Asus P1 Pico Projector review
Pico projectors just keep getting better. These small projectors are light, often don't require expensive replacement bulbs, and newer models are much brighter than the first units we saw a couple of years ago. Asus' P1 is a small box which uses DLP technology along with RGB LED lamps, and it's bright enough for use under soft lighting. Unlike some smaller pico projectors the P1 is mains rather than battery-powered.
Many pico projectors struggle to output enough light and a large enough resolution to display presentations and movies, but the P1 has no problems in either category. Its LEDs produce 200 lumens, which means that even under fluorescent lighting, we could use Windows, read black-on-white text easily and even watch presentations, although those with charts and primary colours worked best. It was hard to discern details in the dark areas of a film scene with the lights on, however.
The P1 doesn't have a zoom, and its short range - from 50cm up to 3m - means it won't be suitable for every room. There's vertical keystone correction, so you can place the P1 above or below the plane of projection, but it'll have to be facing the screen at a right angle horizontally. At 2m, it produced an impressive 80in diagonal viewing area, although at this range you'll need to turn the lights out to see detail.
With its RGB LED light source, the P1 produces deep, natural colours, although in Standard mode we found the image a bit on the warm side, which made flesh tones seem more ruddy than usual. The Theatre and Game modes were a bit dark, whereas the Dynamic mode pumped the contrast up way too high, saturating bright colours. It didn't distract us with sudden changes in luminosity, like some dynamic contrast implementations, but image quality was better with it turned off.
There are few other image quality controls. There's no remote control, but the menu buttons are arranged in a line on the top surface of the projector, and are fairly straightforward to learn. You get Brightness, Contrast and Keystone controls, as well as aspect ratio and preset mode controls. The Image Setting option is actually to control the phase and clock setting for the analogue input - we found the Auto-correction function worked fine on its own.
Another advantage the P1 has over other pico projectors is its resolution - with a native resolution of 1,280x800, compared to the 800x600 of many pico projectors, it can project 720p movies in all their glory. It can also project resolutions up to 1,600x1,200, although this is a compressed image so detail is lost at this resolution.
Some people find DLP technology produces a rainbow effect - flashes of primary colours that occur mainly in black-and-white scenes, or where small light objects move across a dark background. As the P1 uses separate LEDs for red, green and blue light it doesn't need a colour wheel, so the effect isn't particularly pronounced. Some of us found it hard to detect, even when moving our eyes quickly across a black-and-white scene, and even those testers particularly susceptible to the effect didn't find it particularly intrusive.
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