Pico Projector Review
August 4, 2010
Let's say you have some video clips on your iPhone, a portable DVD player with photos, a brief PowerPoint presentation on your laptop, and you need to see five different clients in their homes and offices today. The last thing you want to do is haul a briefcase-size projector with you, so what do you do? You slip the Optoma PK-301, the company's newest pico projector, into your coat pocket, and off you go.
As long as ambient light can be controlled, the PK-301 is bright enough for intimate settings. It offers a digital input via an optional adapter cable, and if you store your images in the projector's internal memory, you won't need any external sources at all. Battery operation is good for 45 to 90 minutes depending on content, and there's an AC adapter for longer presentations. At a list price of $399, the 854 x 480 native-mode PK-301 is attractively priced, and its small size and 0.5 lb. weight is a real advantage for mobile presenters.
Brightness and Uniformity: Unlike many projectors, the PK-301 more than delivers on its brightness specification of 50 ANSI lumens. It put up 53 lumens in both Bright and Movie modes, 26 lumens in Standard mode, and 13 lumens in Eco mode. Note that Bright and Movie mode brightness levels are not available in battery operation . . . you must use the AC adapter to achieve the brightest picture.
Our sample unit's brightness uniformity of 72% was a little lower than expected for LED illumination where light is more collimated than with high-pressure lamps, and the left side of the image was slightly brighter than the right.
Connections: To save space, Optoma uses micro connectors on the rear of the PK-301, so adapter cables are required. The included cables are a Universal I/O which terminates in a female DB-15 for computer connection, an AV cable with RCA connectors for composite video, and a Micro USB that presents a full-size USB male connector. These micro connectors also accommodate several optional adapter cables. There is also a mini-jack audio output for an external amplifier and a micro SD slot on the side of the PK-301.
Image Size and Position: To project a 72" diagonal image in native 16:9 aspect ratio, the PK-301 needs to be about 9.5 feet from the screen for the focus adjustment to be effective. Image offset is +18.5% of image height, so a 72" diagonal image has its lower edge about 6.5" above the centerline of the lens. This is a good offset for tabletop placement as the center of the image is at about eye level for an audience that is sitting close to the screen.
User Settings: It is common for pico projectors to limit the ability to change image settings, and in the case of the PK-301, brightness, contrast, and two color temperature settings are the only choices. As it turns out, this is not a serious limitation since colors are well balanced in all modes.
Aspect Ratio vs. Brightness: The PK-301's 16:9 aspect ratio is well-suited to video presentations and movies since all of the light falling on the 854 x 480 chip is sent to the screen. However, if you present computer data regularly, you might prefer a 4:3 aspect ratio projector. The PK-301 handles 4:3 presentations with no problem, but part of the DLP chip is not illuminated for content in this aspect ratio, and image brightness and resolution will be reduced. The pixel matrix of a 4:3 image is standard VGA 640x480, rather than 800x600.
File Conversion: Optoma uses ArcSoft's Media Converter software to convert video files, PowerPoint presentations, etc. so that they can be stored in and played back from the PK-301's internal memory. Be aware that this converter is not Mac compatible, so Mac files must be displayed directly from your computer.
Warranty: Optoma offers a one-year parts and labor warranty for the PK-301 with a 90-day warranty on the battery.