When I first heard about "Pico" projectors two years ago, I figured the teensy handheld photo and video projectors were vaporware. But then last year the first wave of these ultra-portable beauties, many less than an inch thick, began throwing light at CES. And now there are a slew of different projectors from Dell, Toshiba, Acer, BenQ, Samsung and BUGlabs that use the DLP Pico chipset and connect to laptops, iPhones and other portable media devices. Here are 10 of the tiny-but-mighty Pico products that you'll be losing in your lint drawer soon.
1. Cinemin Swivel from WowWee Technologies
The Swivel is about the size of a candy bar, plugs into an iPod or iPhone and projects images in the wild with a 3-hour on-board battery. The 90-degree hinge ensures that you really can project those images onto most any viewable surface. Available in Q2 2009 for $299.
2. Samsung MBP200
The MBP200 projects an image up to 50-inches diagonal, connects to mobile phones and includes a microSD card slot so that you won't need to connect it to your phone in the first place. The right side of the 4.2-inch candybar has touchpad controls for navigation, and the 2.2-inch QVGA LCD means you can use it as a personal media player as well. Samsung has not announced pricing or availability.
BUGLabs is famed for inventing a modular set of open source gadget building blocks. This projector is not the most powerful -- just 480x320 resolution and 9 lumens brightness. But since each "BUGmodule" can connect to all the others, this projector has a multitude of potential functions once you attach it to one of the 5 other BUG modules, such as the dual function Bluetooth and Wi-Fi option. No word on pricing or availability.
4. Acer K10 Pico Projector
About the size of a pocket dictionary, and weighing just over a pound, the K10 is targeted to business professionals who will appreciate its 1000:1 contrast ratio. A 7.9 foot projection distance, and 60-inch diagonal screen size helps justify its $450 pricetag. It goes on sale this month.
5. Optoma Pico PK-101
The PK-101 fits in a shirt pocket, weighs four ounces, and can be connected to most multimedia devices. The 480×320 resolution is on the low side, but it's got a 66-inch projection size. The integrated 0.5-watt speaker is going to need some amplification, but it does have a 1000:1 contrast ratio. This product is on sale in Japan through Apple, and here in the U.S. from Amazon and Best Buy for $399.
6. Toshiba TDP-F10U Mobile LED Projector
It's a tad heavier and more expensive than others -- 1.4 pounds and $599 -- but also has slightly better 800x600 SVGA resolution. The 800:1 contrast ratio keeps it competitive, and I hear that it makes little more than a whisper when it runs. Ships in March.
7. Cinemin Stick from WowWee Technologies
The second in the Cinemin line is another candy-bar sized portable media player with 4GB of internal memory as well as an SD memory card slot. The resolution isn't great (800x430 with a 4:3 aspect ratio), but it's got a 3-hour battery life and the price is right: $349. Available this fall.
8. Dell M109S
Already available from Dell.com for $499, the M109S is less than a pound and easily fits in the palm of your hand. It has perhaps the best resolution of the bunch, 858x600, 800:1 contrast ratio and 50 lumens brightness.
9. Cinemin Station from WowWee Technologies
The last and largest of the Cinemin line--about the size of two soda cans--offers projection as well as audio with a built-in iPod docking station. The microphone jack is intriguing, but it's unclear what kind of speaker this "modern-day boom box" is sporting. There is an SD card slot for expanded memory, and it has 800x480 resolution. Price is $399, but ship date is unknown.
10. BenQ GP1
The standout feature of the GP1 is an integrated USB reader so that you can insert a thumb drive full of video or photos to display. But little else is known about this projector, except that it's expensive--$599--and available in March.