Tech Smart: Big picture, small package

March 21, 2012

The days of the AV cart are most certainly numbered. Like other sectors of the high-tech world, audio-video equipment continues to shrink at a brisk pace. Now, instead of rolling a bulky cart with a projector on top to wherever a presentation or movie will be shown, that projector can be carried in a pocket.

The days of the AV cart are most certainly numbered. Like other sectors of the high-tech world, audio-video equipment continues to shrink at a brisk pace. Now, instead of rolling a bulky cart with a projector on top to wherever a presentation or movie will be shown, that projector can be carried in a pocket.

These tiny projectors are known as Picos, and unfortunately, some devices in this class sacrifice projection power and image clarity in favor of their diminutive size. Thankfully, this is not the case for Optoma’s recently launched PK201 and PK301 projectors. With the capability to throw impressively large and crisp images on a screen or wall, this pair of Picos truly allow you to keep the big picture in your pocket.

How big

Powered by LED light sources that are estimated to last for more than 20,000 hours of use, both models throw WVGA widescreen images with 2000:1 contrast ratios. In plain English, this means their projected images are clearer than a standard-definition television, but not quite as sharp as an HD picture.

Packing 20 lumens of brightness, the PK201 can show an image as large as 66 inches diagonal. Its more powerful cousin, the PK301, can put out up to 50 lumens, which allows it to project images up to a staggering 120 inches. To offer some perspective, that’s bigger than just about any TV currently on the market.

How small

The pictures may be large, but neither model will eat up much room regardless of how it is stored or transported.

The PK201 is truly pocket sized, with measurements similar to a slightly thicker iPhone, and it weighs in at just 5.6 ounces. The PK301 might require slightly larger than normal pockets, but still comes in at an impressively small 4.7 x 1.2 x 2.7 inches and weighs just half a pound.

Both are highly portable, but their small stature does have one drawback, and that comes in terms of battery life. Neither model’s rechargeable battery can run at full power for much more than 1 hour. Still, they each come with standard wall plugs and they’ll hum along just fine while connected to a power source.

Making connections

Putting either of these Picos to use is intuitively simple. They offer a range of ways to input images including Micro USB, Mini HDMI and 2.5-mm AV jack for composite video connections. Both models also feature 28-MB of internal memory and SD card slots that can add an additional 16-GB of data storage.

They also boast built-in encoding software that plays videos or presentations directly from the internal memory, SD card or a USB drive. This makes it possible to leave the computer or DVD player at home if the presentation or movie can be saved externally.
True, the 0.5W speaker in both models doesn’t always do the trick, but the audio output allows the projectors to connect to external speakers when a robust soundtrack is a necessity.

When it comes to their primary task, projecting images large and clear, these Picos show enough power and versatility to outshine their minor drawbacks in terms of battery life and sound. Impressively small in size and big in picture, the PK201 and PK301 really make it possible to take high-quality projection just about anywhere.