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Review: Optoma PK201 Pocket Projector

By Kirk R. Darling

I’ve been conducting sales sessions in my clients’ homes for four years using a tabletop digital projector. There are significant advantages to in-home sales sessions, but the disadvantage is that my “sales room” is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: I never know what I’m going to get.

That demands great flexibility, which until recently for me has meant being prepared to show images on my laptop, on my clients’ own home theater screens, or with my projector. Using the projector usually meant projecting on the client’s wall with the projector on a tripod-mounted platform, but I also kept a collapsible 50-inch tabletop screen handy. It took more set-up time than I liked, but compared to showing paper proofs, the time and trouble had been worth it.

That was the past. Now I have a new tool that has eliminated the set-up, reduced my gear load, and improved sales. I replaced my tabletop projector with a pocket-sized pico projector a few months ago, and the reception from my clients has been enthusiastic—and profitable.

My new projector is the Optoma PK201 Pico Pocket Projector ($270-$300 street price), a battery-powered projector more compact than an exposure meter. 

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Image ©Kirk Darling

I like using this pocket projector, but I’ll tell you the bad news first. The Optoma PK201 is rather dim (20 lumens output from its 20,000-hour LED light source), it has harsh contrast (2000:1), and its color accuracy can be slightly off. In addition, the fixed focal length lens has a “throw ratio” of 1:2.2, which means that I sometimes have to stand farther than I’d like from the wall.

If it has so many negatives, why do I use it? It’s hand-held and self-contained. I reserve the Optoma PK201 for its perfect role: reducing the client’s “imagination load” when we’re discussing locations and sizes for wall portraits. I open the sales session with an entertaining slideshow of the preview images on either my laptop or on the client’s home theater. Then we go over the images individually, which is when the client gets the finest view of the images, to make semi-final choices.

Right after we’ve made some initial choices from the laptop and start discussing enlargement sizes, I pull the PK201 out of my pocket. I will have JPEGs of the preview images pre-loaded into the projector; it takes only three clicks to turn on the projector and open the image folder. Then the client and I walk through her home and discuss actual portraits sizes and locations. I point the PK201 as easily as a flashlight, projecting the images onto the walls as we discuss where to hang them and what sizes look best.

I’ve found this level of immediate flexibility far superior to any other way I’ve shown previews. If the husband is saying, “Well, I dunno,” about purchasing a 30x40 of the family, I quickly project it on the wall over the sofa to show just how beautiful it is. That makes it much more difficult to say, “No.” I can also make new suggestions for additional wall portraits and show the client immediately what they look like. The image quality isn’t perfect, but that is far less important during this portion of the sales session than seeing the portrait at full size where it would hang.

The PK201 has 28MB of internal memory, which is large enough for the JPEGs of my preview sessions. It also accepts micro-SD cards up to 16GB. The projector uses solid-state electronics, without fans or other moving parts, so there’s no problem with handling it casually in use. It does get quite warm in the hand at the end of a full hour’s use.

The PK201 has a wide variety of input and output options (see below; click chart for larger view), and it comes with serial, USB, and composite cables. The Li-On battery provides 50 to 60 real-world minutes of projection time, more than enough for an in-home sales session. The battery can be recharged either from the provided AC adapter or by the USB cable from a computer.

 

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The package includes a customized version of ArcSoft’s MediaConverter to convert a larger variety of file types to formats accepted by the projector. The image aspect ratio is natively 16:9 and can be set in the preferences table to 4:3.

 

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The Optoma PK201 comes with ArcSoft's MediaConverter to convert files to types that are supported by the pico projector.

In my opinion, the Optoma PK201 represents the minimal specification limit for this use. At 20 lumens, the PK201 is just bright enough in most living rooms without having to extinguish the room lights. I tried a friend’s 10-lumen pico projector and found it unusable in anything other than an almost totally dark room.

Newer models of pico projectors are becoming available with greater brightness and much larger integrated file storage. There are even smart phones (not yet available in the US) that have built-in pico projectors. That would make using them for in-home sales nearly a no-brainer. I’m finding, however, that the Optoma PK201 is useful right now.