Celluon PicoPro Projector Review
September 9, 2015,
If you've ever dreamed of having a battery-powered projector about the size and weight of your smartphone that could interface to your phone, tablet, or laptop, your dream has come true. Celluon is offering its new 1920x720 PicoPro laser projector at price of $349 on outlets such as Amazon. Illumination is provided by five lasers, and no focusing is needed regardless of projection size. This projector is not appropriate for classroom or boardroom presentations and is of limited use in bright rooms because it is rated at only 32 lumens although its contrast ratio is rated at 80,000:1. But there is anecdotal evidence, backed by some actual science, that the perceived brightness of the PicoPro is higher than its lumen rating (more on that later).
Prime applications for the PicoPro are one-on-one Powerpoint presentations and tutoring. Businessmen and teachers will appreciate the ease of slipping the PicoPro into their laptop case, briefcase, or shirt pocket knowing that they have several hours of projection time available before recharging the battery. The PicoPro can project on just about any surface, but a pop-up screen provides the best contrast, color saturation, and black level.
Lasers do a good job of projecting onto all sorts of surfaces, but those surfaces generate differing amounts of laser speckle. The PicoPro has a fairly soft focus to minimize this effect, but that cuts both ways: video and photo content looks terrific, but alphanumeric content is not sharp and clear. The takeaway here is that you won't want to use the PicoPro for a spreadsheet or document presentation unless the fonts are quite large. There are no image adjustments available on the PicoPro, but fortunately the factory settings are pretty good in terms of color balance and saturation. Besides, this is not a home theater product so some image compromises are expected.
The shirt pocket PicoPro is going to spawn a raft of applications unserved by current pico projectors. Its battery lasts for about two hours when wirelessly coupled to a Miracast or DNLA compatible device and for about three hours when directly connected to an HDMI or MHL compatible source. When you have access to an AC outlet, the supplied charger will recharge a depleted battery in a few hours and power the PicoPro during the charging cycle. In addition, a stand is supplied that cradles the PicoPro when used for an extended period.
When you match the image size to the ambient light conditions, the PicoPro puts up a vibrant, colorful image. Focus is a little soft which gives video a film-like quality, but that focus is retained regardless of how far the projector is from the projection surface. That surface can range from hallway walls to doors, sheets, ceilings, and traditional screens.
Thanks to the nature of laser light, there is little color shift due to the surface color, but the amount of laser speckle varies widely with surface smoothness and reflectivity. Metal surfaces produce the most speckle and traditional screens the least, but there is a simple solution to the speckle issue: sit slightly off-center from the PicoPro's centerline. Most of the speckle is reflected perpendicular to the projection surface, so sitting as little as 30° to the side reduces the speckle effect but does not impact perceived image brightness.
In our sample unit, there was a slight red emphasis to the image, but it was minor and skin tones were quite natural. Saturation was also a bit on the high side, but it served to give the image depth when it was affected by ambient light. One item that is adequate only in the quietest surroundings is the audio output. Even at full volume, it is quieter than a smartphone speaker, so it is desirable to attach an external speaker via the audio output port especially if the PicoPro is playing to an audience of more than one.
Everyone's tolerance for image quality varies, but our rough estimations of image diagonal for satisfactory image brightness, contrast, and black level are as follows:
Darkened room - 96"
These diagonals were determined using a 1:1 gain pop-up screen, so the above estimates will decrease if projecting on surfaces like colored walls, painted brick, or bed sheets.
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