. I would pay more (in dollars, weight, and size) to have a three-hour battery life. But this is not as big a deal as I thought it would be. I am generally close to an electrical outlet anyway, so it is a simple matter to plug it in. One option that might be really nice would be to allow it to charge on a USB port while it is in use as a projector.

The third thing that bugs me a little is the tiny memory included. 28 MB is pretty laughable. Surely it would not cost much to throw in a couple of GB of storage. But again, this is not a huge deal as there is the micro SD card slot. I added a $14 8GB card and that provides me with plenty of storage for my needs.

Overall, I am really impressed with the Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector. I can throw it into my bag with my netbook and never have to worry about getting somewhere to give a presentation only to be faced with blank looks when I ask about the projector they promised would be there.

Come out to the Beginner’s SIG and I will be happy to show it to you.


Bottom Line:

Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector
Price at Amazon.ca: $255.87 (free shipping)
PK201 at Optoma:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/2aktylf
PK201 at Amazon.ca:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/3vypt7p


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users' Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

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