Pico projectors have been heftily touted by the gadget-making industry as one of the “next big thing” technologies for 2009. But until now most of the devices have been larger than hand-held, dim, ugly-looking beasts, or a nasty mashup of all these features. Enter the BeamBox Evolution R-1.
It’s small and slickly-designed, with iPod-like controls. It’s red. And its twice as bright as some of its competitor devices.
Okay, in terms of specs it’s a palm-top device that uses liquid-crystal on silicon technology. The light source is a super-bright LED unit with a life expectancy of over 30,000 hours–that’s around three and a half years of continuous operation. It is just VGA resolution, meaning its 4:3 projection isn’t widescreen, but it does boast a 200:1 contrast ratio. And a brightness of 30 lumens, which BeamBox quotes as being twice as bright as “any of the other similar sized projectors, for example Optoma’s PK101.” In comparison Dell’s M109s has 50 lumens, a 800:1 ratio, and 858 x 600 images–but it’s much bigger, and costs $600. And according to Optoma the PK101 has 1000:1 contrast, but a scant 480 x 320 resolution.
So it looks like pico projector tech is actually getting somewhere–the Evolution R-1 occupies a nice middle-ground in the market and will cost around $360 when it ships on April 1st.
Still, one thing about pico projectors is abundantly clear–the rate of technology development is stiflingly slow. All of the three devices mentioned above will appeal to different people, and will probably sell well to users with very precise needs. But the tech is still too expensive to be a toy, no matter how sleek the R-1 looks, and the video brightness and resolution isn’t quite at the level where they’re fantastically useful tools. I suspect the market will really take off later this year, when the resolution is at least 720p, the brightness has risen by at least a factor of two and the costs has fallen by the same factor. Then they’ll fly off the shelves.