Highly Recommended Award
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Have you ever wanted to share your digital pictures or a YouTube video with a group of friends, only to find everyone struggling to catch a glimpse of a 'personal' sized screen on your smart phone? With the Optoma PK102 ,that problem is solved. The PK102 is a pocket-sized projector that works with almost every portable media device, such as dedicated media players, cell phones, portable gaming devices and digital cameras. With the PK102, you are no longer limited by a small format, fixed screen size - this pico class projector can display images in dimensions of feet instead of inches.
The PK102 features four gigabytes of built-in memory that can be used to store and display pictures and video directly and can connect to any device with a composite video output. Keep in mind that the overall image quality of any projection-based device will be affected by image size and the amount of ambient light in the viewing environment. But the PK102 is highly useable when you choose a projected image size within reason. The PK102 is an ideal fit for the mobile videophile or anyone who desires a highly portable and extremely adaptable display device.
Cost of Ownership: The Optoma PK102 can be found via reputable on-line vendors for under $250. For less than the cost of a standard projector's replacement lamp, the PK102 provides a fully functional display device that requires zero additional cost over the life of the unit - Optoma rates LED life span at 20,000 hours. The cost of ownership of this projector translates to slightly over a single penny per hour - which represents value proposition that is far above any bulb-based projector.
Brightness: While Optoma does not explicitly provide a specification for image brightness, the measured brightness of the PK102 was 7.2 ANSI-lumens. While it might be somewhat shocking to consider a brightness level of 7.2 ANSI-lumens as one of the PK102's advantages, this level of brightness is more than sufficient for the intended application. Brightness alone is not enough to make any judgments on image quality - the overall view-ability a projected image is a function of the projector's light output, image size, screen (or surface) gain and the amount of ambient light in the room. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) specifies that an image in the range of 12-22 ft-lamberts is sufficiently bright for dark viewing environments. For comparison purposes, the image brightness in a standard direct view TV is usually around 25-35 ft-lamberts. Using the 12 ft-lambert value as a target, the PK102 can produce an image of 12.5 inches wide or 14 inches diagonal assuming a unity gain display surface in the 16x9 aspect ratio. During the evaluation, I frequently used an 11x8.5 sheet of paper as a portable screen and found the image more than acceptable even in environments with some ambient light. Shrinking the image down to a screen width of 8 inches wide in a 16x9 format will result in image brightness of 28.4 ft-lamberts - very useable even with moderate amount of ambient light and over five times the area of the screen of an Apple iPhone.
From a maximum image size perspective, I tested the PK102 in my bat-cave theater room using a Da-Lite High-Power screen. I felt comfortable viewing the PK102 up to a 42-inch diagonal image size. At this screen size, using a conservative estimate of actual screen gain, the image from the PK102 was in the 3 ft-lambert range, yet felt brighter than one would expect and was quite watchable. While the PK102 specifications state a maximum image size of 60-inch diagonal, I found it difficult to obtain good image focus at this image size and preferred the overall image quality at the smaller 42-inch size.
Form Factor: The PK102 is extremely small and lightweight with dimensions of about 2 inches wide, 4 inches long and 2/3 of an inch thick. As compared to the Apple iPhone, the dimensions of the projector are slightly smaller in terms of length and width with the PK102 about 50% thicker. The projector is also lightweight - 4.4 ounces including the battery - and can be transported comfortably in a front shirt pocket.
Input Options: The Optoma PK102 can handle a variety of inputs, including PC input at 640x480@60Hz or 800x600@60Hz and component video at 480i or 480p over the 18-pin Universal Port connector. Additionally, the universal port also functions as the projector's USB input for loading video/image files to the projector. The PK102 also has the capability to playback video files over a USB flash drive, but it will not playback files form a USB hard drive. The PK-102 includes a secondary composite based video input that utilizes various optional input cables that are available from Optoma - such as cables that include standard female RCA connectors or dedicated iPhone and iPod cables.
Internal Memory/Media Conversion Software: The 4GB of internal memory is specified to be able to store a maximum of 6,000 pictures or 8 hours of video. When used in combination with the included Media Converter 3.0 software, Optoma has provided a one-click solution for formatting and installing media on the projector. The video conversion software ships installed on the projectors internal memory. The video conversion software was able to handle a wide variety of video file formats and properly maintained aspect ratio of wide screen video files. Similar to the video conversion features, the media conversion software scales pictures down to a max resolution of 800x600. Media Converter 3.0 can convert PowerPoint presentation into series of pictures - installed in a folder named after the presentation and accessible in the picture display section of the projectors memory. Once the PK102 is connected to the computer, the Media Converter 3.0 software will automatically load all converted media files onto the projector's internal memory.
Audio Capabilities: The speaker of the Optoma PK102 is rated at 0.5W output. While the speaker is functional, the Optoma PK102 does not have the ability to overcome even moderate amounts of ambient noise. This presents a notable obstruction to using the internal media player for video playback - as the internal speaker is the only method of audio reproduction available. While the lack of an external audio output limits the use of the internal media player, this is a non-issue if the PK102 is used with an external video source. I tested the PK102 with an iPhone and a Kensington composite video adapter and was able to use the headphone jack on the iPhone for audio output.
Adjustments: The PK102 does not have any ability to adjust image brightness, contrast or color. The only options that exist on the projector is the ability to set menu language, options to select screen orientation (for rear projection and/or ceiling mounts), a low brightness option and gain and phase adjustments when the projector is connected to a computer. While the projector did not exhibit noticeable crushing of image detail, the ability to fine-tune the brightness and contrast for the viewing environment would help to maximize overall image quality.
Resolution: The native resolution of the PK102 is 480x320 - this limits the ability to use the PK102 as a display device for high-resolution content. In addition, as expected by the PK102 specifications, I was not able to setup the native resolution of 480x320 using a computer. When using a PC as a display source, fine image detail suffered during the down conversion to the projector's native resolution.
Battery Life: The PK102 has a user accessible battery with a specified run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Over multiple tests using a fully charged battery, I averaged slightly less than 1 hour of run time using an external video source and not using the internal speaker. The PK102 does have the ability to be charged using a USB device, which opens up the possibility of using a laptop as a portable power source or potentially utilizing third party USB based external batteries.
One of the most interesting aspects of my evaluation of this projector was the relatively consistent response from friends or on-lookers upon seeing the PK102 in use. The first response was usually a remark of amazement and genuine interest in the technology - a first response of "WOW!" was regularly followed by a "How does that work?" type question. Based on the overall portability of the projector, the PK102 is well suited for a variety of mobile situations - I personally tested and found the PK102 useful during transit by plane, train and car. I also found uses for the PK102 as a portable display around the house when combined with a laptop and Singbox. The PK102 would be an ideal fit for a user with an external video source who desires an extremely portable image that is completely scalable to the viewing environment. After a few weeks of using the PK102 in a variety of different situations, I can honestly say that this projector is not only useful, but can excel in the right situation.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Optoma Pico PK102 projector page.