Being small isn’t generally much fun for us humans – just ask Napoleon. But when it comes to technology, smaller is almost always deemed to be better – or, at least, more desirable.
Using this theory, you’d expect Optoma’s Pico PK101 pocket-sized projector to be very desirable indeed. Sadly, it isn’t.
Composite or bust
Not that the Pico PK101’s troubles are apparent from the outside. On the contrary, as well as causing your jaw to involuntarily hang open with its seemingly impossible smallness, the 15mm-thick body looks glorious in its high-gloss black finish with silver metallic trim and highlights. Whip one of these babies out of your pocket and you can’t help but feel a bit like James Bond.
You only start to fall a little out of love with the Pico PK101 as you start trying to connect stuff to it. Rather surprisingly, it only takes composite video inputs; there are no higher quality HDMI or S-Video port options.
The PK101 does at least cater for mobile phones, courtesy of special composite video/stereo audio adaptor cables currently available for various mobile phones, including the iPhone and many Nokia models.
This means you can put on an impromptu slideshow of any photos you may have stored on your phone no matter where you are. All you need is your phone, the Pico PK101 and a white-ish wall.
Unleash your inner PDA
Business users are catered for, too, as the PK101’s compatibility with PDAs allows you to put on PDA-based presentations without needing to move them to a PC first.
Driven by three separate LED lamps, one each for the green, red, and blue image elements, the PK101 does away with the usual bulky colour wheel employed by normal DLP projectors – and in doing so avoids DLP’s dreaded ‘rainbow effect’ colour striping problem.
Elsewhere the Pico PK101 produces an acceptable two hours of running time from its rechargeable battery, boasts a surprisingly high (for such a small projector) claimed contrast ratio of 1000:1, and can allegedly produce a 60in image – a hefty return on such a pint-sized investment.
Or it would be if a credible 60in picture was actually possible. For it doesn’t take long to figure out that 60in images from the Pico PK101 are actually almost unwatchable, unless you happen to be in a completely dark room. And even then you’ll probably have to squint.
Dull, dull, dull
This is because the projector just isn’t bright enough to support such an image size. In fact, it’s so short of brightness that we’d argue that the real watchable maximum image size is more like 40in or even 30in.
This is still just about acceptable for very, very casual use, we guess – but we should stress that even 20in images aren’t bright enough for comfortable viewing if there’s any significant ambient light around.
This single disastrous flaw of the Pico PK101 is made all the more unfortunate by the fact that in other ways, its pictures are better than expected. Particularly startling is how believable dark scenes look, with surprisingly little greyness over black corners.
Colours are rich and credible too, motion looks reasonably fluid and clean, and pictures look sharp despite the projector’s lowly 320x240 resolution.
Even the audio produced from the PK101’s 0.5W speaker isn’t as laughably inadequate as you’d think. But it’s just not enough to overcome its fundamental brightness failing.