Optoma Pico PK101 pico projector review

3 out of 5
£249.99

For

Portable, simple to use, cheap

Against

Very low 320 x 240 resolution, poor colour

To the casual snapper, there’s now little difference between pictures taken on one of the latest mobile phones compared to those of a dedicated compact camera. And video? It’s now usable, certainly. So what do we do with all of this self-created digital content? Leave it all in the phone to fester, thinks Optoma, which is why it’s come up with a unique accessory to let you share your creations: the world’s smallest projector.

The £249 Pico PK101 is no bigger than a mobile phone, and it’s definitely designed to be paired with one. Instead of a traditional bulb the Pico uses a tiny LED lamp, which has the further advantage of lasting longer (20,000 hours - or 17 years - according to Optoma). It’s perfect to use with a phone for two reasons: it uses an AV in (or Composite video) that’s increasingly used on new mobiles, and the Pico’s resolution is a puny 320 x 240 pixels.

That’s nowhere near enough to consider pairing with a DVD player or games console – although, for novelty’s sake, it is possible. The Pico’s LED lamp is only 20 Lumens, a mere tenth of what it needs to be for movies. All audio must be routed into the Pico, too, whose 0.5W mono speaker isn’t exactly going to give a home cinema much bother: what the Pico really needs is a headphones jack.

But simple projections from a laptop, phone or iPod are just about acceptable. If you want to use the Pico as the ultimate - albeit basic - portable projector for giving presentations, all you need is a Composite video out on your laptop (a full connection guide is available at www.optomapico.co.uk). The Pico will work with Nokia’s N95 and N96 without any problems, though using it with other Nokia phones requires a £9.99 Nokia connection kit. As usual, iPod owners have to shell-out the most: either an Apple-made Composite video cable (available on Apple’s website) or Optoma’s Apple connection kit. Both cost around £29, though Optoma’s “made for iPod” kit includes a volume dial as well as an adaptor.

That’s crucial because, crazily, the Pico lacks a volume dial. It’s also tricky to focus, doesn’t have adjustable colours or contrast, and gets very hot during use.

So how come we think the Pico is the future? Well, its clever design suggest that this kind of device could find its way into mobile phones (both “entertainment” and “business phones”) before too long. For starters, it measures just 5 x 10cm, weighs 115g, and doesn’t use a power cable - instead, two rechargeable batteries are provided, each lasting a couple of hours. It’s also completely silent when at work.

There are further limitations: it has to be used dead-on to a screen or wall - there’s no keystone adjustment to allow it to be positioned off-centre - but images of up to 100in are possible from 2.5m. It’s also worth investing in a cheap mini-tripod (the Pico has a screw-hole on its undercarriage) to keep it steady because the AV cable used to hook-up a phone or iPod is rather unwieldy.

The Pico might be rudimentary in terms of detail, but in other areas it’s very strong. Surprisingly, contrast is very good if you use the Pico in a complete blackout and that’s the only situation to use it in. Almost any ambient light renders pictures almost invisible, while colours are over saturated.

Verdict

Although not of high enough quality - yet - to be considered a high-end accessory for giving presentations or projecting in a home, the Pico is a decent beginning. But in a blackout, with the projection restricted to around 30-inches, it’s more than acceptable for casual use with a phone or iPod. For train commuters already forced to listen to music from teenagers’ phones, things could be about to get a whole lot worse.