With the gadget miniaturization trend in full swing, it was only a matter of time before DLP and LCD projectors caught up with mobile phones, GPS-capable running watches, netbooks, tablet PCs, digital cameras, digital personal assistants and all the other amazing toys of the electronic era.
In fact, the time of the miniaturized portable projector may have already arrived. While it’s premature to pit pocket-sized projectors against those that comfortably sit in boardrooms, classrooms and sophisticated home entertainment systems of many projector users, I think it’s safe to say the pocket projector revolution is underway.
There are two classes of portable projectors that are currently on the market.
Aptly dubbed laptop projectors (also computer projectors) because they adequately pair up with laptop computers in terms of mobility and versatility, laptop projectors normally come from the old but compact class of DLP or LCD projectors, or the newer PICO projectors.
PICO projectors rely on a sophisticated ‘laser light source – optic/prism – mirror’ system to project the image on the screen. In a nutshell, tiny electronics tell the laser to fire light pulses in varying intensities and colors. These light signals meet at the optic where they are combined to form one image template. This template is copied by the mirror system pixel by painstaking pixel and reflected into any surface for viewing. A distinguishing identity of PICO projectors, aside from their obvious lack of size, is the fact that projections remain clear and crisp despite the characteristics of the surface on which the image is projected.
Using this technology or that of the compacted class LCD and DLP projectors, laptop projectors carry many different applications.
The most common functions used are browsing pictures, projecting video and movies, presentation slides for a business meeting or a get-together with friends, collaborative work in a medium-sized group of 5 to 8 people, and many others.
So Which Laptop Projector Is For You?
For those looking for the best laptop projectors on the market, here is a handy reference that might prove useful in separating the pretenders from the real good value products.
We reviewed the three best known and best performing models that can be found on Amazon. Again, it is worth emphasizing that the quality of these portable projectors won’t come close to the level of detail that standard projectors deliver — but for purposes of mobility and relative performance, these are very reliable multimedia devices.
Having said that, we present the three most compelling laptop projectors that we recommend customers should seriously consider buying and inducting into their growing family of gadgets for work and leisure.
After all, what’s the purpose of buying a 12-megapixel cell phone camera if you can’t share it with half of the people in the room?
Here’s Our Top 3 Portable Projectors
1. Optoma PK301 Pico Pocket Projector
On Amazon, the Optoma PK301 currently sells for an affordable $386.55 and is backed by 64 total customer reviews with an aggregated 4/5 star rating. Today, no other portable projector comes close to the street cred of the PK301.
It boasts the following features and product dimensions:
- MicroSD card slot allows memory expansion up to 32 GB
- Project large widescreen images of up to 120″ in diagonal
- LED light source lasts over 20,000 hours while producing excellent colour
- Full assortment of I/O ports, including USB, VGA, HDMI and video allows for easy connection to analog or digital devices; iPod kit allows you to share the fun from iPod and iPhone, while a Female USB adapter project images and videos from USB, Mini HDMI cable
- Extended power battery pack for longer viewing time
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 2.7 x 4.7 inches; weighs 8 ounces
- Available on Amazon for around $386 here
The Optoma PK301 has everything that you can wish for in a laptop projector, at least considering the current limitations in technology.
It delivers crisp images with a 50 lumens projector, unbelievably lightweight at 8 ounces, a wide viewing screen up to 120 inches, and multiple input/output connections so it is compatible with many of your existing gadgets.
If the PK301 has any downside, it would be that it is still far off when compared to a full-sized LCD projector on the market. The 4/5 rating primarily comes from that stigma; when one is accustomed to using a full-sized projector, it’s hard to give props to portable projectors of slightly lesser caliber.
Still, if you are looking for the king of the hill in laptop projectors, you can hardly go wrong with the Optoma PK301.
2. HP Notebook Projection Companion – Portable Projector
On Amazon, this bad boy currently retails for $398.78 and while it only has 3 customer reviews to date, it more than makes up for it with the 5/5 aggregate early feedback.
Thus far, this new introduction from HP has ticked all the right boxes for a laptop projector. Here are the product features of this device as listed on Amazon:
- 100 lumens brightness, 800:1 contrast ratio and 858 x 600 resolution
- Projection screen size 15-60 in.; Projection distance up to 8.5 ft. (2.6 m);
- Light source up to 10,000 hours (five years of usage life)
- I/O connectors 30-pin Video Cable In and VGA Out
- Includes an adjustable tripod
- Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 1.6 x 4.4 inches; 14.4 ounces
- Available on Amazon for around $398 here
The slightly heavier weight (in comparison to the Optoma PK301) is due to the 100 lumens construction for excellent performance in any lighting condition.
The display on this device is crisp, the text is clear, and colours are vivid and vibrant. The HP Notebook Companion is powered by DLP projector technology making it more reliable and tested than competing PICO technologies of other laptop projectors.
If there is any downside, it would be that there isn’t enough reviews to use as reference! If you wait for more reviews to properly screen this HP product, hold off for another 6 months before revisiting the HP Notebook Projection Companion and see if it still holds up to the scrutiny of many techno geeks.
3. InFocus IN102 Portable DLP Projector
The InFocus IN102 Portable Projector cheats its way into this list only because some customers will never be satisfied with the current performance of the tiny laptop projectors and would eventually look for a standard projector design that has managed to compress itself to an almost portable niche.
That description fits the IN102 well. This device currently sells for $329.99 on Amazon and boasts a 5/5 rating from 3 customer reviews thus far.
The list of features for the InFocus portable projector are as follows:
- Bright images in ambient daylight with 2700 lumens
- 3D ready
- Beautiful colors and image quality with DLP technology
- Digital zoom magnifies shows image greater detail
- Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 10.4 x 3.7 inches; 5.1 pounds
- On sale at Amazon for around $329 here
What this product has in weight, it makes up for in function. The 50-100 lumens of typical laptop projectors cannot compare to the 2,700 lumens for this device.
In all honesty, this is a bona fide standard projector design packed into 5.1 pounds of projector excellence. While it wouldn’t be possible to stash this in your pocket, carrying it around will be worthwhile once you start seeing the quality of the projected images!
Photos, videos and animation are right up the IN102′s alley.
Of course, the 8 ounces of the Optoma PK301 will always top the 5.1 pounds of the IN102 but if you’re the type who doesn’t want to settle, then this is the projector for you.
The most important thing to remember with laptop projectors is that they have a way to go when it comes to matching the performance of standard projector designs.
Still, the products today already possess relative excellence in image quality and combined with unparalleled mobility, they are wonderful additions to any multimedia kit.
When looking to find the best laptop projectors, check out these three devices for a fun day of multimedia sharing wherever, whenever, whatever.