The Optoma PK201 pico projector solves a problem common to all portable media players, which is the tiny screen size limited to the physical dimensions of the device. Able to comfortably fit in a pocket, the PK201 has the ability to produce an image that is viewable in normal lighting at a size up to twenty times greater than an iPhone screen. A full feature set combined with a crisp and saturated image make the PK201 a great standalone alternative to small screen portable media devices.
The PK201 can be used with any video source - portable media players, phones, computers, etc. The LED driven light engine allows the PK201 to be used like a normal monitor or flat panel without lamp hour considerations like most projectors. It provides a quality image and is ideal for one who views media on the go or one who requires a mobile display around the home or office.
Feature Improvements: I reviewed the earlier version of this projector, the PK102, in December of 2009. The PK201 addresses most of the limitations I identified in prior version and adds a few other important features. The PK201 includes a Contrast control that allows for maximum image brightness while maintaining image detail at high picture levels.
The PK201 adds a micro SD card slot that supports cards up to 16 GB in size, giving the ability to directly display picture and video on the PK201 from a camera or other source devices by simply transferring a memory card. Resolution is also increased, from the native 640x480 resolution of the PK102 to 854x480 of the PK201.
The native resolution is increased by a respectable 33%, but the real advantage of the PK201 is with wide screen material. The PK201's resolution is 52% greater than the 4:3 aspect ratio PK102.
Audio capability is also improved in the PK201 with the addition of a 3.5mm headphone jack.
Picture Quality/Brightness: The Optoma PK201 is a DLP projector driven by a LED light engine specified at 20 ANSI lumens. It measured very close to the lumen spec at 18.6 ANSI-lumens or 93.2% of the specification. While a 18 ANSI-lumen output might seem insignificant in the era of 1,000 lumen home theater projectors, this level of brightness in sufficient to create a reasonable sized image that can be appreciated in normal room lighting. Using the PK201, one can reach a screen size of 14 inches wide (16 inches in diagonal) and still exceed 25 foot-lamberts on a unity gain surface.
The picture displayed by the PK201 at this screen size is dynamic with a nice degree of image punch. The PK201 can also support screen sizes significantly larger and still produce a satisfying image. I was able to throw an image size of about 40 inches in diagonal (to simulate a common flat panel size) and found the image viewable with a lamp on in the room, but much improved when all lighting was turned off.
While the PK201 will not replace a flat panel for daytime viewing, it could be an ultra-portable alternative to a flat panel when used in areas with minimal lighting. In my theater room, using a Da-Lite High Power with the PK201 positioned for optimal screen gain, I felt the maximum image size of the PK201 at about 60 inches of diagonal was watchable in the total dark from a brightness perspective, but felt that a 40-inch diagonal was a better balance between image impact, brightness and clarity.
Sound: While the earlier PK102 has a built-in media player, the audio reproduction was limited to using the projector's internal 0.5-watt speaker. The PK201 adds a 3.5-inch headphone jack for use with headphones. The sound quality of the headphone output using the built-in media player is decent, but has a noticeable noise floor most evident in quite passages at near peak volume levels.
When using an Apple iPhone as the video source, I was able to either listen to the audio using a headphone connection on the phone or from the PK201's audio out. Overall, I preferred the sound quality using the direct iPhone audio output, but the sound quality of the PK201 is more than sufficient to be used as a standalone device. The PK201's internal speaker is functional, but quiet. The maximum audio output from the speaker was not sufficient to overcome even a modest amount of ambient noise.
Cost of Ownership: The PK201 can be found for under $300 on-line. Optoma rates the light engine of the PK201 for 20,000 hours of run time. Over the course of 20,000 hours, a standard projector would need quite a few bulb replacements at many times the PK201's total cost. For a fraction of the total ownership cost of a standard projector, one can use the PK201 for a nearly unlimited time.