The Optoma Pico Projector is a pocket-sized projector.

This year's International Consumer Electronics Show saw the debut of some of the first prototype video projectors that are as small as mobile phones. Now, just 10 months later, the first commercial products based on this cool technology are ready and so we settled down to watch a movie on one of them and came away impressed.

Optoma's Pico Projector really fits in your hand. It's no exaggeration to say its the same size as a mobile phone or, to compare it another way, about the same length as an iPod 5G but a little narrower and taller. The precise measurements are 100x50x15mm.

The Optoma Pico Projector weighs 114g.

There are just two controls on the Optoma Pico Projector, a power switch and a focus control. Startup takes a couple of seconds and then it's ready to go. The LED light is not only the secret to its small size but also means there is no waiting around for it to warm-up.

Video and audio is fed in through a three-terminal 2.5mm jack plug. Optoma supplies a cable with the jack plug on one end and female RCA connectors on the other for connecting up to anything that can supply a standard-definition PAL or NTSC composite video signal. We tried it with an iPod, set-top box and DVD player and it worked fine with all of them.

The Optoma Pico Projector can be set down on a surface, propped up with a book or attached to a tripod. The underside has a small screw in which a supplied adaptor can be attached so it will work with a standard tripod.

Perched on a desk and projecting its image against a sheet of paper it delivers a bright and crisp image that is easy to enjoy. (So much so that it wasn't until I got to the end of my second episode of "The Simpsons" that I remembered I was supposed to be working. And good timing too because the battery died half-way through the third episode.)

After a recharge - which takes 4 hours - we selected half-brightness mode and were able to watch a 92 minute movie and 12 minutes of a TV show before the Optoma Pico Projector's light went out. For the recharge, power is supplied via a mini USB connector, but that's all the connector can be used for.

Audio is played through a small speaker built into the Optoma Pico Projector which, when it was on our desk, was just fine for a TV show. We think we'd want to hook it up to something more substantial if we were sitting back and watching a larger screen image, however, especially for a movie or music video.

If you take it traveling with you then getting it to work on an iPod with a pair of headphones might be a hassle. The video and audio are combined on the iPod's headphone jack on older models so you'll have to come up with some patch leads to break off the video signal while still running audio to your headphones.

This isn't a fault of Optoma's - you'll have a problem using headphones when any other video display is hooked-up to an older iPod - but something to watch out for.

Newer iPods run the video signal out of the dock connector leaving the headphone socket free.

The Optoma Pico Projector will be available in major international markets from December, and can be pre-ordered in the UK for £255.


So, all-in-all the Optoma Pico Projector is an impressive product, especially if you're looking for something to make presentations to a small group of people while on the road. While it's bright enough to be seen at short range you'll have to turn the lights down if you want to get the full 60in image that the projector is capable of and won't replace a traditional projector for a room of people. For personal entertainment it works well too with the speaker but you'll have to figure out a cable if you want to use it on the move, say in a train or plane.