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ASUS P1 Pico Projector Review

Performance
4.5
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
Mobile Presentation
ASUS P1 Projector ASUS P1
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2000:1 Contrast Ratio
200 Lumens
Street Price: n/a
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ASUS P1 Pico Projector

Allan Abbott, April 13, 2012
ProjectorCentral.com

In the category of what I will call the "mini-projector" (bigger than pico and smaller than portable), there were previously only two contenders in our database that put out at least 200 lumens and had a street price of less than $500. ASUS has just increased that number to three with the introduction of their 1280x800 resolution P1 LED projector. At only 1.7 pounds including its power brick, the mobile presenter will find the P1 to be light, quiet, and bright enough for intimate meetings where a large image is not required.

At 200 lumens in its brightest mode, the P1 puts up very good data and video images, but it is the only projector in its class without a built-in speaker. So, if you want to watch movies, you will have to get audio from your computer, your video player, or an external audio system. You will also have to be satisfied with composite video because the P1 lacks both an HDMI and a component video connection.

The Viewing Experience

When we first set up the P1, we were surprised to see that its proprietary input connector was located on the upper right side of the projector. The P1's unique input cable contains both VGA and composite video wires so it is rather stiff. Input connectors are usually on the rear panel, and this side mounting caused the input cable to tend to twist the projector if jostled. When sitting quietly, there is no problem, but if you happen to bump the cable, the image will probably shift.

You also might consider disabling the automatic keystone correction. When engaged, it automatically squares the image, but it also reduces the image size and robs it of some light. If you do disable automatic keystone correction you might have to spend a little time orienting the P1 to eliminate keystoning, but you will be assured of getting all the illumination available.

Like most small projectors, there is no zoom capability in the P1 lens, but its focus control is outstanding. It is smooth yet firm, and overshoot while adjusting focus is not a problem. The lens also provides excellent edge-to-edge focus . . . a characteristic missing in many small projectors.

The P1 also delivers a large image from a short distance with an image diagonal of 40" from just over three feet away. This puts the P1 in an interesting spot about halfway between a standard and a short-throw projector. For small meetings, you can get a good-sized image in a confined space that will be bright enough to handle most ambient light conditions.

Key Features

Size and Weight: With a roughly five-inch square footprint and a height of 1.3", the P1 is one of the smallest projectors in its class. Coupled with is 0.9-pound weight (excluding the power brick), this small size makes for a compact unit that fits easily into a briefcase or backpack.

Image Quality: If you have to use the P1's composite video input, you will see a bit of shimmer in the image, but otherwise the image quality is very good. You can eliminate the shimmer if your computer can play DVDs and you connect through the VGA input to the P1. Minor tweaks of brightness and contrast delivers a balanced and saturated image, and for those who want to take the time, sharpness and tint can also be adjusted. Composite video quality is pretty good for such a small projector, and the 2,000:1 contrast ratio helps deliver well-differentiated shadows and highlights in addition to realistic flesh tones.

Data images are crisp and clean, and small fonts are easily readable. Photos looked best in the Scenery preset, and while the Dynamic preset created the brightest images, the Standard preset delivered the best-looking data and video images. The only glitch for our demo unit was that it showed a light green-to-red background from left to right which was visible when viewing spreadsheets but undetectable while viewing video.

Brightness and Uniformity: It was nice to find a projector that met its brightness specification. We measured the five primary Preset modes as follows: Dynamic - 225 lumens, Standard - 180 lumens, Game - 160 lumens, and both Theater and Scenery - 145 lumens. Two other specialized Presets are also available: Whiteboard and Blackboard. Eco mode dropped brightness by 36%.

Our sample unit's brightness uniformity was a very good 83%, and the lower right side of the image was slightly brighter than the upper left.

Aspect Ratio: The P1 accommodates widescreen 720p video nicely with its native 1280x800 resolution. Since this is a 16:10 aspect ratio, there will be minimal black bars above and below a 16:9 format movie, but you can choose 16:10 mode and stretch the image vertically without much impact on the look of the image. This option also ensures that the entire DLP chip is illuminated which maintains full brightness. A 4:3 aspect ratio is also selectable, but illumination drops considerably since the chip is only partially illuminated.

Fan noise: When running in its brightest modes, the fan noise from the P1 is lower than any of its nearest competitors. This is especially important since it will be used in small meetings where the audience is seated close to the projector. If you are able to switch to Eco mode, the fan noise dies away to a whisper although it takes a minute or so to achieve this level since it has to exhaust heat generated in normal mode.

Cost of Ownership: Both warranty period and maintenance requirements affect cost of ownership, and the P1 scores very high in those categories. Most competitors offer a one-year warranty, but the P1 is covered for two years. In the maintenance category, the P1's LEDs replace the traditional lamp/color wheel combination and since they are slated to last for 30,000 hours, lamp replacement is not a factor.

Throw Angle: In small meetings, you will usually be setting the P1 on a desktop, and since the bottom of the image is above the lens centerline, you probably will not have to angle the P1 upward to get the image where you want it. This supports the earlier suggestion of disengaging automatic keystone correction.

Power Supply Commonality: If you happen to use an ASUS laptop, you will find that the power brick for the P1 is the same as your computer's. With your computer fully charged, you can lighten your load by carrying just one power supply to your presentation. Of course, if your presentation time exceeds your computer's battery life, you will need to carry both power supplies.

Fast On/Off: Since the P1 uses LEDs rather than a lamp for illumination, it can be switched on and off in about five seconds with no need to warm up or cool down. The top of the case is fairly warm after an extended presentation, but not dangerously hot.

On-Screen Menus: The P1's on-screen menus are very intuitive and easily accessible from the built-in control panel. There is minimal layering, and although the menu cannot be re-positioned, it does not block much of the image.

Shortcomings

Control Panel Buttons: The P1's control panel is located on the top of the projector. Its icons are clearly identified, but the buttons are essentially flush with the top surface and unlit. As a result, in a darkened room, it is difficult to feel which button you are about to press. Either a deeper recess or a raised or backlit button would be a nice improvement.

Connectivity: The P1 is limited to two inputs: VGA and composite video. Several projectors in this class offer an HDMI connection and some have a MicroSD or a USB as well.

No Internal Speaker: It is a little surprising that the P1 has no internal speaker. Virtually all other projectors in this class have a one- or two-watt speaker. Of course, a one-watt speaker is not going to fill the room with sound, but it does eliminate the need to provide some other source of audio output.

Placement Flexibility: The P1's fixed throw ratio of 1.16:1 puts up a big picture from a short distance, but with no zoom lens, each image diagonal is available at only one distance from the screen. For example, for a 60" diagonal, the projector will be 4 feet 10 inches from the screen, and if you move the P1, the image size will change.

No Remote Control: While the built-in control panel is fairly simple to use, it is easy to move the projector when making a menu selection or adjustment. It is also more convenient to make menu selections from a remote since you do not have to be near the projector to do so.

Conclusion

With a $499 list price and little in the way of street price discounts, the ASUS P1 is not the least expensive projector in the 200-lumen category. However, it is one of the smallest and lightest, and that goes a long way when lugging a projector around. It lacks a built-in speaker and has no HDMI input, but it does a nice job with both data and video images. The P1's two-year warranty is double that of its closest competitors. It should be considered seriously by mobile presenters.

(05/20/19 - 10:05 AM PST)
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