May 09, 2013, 7:01 AM — As the number of uses for digital projectors keeps growing, their sizes keep shrinking. While businesspeople have been carrying laptop-sized units around for years, smaller (and cheaper) projectors have recently found a place in home theater systems, dorm rooms and anywhere that you can find a blank space on the wall. (Last year, they even drew attention during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, when protesters used them to project symbols and messages on the sides of buildings.)
There's no accepted definition for these types of projectors. Of the five very compact units I look at in this roundup, two call themselves "pico" while others are labeled "mobile," "pocket" or "mini." Suffice it to say that they're all significantly smaller and lighter than the Xbox-size units that have dominated the scene. They're also not as bright and have lower resolutions than their bigger siblings.
Mobile "pocket" projectors, from bottom to top: Vivitek Qumi Q5, 3M Mobile Projector MP410, Telstar MP50, Optoma Pico PK320 and the General Imaging iPico.
I spent several days living with these tiny projectors and I can say that, for the most part, you get what you pay for. The five I looked at ranged in (list) price from $130 for a one-trick pony with limited application to a $650 device that produces sharp, bright images good enough for almost any purpose short of presenting to an auditorium.
All but one of the five projectors (the iPico) come with HDMI capabilities, so I connected them to an iPad 2 using Apple's 30-pin HDMI connector and projected a PDF presentation containing both text and graphics as well as a slide show of photos. I also connected an upscaling DVD player and showed a movie (O Brother, Where Art Thou). I projected the images on a white wall in a dark bedroom with blackout curtains -- as dark as a hotel room and darker than many living rooms or conference rooms.
Bright and clear