If you need a highly portable projector that can run on batteries and also give you a reasonably bright image, the AAXA P300 Pico Projector is a good place to start. Rated at 300 lumens, with a WXGA (1280 by 800) resolution, the P300 is small and light enough to carry without a second thought; it delivers reasonably good image quality; and, at this writing at least, is one of the brightest battery-operated WXGA projectors available. In fact, it may well be the brightest.
The P300 is superficially similar to any number of other 300 and 500-lumen projectors, including the 500-lumen Optoma ML500 and the Editors’ Choice 300-lumen 3M Mobile Projector MP410. Unlike most models in that group, however, you can’t fairly describe it as merely a variation on a theme, since it’s the only one we’ve seen that can run on batteries. By definition, that makes it the only true portable, even though the rechargeable battery is a $19.99 (street) option.
As with other 300 and 500-lumen models, the P300 is built around a DLP chip combined with an LED light source. One key advantage of LEDs is that they’re meant to last the life of the projector, which helps keep the total cost of ownership down. AAXA rates the light source at 15,000 hours, which is about 5,000 hours less than typical, but long enough that you should be ready to replace the projector long before the LEDs give out.
One other key advantage the P300 shares with the other projectors in this group is portability. It measures just 1.5 by 5.9 by 3.8 inches (HWD), and it weighs one pound with its battery or one pound five ounces with the battery plus the power block. AAXA doesn’t include a case, however, so even if you plan to throw the P300 into a briefcase or laptop bag to carry it, you may want to get a case separately to protect against scratches.
Another reason you might want a carrying case is to keep everything together. In addition to the power block, the projector comes with a credit card sized remote, a VGA cable, an AV cable with connectors for stereo and composite video inputs, and a small tripod. You can also get an optional adaptor cable for an iPod, iPhone, or iPad or for the Samsung Galaxy S3 or Galaxy Note 2 ($20 street for either cable).
For maximum portability, you can leave most of these pieces at home, along with your computer or video source, and read files directly from a USB memory key or microSD card instead. According to AAXA, the P300 can read most common audio, video, and image file formats. In my tests, it worked as promised with JPG and BMP files.
Setup is absolutely standard. In addition to a USB A port for a USB key and card slot for a memory card, the P300 offers a full-size HDMI port, a proprietary VGA port for the supplied VGA cable, and an AV port for the combined audio and composite video adaptor. Simply plug in the appropriate cables or memory, turn the projector on, and select which source to use.
There’s no zoom, which means the only way to adjust the image size is to move the projector, but that’s standard for this size model. A more important issue is that the focus thumbwheel is hard to control precisely. Getting the best possible focus is almost impossible, and getting close to good focus takes more effort than it should.
As I’ve pointed out in other reviews, perception of brightness is logarithmic, which means that 300 lumens looks a lot more than one-tenth as bright as 3,000 lumens, making it easily bright enough to be useful. That said, the P300 isn’t as bright as other projectors I’ve tested with the same rating.
Using AC power, I found the P300 comfortably bright enough for only a roughly 55-inch diagonal image at 1,280 by 800 in a darkened room, or a roughly 30-inch image with moderate ambient light. With batteries, which drop the brightness, I found it bright enough for a roughly 45-inch image with the lights out, or a roughly 25-inch image with a moderate level of light. The bottom line here is that although the P300 isn’t as bright as promised, it’s brighter than other battery-powered projectors.
On the plus side, unlike DLP projectors that use lamps and color wheels, the P300 delivers the same color brightness as white brightness, so you won’t see a lower brightness with color images. (For more on color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, and Why You Should Care.)
Image Quality and Other Issues
Data image quality is more than good enough to be useable. On our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, the P300 scored well on both color quality and color balance, with fully saturated color and suitably neutral grays over the full range from white to black. Details, including small text fonts, suffered from the slightly soft focus, however, with text readable at 9 points but not at smaller sizes.
Video image quality is nothing to write home about, but also usable for long sessions. I saw some hints of posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) and a minor loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), but only in scenes that tend to cause these problems. Colors were also a little oversaturated in some scenes, but not by enough to count as a serious issue.
It also helps a lot that the P300 shows very few rainbow artifacts, with light areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows. Even if you see these artifacts easily, as I do, you aren’t likely to see them often enough in either data or video images with the P300 to find them bothersome.
One other issue, which is typical for small projectors, is that the audio is simply not loud enough to be useful. If you need sound at a reasonable volume, plan on using a separate sound system.
The best reason to consider the AAXA P300 Pico Projector is if the ability to run on batteries is essential to your needs. If you plan to always use a power outlet, you’ll probably be better off with the 3M Mobile Projector MP410 or another model with higher actual brightness. That said, if you need full portability, the AAXA P300 Pico Projector can deliver more than acceptable image quality for both data and video at a usable brightness level while freeing you from having to plug in if you don’t want to.
|Native Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Video Inputs||Component, HDMI|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||2000|
|Rated Brightness||300 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc