What is a Pico Projector?

The term “pocket projector” is as descriptive as it gets for projectors that are not behemoths in the size and weight departments. No doubt, standard projectors have had their sizes and weights reduced while being equipped with better features and improved performance. However, with emphasis on convenience and mobility of important consumer gadgets, pocket (pico) projectors have made quantum leaps into the coats and shirt pockets of many users.

The on-demand nature of pico projectors has transformed them from purely projecting gadgets to on-the-go multimedia display systems. Which means that they can handle videos and photos, in addition to traditional charts and slides for classroom and business presentations.

Furthermore, because they are considerably inexpensive compared to standard models, professionals and other users have invested in pocket projectors as a convenient and cost-effective gadget to offer round-the-clock quality presentations at any location.

Nonetheless, for some, the compact size of a pico projector may be representative of its lackluster performance. This is an inaccurate depiction, which has been dismissed consistently by premium pico projectors over the years. Today, crisp and vivid imaging is possible from these devices that often come in comparable miniscule sizes to a mobile phone, in featherweight builds, and at affordable price points. On the other hand, if you are looking for some high quality film watching or game play, you should probably look at some of their larger counterparts.

Best Pocket Projector Complete Guide

PictureNamePriceRating
PictureNamePriceRating
#1
AAXA P300 Pico/Micro LED Projector with 60 Minute Battery Life, WXGA 1280x800 Resolution, 400 Lumens, HDMI, Mini-VGA, 15,000 Hour LED Life, Media Player
$$$$9.7
#2
Optoma PK120, LED, Pico Pocket Projector
$$$9.6
#3
Acer C120 FWVGA DLP Pico Projector, 100 Lumens
$$9.5
#4
AAXA P450 Pico/Micro Projector with LED, WXGA 1280x800 Resolution, 450 Lumens, Pocket Size, HDMI, Mini-VGA, 15,000 Hour LED Life, Media Player, DLP Projector
$$$$9.5
#5
Taotaole Multi-media Mini 800 Lumens Portable LED Projection Micro Home Theater Projector
$9.2

Important Pocket Projector Buying Considerations

Brightness

Pocket projectors have several factors to consider, like how miniature or how lightweight the device has to be to meet your needs. However, the most important metric for pico projectors is brightness.

To be fair, pico projectors do not boast of the very vibrant image output of standard-sized projectors. However most pocket projectors do well, when the image size is within the range of 25 and 50 inches. If you plan to use your projector outdoors, go for something with more lumens than a pico can provide.

In recent times, top-grade technologies have increasingly found their ways to more compact builds. This drive is aggressive in pico projectors where there have been marked improvements in image brightness.

With that said, pico projectors do not have a place in large spaces. Nonetheless, if your needs do not warrant the brightness of a commercial grade or a 4k home theater projector, a pico projector will likely be sufficient.

As has been discussed, there are an increasing number of pocket projectors with exceptional performance. We have looked through the selections and have made our top picks for pocket projectors that will give you outstanding image quality at bang-for-buck price points.

What is the Best Pocket Projector?

1. AAXA P300 Pico Projector Review

First Impression

Pico projectors place emphasis on convenience and portability while offering decent image quality. In general, that is what the AAXA P300 offers, in an exceptional way. The device is rated at 300 lumens, which is reasonably bright, and offers 1280 by 800 (WXGA) resolution.

These impressive features are cramped up in a lightweight build with compact size that does not present any challenge when the device is carried about. To enhance the versatility of this device, it is possible to power the P300 with batteries in addition to AC power. The brightness of the image projected while on battery-power is impressive, amongst the brightest of any battery-powered WXGA projectors currently available.

Brightness

To be accurate, the unit of measurement of brightness in projectors—the lumen—is not linear. Rather, it is logarithmic. For clarity sake, this means that 200 lumens does not imply being twice as bright as 100 lumens. In the same vein, 300 lumens is not exactly one-tenth the brightness of 3,000 lumens. In reality, 300 lumens is much brighter than the number would suggest, making it a decent level to be featured in a pico projector.

Still, a maximum brightness level of 300 lumens does have its limits. In the table below, you can examine our findings of the P300 brightness limits during practical use:

Power SourceResolutionEnvironmental Lighting ConditionsMaximum Image Size Measured Diagonally
AC1280 by 800
Dark55 inches
Battery1280 by 800
Dark45 inches
AC1280 by 800Moderate Ambient Light30 inches
Battery1280 by 800Moderate Ambient Light25 inches

As expected, the brightness levels with AC power are marginally larger than with battery power, when other factors are kept constant. The take-home point though, is that the P300 does offer better brightness levels when on batter power than other projectors that are battery-powered.

The P300 also outshines DLP projectors in brightness variations, as it delivers the same brightness levels with colors images and white images. DLP projectors on the other hand, owing to the limitations of the lamps and color wheels used, deliver color images that have lesser brightness than white images.

Image Quality

Data image quality is decent on the P300. Test scores of the P300 on our standard suite of DisplayMate tests were above average on both color balance and color quality. Color is fully saturated on images, and from white to black, there are appropriate neutral grays over the complete range from white to black.

Video image quality on the P300 could be better. Not that you should be expecting premium performance when projection videos on a pico projector. The less-than-optimal quality aside, we found the performance of the P300 to be usable for long sessions.

An issue with the P300 on video performance is that there few instances of sudden changes of suddenly when the changes should have been gradual, referred to posterization. Also, there is minute shadow detail loss, and minor oversaturation of colors in some scenes: however, both concerns do not occur often enough to impair viewing experience significantly.

The P300 also cuts down on the occurrence of rainbow artifacts. This is impressive considering that many standard DLP projectors are still hounded by several occurrences of rainbow artifacts. Although the AAXA P300 Pico Projector does not eliminate the artifacts, there are not enough occurrences to make them bothersome.

Sound produced by the P300 is barely usable. Therefore, for better sound quality and increased volume, it is necessary to pair the projector with an external audio system.

Final Verdict

If there is any better reason to purchase the AAXA P300 Pico Projector rather than a competing model, it is that it permits the use of batteries and an AC power source whenever possible. This encourages mobility and versatility of the device. To top it off, the P300 is able to deliver decent image quality at usable brightness levels with either power sources. However, if you believe that whenever you have need of a projector, a power outlet will always be nearby, then you could go with a model with higher brightness levels like the 3M Mobile Projector MP410.

Salient Selling Points

  • Decent image quality
  • WXGA resolution
  • Quality brightness
  • Dual power source

2. Optoma Pico PK120 Pocket Projector Review

First Impression

The Optoma Pico PK120 Pocket Projector is every bit a pico projector: it is lightweight, compact, affordable, and versatile to use with support for dual power sources. The PK120 is rated at 18 lumens in the brightest mode; still it manages to produce decent image quality. Its native resolution is at 640 by 360 pixels (nHD): It also supports

widescreen format at an aspect ratio of 16:9. Longevity is secured with a lifetime of 20,000 hours for its LED source, a standard in pico projector territory.

Design

Adorned with matte black housing complemented on top by a silver strip and a decorative red bezel that can be interchanges, the Optoma PK120 has the looks of a premium projector. Its iPhone-equivalent dimensions are at 2.8 (H) by 4.6 (W) by 0.8 (D) inches. The weight of the PK120 is impressive at 0.5 pounds when it has an AC adapter attached, and only 0.3 pounds when there’s a battery tucked in.

Features

Doubling as an entertainment hub, the Pico PK120 has an internal memory capacity of 2GB with provisions for expandable memory of 32GB using a microSD card. You will also be able to get 90+ minutes out of the PK120 in standard mode, with the range falling to 50+ minutes in bright mode.

Around the device, extended connectivity is possible thanks to an array of ports, amongst which are:

  • Type B micro-USB port
  • “Universal” i/o port
  • Jack for composite audio and video connectivity

These cables necessary to make use of these ports are all included in the projector package, which is very convenient. There’s the USB cable for the micro-USB port, a VGA cable (for projector-PC connection), and a composite a/v cable for use with the composite a/v jack.

Performance

During testing, we found the PK120 to have decent performance in establishing good focus. Data image quality was not the best, with quirks in sharpness at the two smallest sizes, and poor contrast between areas at both extreme ends of visibility. Conclusively, it will do for internal business use, but you will need a better-equipped projector for a more official purpose, say giving a presentation to a potential client.

Video image handling by the Optoma PK120 is decent as well, considering it is not able to attain high brightness levels. The colors were not washed off, although there were a few minor issues consistent with most top-grade pico projectors. The development of rainbow artifacts was also reduced to the barest minimum, which was good for the overall image viewing experience.

Final Verdict

Although the Optoma PK120 is strictly developed for activities that are not intensive in nature, it handles all image types decently. It can be powered by either of two ubiquitous power sources, and is very portable. What tops the already interesting offering of the Optoma Pico PK120 Pocket Projector is plenty of connectivity options with the cables included in a full package that is very affordable.

Salient Selling Points

  • Decent image quality
  • Dual power sources
  • Affordable price point

3. Acer C120 Projector Review

First Impression

The feature that sets the Acer C120 apart from the competition is that it has a single connectivity option—USB. For those who value the extensive connectivity options, you would have to look at other models in this section. Nonetheless, it has higher brightness levels than comparable models, whilst being priced low.

Design

Acer is known for exquisite design styles. The C120 makes a profound statement for Acer in this vein with a rectangular build wrapped in rounded corners. Its housing comes in a bold black color. Acer also manages to keep the device small and light, as it weighs 13 ounces when the power adapter is attached and just 6 ounces without the adapter.

Features and Performance

The Acer C120 is a LED-based DLP projector sporting premium brightness level of 100 lumens. Its native resolution is 854 by 480 (WVGA) resolution.

As with most top-grade projectors, the C120 can handle data images well, especially for internal business presentations, but not for tasks that are more intensive. It handles videos just as well, especially in the form of short clips that are part of a business data presentation.

Rainbow artifacts are a given, like with all DLP projectors. However, the occurrence of these artifacts is brought to the barest minimum, such that viewers will not be irritated by their persistence.

Final Verdict

USB connectivity is commonplace today, and for those who may not have need for another connectivity option, the Acer C120 is the best USB-only pico projector. It has better brightness models than other USB-only projectors, and is on offer at a very attractive price point.

Salient Selling Points

  • Single connectivity option
  • High brightness level
  • Easy to setup

5. Taotaole Multi-media Mini 800 Review

The Taotaole Multi-media Mini 800 Lumens Portable LED projector is surprisingly good, and what makes it even better is that it is reasonably priced. Its size makes it easy to transport. The unit weighs a kilo and its dimensions are 201x153x67.5mm. You can carry it with you wherever you go and setting it up is a breeze.

It can play various video formats, such as avi, mov, dat, mpg, vob, mpeg, rm and rmvb, and supports audio formats, such as wma, mp3 and wav. This portable projector can also read gif, jpeg, png and bmp images, as well as e-books in txt format.

This little wonder utilizes the TFT LCD image system and LED lamp. Its native resolution is 800 x 480, but supports up to 1920 x 1080, with 4:3/16:9 aspect ratio. The brightness is 800 Lumens, with 800:1 contrast. The device is able to project from a distance of 34 to 130 inches. The picture trapezoidal distortion can be adjusted using its keystone correction function.

You can connect this via USB, HDMI, AV, SD and Micro USB. Just like other kinds of projectors, it works better in a dark room, but it can also be used in areas where there is some light. The picture that it projects is actually impressive, which makes it a perfect partner even for outdoor viewing. You can use the dial above its lens to fix the focus accordingly.

You don’t have to be a techie in order to understand how this works. Setting up and using this projector is easy, but if ever you encounter any difficulties, you can always check the full instructions that the unit comes with. The lamp lifespan is up to 20,000 hours, which is another bonus and helps make this projector worth the price.