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Optoma picked an appropriate moniker for its Lilliputian-size video projector. The Pico PK101 isn’t just small, it’s almost inconceivably tiny. It measures just 1.97 inches wide by 4.06 inches long by 0.59 inches thick, and it weighs only four ounces.
Texas Instruments’ DLP (Digital Light Processor) technology deserves much of the credit for making such a product possible. DLP projectors create an image by bouncing light off microscopic mirrors arranged in a matrix on a semiconductor. Each mirror represents a pixel in the image and swivels to either reflect light through the lens or to an internal heatsink. Toggling these two states on and off creates a grayscale. Color pixels are created by using either a color wheel or a colored light source. Optoma uses a non-replaceable LED for its light source, which it claims should last for 20,000 hours. There’s a tiny speaker and a 0.5-watt amp onboard, too.
In addition to its Li-Ion battery, the Pico PK101 can operate on AC or USB power (we used the USB port on a Metadot Das Keyboard). Optoma claims a fully charged battery should last 90 minutes, but ours delivered only 67 minutes while playing a silent, looping slide show at the brighter of the projector’s two settings. Good thing it comes with a spare.
This projector is designed to be paired with a handheld media player and is outfitted with only an analog A/V input. You connect the projector to a source using either a special cable or an iPod docking-port adapter (both are included). If you want to connect the projector to a PC, the PC must be equipped with either a composite video output or a VGA output (connected to a VGA-to-composite adapter). That limitation pretty much rules out the device as a PowerPoint tool for the traveling businessperson, because a VGA signal converted to composite does a very poor job of displaying text.
We weren’t surprised to discover that the Pico PK101 lacks adjustments for settings such as zoom, tilt, and keystone, but we found its focus wheel thumbwheel to be annoyingly stiff. And while it can throw an impressively large image (it produced a 60-inch diagonal picture from its maximum distance of 102 inches), the image was unsatisfactorily faded in daylight hours, even with heavy curtains covering the window. The Pico performs best in a very dark room or at distances much closer to the screen, where its light is concentrated on a smaller area.
Crisp, bright display at distances up to about six feet; incredibly small, battery powered, built-in speaker.
Needs a very dark room for best results--and a battery yswap to play a feature-length movie.