Very compact. Portable. Long lamp life. Built-in rechargeable battery. Good video and data image quality. Low price.
Low brightness. Feeble audio. Poorly responsive on-off button.
- Bottom Line
The tiny AAXA HD Pico Projector has a respectable resolution and good image quality, yet its low brightness and bare-bones features make it best for light-duty use.
When I recently reviewed the AAXA P2-A Smart Pico Projector, I was struck by its small size, but AAXA has outdone itself with its latest offering. With the AAXA HD Pico Projector ($199), the company has created a similar projector with an even smaller form and higher resolution, but lower brightness. Although it lacks many features found in the P2-A, the HD Pico has good image quality and is suitable for light-duty use in a dark room.
The HD Pico is a small white cube with rounded corners. It is an LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) projector with an LED-based light source with a rated brightness of 50 lumens and a claimed lifetime of 20,000 hours, so the lamp should last as long as the projector. It has native 720p (1,280-by-720) "basic HD" resolution, which is high for a low-brightness pico projector; more typical is the AAXA P2-A's native resolution of 854 by 480 pixels. Its built-in lithium-ion battery should last up to 150 hours on a charge, according to AAXA, which is more or less in line with what I observed in my testing. A tiny, bendable tripod screws into a hole on the bottom of the projector.
On the right side of the body (as viewed from behind), just to the side of the lens, is a tiny focus wheel, matching the one on the P2-A (although that wheel is on the left side). The best way I found to manipulate the wheel was to hold the projector in my left hand and turn the wheel with my right index finger. I could also turn the wheel when the projector was supported by its tiny yet sturdy tripod. Although the wheel is minuscule, it is reasonably responsive.
The HD Pico's power button isn't as effective. Instead of being slightly raised, as with the P2-A, it is flush with the back of the projector. I was usually unable to get the button to work with just a finger or thumb, even by pressing down with my fingernail, and needed to use a pen tip or a stylus to turn the unit on and off. And although I could turn the projector off using the on-off button on the included remote, I couldn't similarly turn it on.
Connectivity and Navigation
All of the HD Pico's ports and jacks are on the back of the projector, set amid a series of airflow vents. A mini-HDMI port lets you stream content from a DVD player or other video source, while an AV port fits an included composite audio/video cable with three RCA plugs for connecting with a video source. A micro-USB port is for charging the projector. An audio-out jack fits headphones or a small, powered speaker. A USB type A port lets you attach a USB thumb drive for playing media or text files. A microSD card slot rounds out the picture; I'm glad to see that it's actually labeled "SD Card" instead of the outdated (and confusing) TF-card label that AAXA has used on other projectors.
When you turn the HD Pico on, you first see a Home screen that offers six choices: Videos, Music, Photos, Text, Setting, and Input. You can navigate between them by using arrow controls on the credit-card-size remote. If you press the OK button when one of the first four choices is highlighted, it will let you choose between Micro (SD) Card and USB (thumb drive), and run content stored on either of these devices. For Input Source, you can choose between Digital Input (HDMI) and RCA (composite audio/video), and project content from a compatible device over a cable plugged into the respective port.
Solid, Low-Brightness Images
Under theater-dark conditions, the HD Pico projected an image with a usable size up to between 30 and 36 inches (measured diagonally); larger than that, and the image quickly started to look degraded. The text on a sticker on top of the projector reads, "This Projector is designed to be used in dark areas only," and this low-brightness projector proved unable to stand up to ambient light, with some degradation in image quality visible in images larger than about 18 inches.
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We don't run our full data suite on low-brightness pico projectors, but in ad-hoc testing, text looked reasonably sharp as befitting the HD Pico's relatively high resolution. In viewing text files stored on a USB thumb drive in .txt format, the text colors were inverted so that white type appeared on a black background. Although text was readable, the formatting was messed up (with words occasionally running together); you're better off projecting over an HDMI connection rather than running text files from a thumb drive. Either way, it's not an ideal projector for presentations due to its low brightness.
Photo colors look reasonably true. I ran some video clips from the HD Pico, and they looked good despite a relatively small usable image size. LCoS projectors are free of annoying rainbow artifacts, and colors in video weren't oversaturated like I have seen in some other LED projectors, including the AAXA P2-A.
Audio from the single 1-watt speaker was barely audible in my testing, even when I sat very close to the projector. Should you want louder or better-quality sound, you could connect a pair of powered external speakers to the projector's audio-in port.
The AAXA HD Pico Projector doesn't have the brightness nor the connectivity of the slightly larger AAXA P2-A, lacking the latter's Wi-Fi and Android OS. The HD Pico's image quality is good for a micro projector, though, thanks in part to its relatively high resolution. For a brighter 720p micro projector with a large range of connectivity choices including a TV tuner, look to the Editors' Choice LG Minibeam LED Projector (PH550). (Keep in mind, though, that the LG is small, but still about twice the width of the AAXA.) Still, the HD Pico holds its own as a tiny projector at the lowest rung of brightness.
As Analyst for printers, scanners, and projectors, Tony Hoffman tests and reviews these products and provides news coverage for these categories. Tony has worked at PC Magazine since 2004, first as a Staff Editor, then as Reviews Editor, and more recently as Managing Editor for the printers, scanners, and projectors team. In addition to editing, Tony has written articles on digital photography and reviews of digital cameras, PCs, and iPhone apps Prior to joining the PCMag team, Tony worked for 17 years in magazine and journal… More »
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