My wife has always wanted to show movies outside on summer evenings.
You know, tack a white sheet up on the side of the garage, then run an extension cord from the house to the middle of the yard, set up the projector and laptop and enjoy.
But we never have actually watched a movie outside. It always seems like a bit too much hassle.
I think with the new PicoPro projector from Celluon, we might just get to have our backyard Katharine Hepburn film festival after all.
The PicoPro ($349, amazon.com) is small, as you might guess from the name.
It’s about the size of an iPhone 6 but about half an inch thick, and it weighs just 6.7 ounces.
You might be thinking, “Wait. Tiny projectors have tiny light sources and they are way too dim to be watchable,” and you’d be mostly correct.
Every small projector I’ve used has lacked brightness, but the PicoPro doesn’t use a bulb — it uses red, green and blue lasers to project its image.
How it works
The lasers are fairly bright, and as an added bonus, the image is sharp at any distance. There is no focus knob on the PicoPro — it doesn’t need one.
Notice I said the image is “fairly bright.”
The PicoPro’s image gets better if you turn out the lights (or wait for the sun to set), especially if you want to project onto a large surface. As with other projectors, the screen can make a big difference. A white sheet or wall is a good choice, but a portable screen makes a big difference in brightness.
In a room with regular lighting, the picture is vivid up to about a 50-inch diagonal image. If you want a really good image at sizes up to 80 or 100 inches (or bigger), you’ll need some darkness and a nice white surface.
Celluon lists the PicoPro’s contrast ratio at 80,000:1, which means there is a big brightness difference between black and white. I don’t have the equipment to measure the contrast, but the picture looked good to my untrained eye.
The projector can display video sent wirelessly via the Miracast technology used in many Android or Windows devices or from a mini-HDMI port, which I used with my iPhone and Macbook Pro.
The projector includes an HDMI to mini-HDMI cable. If you want to connect your iPhone or iPad, you’ll need to provide your own HDMI to Lightning adapter. The PicoPro on sale for $349 at Amazon does not include an HDMI cable. Celluon sells the projector and cable for $379.
The PicoPro has a resolution of 1920 by 720 pixels (16:9 aspect ratio), which is just shy of true HD but still looks quite sharp.
Power and sound
Having lasers for a light source brings a few benefits, including energy efficiency and cool running. There is no fan in the projector, so it’s completely silent and not hot to the touch. While you can power it from any USB port, the PicoPro has a built-in battery that provides two hours of wireless operation or three hours through HDMI.
There is a small speaker in the projector, but to my ear, it wasn’t much better than the speaker in my iPhone. There is a headphone jack on the projector to connect better speakers.
So my outdoor movie experience is getting easier.
The PicoPro can show an entire movie powered by its battery, and I can use a phone or tablet as a source instead of a computer. Combine that with a battery-powered speaker, and it’s possible to take your outdoor movie night on the road.
By the way, there is a wireless-only version called the PicoAir available for $299.
I am impressed with the PicoPro for both ease of setup and quality of the image on the wall.
Being wireless, I walked around with it in my office to see how it would work around different conference rooms. As long as there was a screen or a clean white wall (or whiteboard) I was really happy with the picture.
Pros: Very small, quiet, focus-free, battery life is good.
Cons: Speaker is weak, no wireless support for iOS.
Bottom Line: Very handy projector well worth the cost.
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