We love portable gadgets! Nowadays, pretty much every electronic gadget that used to be in one room in the past can now fit in the palm of your hand and they also offer far superior quality than what we were used to. Some gadgets have only now started this road to minimization, and they’ve come a long way.
The video projector is one gadget that really impressed. Most modern day projectors are pretty big and hard to carry. This is due to their technology, but they are also pretty powerful. Nonetheless, a new breed of projectors has made its appearance and it’s rapidly evolving. We are talking, of course, about the Pico Projectors.
What are Pico Projectors?
You might have guessed it by now, Pico Projectors are shrunken down versions of normal projectors, that use laser or LED light to project an image and they run on batteries. Their small size makes them perfect for traveling or for people who have meetings and are always on the run. They weigh considerably less than their big brothers and thanks to their small bodies, they can be carried in a pocket.
There have been a number of misunderstandings when it comes to what can be considered a pico projector, as some also call them “Mini Projectors”, “Pocket Projectors” or “Micro Projectors”. Also, there are some manufacturers that have created smartphone cases that have a projector inside them. While these can be thought of as pico projectors, they are not, as true Pico Projectors can connect to more devices and they also are more powerful.
Why buy a Pico Projector?
The first and most compelling argument would be cost. These little devices come at a fraction of the price of a regular projector. Also, thanks to their main feature, their size, they are easily transportable. Although at this point it would seem that these jacks of all trades are the perfect gadget, they do have drawbacks that cannot be forgotten.
First of all, as opposed to regular projectors that can keep going for as much time as you want them to, pico projectors work on batteries, which makes them limited. How limited? Think of it this way: their battery life is measured in minutes in most cases. This is probably their biggest issue. If you are interested in buying a pico projector, then you must prepare yourself for the fact that its battery might not last an entire movie.
One other disadvantage of pico projectors is the sheer power that it has. When buying a projector, you are usually looking at how many Lumens (ANSI Lumens) it has. This is measurement of how bright the image projected is. The bigger the brightness, the better the image. While a normal projector measures in the 1000 to 3000 Lumes and sometimes more, a Pico Projector rarely goes over 200 Lumens and most of them are around 100 Lumens. You can see that there is a big difference between the two.
What this means for the user, is that the images are nowhere near as bright as with a normal projector, therefore, many details are lost in the background of the projected image. Also, when there is ambient light present, the pico projector doesn’t have the power to outshine it, and you will see a drop in picture quality.
One other feature that many of these devices have is integrated audio. Although this is a definite bonus over conventional video projectors, some times the audio quality is not that good and it requires the user to hook up stand-alone speakers.
Going back to the original question, why buy one in the first place? Think of it this way: if you need a big screen to show a presentation, or you are on a trip and you want to watch a movie, you can’t carry with you a normal sized projector and even if you could, they are very expensive. Pico projectors can be considered a budget solution for those who like the experience of watching something on a projector, but lack the necessary funds to buy one.
Choosing a good Pico Projector
Now that you know what a pico projector is and what sets is apart from a normal projector, it’s time to see how to choose a good one. The process is pretty similar to choosing a normal video projector, with one added feature: battery life. When choosing a pico projector, you have to weigh in every aspect of what it offers you. Starting from picture quality, which as we’ve said, is lower than normal projectors. Try to find a balance between the luminosity and the battery life, as there is no point of having a projector that has excellent quality but only works for 10 minutes.
While most pico projectors have a luminosity rating of about 100 Lumens, and a average battery life of 1.5 hours, some of them can go up to 200 Lumens, but only work for about 50 minutes. Nonetheless, try to find one that has a luminosity of no less than 60 Lumens (also, keep in mind that there are different categories, so if you need a pico projector that is ultra small, then you will most likely find them in the region of 20 -50 Lumens). In terms of battery file, it depends on what you use it for. If you only need it for 30 minute long meetings, then you can go for quality and lower battery life. On the other hand, if you plan to take it on a trip, then you might want to sacrifice quality for endurance.
Resolution is something to consider also. Although some pico projectors can put out 1080p pictures, most of them revolve in the 800 x 600 range, with slight variations. This is also something to consider if you are planning to watch movies, but for simple PowerPoint presentations, it’s not that important to have a high resolution image.
The size of the image is an important factor for all projectors, from big to small. But keeping in mind that all projectors are designed to offer users a big image, this factor depends on the viewer’s own preferences. But keep in mind that pico projectors will give you lower quality pictures as the screen is higher.
Price is an important factor when buying anything. When compared to normal projectors, the cost of a pico projector is pocket change, but some of them ca go upwards of $500, which might not be a reasonable price for everyone.
Last but not least, size is something that matters pretty much. As these devices are marketed as portable, they need to be small. If you plan to keep them in your pocket, then you might want to play special attention to the size, but if you plan to keep them on your desk, then this might not be such a problem.
Best Pico Projectors 
After seeing what to look for when buying a pico projector, we’ll be giving you a head start in your search. Here are some great choices that you might consider if you wish to invest in such a gadget.
This little guys has quite some kick. While it provides its users with a 85 Lumens of luminosity, it can also keep going for about 1.5 hours. Also, it projects a 60″ screen, which is perfect for watching movies or making presentations. Also, thanks to its small size, it fits snugly pretty much anywhere you want it. In terms of connectivity, it can be hooked up via HDMI cable or Micro HDMI for handheld devices, such as smartphones or tablets.
Price – $300
Although a bit bulky when compared to other models, the 3M MP220 Pico Projector is still a great device to have. It can render a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels and it can keep going for almost 2 hours on a single charge of its Li-Ion battery. One of the best features of this little guy is that it runs on Android and it has a 1GB internal memory, with a SD card slot for adding more. This means that it does not require a computer or other device to run.
Price – currently $355
Offering users a picture brightness of 100 Lumens spread over a 854 x 480 pixel resoluton, this pico projector is the perfect gadget for those who want to have a very small, but yet powerful device with them. it also provides support for HDMI, USB and AV input and with its internal memory of 2 GB which can be expanded with an SD card, it has all the right features for most users.
Price – $400
Of course, there are many great pico projectors out there, and you can choose depending on your needs which is the best. Here are a few more for you to look in order to get an idea of what to look for:
- Joybee GP2 iPhone/iPod/iPad Projector
- AAXA P4 P4X Pico Projector
- Optoma PK301plus
- Acer C110 Portable WVGA Pocket Pico Projector
- FAVI E3-LED-PICO DLP HD Pocket Projector
- Aiptek Pocket Cinema V50 – Pico Projector
Pico projectors are not too powerful now, but in a few years, we’re certain that they will become much better and more popular. As their performance increases and their battery life is longer, more users will want to own such a device. We can’t hardly wait for that moment.