Compact. Portable. Modestly priced. Built-in touchpad. Good range of connection ports. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Built-in rechargeable battery. Runs Android 5.1.
Oversaturated colors in video limits its use to shorter clips. Somewhat fuzzy text. Weak audio. Minuscule focus wheel.
- Bottom Line
The AAXA P2-A Smart Pico Projector is a triumph of miniaturization, its tiny frame bristling with ports and with a touchpad on top, but it's still a low-brightness projector with oversaturated video and a feeble sound system.
The AAXA P2-A Smart Pico Projector ($209) packs a lot into its very small frame and sells for a modest price. It has a built-in touchpad, the first I have seen on a projector. The P2-A runs Android, has a wide selection of ports, and supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Its image quality, however, is unimpressive, with glaringly bright colors in video and unsharp text.
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The P2-A is a DLP projector with an LED-based light source with a rated brightness of 130 lumens and a claimed lifetime of 20,000 hours, so the lamp should last as long as the projector. It has a native resolution of 854 by 480 pixels, which is typical for micro projectors.
White with blue and gray trim, the P2-A is a handsome projector. Viewed from above, it resembles a slightly squashed cube. It measures just 2.3 by 2.8 by 2.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 8.8 ounces, and it can easily fit in my palm with my thumb and fingers wrapping around it. It somewhat resembles the RIF6 Cube in appearance, although AAXA manages to fit more ports on the P2-A. It includes a sturdy mini-tripod. The P2-A's built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts up to 150 minutes on a charge, according to AAXA.
AAXA manages to pack a lot of ports and jacks onto the back of the projector, while still leaving room for two air vents. A tiny power button and the socket for the power plug are on the right-hand edge, to the right of the largest vent (for the cooling fan). The other ports are to the left of that vent, in the side's upper left corner. They include mini HDMI, micro-USB, composite video/audio (the port fits the plug for an included adapter cable, the other end of which has three RCA plugs for use with a DVD player or other video device). An audio-out jack fits headphones or a small, powered speaker. Last but not least, there's a USB type A port, which lets you attach a USB thumb drive for playing media or text files, or for connecting a USB mouse for use in navigating as well as entering passwords on a virtual keyboard, which makes it far easier to use the projector's Android functions than it would have been otherwise.
On the projector's front side, hidden amid the grille-work of an airflow vent to the left of the lens, is a microSD card slot. Unless you see it pointed out in the user manual, you might not even know it's there (as was the case with me). It doesn't help that AAXA uses outdated nomenclature for the card, still referring to a TF-card slot. That said, it's a nice addition, and it's fitting that such a small projector would use microSD.
Much of the projector's top is taken up by a small, gray capacitive touchpad, with left- and right-click buttons in front of it (labeled OK and with a backspace arrow, respectively). They are handy for controlling the P2-A's Android functions. You can also use a USB mouse for that, as long as you're not projecting content from the USB type A port.
On the bottom is a threaded hole that fits the tiny (barely 4 inches tall) included tripod. Although minuscule, the tripod is sturdy enough to hold the P2-A steady.
On the left side of the projector (as viewed from behind, just to the side of the lens), is what is easily the most minuscule focus wheel I have ever seen. I can manipulate the wheel one-handed by holding the P2-A in the palm of my left hand and turning the wheel with my left thumb. Although it's a little trickier, I can still do so when the projector is on its tripod.
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Android—on a Projector
The P2-A, with the help of its 1.3GHz ARM Cortex quad-core processor, runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, and you can stream video over Wi-Fi from included apps such as YouTube, Netflix, Crunchyroll, Hulu, Twitch, and Vevo. When you boot up the projector, you are taken to a home screen, from which you can access photos or videos, either from a USB thumb drive, a microSD card, or from the projector's 8GB of internal memory. From the menu you can also access the HDMI or composite video content, open a web browser, stream content over Wi-Fi, project mirrored content from your smart phone, or display office-type documents. It's not the first projector we have tested that runs Android, but it is among the smoothest to use, with the touchpad and buttons helpful in making entering passwords easy.
Data Images, Audio, and Video
I did our formal testing of the P2-A over an HDMI connection. Most of it was in theater-dark conditions, with the projector about 5 feet away from the screen, where it threw an image of about 48 inches (measured diagonally). With the introduction of ambient light, there was considerable image degradation (i.e., it looked quite faded). The image looked a lot better when I shrank it to about 30 inches.
In our standard data-imaging testing, using the DisplayMate suite, the P2-A's black text on white, and white text on black, were both readable, though not particularly sharp, at sizes down to 10.5 points. Colors for the most part looked realistic.
As is frequently the case with single-chip DLP projectors, I saw rainbow artifacts—little red-green-blue flashes, usually seen in bright areas against dark backgrounds—in images that tend to bring them out. This so-called rainbow effect, however, is milder than usual for a DLP projector, even people sensitive to the effect shouldn't be bothered by it here.
Rainbow artifacts are usually more of an issue with video than with data images, but once again they were seldom seen in the P2-A's video, and shouldn't be an issue even for people who are particularly sensitive to this effect. Unfortunately, colors—particularly reds and blues—were significantly oversaturated, to the point where I couldn't recommend using this projector's video for anything but short clips. Audio is faint, usable only if your audience is sitting 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-out port.
In ad-hoc testing that I did streaming videos from the P2-A's YouTube Android app, as well as playing videos from a USB thumb drive, I noticed the same color issues in many of the clips that I saw with our test video. Audio sounded a little louder than in our formal testing, but its higher volumes were significantly distorted, meaning I had to turn the volume down substantially to play music videos.
The AAXA P2-A is a wonder of miniaturization, managing to fit a surprising number of ports and features, including a touchpad, into its limited space. It runs Android, which, among other functions, lets you stream video from preinstalled apps like YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix (or additional apps that you add). It also includes both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. With all this going for it, it's easy to forget that the P2-A is—and behaves like—a low-brightness micro-projector. Downsides include unimpressive video quality and a soft sound system, with distorted audio at its higher volumes. Although it doesn't unseat the Celluon PicoPro, our Editors' Choice pico projector—which among other virtues has much better video quality—it's a very good value for its modest price. AAXA does well in packing so much into its small frame.
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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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