New Pocket Projectors vs. Low Priced LCD Projector

Pocket projectors hit the streets just a few months ago, and have already created a buzz in the tech world. From the the incredible creative potential of the DLP pico projector kit we discussed a couple weeks ago or the LCoS version we tweeted a few days ago – a large quantity of digital bits have been dedicated to the products on tech blogs.

But what has yet been left out of the conversation is the answer to the question “How do the LED pocket projectors compare to slightly larger – but similarly priced – LCD and DLP variety of portable projector?”

So, today we are whipping out our demo pocket projectors from 3M and Optoma and throwing in a sub-$600 portable projector for some comparing.

3M MPro 110 Pocket Projector

3M MPro 110 Pocket Projector
The 3M MPro 110 projector is one of the few new pico products manufactured by a brand you’ve heard of. There are a few phone makers that have integrated the pico technology into their cell phones, but for those dedicated to projection alone, Optoma and 3M look to be two of the major players. Although I did just stumble across a lesser known brand that has on board content like MP3 files, etc. which is a nice idea. I have not heard of the company however, and without the telephone function, who knows if it will catch on.

Ok, back to the 3M MPro 110. What’s cool about this unit, other than it’s tiny size and nice looking LCoS iamge, is the VGA connection. The VGA functionality makes it more friendly for use with a laptop, and with the additional input for composite video, it also means connectivity flexibility with some other portable video sources.

The 3M also has a slight offset, which means the image will project below the direct line of the projector lens. So, if you shoot your projector at a screen, your image will show up slightly below the line of the lens, rather than straight ahead as you might expect. This might be useful in some situations, and inconvenient in others. It probably won’t make a difference to most users.

3M MPro 110 pocket projector in action with a small rear projection screen.
Video found on YouTube.


Optoma PK-101 Pico Projector

We have already shown some video and posted news about the Optoma PK-101 projector, and by my non-scientific tally, this unit has received the most press from the category. There is some good reason for that. It’s initial target users was the iPhone/iPod user, and was first released in Japanese Apple stores. While the PK-101 lacks a VGA connection like the 3M model, it does have a small (1 watt) speaker on the unit. We have our on-the-fly video of the PK101 in action on a plane. (see video)

Video : Pocket Projectors versus a Cheap LCD Projector

Okay, now that we have discussed our two pocket projector players, let’s get on to our video comparison between the small wonders and their big daddies.

Note : I should mention that our demonstration is a challenge for a video camera, even a good one like the Panasonic DVX100B profesional camera we used. So, in person, the pocket projectors actually looked a little brighter, particularly after your eyes adjusted to the room. However, the dramatic difference in brightness is captured well in the video.

If you watched the video, what you saw was not entirely fair. It’s a little like a big brother stuffing his little sister in the dryer and turning it on for a couple minutes – at least that’s the memory it returned for me. However, some day soon, little sis is going to grow up and get her revenge. While the pocket projectors may not be the brightest now, the next generation of pocket projectors will no doubt be bigger, stronger, prettier, and better.

So, if you like being the guy or gal with the coolest tech gadgets, the one that had the first home theater on the block, or the home automation system, you might consider getting your hands on one of these projectors ASAP. They are in limited supply, and have a pack a nice WoW factor.

If you’d rather wait for the pocket projectors to become the standard for portable projection, and even home theater, you might not have to wait long. With energy efficency, lamp life over 20,000 hours, battery opperation, and their size, they have too much going for them not to continue to advance the technology. Here is a quick take on some advantages of LED based pocket projectors like the Optoma PK-101 and the 3M MPro110:

Advantages of Pocket Projectors :

  • Very small. Can be slipped into a pocket.
  • Very light weight at just a few ounces
  • Wider color space & good color saturation
  • No “rainbow” on DLP variety (LCos does not have rainbows)
  • 20,000 – 30,000 hour lamp life
  • Battery opperated – no power cords required for presentations under an hour
  • Turns on in seconds. Instant turn off with no cooling time required
  • Environmentally friendly with LED lamp’s low power consumption
  • LED lamps are 100% mercury free

Disadvantages of Pocket Projectors :

  • Not bright enough for medium or large groups
  • Must be close to screen/wall surface
  • Fewer connectivity options
  • Serious audio limitations
  • Low resolution

Is It Pico or Pocket?

We have also been asked if the proper name for these tiny beamers is “pocket” or “pico.” It seems the industry is yet to standardize on one term, but this blogger believes “pocket” will eventually take the prize.

Why? Because pico projector is an industry term that has been used to describe projectors under four or five pounds, AND, pocket gives the end user an immediate sense of exactly how small these projectors are. There are some ‘pico’ projectors that would make for a very bulgy pocket. So if you’re shopping for a pocket projector, don’t be confused by the pico’s already on the market. No disrespect to some very good, very small pico projectors (like the Mitsubishi PK20), but the pocket projectors are indeed small enough to slip into your pocket. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe they will ultimately be called ‘micro’ projectors, or ‘bitty beamers’, or ‘video pointers’, or ‘petit projectors’…