Micro, pico and 3D were the projector terms on everyone's lips at this year's CES technology trade show in Las Vegas. A range of new variations on the "pico" - meaning "tiny" - projector were unveiled at the event, which attracted manufacturers from across the globe. Capable of being held in the palm of your hand while they project an image onto a white wall (or other surface) and with light output in the 5 to 15 lumen range, the micro machines prompted some interesting conversations in Nevada.
The Bolt projector phone from Logic Wireless made its debut at CES and confirmed the rumours that it can throw VGA (640 x 480) images up to 64 inches in width. Coming on the heels of the LG eXpo smartphone with its own optional inbuilt pico projector, the Bolt 1.5 marks a smaller, slimmer update to Logic Wireless' version 1.0 with its flagship projector feature.
RIM is getting in on the projector action too at the moment, using CES to announce details of an accessory to be used with the BlackBerry to help users give presentations. Named the Blackberry Presenter, the innovation is not a small projector - as is the case with the LG device - but is instead a module that connects via Bluetooth to a BlackBerry while physically being plugged into a projector or display. Microsoft PowerPoint presentations stored on a handset can thus be displayed by users of the handset.
Wednesday's so-called Digital Experience element of CES heralded the arrival of Samsung's mobile phone with embedded projection, the W9600. Using Texas Instruments' new DLP Pico WVGA Chipset to project native DVD images, the device frees users from the limitations of the mobile phone screen by providing "big picture" viewing experiences for sharing photos, watching videos, playing games, looking at email attachments and even giving presentations. Samsung also shone the Las Vegas light on the next-generation model to follow the DLP DarkChip2-based SP-A800 projector. The SP-A900 uses DarkChip3 and takes the contrast up to 15,000:1.
Vivitek used the Las Vegas event to reveal details of two upcoming 1080p HD projectors: the H5080, made with home cinema video-processing in mind, and the brighter D952HD, which is aimed more at data projection with its emphasis on colour reproduction and still-picture quality. Another Vivitek model, the HC7500A, was hailed as the first 1080p projector with an LED light source. Rated at 700 lumens and 35,000:1 contrast, its light source is expected to deliver 20,000 hours of performance.
Meanwhile, LG made no secret of the fact that 3D tech is to the top of its agenda. The firm revealed that it will release a 3D Blu-ray player later this year and announced details of the 3D-ready LE9500 Infinia TV model. A 3D projector boasting 2,500 lumens of brightness also whet the appetites of CES attendees: the groundbreaking LG CF3D combines two projection engines which work together to create a 3D display (users will still have to wear those special glasses to get the 3D effect) and displays in full HD1080p resolution.
The LG Magic Motion remote - a new home cinema controller reminiscent of a Wii remote - was also back on show in Las Vegas after making its debut in Berlin last year.
In the home cinema realm, Sharp unveiled the DLP-based 1080p Z15000, rated at 1,300 lumens and a substantial 30,000:1 contrast, while Optoma rolled in with its 1080p HD8200 offering, rated at 1,300 lumens at 20,000:1 contrast. The cheaper HD808, rated at 1,200 lumens and 15,000:1 contrast, is also a 1080p resolution DLP projector but uses the DarkChip2 where its counterpart uses the DarkChip3.
Optoma also took the opportunity to introduce the gadget world to its GameTime range of projectors, designed for dedicated gaming and home entertainment enthusiasts. The GT360 and GT720 are 3D-ready and optimised for use with existing gaming platforms and applications. With short-throw lenses to create large images in smaller rooms, the projectors boast a brightness rating of 2,500 lumens and a 3000:1 contrast ratio - not to mention a 10-watt stereo speaker system.
As reported previously here on Projector Point, Optoma expects to introduce six more 3D-ready projectors by the middle of this year.
Meanwhile, the manufacturer's two new pico projectors, the PK201 and PK301, offer an 854-by-480 native resolution (16:9 aspect ratio) and a 2,000:1 contrast ratio. The "mobile companion" PK201 is rated at 20 lumens in bright mode and 10 lumens in standard mode, while the "netbook companion" PK301 offers brightness of 50 lumens when using AC power and 20 with a battery.
Last but not least, CES saw 3M unveil the latest tool in its MPro family of pico projectors. The MPro150 pocket device - described as the ultimate personal electronics device for business professionals - features 1GB of internal memory, a micro-SD card slot and a USB input for transferring files from a laptop or netbook. It can project images of up to 50 inches at 15 lumens brightness and has an integrated MP3 player and headphone jack - as well as built-in stereo speakers.
"The 3M MPro150 puts an entire suite of presentation tools into the business professional's pocket," said the manufacturer's Mark Colin, who concluded by pointing out that 3M's MPro120 projector caters for anyone keen to watch movies, share photos or project video games up to 50 inches.