An Ultraportable Laptop Projector


The Need

I want a laptop projector for on-the-road presentations. My requirements:

  • ultraportable—ideally fitting in my laptop carrying case
  • battery power with a few hours' battery life (so I don't have to haul the brick into the meeting, find a power outlet, deal with an extension cord, etc.
  • support at least XGA resolution (1024x768 pixels)
  • sufficient brightness to throw a reasonable distance and size for a small group (say, up to six people) without having to turn off all the lights
  • clear projection
Optoma PK301 Pico Projector
Optoma PK301 Pico Projector

After a lot of research I zeroed in on the Optoma PK301 Pico Projector. When I first opened it up and tried it out, I thought it was the perfect solution. Setup was zero friction. Projection was surprisingly bright and seemed very clear on first view. Battery life met expectations.

Does it meet the need? Not quite.

Alas, it isn't perfect after all. The Web application I present has text content, and the text is simply unreadable, even when projecting a very short distance to a small screen surface. Also, when I tried to make a presentation in a conference room with ten people, requiring a larger display, we had to turn off the lights. And the text was still unreadable. A show stopper.

Optoma PK301 Pico Projector
Optoma PK301 Pico Projector

A smaller problem is that its highly desirable light weight makes it easy to bump it out of aim. Moving the laptop is almost sure to propagate movement of the video cable that moves the projector. If I kept it I would have tried to apply a suction cup to it in some way.

Also, an odd aspect of its physical design is that it leans slightly when set normally on the table, necessitating putting a few sheets of folded paper under the end opposite the lens.

SPECS from the Optoma website

  • Truly portable - palm-sized, lightweight, and rechargeable
  • MicroSD card slot allows for memory expansion up to 16 GB
  • Project large widescreen images of up to 120" diagonal
  • LED light source lasts over 20,000 hours while producing excellent color
  • Full assortment of I/O ports, including USB, VGA, HDMI and video, allow for easy connection to most analog or digital devices
Display Technology DLP®
Resolution Native WVGA (854 x 480)
Maximum Resolution WXGA (1280 x 800) through VGA adapter; HD (1080i) through HDMI
Brightness 50 ANSI lumens Bright mode (with AC power adapter or optional extended power battery pack); 20 ANSI lumens STD mode
Contrast Ratio 2000:1 (Full On/Full Off)
Light Source LED (RGB); Estimated life of over 20,000 hours
Throw Ratio 1.8:1 (Distance/Width)
Projection Distance 8" to 189"
Image Size (Diagonal) 5" to 120" (16:9 native)
Aspect Ratio 16:9 native; 4:3 compatible
Battery Li-ion Rechargeable (3.7V, 1410mAh)
Battery Life Up to 1 hour in 20 lumen mode (standard); Over 5 hours (optional extended power battery pack)
Displayable Colors 100% NTSC Color Gamut
Audio One 0.5-Watt Speaker, Headphone-Out
Computer Compatibility WXGA, XGA, SVGA, VGA, VESA, PC and Macintosh Compatible with included VGA adapter
Video Input Compatibility NTSC, PAL, SDTV (480i), EDTV (480p), HDTV (720p, 1080i)
Memory 28 MB internal; microSD slot supports up to 16 GB SDHC
Video File Compatibility AVI, MOV, MP4, 3GP (Common video formats are converted using Optoma Pico Video Encoder*)
Image File Compatibility JPEG, BMP (PowerPoint files are converted using Optoma Pico Video Encoder*)
I/O Connectors 24-pin Universal Port, 2.5mm jack AV Input (Composite Video and Stereo Audio-In), Micro USB, Mini HDMI, microSD socket, 3.5 mm Audio-Out jack, DC Input jack
Weight 8 oz (227g) with standard battery
Dimensions (W x H x D) 4.7" x 1.2" x 2.7"; (120.1 x 29.7 x 69.8mm)
Warranty 1 Year Limited Parts and Labor, 90 Days on Battery
Standard Accessories Power Adapter, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery, Male USB Cable, Standard A/V Cable (RCA to Mini-Jack), Universal to VGA Cable, Bag
Optional Accessories iPod Kit with A/V Connector, Universal to Component Cable, Universal to Female USB Cable, Additional Standard Battery, Extended Power Battery Pack, Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable,Remote Control
UPC 796435 41 172 5

Da-Lite Pico Portable Projection Screen

Da-Lite Pico Projector Screen 30 inch
Da-Lite Pico Projector Screen 30 inch

For use with the pico projector, I got this portable screen. When it arrived I was very surprised at its spec that I didn't find after looking at its specified dimensions. It sure isn't going into a laptop case. It comes with its own cover and I just carried it separately.

Its specs:

  • Non-Tensioned
  • 30" Diagonal
  • HDTV Format
  • 16:9 Aspect Ratio
  • Video Spectra Finish
  • Front Projection
  • 5 pounds

It is ok. It works as expected. Pull out the screen and it stays where you pull it to. Push it back in and it's ready for travel. I'm still hoping for a portable tabletop screen that is light and not bulky.