At last, a pico projector that's bright enough

When we first saw a palm-sized pico projector a couple of years ago, we were unimpressed. My, how things have changed! We took the Optoma PK301 Pico Pocket Projector for a spin, and it's vastly improved over its predecessors. While it's not going to show you sparkling HDTV in broad daylight, it does a Herculean job of blasting plenty of light, giving you a sharp and relatively bright DVD-quality (WVGA 854 X 480, 16:9) image.

Projecting a movie from our laptop in a darkened room, a 30-inch image was surprisingly bright, colorful and absolutely watchable. By the time we had enlarged the image to 60 inches, it was getting a little murky looking, and not quite as bright, but its output was still just about as good as the best projectors were capable of about seven years ago. That's remarkable considering that the PK301 is less than a fifth the size and weight.

The 4.7-inch-wide PK301 goes far beyond just displaying whatever your laptop VGA output sends to it. It has a microSD card slot, letting you display up to 8GB of your favorite .jpeg or .bmp photos, MP4 or XVid videos and even PowerPoint presentations without using a computer. You'll need to convert PowerPoint presentations and most video formats with Optoma's included software, though.

There's a rechargeable battery on board that makes this little hotshot truly portable, and if you want to save power, there's also "standard" mode that dims the LED enough to let that battery last "up to" an hour. We got a big kick out of holding this mini 8-ounce projector in our hand as it played DVD-quality movies. It's designed to look like a regular-sized model, making it so cute it reminded us of dollhouse furniture.

It's $400 price tag makes it a bit extravagant for a mere toy, but it's tons of fun to shine this baby on a white wall wherever you may be. While it's not quite bright enough to look good in a well-lit room, draw the shades and you have yourself a pocket theater. Optoma calls it the "gold standard of pico projectors." It's by far the best one we've seen yet.

Via Optoma