Pico projector showdown, which brand has the most bang for your buck this holiday season?

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The Pico projector market is constantly growing and changing and with that growth some brands have done very well and other have done so poorly that they left the market.  We saw this with brands like 3M who were briefly in the market and with acer who started out small and soon was one of the bigger players in the pico market.  We’ve seen a lot of great new projectors come out this season but in this post we’re going to be going over what we thought was the best and the worst of the year, as well as which models you should be looking at for your holiday list.

First let’s talk about Brookstone, the company that recently declared bankruptcy and had to liquidate most of their assets.  They have been dabbling into the Pico Projector market for some time now with very under-powered models and also by selling other brands projectors.  After the bankruptcy and liquidation they have decided to stay in this market but drop the other brands that they were previously carrying.  With this change we’ve seen Brookstone pump out more pico projectors than any other brand on the market this year, are they the best?  Probably not, but they’re still pretty well done for a brand that does not revolve around just projectors.  Their lineup consists of models that range from $229.00 to $499.00 and from 50 lumens all the way up to 200 lumens.

All of these products seem to come at a slight premium, especially for their output,  we’ve seen 450 lumen projectors going for less than $449 and 125 lumens ones going for about $249 from some of the other brands in the market.  A lot of what you seem to be paying for with Brookstone is their customer service, much like B&H or even Hammacher Schlemmer you end up paying more for the same product that you could get elsewhere but what you do get is supreme customer support.  If your product ever does have an issue and you take it to Brookstone they will deal with the manufacturer themselves, they also tend to offer longer warranties than the other companies in the market.  That being said, lets review Brookstone’s line-up:

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1. Brookstone Pocket Projector Micro – $229

2. Pocket Projector Mobile, 100 Lumens – $299

3. Brookstone Pocket Projector Pro—200 Lumens – $449

4. Brookstone Pocket Projector Pro with DLP® IntelliBright™ Technology—200 Lumens – $499

The first thing you may notice from the line up is that the first one, the Pocket Projector Micro, does not disclose the lumens it produces.  This information is actually not available from Brookstone, we’re not sure why but judging by the size of image they can claim that you can make and the size of the unit we’re guessing its somewhere in the 50 lumen range.  Their entire lineup is impressive for a company that came out of the shambles this year but as far as pico selections generally go they could definitely have a few more models.  That being said lets move onto Acer, one of the giants of the pico projector industry.

Acer, like Brookstone, also has 4 models currently available although with them being in the market longer they are more refined as they have replaced previous models that they already had.  For the price they’re definitely a bit more bang for your buck than the Brookstone products and without compromising on quality.  Acer’s current lineup is consists of the following models:

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1. C205 – 200 Lumen – $349.99

2. K132 – 600 Lumen – $499.99

3. K137 – 700 Lumen – $599.99

4. K335 – 1000 Lumen – $699.99

As you can see, the line up that Acer has is pretty strong, all of the models are very uniform and each upgrade is very clear as well as the price differences.  The main gripe that we have with them is that they really don’t have a super low end model available.  Sure the C205 is the lowest powered, but at $350 you could definitely get a more powerful projector and that’s still not a price point that many people who are just looking for their first projector are expecting to pay.  All of their models seem to be pretty genuine, except for the K335, 1000 Lumens is a big number to claim for a pico, especially for the size of the unit.  We’re a bit wary of this claim, as many times with projectors there are fancy ways of making a Lumen count seem higher than it actually is, although we don’t have any specific data on this it would be interesting to put a K335 to the light meter test and see what exactly it is putting out.  Other than that, it’s a solid line up and definitely a brand you should be considering this holiday season.

Lastly, we’re going to talk about a brand that has been in the Pico projector market since the beginning, AAXA Technologies.  AAXA was one of the first companies to dabble into the Pico market and in fact that is all they make which is a good thing because it allows them to really focus on their projectors and come out with some pretty innovative stuff.  Their line-up is definitely the largest, and covers a wide variety of uses and prices, we’ll list them below:

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1. LED Pico – 25 Lumens – $119

2. P2.Jr –  55 Lumens – $199

3. P3 – 50 Lumens – $169

4. P3-X – 70 Lumens – $219

5. P4-X – 125 Lumens – $299

6. P300 – 300 Lumens – $419

7. P450 – 450 Lumens – $449

8. LED Android – 550 Lumens – $499

9. M4 – 800 Lumens – $599

As you can see AAXA definitely has one of the larger selections in the market with 9 models.  We really like AAXA’s selection this season, there is a projector in a price range and power level for anyone.  The LED Pico is a great gift idea, at $119 its not too expensive and while it is the dimmest model its still definitely usable, don’t expect to go doing professional meetings with it but if you just want to watch some movies in your room at night or watch something with a couple of friends this projector is more than usable.  The P300 is kind of like the companies flagship projector, its mid level pricing and mid level performance makes it a popular model for many people.  We’ve personally reviewed this projector and were really impressed with the results, the 300 lumen engine was able to create a vivid 100″ image in our studio with the lights off and while it still got washed out with the lights on you could still see what was going on.  The P300 also has an optional battery that can be added for about $12, this gives it a little over an hour of battery life although it does decrease the lumen output significantly.  AAXA also has as model that recently came out called the m4 which is the largest pico they’ve ever produced, it clocks in at 800 lumens which is impressive however still less than the Acer K335.  We can’t say for sure but with the size of both the units and price wise we feel that they may even be using the same optics, the M4 claims 800 lumens which seems like a reasonable number for the price they’re asking however the K335 claiming 1000 lumens feels like that may have been done in unrealistically perfect conditions to come up with that number which also makes us question the rest of the numbers they are claiming on their other models.

AAXA is also having a special currently on the P3 LCOS projector, it used to retail for $219 however currently you can get it for the low price of only $169 with free shipping, this looks like it may be a clearance deal but the P3 is another projector that we’ve reviewed and for $169 we’re probably going to be snatching a few of those up as well.

Now for the final part, out of ALL these models, which are the best choices for you this holiday season?

Brightest –

  • Acer K335 – We had to chose this projector because technically it IS the brightest projector at 1000 lumens, however if you’re considering this one we strongly recommend that you check out the AAXA M4, we’ll be testing these two models later but really feel that we’re going to get similar results out of both of them.

AcerK335

Most Portable –

  • AAXA P300 – The P300 is always a go-to projector for us, it’s small and light, easy to throw in a bag to carry and the brightness/clarity is great for the price.  This model was our first and only choice for most portable, another one to consider might be the C205, but even then the P300 is only a little more expensive for a lot more power.

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Cheapest Option –

  • AAXA LED Pico – The LED pico is unbeatable at it’s price of $119 and it’s the only one in a price range that we can classify as a affordable gift for someone, if you have a projector lover on your list this is definitely one to check out.

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And there you have it, our holiday lineup for 2014, unfortunately Brookstone didn’t make it in this time, but we wanted to mention them because if they keep going the way they are on their projector selection they’re definitely going to be in the running for next years show down.  But for the time being we recommend you stay with Acer or AAXA.  Hope you guys found this information useful, we’ll be back soon to do some more reviews and follow up on the ever growing world of pico projectors.