Sneaking A Peek At Pico Projectors

As consumer demand continues for ever-shrinking electronic devices, the projector market is obliging with tiny, portable projectors known as Picos, which began hitting the market late last year. Reaction to the product has been mixed and depends on what they're being used for and how large widescreen images are, which can range from 2 inches to approximately 100 inches. In the business world, the projectors seem to work best with a small gathering -- they're not for conferences. On the other hand, consumers seem to love picos because they're so portable, and because material can be projected anywhere, from a wall to the back of someone's shirt.

At the Macworld Conference and Expo 2009 in January, Microvision introduced a prototype of its SHOW WX pico projector, which uses the company's proprietary PicoP display engine technology.

According to Microvision, the SHOW WX does not require projection lenses or focus adjustment, regardless of projection distance, and projects DVD-resolution images from six inches up to 100 inches across. Users can take the pocket-sized projector anywhere, plug it into portable media players, mobile phones, notebooks and other mobile media devices with TV-out or VGA functionality. Microvision expects to roll out the SHOW WX sometime in the second quarter this year, but has not yet set a price.

There are already quite a few pico projectors on the market with more to come. According to Chris Chinnock, president of research firm Insight Media, there is "huge" interest in the segment. He forecasts that the pico projector market could reach 30 million units by 2012.

AAXA Technologies' P1 microprojector weighs in at 6 ounces and is no larger than a typical PDA, but is able to project a usable 12 lumens at a resolution of 640 x 480. AAXA touts the fact that, unlike conventional lamp-based projectors, the P1's LED lamp never needs to be replaced as it runs for 30,000 hours.

According to the company, the P1 is the first pico with onboard memory -- 12 GB -- plus a microSD reader. Multiple input sources are accepted, including VGA, Composite, as well as direct hook-ups to iPods, iPhones, PSPs and myriad cell phones. The onboard file menu and decoder is able to play all media formats including MP4, AVI, WMA, JPG and GIF. Battery life is rated at 45 to 60 minutes (depending on speaker use). The P1 has an MSRP of $239. Included with the projector is a battery, composite input cable and charger. iPod/iPhone, PSP and other input adapters are sold separately.

London-based Optoma launched its Pico Pocket Projector PK101 at IFA Berlin electronics show in July 2008, and brought it to market the following October. The projector weighs in at just 4 ounces, and that's including the battery. The PK101 projects images from 6 inches to 60 inches and has a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and a projection distance of 10 to 102 inches. The projector uses Texas Instruments' DLP Pico chipset and has a lamp life of more than 20,000 hours.

In addition, a bundled connection kit lets users attach the PK101 to Apple iPhones (including the 3G), iPod classic or iPod touch, and it also works with camcorders, DV-Cams, digital cameras and other video players with standard composite AV Out.

Optoma's PK101 has a street price of $399.95 and can be found on the company's Web site and through retailers, including Best Buy, J&R and B&H. also sells the projector, but doesn't display the price unless you add the item to your shopping chart (which can be removed). Their discounted price is $382.47.

Samsung unveiled the MBP200 at the January CES show this year. Rather than refer to it as a pico projector, the company calls it a "mobile phone accessory," and describes it as a hybrid projector/PMP (portable media player) geared to the consumer market. The projector features a file viewer, picture viewer, music player and video player.

The MBP200 also uses the DLP pico chip from Texas Instruments, and can connect to mobile phones and laptops and lets users project content to a range of screens -- from an 8.5-x-11 standard sheet of paper to a 50-inch screen. It also comes with a small screen holder that has a telescoping pole hidden inside.

Users can transfer files and project content independent of an attached source via the microSD card slot. The MBP200's design features touchpad controls on the right side of the device for navigation and a 2.2-inch QVGA LCD screen that lets users view content privately.

The MBP200 independently supports standard Microsoft Office and PDF formats for display, and users can also listen to music and create playlists, as well as view videos, pictures or PDF, PowerPoint, Word or Excel files.

Samsung has not set a release date -- saying only that it will be out sometime this year -- and has not disclosed pricing.

The Aiptek PocketCinema V10 Plus Portable Projector with Media Recorder is an upgrade of the company's original product but now comes with a media recorder. The projector is just 5.2 ounces without the battery, an NP120 Lithium Ion. The V10 can run PowerPoint presentations without a PC and is able to project images to 42 inches from up to 5 feet away. Images can also be projected from iPods, camcorders game consoles, and other devices. There is also a built-in media recorder that can record from TVs, DVD players, VHS and other AV devices to the internal 4-GB memory or optional SD card.

The original launch date for the product was set for April 18 but it is not out yet. is taking preorders, listing a street price of $379.99.

If you can't wait for the new release, you can grab the earlier product, sans recorder, for $279.99.

3M's Micro Professional Projector (MPro110) is a "pass-through" projector, meaning that it needs an image source device to be connected.

The 5.3-ounce MPro110 has a native resolution of 640-x-480 VGA, and can project up to a 50-inch screen size. This pico uses LED technology that lets it run for up to 10,000 hours. It is also able to run on a built-in rechargeable battery for up to 60 minutes and has seven lumens.

3M's street price for the 3M MPro110 is $359, but sells it for $294.95.