Pico projectors are a class of portable projectors that fit in the palm of the hand. There is not an absolute definition of what makes a digital projector into a pico projector. However, it is generally accepted that a pico projector is a projector the size of a paperback book or smaller. Pico projectors are measured in ounces instead of pounds and are powered by an internal battery. They could also run off of AC power, but primarily use batteries as their power source. Pico projectors are known as pocket projectors and mini projectors.

A pico projector will not take the place of a full sized projector for home theater or commercial use. They have much lower screen resolution and light output than even the cheapest full sized projector available today. Pico projectors work well for small groups, but not for large conference rooms. They also work best in a dark environments instead of a well lit room.

Pico Projector – Uses

Pico projectors are often used when trying to show more than just a couple of people the contents of a phone or camera. Sitting around at family gatherings is a time when people want to show off pictures of the kids. Setting up a pico projector on the dining room table is much easier than pulling out a full sized projector to show 10 or 15 people a photo album.

Viewing videos on a pico projector is a good option as long as the viewers are not expecting HDTV quality. Lying in bed and projecting a video on the ceiling is a fun way to watch a movie or online video.

While having a business meal a salesman can pull out his pico projector to show off the most recent products his company has released. The images can be projected onto a sheet of notebook paper. Because of being completely self contained, there is no need to have a power cord plugged in. All that is needed is a projector and input source. This could be a cell phone or media player with video output. Some pocket projectors have internal memory so there is not even a need for an external video source.

With the advancement of technology in the short life span of pico projectors, it has become possible to have good gaming experiences in the right lighting environments. Some projectors will project 200" diagonal displays. However, most do not go that large, nor will they project very brightly at that size. If it is possible to completely control the light in the room, then the user can have a fairly good experience.

Depending on the technology used, pico projectors use either LED lights or lasers to project the image. This means there is no $400 lamp to replace like a traditional digital projector has. While this sounds appealing, it is important to remember that these are still very underpowered devices as far as their light output is concerned.

Each of the following projector recommendations suffer from poor sound output. In projectors as small as these, there is no room to provide large speakers for a bigger sound. They each have ways of connecting headphones or sending audio out to a speaker system.

Pico Projector – MicroVision SHOWWX

MicroVision SHOWWXCurrently the most amazing pico projector available is the MicroVision SHOWWX. It is a 848 x 480 pixel projector using lasers as the light source. The lasers need no lens to focus their image, therefore they will always be in focus no matter if the projector is close to, or far away from the screen. The screen does not even need to be flat for the image to stay in focus.

The SHOWWX has 10 lumens of light output. Compared to a 4000 lumen business projector this is a pitiful amount of light. However, pico projectors are not in competition with powerful business machines. Without the battery pack being enormous, it would not be possible to output 4000 lumens in a pocket projector (at least, not with today's technology).

There are two models of the SHOWWX. The SHOWWX Classic is the one with 10 lumens of light output. It sells for $300 on Amazon. The newer SHOWWX+ has 15 lumens of light and sells for $400. Both these devices can interface with an iPod or iPhone and many cameras and other media players that have video output. They can also be used with computers and standard video-source devices such as a DVD player.

The battery is rated for 90 to 120 minutes. This is enough to watch some films, but can't be counted on to make a cross-country plane trip. The SHOWWX is 4.6" x 2.4" x 0.6" and weighs just 4 ounces, including battery. This is about the physical size of an iPhone, but weighs less.

Pico Projector – Optoma PK-301

Optoma PK-301At five times the light output, the Optoma PK-301 is a slightly larger device than the SHOWWX. The Optoma PK-301 has three brightness settings to save on battery power. In the medium light output mode (26 lumens) the battery is rated for an hour.

Unlike the SHOWWX, this projector uses an LED light source through DLP projector technology. Because this is a more traditional light source, there is a need for a lens. This limits the amount of focus distance the PK-301 has between it and the screen. The maximum size this projector will output is 72" and the projector needs to be about 9.5 feet from the screen.

The dimensions of the PK-301 are 4.7" x 2.7" x 1.2" and it weighs 8 ounces. It is a bit larger than the SHOWWX and weighs twice as much. The screen resolution is 854 x 480. This pico projector sells for $340 at Amazon.

Pico Projector – Samsung SP-H03

Samsung SP-H03The Samsung SP-H03 has a different form factor than the others preventing it from being dropped into a shirt pocket. It is a 30 lumen projector with a battery lasting up to 2 hours. The extended battery life of this projector makes it more appealing for those with long presentations. There is also 1 GB of storage built into the projector to hold images for viewing without having to hook up a video source.

Like the other two projectors it has a 16:9 aspect ratio for the projected images. Screen resolution is 854 x 480. The SP-H03 uses LEDs as its light source and is rated for 30,000 hours (10 hours a day for over 8 years). Even though it is a 30 lumen projector, projecting an image at 80" diagonal will be hard to see unless it is in a darkened room. Like the PK-301 above, the SP-H03 has a physical focus limitation keeping the user from making the image any larger.

The dimensions of the SP-H03 are 1.5" x 2.8" x 2.3" and it weighs 8 ounces. The SP-H03 has a fan in it to help cool the system which produces about 23 dB of noise. The Samsung SP-H03 costs $300 at Amazon.

Pico Projectors – Future

The future of pico projectors is to embed the projector into other devices. The technology that makes a pocket projector work is all contained on a small chip. There are already cameras and cell phones with projectors built in to show photos and videos. It is possible to upload a presentation to one of these devices and use a cell phone to be both the content source and the projector.

Whether a pico projectors are going to become very popular in the consumer market or not is uncertain. It is suspected that they will not be because of how many connected video sources that are currently available. However, the science and technology represented in pico projectors, and what they may lead to in the future is a wide open field.