Optoma's New Battery-Powered Pocket Projectors


You've been designated to bring the multiplex to a party or meeting. You could slip this quartet of Optoma Technology pocket projectors into your pockets or select the one that best meets your needs. Each contains a Digital Light Processor that aligns its micro-mirror array to reflect light from an LED, creating the picture.

With video sourced from an iPhone, iPod, camera, notebook, DVD player, inserted card or USB stick, Optoma has a model that has your wall covered.

What all these pico projectors have in common are their palm-size form factor, feather-like weight, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, 0.5-watt mono speaker and tripod socket. While the lens can be focused using a dial on the projector, the image size is determined by how far you place the projector from the wall or screen. None of these projectors radiates sufficient brightness for an image to be seen blown up in a well-lit room. Your best bet is projecting in total or near darkness. In situations where you can't control the ambient light, you'll have to settle for an image size measured in inches rather than feet.

Brightness is measured in lumens. None of these models comes anywhere close to the brightness provided by a larger projector. For example, the EP721 SVGA DLP Multimedia Projector from Optoma puts out 2200 lumens. Compare that to the PK201(pictured above) at only 20 lumens. Of course, the EP721 measures 13.4 x 5 x 10.3 inches, weighs 4 pounds, and must be plugged into a wall outlet, while the PK201 measures 2.4 x 0.7 x 4.6 inches, weighs just 5.6 ounces with battery, and can run up to an hour without external power.

The brightest of Optoma's pico bunch is the PK301 Pocket Projector (left). Using the included battery, the PK301's 20 lumens is equal to the illumination of the PK201. However, when plugged into an outlet or by using the optional PK33LPR High-Power Battery Pack, the PK301 can run for 45 minutes at 50 lumens.

Optoma's pico projectors are unequal in their capabilities, which is why we're presenting the chart below. For example, the PK101 can display video from an iPod using the included dock connector, or from the composite video output of a device like a portable DVD player, but it doesn't accept a VGA signal from a computer. All the other models can be hooked up to a computer's VGA output, though instead of using the common 15-pin interface, Optoma uses an 18- or 24-pin "universal" connector, which in effect is proprietary, but includes or sells accessory cables that accommodate a range of source components.

Some of the models contain firmware that can decode and play photos, videos or PowerPoint slides from an inserted memory card or USB flash drive. (You may need an accessory adapter to accommodate your media.) This makes a pico projector even more portable, since you may not need to bring along a notebook, which traditionally does the decoding and provides all storage. However, you may first have to run the included utility, the Optoma Pro Video Encoder software for Windows, before transferring the files to a projector-compatible MicroSD card, or stick or to the internal memory in some models. The PK102 contains 4GB, which can store up to 6000 stills or eight hours of low-res video. The PK201 and PK301each have 28MB of memory, so there's relatively little internal storage and you'd be well served with a MicroSD card.

One accessory you may want to spring for is theoptional BR-PK3AN mini remote for the PK201 or PK301. Neither projector ships with a remote.

Optoma's Pico Pocket Projectors

  PK101 PK102 PK201 PK301
Native Resolution 640 x 480 480 x 320 854 x 480 854 x 480
Brightness in lumens  Not available 10  20 20 on battery; 50 on AC or optional battery
Signal Inputs  mini AV 18-pin, mini AV 24-pin; Mini HDMI; Micro USB; mini AV 24-pin; Mini HDMI; Micro USB; mini AV
Included cables iPod dock connector; USB for charging VGA to 18; USB to 18; composite video/stereo to mini AV VGA to 24; Male USB; composite video/stereo to mini AV VGA to 24; Male USB; composite video/stereo to mini AV
Internal memory  none 4GB  28MB 28MB
Card slot  none  none  MicroSD MicroSD
Video file* compatiblity no internal codec XVid, M-JPEG, MPEG2/4, WMV, DivX, RM/VB AVI, MOV, MP4, 3GP
Image file compatibility no internal codec JPEG, BMP  JPEG, BMP, PowerPoint*
Additional features Composite video output   Projects images & video from USB flash drive via optional female USB cable Projects images & video from USB flash drive via optional female USB cable

 *Some formats are converted by Optoma Pico Video Encoder software for Windows (not Mac compatible).

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Just a question about brightness.  My home theater projector outputs about 1000 lumens.  Many people said in the reviews that is was barely bright enough to output a 60" diagonally image.  I find it acceptable if the room is totally dark. 

On the other hand, if these tiny LED projectors are only outputting at 10, 20 or 50 lumens how can they actually be considered useable?  They only output 1-5% of the light compared to an average 6 year old home projector.  Did I missing something or did someone change the lumens scale on me?