Viewsonic’s Projector: Too Powerful to Be a Pico

viewsonic_projectorViewsonic is calling its new, ultraportable PJD2121 projector a “pico” projector. In fact it’s bigger than what you might typically consider a pico projector, as those devices are usually small enough to slip into a pocket, or at least hold in the palm of your hand. Viewsonic’s PJD2121 won’t fit in either, and it delivers power and performance that put those “pico” pocket projectors to shame.

The PJD2121 weighs 2.2 pounds and measures 8×4.75×2.5 inches, roughly the same size as a thicker-than-average paperback. In comparison, a pico projector, like the Optoma model I reviewed earlier this year, is about the size of a cell phone. But the Viewsonic’s specs are far superior to those of Optoma’s Pocket Pico Projector; they even outclass those of the BenQ Joybee GP1, a similarly-sized portable projector.

For example, the $400 Optoma model offers a resolution of 480×320, and a lamp with a rating of 10 lumens. The $500 LED-based BenQ model bumps the resolution up to 858×600, and the lamp rating up to 100 lumens. The Viewsonic model is a bit cheaper, at $449, and has a comparable resolution of 800×600.

But the DLP-based Viewsonic projector’s lamp is rated at 400 lumens. That’s a far cry from the 2,000-plus lumens you’d find in a typical desktop projector, but it’s a big step up from both the Optoma and BenQ models. And you’ll notice the difference: I found images much brighter, even in rooms with considerable ambient light. You’ll get the best picture in a darkened room, but images and text were viewable in bright rooms.

Brightness isn’t the only benefit that the PJD2121 has to offer. It’s very easy to set up and use, and its sleek, black case is easy on the eyes, too. It’s designed to be able to project a 60-inch image from a distance of just four feet, but I found the display looked its best when slightly smaller than that.

The PJD2121 supports 720p and 1080i HD signals, but only offers two inputs: RGB and component video. (And only the RGB cable is included; it would be nice to have the component cable in there, too.) My HD content suffered a noticeable drop in sharpness when played through the projector; images looked far less crisp than usual. I also noticed some sluggishness with the projector as it occasionally took its time finding my laptop as its video source.

Despite the occasional sluggishness, the PJD2121 performed well. It’s not the best choice if you’re looking for a true HD home entertainment projector, nor is it for people wanting something they can slip into their pocket. But if you’re looking for an affordable projector that offers a good balance of power and portability, the PJD2121 delivers.