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PicoPro Pocket Laser Projector Review

by Paul Strauss
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Celluon’s PicoPro is a tiny, battery-powered projector that fits in the palm of your hand. It can project clear images on any white surface without the need for external hardware other than a smartphone. It can use HDMI or wireless devices that support Miracast wireless video as its sources.

picopro_pocket_projector_3zoom in

What struck me first about the PicoPro was just how compact it is. It’s virtually the same size as my iPhone 6 Plus, but about 1/2″ thick. And it weighs just a hair more, at just 6.7 ounces. It’s also completely silent while turned on, since it needs no cooling fan.

picopro_pocket_projector_2zoom in

picopro_pocket_projector_1zoom in

The projector uses laser technology to produce a sharp and reasonably bright image for its size, and requires no focusing to remain sharp. Connecting a device is easy, either plug in an HDMI cable to your device (in my case I needed an adapter for my iOS device), or you can wirelessly pair Android and Windows Phone devices that support Miracast. It also supports DLNA compatible devices. In HDMI mode, you can expect about 3 hours of runtime, or on wireless about 2 hours. Either way, it’s long enough to watch many movies without running out of juice. The PicoPro also has a tiny speaker built in, but it’s not even as loud as the speaker in most smartphones, so you’ll want to hook up an external set of speakers or headphones if you need audio.

I tested the PicoPro with both an iPhone 6 Plus via HDMI and an LG G3 via Miracast, and both worked flawlessly. Of course, the wireless connection is so much more convenient. I really wish that it worked wirelessly with iOS devices too, but I’m pretty sure this is a limitation of Apple’s AirPlay licensing, not Celluon’s hardware.

picopro_pocket_projector_6zoom in

The projector is spec’d at 1920×720 native resolution, which is an odd, since the 1920 is the typical horizontal resolution of a 1080p display, and the 720 is the normal vertical resolution for 720p. Regardless of numbers, the image is crisp enough for watching movies, playing games, and business presentations, but it’s not quite full HD resolution.

When asked for clarification about the PicoPro’s resolution, here’s what Celluon told me:

1920×720 resolution is an attribute of the display engine at the heart of the PicoPro/PicoAir. MicroVision’s PicoP® Display Technology uses a proprietary scanned laser beam methodology that has a fundamental advantage of supporting multiple output resolutions with a single MEMS mirror, as opposed to being limited to fixed resolutions like panel based displays. The number of pixels painted is dynamic, not fixed as in a panel. To achieve 1920×720, the image resolution is enhanced by upscaling the horizontal pixels from 1280 input to 1920 output. To maintain a standard 16:9 aspect ratio the display engine creates non-square pixels. The result is an image that surpasses the resolution and quality a typical 720p display by fitting more pixels into the space.

picopro_pocket_projector_5zoom in

The images below were projected in a darkened room (not pitch black) against a white wall, with the image at approximately 50″ diagonal.

picopro_pocket_projector_1-4zoom in

Celluon claims the PicoPro has an 80,000:1 contrast ratio, but I don’t have the equipment on hand to measure that. To my naked eye, images have good contrast, bright colors, and aren’t muddy.

picopro_pocket_projector_1-3zoom in

Keep in mind that this tiny projector, while brighter than many other pico projectors I’ve seen – is still best used against a pure white surface, and in a darkened room. If you must use it in a room with ambient light, you’ll definitely want to use a white wall or a projection screen.

picopro_pocket_projector_1-2zoom in

In the optimal environment, it can actually project an image up to about 100″ diagonal. I tested its ability to scale up, and the image stayed sharp, but was quite dim. That said, the only wide open wall I had that big wasn’t white, so that’s not a fair test. I’m reasonably certain that a white surface would make all the difference in the world.

Out of the box, it’s a bit tricky to get the projector aligned with projection surfaces if you set it right on a table, but Celluon ensures me that the production model of the PicoPro will include a small tripod mount which should make setup and alignment much easier.

picopro_standzoom in

Regardless of its limitations, the PicoPro is a marvel of modern technology. If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d have a projector I could carry in my pocket, and required no external power supply or wires, I would have thought it was pretty far-fetched.

Celluon has yet to announce final pricing or a release date for the PicoPro, but is already selling its PicoAir projector for $350(USD), which is a wireless-only version for those who don’t need the HDMI connectivity.

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Comments (16):

  1. LB says:

    This is the first review I’ve seen with any useful information on the weird resolution, kudos for that. Can you comment at all on how the device operates if you try to feed it with its “real” resolution (I’m guessing 1280*720)? Does it realise you want 1:1 square pixels and render them correctly? Or does it mangle them with resampling, or present it squashed horizontally?
    (Googling “1280*720 test grid”)
    It would be great if you could display a fullscreen test image with single pixel lines, like http://l.kryptoniitti.com/lassial/obj/img/07/070914-CMYW_1280_Convergence_test_target.png, and comment on how they appear.

  2. Peter says:

    What is the image size distance to screen ratio? If you run Bluetooth speakers from an IOS device and watch via hdmi cable would they be in sync?

    Thanks Peter

    • Paul Strauss says:

      Peter, I didn’t get to measure exactly, but I was about 4.5 feet from the wall for a 50″ screen, and about 9 feet from the wall for a 100″ screen, so somewhere around a 1.1-to-1 ratio, but that’s just a rough estimate.

      As for your question about outputting sound via Bluetooth, I’m not sure what sort of lag is introduced by playing audio via Bluetooth while outputting video via HDMI. In fact, I don’t know if Apple still sends audio via Bluetooth when it detects an HDMI cable – I’m pretty sure it won’t.

  3. Peter says:

    Paul,

    Thanks for your reply. I thought that migh be the case re the bluetooth/hdmi.

    Can you tell me about the the projector position relative to the image, is it at the bottom of the image so projecting upwards, or in the middle of the image project evenly up and down?

    Thanks,

    Peter

    • Paul Strauss says:

      I found that I had to place the projector almost dead center of the image height to get an image without keystoning, so if you want to place it on a tabletop you’ll need to elevate it on a tripod or a stack of books to get the image right.

  4. Peter says:

    Paul,
    Finally (I think), the charging point looks like a usb point, so would that mean you could power it via an exteranl battery back when you are not able to connect to the mains?

    Thanks again,

    Peter

  5. adchop says:

    Paul, the pic of the PicoPro mounted on a holder/tripod… is that your tripod or is that the holder/tripod that will be provided by Celluon with each projector?

  6. Malik says:

    Paul, does the PicoPro support any HDMI device? Or is it specific to mobile devices?

    • Paul Strauss says:

      Works with any HDMI device up to 1080p resolution. You may need to buy a microHDMI to HDMI cable though, I’m not site if the production model includes one in the box.

  7. Kevin says:

    Hi Paul,

    Just curious if this seems like it could be a solid alternative to something like the Epson Home Cinema 3500 1080p Projector? I know there would be some compromises, but for such a price difference, would this be “worth” it as a home theater projector in your opinion? Pros/cons?

    Thanks, k

    • Paul Strauss says:

      I would say no. It’s not nearly as bright or sharp as a true home theater projector. I’d say it’s best for impromptu viewings, or for settings where you need to do presentations for a small group. A better home theater setup on a budget would be something like the Optoma HD 141X – which is currently on sale for 50% off on Amazon.

      • M says:

        Can you clarify the sharpness? Is it less sharp than your typical 720p led/dlp projector?

        • Paul Strauss says:

          To me it was about as sharp as a 720p projector, maybe a little more detailed, but since the image is relatively dim, and I didn’t have a proper screen to project onto, I can’t say 100% that it was sharper.

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